Xavier Gens is no stranger to handling tension across several genres whether it's sci-fi like The Divide (2011), Cold Skin (2017), or the action romp Hitmen (2007). He's also no stranger to television with his work on Crossing Lines. I spoke with the French director about his work on the drama series Gangs of London about his role to deliver the mob war between two family crime syndicates the Wallaces and the Dumani in the climax of the first season from creators Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery.
How Xavier Gens Came to Work on Gangs of London
"It was an opportunity to work with Gareth Evans," Gens said. "He's a friend of mine, so when we're in the middle of a jungle, I will jump in the thick of things in the middle, even if we get lost. He called me to do it and I really wanted to be able to share work with him. We had a blast doing that. So it was obviously very important to be able to share that experience with Gareth. The story of that crime drama for me was a thing and it was completely fit to what I am today and what kind of movie I want to do. So I was very excited to be able to work with guys like that."
Gens directed the sixth, seventh, and eighth episodes, with Corin Hardy directing the season finale. "It was super difficult and challenging to be able to talk about that, the split between the Wallaces and the Dumani, because at some point everybody is waiting for the confrontation between the two families," he said. "I was in charge of that big moment in episode seven. So for me, that was challenging to find a way to tell that as much as possible and to find the truth in that scene. We were ready to do some table reading with the actors and figure out what was the logic and the truth about the situation."
He continued, "So I was really figuring out what is the best way to tell the story. I had fantastic talent to work with. They are really into finding the truth. They want to find the best way to tell that story. I had a blast working with Michelle Fairley. She was always pushing the limits of her character. Same with Joe Cole and they are all fantastic actors, who work hard on the show. They helped make everybody be the best as possible. So they are really pushing the limits all the time. It's fantastic as they make my job easier for a filmmaker, working with people like this is just a blast because it's kind of easy. You can do whatever you want and it's exciting."
The director recalled the most difficult scenes he shot. "The scene at the end of the line was the confrontation at the end of episode seven between the Wallaces and the Dumani," Gens said. "They were all around the table and working together in the building. So that's what's difficult to create and then I think it's the talk show scene between the Wallaces and Dumani. Episode six was challenging because I have only one location. It was all about the families stuck in that safe house and the torturer dove into the basement. So that was something challenging, but not the biggest challenge for a director. When you do an action scene that's so prepared, it's not that challenging. Episode six, seven, eight, I get a lot of character-driven situations. The fact you have to go to figuring out what is the best way to tell the story and the work with the actors and the and that work with the cast was the most challenging because you can do 10 takes and it can be always a bit different because you are going to have to find out what is the best way to find the right performance. For me finding the right stuff is really is not complicated, but it's work. It's something you have to do in time when they really have t find that make making the best possible scene."
Season one of Gangs of London, which also stars Sope Dirisu, Colm Meaney, Lucian Msamati, Paapa Essiedu, and Pippa Bennett-Warner, is currently available on DVD and Blu-ray via RLJE Films and to stream on AMC+
Bleeding Cool TV on Instagram: For all of the stuff too random and bizarre to make the site, make sure to follow us on Instagram (with an official launch on June 19): Bleeding Cool TV (@bleedingcooltv).
BCTV Daily Dispatch: For a look at what's going on across the television and streaming landscape, sign up for Bleeding Cool's daily email round-up of the news you need to know here.