Gripping Trans Story 'Hit & Miss'

Hit & Miss Interview

From Paul Abbott, the creator of Shameless & State of Play, Hit & Miss stars Chloe Sevigny as Mia, a transgender contract killer whose life is turned upside down when she discovers that she has become the legal guardian of a son she fathered over a decade ago, and never even knew existed. We talked to Nicola Shindler the Executive Producer about this extraordinary new series.

Tell us how Hit & Miss first came about?

After Paul Abbott sent me Sean’s first episode, I was gripped. I found his voice original, funny and very challenging for TV, and I knew it would need a broadcaster who had a certain amount of freedom and bravery to take the project on board. I’d been speaking to Elaine Pyke and Huw Kennair-Jones generally about the ambitions they had for Sky Atlantic, so I asked them to read the project. They immediately saw the potential and the power of Sean’s writing. The extreme nature of some of the action and the concept itself didn’t scare them. Instead, they were able to see the simple, pure emotions at the heart of the story; that this was a drama about family and love, however extraordinary it all seemed on the outside. Elaine explained how the series would need to work for Sky Atlantic and the ambitions the channel had to match the quality of the American imports they had acquired. That was quite a challenge!

We went away with Sean and restructured the story to make it feel bolder, take away any elements that could be in any other UK drama and concentrate on the extreme nature of our family and the bonds they share. Sean completely embraced those ideas and the story came quickly. Within a few months of delivering the rewritten episode one and ideas for the rest of the series, we were green lit.

How was it working with a new writer like Sean Conway?

Working with Sean has been a really special experience. He’s an incredibly lovely man but one who knows what he wants to say and has such an individual voice that my job as a producer and script editor was different from usual. Because Sean’s voice is so original I spent a lot of time making sure I didn’t bland out what he was trying to do or force television conventions on to him. His instincts are all about atmosphere and tone with story following after. TV demands story and eats it up at a rate, so we had to draw enough story out of Sean to keep an audience engaged, while not drowning out his beautiful atmospheric moments. It was a constant balancing act and a joyously creative one.

Chloë Sevigny is an amazing bit of casting, was it a tough process convincing her to come to UK television?

Fortunately this is an amazing part and Chloë is a clever actress so picked up on that very quickly. Once she’d responded to the script, we had to convince her we were on the same page creatively, and how filming in the UK would work for her. Juliet Charlesworth went to New York with our amazing first block director, Hettie Macdonald. They showed Chloë all our visual references, location ideas and talked through who Mia was and specifically how we would work the ‘penis’ shots! Clearly we were all on the same wave length from early on and Chloë felt confident in Hettie’s hands. Their relationship was absolutely key in making this work as convincingly as possible. Chloë is a very ‘real’ grounded actress and that is what we needed for Mia who has embraced what they are, is full of self-hatred, but isn’t a mythical überwoman/hit woman. She’s a feminine creature, brutalised by the violence of her childhood, who’s isolated at the beginning of the script but learns to love.

At first glance, Hit & Miss seems a fairly tough concept to grasp – what do you think will convince viewers to tune in?

It seems to help audiences to have a strong concept, in fact sometimes that makes it easier to attract an audience. The idea of a trans hit woman is a pretty big concept to sell. Early on we show exactly what Mia is – that she has fully grown woman’s breasts and a full, real penis. I think once the audience has seen that, and when they see how Mia struggles with identity and self-hatred, they will empathise even though she is so unusual. The violence and killing is somehow secondary to family and love - even though she brutally murders people on screen. But even the hits are in a very real, grounded world, not mafia or gangsters, just a scuzzy boss who needs low life criminals killed.

I think people will stay with the drama because of Mia’s relationship with her children and because this becomes a love story as well. Jonas Armstrong’s character, Ben,is very attractive and caring, and his conflict in coming to love Mia is compelling. But mostly, I hope they will stay to watch this very strange family.

The ‘look’ of Hit & Miss is very distinctive. How did that come about and what were the influences behind it?

Very early on I realised that to complement Sean’s writing and the visual, rather than conversational, nature of most of the scenes, we needed a Director who was able to see above and beyond televisual language. We didn’t meet many people for the job because the brief was so specific; the Director had to have a sense of beauty and visual identity that would lift Sean’s writing and give it the space it deserves.

I’d always admired Hettie’s work – her Wallander episodes looked so good and a BBC series she worked on years ago called In a Land of Plenty used exactly the kind of visual storytelling we needed. Once we’d met her we knew immediately she was right. She brought beautiful photographs and postcards which perfectly summed up Hit & Miss, and we talked about films that felt similar, modern films like Winter’s Bone and the feel of Terrence Malik’s old films especially Days of Heaven. Mostly we looked to create a new style and feel, rather than copy too much.

Congratualtions to all our readers that one copies of HIT & MISS on DVD, they went like lightening. If you would like a copy they are avaiable at JB HIFI and all good DVD outlets.

Tags: Transgender

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