Home Before Dark actor Jim Sturgess thinks the show’s precocious star Brooklynn Prince would “kill it” if she played the role of environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
Prince, best known for her luminous turn in The Florida Project, plays nine-year-old journalist Hilde in the new Apple TV+ crime drama — a young truth-seeker very much in the Thunberg mould.
Sturgess tells Yahoo Movies UK that Thunberg’s “very honest, very simple and real way” of looking at the climate crisis is a message the show communicates through its central character.
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Prince’s character is based on real-life juvenile journo Hilde Lysiak, who received a mix of praise and criticism when she broke the news of a murder in her local area in 2016.
In Home Before Dark, Sturgess plays the father of the fictional Hilde, who is harbouring some secrets about his hometown — where the family has now relocated.
Sturgess believes that one of the key themes of Home Before Dark, which is executive produced by Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, is the importance of listening to kids.
He says: “Adults can surround themselves with all kinds of lies and deceit, and lie to themselves as well.
“We can definitely learn a thing or two from the young people in the world today.”
The show positions Hilde as a brave truth teller, breaking free of what is expected of a young girl in order to pursue her sincere belief in the power of journalism.
Sturgess adds: “The show has really touched on that and worked on those foundations — that kids can really show us a thing or two about the world we live in.”
Read the full interview with Jim Sturgess, discussing the joy of keeping secrets, the greenlight for Home Before Dark season two and the shows he has recently been binge-watching...
Yahoo Movies UK: Were you familiar with the story of the real Hilde before you signed on to the project?
Jim Sturgess: I wasn’t. I had never heard of her. Coming from the UK, it wasn’t a story that I was familiar with at all, so I was quite surprised actually when I found out it was based on a real young girl’s escapades. As it always does, it makes it that bit more interesting when you realise it’s all based on a reality and on a real family as well.
You’re working with Brooklynn on this and she’s brilliant in everything that she does. What was it like working with someone who’s so young and yet so brilliant?
She’s amazing, isn’t she? Annoyingly brilliant. It was mad actually because I had very recently just seen The Florida Project on Amazon — I was a bit behind the curve on it — and I thought: “wow, this kid is absolutely amazing”. It wasn’t long after I’d seen the film that I got a call asking if I’d come to Los Angeles and meet this young girl to do a workshop and screen test to see if we’d fit well as father and daughter. I was really excited about it, but terrified at the same time because she’s mental in that film.
Was it easy for you to find the chemistry with her?
It was, actually. More than just playing father and daughter, we just sort of got on and had a good time. I flew to LA like I said to do this chemistry read, which is usually for a romantic dynamic with a lead actress. So to do it with a young kid and pretend to be her dad was even more terrifying.
They got us in a room together and Jon M. Chu, who was directing the first two episodes, was amazing. We just played a load of games and did workshops, improvisations, worked on the script and made up silly handshakes. We made it as loose and as easy as possible. I didn’t feel I had to work too hard really.
You mentioned Jon M. Chu there. Obviously, he’s very much at the peak of his powers at the moment and very buzzy. Was his involvement part of what encouraged you to sign on?
It was one of the things, for sure, knowing that he was going to kick-start the whole project and it was very much his sort of vision tonally. He’s really smart, really good fun and really cares about the characters. He was the one who really explained the tone of the show, because it’s quite an interesting line that it walks.
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There is this sort of youth to it, with these kids solving crimes and there’s that real energy you get from their perspective. But also, it does sort of deal with real world complexity as well. It’s about finding that line and walking that line so it isn’t just a fun kids’ show and it isn’t just a heavy, dark and intense drama. It weaves its way through both and works on many levels, I think. He was the one who really laid that down and explained it to me and showed me, visually, what he wanted to achieve. So he was definitely a huge part of the draw.
That tonal element was my next question. There are times where it feels like an Amblin-style kiddie adventure and times when it is quite a hard-hitting, mature drama. Who do you see as being the audience for this, or is it a more broad thing?
I’d love it to be a broad thing. It would be amazing. There really is a bit of something for everybody. I certainly really enjoyed it and I know that friends of mine who’ve seen some of the episodes have really enjoyed it. I think kids will really love it and with Kylie [Rogers], who plays my teenage daughter, she really deals with her own issues, relationships and the dynamics of being at a new school.
