Deep State - interviews with Mark Strong and Lyne Renee
BY Alexandra Shutova
FOX Networks Group (FNG) Europe and Africa has officially presented its first scripted commission for the region during last year's MIPCOM in Cannes. In a series of interviews made in Cannes, the cast of the series revealed to Alexandra Shutova details about their characters and about their experience filming the project in Morocco. We kick off with Mark Strong and Lyle Renée.
Mark Strong as Max Easton in DEEP STATE © FOX Networks Group (FNG) Europe and Africa
Mark, how would you describe Max Easton in several words? What are his best and worst qualities?
Mark: Stopped being a spy 10 years ago because the experiences have left him scarred. He is married to Anna and has two children. The past has caught up with him and forced him to return to his old life. He has a tough choice to make: save his old family or his new one.

Lyne, tell us more about your character?
Lyne: I play Anna, Max's wife. We live in France. She is an A&E doctor with two children. She has absolutely no awareness of his past lives, but keeps secrets from him as well. In the first episode, this information is being revealed to mean the rest of the story is about how Anna copes with it.

What have been the most memorable moments for you on set?
Lyne: I think having to work with two children all of a sudden becomes completely challenging. You are not only busy with your own story telling but you have two children who are with you at all times.
As they are so young (7 and 12), before takes they would share their activities with me - classes and ballet, and I quite often had to remind them of what we were going to go into.

When we were shooting, we had a lot of donkeys around. I had a scene with Mark. I had to come out of the house and say that the electricity went off. As Mark wanted to answer, the donkeys started making sound. You know, it's hard to shut up the donkey, so we had to try and say our lines between the donkeys' speaking.

Mark: I enjoyed all the stuff we did in Morocco. The sets were phenomenal, the backdrops were always amazing. The locations were always interesting. To do a whole series on location is pretty unusual. Every day you find yourself in some new place all over Morocco which is a great way to get to work.

Mark, you have often been cast as a villain. Do you enjoy being the bad guy or do you prefer playing the good guy? Or is it a question of how multi-layered the character is?
Mark: Mathew has written some really conflicted characters and that's what you need - multi-layered characters. Audiences want to learn about people. Unlike the movies, where you can tell the story in 120 minutes, you have 8 hours to follow these people. In order to sustain interest, you need to make them interesting. It seems obvious but not easily done.

Certainly, with Max, he's created a guy who is completely conflicted - is he a good guy or a bad guy? Does he behave? How do you feel about him? I think Max himself is unsure what side of the line he is on so for the audience it becomes interesting.

Having to go back to the world of MI6 and spy and covert operations, which had basically broken him and made him get out and to have to return to it 10 years later is where the source of the conflict lays.

How is Deep State different from other pieces of spy content?
Lyne: I think that the uniqueness about Deep State is that it not only tells about what happens when something goes wrong politically, but what happens to families. You get to see what happens on the domestic side, what happens to the family when all the truths are being revealed. The way it impacts relationships between the characters; between the mother and the children, for example.

How do you explain that? To the youngest one it's impossible because she is way too young, yet she is very much involved as her world is crumbling down. To the older one you can explain, but he is still too young to deal with that. How do you treat your husband and your relationship when the truth is being revealed? Do you forgive him? Do you let that go or not?

Mark: It's a conspiracy thriller but also a family drama. Both things are completely interconnected.

The consequences of the political situation, of what's demanded from you if you are a black-op operative and how that affects your family. As an audience, hopefully, you'll be watching people in extremely difficult circumstances trying to keep their families together rather than just getting off on explosions and people firing guns.

Lyne Renée as Anna Easton in DEEP STATE © FOX Networks Group (FNG) Europe and Africa

What do you prefer - movie or TV roles? What are the main differences?
Mark: They are serving two different things. Film is a public meeting - you go to a cinema to watch a film with other people. It can be moving, it can make you think. But watching TV in your own home over the course of 6,8 or 10 hours just seems to be like a difference between a magazine article and a novel.

Writing for TV has improved so much in the last 10-15 years. A lot of people who were writing movies and gravitated over to TV are realizing that you can explore characters much better, you can write narratives that literally go all over the place. They serve different purposes. It's been fascinating doing TV because it's a reach.

The series has all those elements. You have two time frames. You are in London, Beirut, and Tehran. You have one family here, the previous one there. You can't do all of that in the time that the film allows you.

What do you prefer?
It's impossible to answer. I also do theater, and I wouldn't be able to choose between the three things. As an audience member, I have been amazed by a play, by a movie and by a TV series. They are incomparable, just different.

Lyne, tell us about women in Deep State?
Lyne: Women in Deep State are very interesting and strong characters. Mathew was able to write women that can be inspiring. I feel like with all material that I had to deal with in my career, women were not always as accurate as the people I know - my mother or other women. With Anna, I was given an opportunity to show someone that we as women can relate to. The decision making that we are faced with or the situations we come across. But it's about time that these women are being written and I am honored to play a woman like that.

Mark: Mathew Parkhill, the showrunner and writer, was very conscious to write strong women or at least independent women who existed not just in relation to the men. They all have their own really great story lines and conflicts that they have to overcome.

Lyne: I asked him what inspired him to write these women and he said that when his daughter was born, it inspired him to write strong women so she could look up to them when she grows up.
Deep State was created by Matthew Parkhill and Simon Maxwell and will air on FOX in over 50 European and African countries. The intense, character-driven espionage thriller stars acclaimed British actor Mark Strong as Max Easton, an ex-spy who is brought back into the game to avenge the death of his son, only to find himself at the heart of a covert intelligence war and a conspiracy to profit from the spread of chaos throughout the Middle East. Belgian actor Lyne Renée plays Anna Easton, Max's second wife. An A&E doctor, Anna is intelligent and kind. She has met the man of her dreams in Max, but her world is about to be turned upside down.
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