Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is a new show on BBC America which airs October 22 at 9/8C. I sat down with the creator, show runner and several of the actors to see what we are in for with this adaptation of the Douglas Adams classic.
A twelve year old Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra) discovered Douglas Adams and his lesser known work Dirk Gently, finding an inspiration for his views on science fiction and his overall style of writing. When he was presented with the project many years later he was in a position to create the show.
"I was in a place where I was fed up with the studio system and I was like, yeah I want to try to do TV and see how that works out for me because I heard you get more control. And it turns out you do. If you're going to do something, if you're going to take one of these assignments it better be one you feel like you can add something to and help you know? I'm not going to take like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles five I wanted something weird and special like Dirk Gently so it was a match made in heaven."
Landis went on to discuss Douglas Adams' brilliant tangents and the fact that previous adaptations have lost the humanity in the actual characters because they are either unfocused or unable to get through the cutting edge of cynicism of the work and get viewers to really connect emotionally with the characters.
Showrunner and Executive Producer Robert Cooper (Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe) said he is interested in illuminating things about our world and the way we live. "It is a little more grounded at least in this version. It's full of absurd things but it is still kind of about us." He went on to say ,"I think as odd and strange an different as Dirk is it still does that."
We also spoke to Fiona Dourif (True Blood, Bored to Death) about her character Bart Curlish. She was drawn to the role but bemoaned the dark side of being the delete key in the universe, in that nobody wants to be around you and it's very lonely. She also made a point to say that she feels this is the first completely non-sexualized female character on TV and is very proud of that inclusion into the world.
I asked about the look of the show and how they worked with the Production Designer (Katie Byron) and Costume Designer (Antoinette Messam). Landis answered, "A lot of it was figuring out the line between iconic and Halloween costume so for someone like Dirk there are three different colored jackets he wears throughout the season. They are very specific and they mean different things. Bart's clothes are things she's found and the Rowdy Three's look is actually much more complicated than it seems at a glance. Trying to find a balance between so many different favors of weird was really delicate."
Cooper spoke about the Production Design, "there are a lot of things that could have been interpreted in a cartoonish way and we wanted them to feel real. To impact you in a visceral ways in an emotional way. A lot of the Production Design was about trying to make the show feel real and bring in elements that felt organic to that world."
Samuel Barnett (Penny Dreadful, Twelfth Night) plays the title character with a deep understanding and belief of the interconnectedness of all things. I asked how his brilliant neurotic outsider stands apart from other similar characters and he set me straight.
"He's not brilliant at all! He's just neurotic and he is an outsider but he is the worst detective you've ever met. He has this ability to sense (with no cerebral talent behind it) the ways things connect in the world with sort of a psychic ability but that's it. He can't interpret those signs, when he gets them he acts on instinct and impulse and gets himself into trouble all of the time. He needs people around him to help him solve cases. He alights on Todd (Elijah Woods) and says you're the one I am meant to be with so you are now my best friend and assistant and you will do this whether you like it or not. Dirk is a terrible detective, Todd is completely uninterested but over the course of the season you see how much they need each other. What humanizes Dirk is his need for human connection which is something he cannot do on his own."
During today's panel we were treated to the entire first episode and I found it really intriguing and fun. We are definitely in for a unique story that is a bit difficult to categorize but is worth investing in because if it is half as interesting as Landis and the cast it will be rewarding as an audience and as a fan of Adams.