Magazine article Screen International

Morten Tyldum, Alik Sakharov on Directing with "A Different Language" in 'Counterpart'

Magazine article Screen International

Morten Tyldum, Alik Sakharov on Directing with "A Different Language" in 'Counterpart'

Article excerpt

The Starz series features JK Simmons as a low-ranking UN spy agency worker.

Morten Tyldum on the ‘Counterpart’ set

A taut espionage thriller with a sci-fi twist and a Berlin setting, Counterpart has a distinctly cosmopolitan feel. The Starz series is about a low-ranking UN spy agency worker, played by Oscar-winning Whiplash star JK Simmons, who is thrown into a web of intrigue when he meets his near-identical counterpart from a secret parallel world.

It boasts a contingent of international talent led by series creator Justin Marks, writer of Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book and TV movie Rewind, and Norwegian filmmaker Morten Tyldum, who was on board almost from the start as executive producer and director of the pilot episode.

“When Justin showed me the draft of the first episode, I could immediately see this was going to be a very smart project,” says Tyldum, best known for Headhunters and The Imitation Game. “It’s about being able to see the potential of a life unlived. Everyone has the potential to be something different, but circumstances have made us who we are. How would we have turned out if circumstances had changed? That is a very cool and very interesting concept.”

Counterpart is produced by Anonymous Content, Gilbert Films and Media Rights Capital. To set the tone and establish a unique visual language, Tyldum says he and the other executive producers “looked to a lot of classic, character-driven thrillers.” As a result, Counterpart “has an almost noirish feel - it’s very composed, very graphic”.

To differentiate between the show’s two versions of Berlin - the one like our own tagged ‘Alpha’ by the writers, the other referred to as ‘Prime’ - Tyldum aimed to avoid cliché and make the distinction “through storytelling, through architecture, through small plot devices”.

Simmons had his work cut out playing the central character of Howard, who exists in both worlds. In Alpha he is a kindly but underachieving husband. His Prime incarnation is a tough-minded spy and estranged father.

“JK did a phenomenal job of making them two distinct characters,” says Tyldum. “When you saw close-ups of them it took you two seconds and you knew immediately if it was Howard or Howard Prime. …

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