Writer and Cast Give Insight About ‘The Prisoner’
With only a month to go before AMC premiers their six part re-imagining of The Prisoner. Its fair to say that old fans and new want to learn more about this new take on a cult classic.
The new issue of SFX Magazine features a massive four page spread which outlines the new series and has comments from Sir Ian McKellen, Jim Caviezel and the shows writer Bill Gallagher, and below is just a snippet of the information they shared.
Although this is an entirely new version of The Prisoner Bill Gallagher is quick to point out that he’s gone out of his way to be respectful of the original source material, and though set in a different location with a new Number Six and the same Number Two throughout. Certain things have stayed from the classic series. Thing’s such as the Rover’s and the saying, ‘Be seeing you’ are unchanged. As is the fact that each resident on the desert has a number.
What has changed is the allegory for the show! In the original sixties version the focus was on the individual and individuality and that persons right to do as he pleases, hence the phrase, ‘I’m not a number. I am a free man.’ Gallagher takes this question about individual rights and turns in on it’s head while simultaneously commenting on today’s surveillance dominated society.
In the Sixties The Prisoner asked questions about individuality, due in part to the fact that people were waking up to the power of individuality in that time. The new show asks what is surveillance, why do we need it and whose doing it. And when it comes to individuality Gallagher has the following question within his story for us to contemplate.
“What if the problem is mass individualism? What happens to us as a species if that becomes dangerous? If it’s so out of kilter that it begins to threaten our existence, for instance?”
“Prisoner: was he resigns, he’s taken to the Village, he tries to escape and in doing so he confronts authority every week. In the new Prisoner, he wakes up in the Village, he doesn’t know how he gets here, they deny the existence of anything but the Village, but he insists that he has come from what they call ‘the other place’ – New York, London, our world. But it’s that denial of his previous existence that questions his memory, as it were. There is a big story turn on whether these are memories of not. This is just not a plain set – up like ‘why is he in the Village?’ We have to find out what happened to bring him to the Village, and finding out what happened tells us about what the Village is.”
The interesting thing about this new show is the fact that it centres on finding out what the Village is as well as why Six is confined there. In the original series the Village just was, we never got an explanation about what it was or why it was there. Which is a big part of why the original series remains such a classic.
The most notable change to this new version in terms of characters is the fact that only one actor gets to play Number Two, but what may bug committed fans of the original series is the fact that Number Two has a family, and as Gallagher explains there is method to the madness.
“I like to start with people and who they are and what their dilemmas are. I absolutely see and enjoy the conceit of a new Number Two every week but it wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. When you get to the end of episode six, you’ll see why we stuck with one Number Two. To me it’s interesting to ask: ‘Who is this man? Why is this going on? What are his own moral dilemmas?’ Having decided that, then to give him a fuller life, a family, a place in the community all naturally followed.”
Although this is being bills in America as a mini series Gallagher revealed that each single episode has a stand alone story, but they are all linked together.
Playing the new Number Six in the series is Jim Caviezel who is best known to movie fans for his role as Jesus in the Mel Gibson directed Passion of Christ. When asked about the challenge of playing an enigmatic character like Number Six, the actor revealed that it does have some challenges.
“Often a large part of the preparation for a role is researching and understanding the past, the background for a character. In this case, I’m playing a man who’s dropped into a world he doesn’t know, has no idea why he is there, doesn’t know how to get out and has virtually no confident memory of what really happened in the past. It is tough enough knowing that your character is clueless at the outset, but then it gets really dicey keeping it all straight as to what you know and what your don’t, while you film out of sequence.”
When discussing his role of Number Two Ian McKellen is keen to point out the main difference between the new character and the concept of Number Two as seen in the classic show.
“In the original series, of course he was played by a number of actors in different episodes. Two was more of a concept really, the overall controller – or was he? – and not much else. In this version he’s much more of a rounded character. It’s a fantastic part.
“Also in the original there didn’t seem to be an explanation quite as to what the Village was, or who in reality was running it or why. That wasn’t a concern. Bill Gallagher wanted to create the Village for a good reason, controlled by a person with a purpose, and who is at odds with Number Six’s view of what society should be like. So it’s a meaningful confrontation now; an argument between two apposing points of view rather than just good and bad. It’s not just as simple as victim and oppressor.”
When asked if he’d had opportunity to meet Patrick McGoohan who wrote, directed and played Number Six in the original series. McKellen was saddened to admit he’d never met the actor, but revealed that their was a role offered to him in the series, which McGoohan turned down because he wanted to play Number Two, which was already taken.
The Prisoner airs next month in America on AMC and will hit UK shores some time next year when ITV will broadcast the show.
You can read much, much more about The Prisoner, with additional comments from Bill Gallagher, Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel in the new issue of SFX Magazine, which is out now.