The action in upcoming mystery thriller “The Reunion,” starring “Harrow’s” Ioan Gruffudd, centers on three characters in two time-zones, 25 years apart, but the emotions and personalities of the characters are consistent, the show’s British director Bill Eagles explained at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival Sunday.
The English-language show, produced by Sydney Gallonde at Make It Happen Studio and co-produced by MGM Intl. TV Productions and broadcaster France Televisions, is based on Guillaume Musso’s bestselling novel “La Jeune fille et la nuit.”
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The story opens in the present day, at a reunion at an international school in the south of France where three former friends reconnect. They grew apart and lost touch, but they are still bound by a tragic secret tied to the disappearance of a fellow student 25 years ago.
Although Eagles acknowledged that having the same characters in two time-zones presented challenges, the key to overcoming them lay in the novel. “Guillaume Musso set out his characters so well at age 18, and understood their evolution over a period of 25 years, that the lines the characters were delivering in our present totally chimed in with the evolution of the characters from where we had seen them as young characters.”
He added: “Essentially, if we believe in the young cast, we believe in the consequences of their actions, murderous actions, actions of betrayal, of obsessive love, of denial, and then we inform these older characters with the same principles, and look at how those feelings and those emotions have festered over 25 years. Then when we bring these characters together, we find a total belief in and synthesis between the young and the old.”
In a video presentation shown at the festival, Musso explained that his time working as a teacher at an international school in the South of France was “the trigger” for writing the novel. “The Reunion” is the first TV series adaptation of any of his 19 novels. He said he made it a condition of the adaptation that it be shot in the region where he spent his youth. He explained that the previous requests had often been made for “the wrong reasons” – because his novels were best-sellers, and it was “rarely really for artistic reasons.”
On the other hand, Gallonde – who he has known for more than 10 years – “has always come up with projects that were first of all because he read my books, because he liked my novels,” Musso said, “and because he had an artistic vision behind it, and it’s quite natural that I said ‘Yes’ to this project.”
Gallonde explained how he worked with the author on the show. “Guillaume Musso is involved in every single second of this project … but through me, because the thing is, I made him a promise: I told him, I will protect your DNA, and will be involved 100% just to deliver something that you will be proud of.”
Eagles said that one key to the success of the novels was that the stories were convincing. “With Guillaume’s writing you believe in all the twists and turns, and you believe that certain facts or story elements have been concealed because it came from the character’s problems; it didn’t come from the necessity of the plot,” he said.
Gruffudd said that he felt a particular responsibility to Musso to get his character, Thomas, right as Thomas is a writer. “It is almost as if Guillaume is representing himself in Thomas,” he said. “There are definitely aspects of Guillaume that is Thomas in the book. So when you’re representing the novelist and playing a novelist, you know, you want to try to adhere to the little subtleties that he’s written in his novels.”
Gruffudd also paid tribute to British writer Marston Bloom, who adapted Musso’s novel, alongside Gallonde. Gallonde added that before Bloom started his adaptation, he and Musso met, “to be sure that the French part will be present in the show, and that the show will fit with the global audience,” and the universal nature of the story.
Eagles acknowledged that while there may be something very traditional about a murder mystery thriller, “the complexity of the psychology that [Musso] allows his characters to inhabit in the novel makes it a very contemporary piece.”
He expanded on this point: “We have the psychology of denial, of obsessive love, of inappropriate obsessive love, of betrayal. And then of people trying to make amends for their crime. So, 25 years later, Fanny has become a doctor, and Max has become a politician trying to do good. It’s interesting, the character of Thomas, he’s become a writer. He’s still exploring storytelling and fantasy, and in a way his character is the most in denial.
“That’s a really fascinating kind of delineation of the three different characters. And because Thomas is so in denial – because he hasn’t really decided to pay amends and find some kind of redemptive journey – that’s part of the reason why he upsets everything, stirs up the pond with all the dirt and the muck and creates the chaos that ensues.”
Gallonde underscored the importance of the international dimension of the novel and the series, which as well as having a British director and writer has gathered together actors from multiple countries, including Wales’ Gruffudd, Ukraine’s Ivanna Sakhno, Iceland’s Salóme Gunnarsdóttir, and France’s Vahina Giocante and Grégory Fitoussi.
Gallonde said: “Six years ago, my English was non-existent. Six years ago, I would never have imagined joining up with all these people. Six years ago, I would have never imagined having MGM involved in a French production, based on a French IP. So for me, the international part of the novel was essential.”
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