Jekyll and Hyde, TV revamp of Robert Louis Stevenson classic, debuts on CBC-TV
10-part drama centres on grandson of the iconic, split-personality protagonist
"He gets the best lines. He gets to smash stuff. Everyone had more fun on set when Hyde was there," according to Tom Bateman, who portrays both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a TV drama that puts a new twist on the classic tale.
Robert Louis Stevenson first published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a novella in 1886. It was an immediate success and has been adapted for stage, radio, film and TV more than a hundred times.
This latest version, called simply Jekyll and Hyde, debuts to Canadian audiences on CBC-TV Monday night.
Created by English writer Charlie Higson — best known for his horror series of books for young adults, The Enemy, the series moves the famed story forward to the 1930s and revolves around a young Dr. Jekyll (Bateman) who has inherited his grandfather's curse: which sees him transformed into the superhuman but evil Mr Hyde. He must battle scary monsters and creepy spy organizations along with the dark side of his personality.
"It resonates because it's something inherently human in us," London-based Bateman told CBC News.
"The battle between good and evil is something every single person can relate to."
For the 10-part series, Bateman plays two different characters that represent his split personality.
"When the two are crossing over — when Jekyll is trying to suppress Hyde or if Hyde is getting tired and Jekyll is taking over again — then you are effectively playing two different people in one body, which did become a bit tricky," the actor said of the challenging role.
But, he admitted, he preferred portraying Hyde because of the character's sinister qualities. His Hyde was inspired by Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight and the swaggering ultra-violent droogs in Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange.
"He's the liberated character that everyone wants to be, so he was very fun to play," Bateman said.
The series premiered in Britain on ITV in October and wrapped just after Christmas. Despite some positive reviews, Jekyll and Hyde was not renewed for a second season.
Some British viewers found the show too violent for its 6:30 p.m. time slot. (It will air at 9 p.m. in Canada). Another episode that features a gun fight was postponed during the British run following the Paris terrorist attacks in November.
Though the Jekyll and Hyde team have no regrets about the production, Bateman says he feels sad about the single season since it was a great experience.
Still, he hopes Canadian audiences will enjoy the series, which was written to work as a one-season series without leaving a lot of loose ends.
The drama's sets have also been shipped to the French port of Calais as shelters for refugees from Syria, Libya and Eritrea, news the actor calls "fantastic."
"The idea that they're out there and people can put them to good use is nothing but good."
Jekyll and Hyde debuts on CBC-TV Monday at 9 p.m. (9:30 p.m. NT)