It really does weave its way through everybody’s past. From an adult perspective, you can see it through the parents’ eyes, but you also remember what it was like to be a kid so there’s that nostalgia to it as well. It would be amazing if it was a bit of something for everybody.
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Without spoiling anything, it’s very much a series where all of the characters have secrets and you’re all finding things out at different times. How difficult is it to shoot that, assuming you’re not shooting in sequence?
That’s always a challenge. With TV, you shoot somewhat in sequence because you’re doing it episode by episode. Often, you’re learning things about the character and what’s happening as you’re going along because the scripts come in as you’re filming. You don’t get all 10 episodes on the first day, so you’re really on the journey with the characters.
I spoke to the showrunners and said that, if there was something that I should know which is to do with me, then I would really appreciate being told everything. But, if I’m learning it as the character is learning it, then I’m really enjoying being on the rollercoaster of just getting that information as we go along. They were great at keeping me informed on what was important and what was good to hit me over the face with on the day of filming.
It makes it really fun because everyone is talking in the make-up trailer and on set, saying “oh, have you read episode five?” and “don’t tell me what happens”. You’re on the edge of your seat for six months waiting to find out what’s going to happen, and it’s a really fun way of working.
Is it the case then that you all know more about your own characters and you’re ahead of the story?
Yeah, absolutely. You know your own secrets for sure. And for me, as well, the show is obviously about a lot my character’s past and a lot of the stuff that happened to him when he was 10 years old — this traumatic event that has really shaped a difficult and emotional life. It’s about how that has manifested into his time now as he has gone back to the town where he grew up and all of these ghosts have come back to the surface. There was a lot for me to discover about what had happened, but I couldn’t tell anybody else.
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One of the key messages of the show is the importance of truth and getting to the heart of it. Do you think that’s a particularly timely message in the age we currently live in?
I do, very much. The show has really touched on that and worked on those foundations — that kids can really show us a thing or two about the world we live in. In such a mad time, to see the world again through the purity and the truthfulness that kids can often see. They’re not caught up in all of the other stuff that adults put on themselves. It’s a very clear look at the world when you’re that age.
An obvious figurehead for that would be Greta Thunberg, just looking at the world and how climate change is affecting the world. There’s a very precise way of looking at it — a very honest, very simple and real way of looking at it that has got to the heart of everybody, I think. It’s an undeniable, innocent look.
I think the show really has touched on that. Adults can surround themselves with all kinds of lies and deceit, and lie to themselves as well. We can definitely learn a thing or two from the young people in the world today.
I’m just thinking about Brooklyn playing Greta Thunberg now.
Oh yeah, she’d kill it.
This show is part of the Apple TV+ line-up and there has only been a handful of big shows on the service so far. How exciting is it as an actor to be a part of the first wave?
It’s really exciting. It’s exciting that you don’t quite know what’s going to happen. Apple are such an intrinsic part of our lives through computers and phones so, to know that they’re spreading out into the world of entertainment and that we’re the first part of that wave, is definitely a really exciting ship to be on.
You’ve already been greenlit for a second season. How big a vote of confidence is that?
It was amazing to know that they were really behind the show. We’ve felt their support from day one. They’ve been really great. That’s why I’m in Vancouver right now. We’ve been shooting the second season, but we got shut down. So we’re halfway through shooting season two already. It’s really fun to have the show coming out while you’re making the second run.
In the current crisis, we’re all spending a lot of time stuck inside watching streaming services. What are some of your go-to binge watches or movies you go back to on streaming?
It’s been an interesting one. I’ve been watching more TV than I have in a long time. My wife, who very rarely watches TV, is finally sitting down and being able to switch off. She’s a very busy woman back in London, so it’s nice that we can sit and watch old movies and share films we used to watch in our past.
We just watched Succession, the HBO show which everyone was telling me about. I just think that was fantastic. I loved it. So we’ve just finished watching that. We’ve been watching old movies, like Boyz N The Hood the other day — a movie we both watched growing up. It has been really nice sharing different films and getting the opportunity to just spend some time watching various different shows.
I watched another Apple show, The Morning Show, with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, because I was interested to see another of the shows they’ve put there. I thought that was great, really good.
Home Before Dark is now available on Apple TV+.