During this interview with Collider, co-stars Fox (who’s also an executive producer on the series) and Froggatt talked about what drew them to this project, how COVID affected the shoot, how family is at the heart of this story, working with the young actor who plays their son, the biggest challenges in making such an intense thriller, whether Fox would consider directing again, now that he’s been lured back out of acting retirement, and the importance of establishing the bond between their characters when they don’t actually share that much screen time together.
Collider: Matthew, you’ve recently spoken about the reasons why you stepped away from acting for a bit. What was it about this project that reeled you back in? It feels like it sets a really high bar when you haven’t done it in a while, and then, all of a sudden, here we are.
MATTHEW FOX: I was drawn, very much, to the basic story elements, with this crisis that’s happening in oil, and the chaos that’s breaking out in Europe and spreading rapidly. And then, at the core of it, you’ve got this family that, if it was done right, and hopefully we’ve done that, you immediately know that this family is a beautiful, solid family, and that they love each other deeply. There are some cracks in the marriage between Andy and Elena, but they love each other very, very much, and they know this family should remain a unit and that they need each other. That’s a universally relatable thing. We all can relate to that, to some degree. So, those elements of it were really fascinating to me, and I’m always drawn to that.
Then, on a personal level, I had never had an opportunity to executive produce before and I was very curious to see what it would feel like to have the opportunity to contribute to the story in more ways than just defending the character that I’m playing. I was also going to get an opportunity to do that with a very, very good friend of mine that also happens to be my manager in the business. We were going to get an opportunity to collaborate creatively on something, for the first time, by both being executive producers, and lend our hand to problem solving and trying to figure out how to make this the very best story that we could make it.
And so, all those elements together, it just felt like it was time. I was also, at that point, pretty excited to see what it was going to feel like to be in front of the camera again, to act. When I stopped in 2014, I felt like I’d done everything that I had on this mental bucket list of mine, and I shifted my focus to other, more personal creative endeavors. But recently, in the last couple of years, I was like, “I wonder what it would feel like to act again, and whether I would enjoy that.” And I did, very much, I’m very happy to say. For me, personally, it was really rewarding and challenging, as always, but challenging on a different level. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m looking forward to potentially doing more of it.
Was there anything that surprised you about producing, that you hadn’t expected or that you didn’t know you would like until you were actually doing it?
FOX: Yeah, it surprised me how producing is putting out fires and problem-solving, nonstop. That’s what filmmaking is. Even though it’s organized chaos, it’s still chaos, in some respects, and every day, it’s bringing all these energies. They’re all coming from the right place. Especially on Last Light, everybody was bringing their A-game and they were so passionate about the project, but it’s still organizing all of that, and somehow or another, getting it to point all in the same direction, or attempting to anyway. And then, there’s just all the unforeseen things that happen, every single day, especially during COVID, with people getting COVID, me being the first one of the entire crew to get COVID, right before Christmas, with 10 days left in Prague, and how adaptive everything was. (Director/EP) Dennie [Gordon] and the producing team, while I was laying in bed trying to get better, shifted focus, moving things around and managing to get us through that situation. We didn’t lose anything. Filmmaking is an amazing endeavor, really. I was pretty blown away by it.
Joanne, you’ve been amassing some really interesting, very complex female characters recently, with Dark Angel, Liar, Angela Black, and now this. What was it about this woman that made you want to explore her?
JOANNE FROGGATT: Thank you. I’m always drawn to characters that feel different from my last character, or just have something new to explore. I was very drawn to this project because, if we’ve got it right, and I feel that we have, having watched all five episodes, it’s incredibly edge-of-your-seat. It’s action-packed. It’s incredibly entertaining. It also has that underlying warning of, what are we doing to our world? But at the heart of it is this family, the relationships, love, and humanity. Elena is brought completely back to basics through most of her journey in the show, and that is protecting her son, getting her son home, getting her family back together, getting back to her daughter and her husband, and nothing else matters. Everything else is stripped from her. That really interested me. At the end of the day, that’s important. We go through life and it’s so easy to take that for granted, on a day-to-day basis, in whatever form that comes in our lives. It just really interested me in how this woman survives and gets through this emergency situation. What is it that gets her through it? It’s love. It’s the love of her family.
With younger actors, it’s not just how they deliver in a scene, but it’s also the bond that you share with them. What was it like to spend so much time working with the young boy who played your son in this?
FROGGATT: Yeah, absolutely. It was an absolute dream, working with Taylor [Fay]. He is such a bright kid, and he loved being on set. He’d never done it before. He had a really challenging role to play, and he was just amazing. He’s got such a comedic personality. He made us all laugh so much. I always approach it the same way, working with any child. I just want things to happen naturally between us. You can’t force a relationship to happen with a child. They’re too honest. They’re just there. They either like you or they don’t, and you’ve just gotta go with it, but you try to make them feel like they’re in a safe space and that they can ask you anything. You try to make it fun and make it feel like play, but also have those boundaries, if one needs to be serious.
Taylor was eight, so he was old enough and bright enough to understand that we had to listen at this point because this bit might be dangerous and we needed to pay attention. You didn’t need to tell him anything more than once. He’d ask me questions. I remember the first time he had to go and stand on a mark on his own, which is a mark on the floor so that you hit the right spot when they’re doing a very tight shot of you on camera. He did it a couple of times, and he just didn’t get it. So, I said to him, “I’ll tell you a trick, so you don’t have to think about it. Just walk up to the mark, stand on it, look where you are, and don’t think about it. I bet you, next time, you’ll hit the mark.” And he did. Once you gain that trust and have those little shortcuts, the relationship grows.
Is it more mentally or physically challenging to do a thriller like this? You guys are both being chased and attacked, and you’re not an action hero or a superhero, so what is the most demanding aspect, in doing something like this?
FOX: They’re both challenging for me. On this particular project, it did jump into my mind, a couple of times, just how physical and how intense the action stuff was. You’re right, part of it was that I couldn’t play Andy as some Mission: Impossible guy. He’s a petro-chemist. He’s not accustomed to being put in these situations. His entire arc in the story is almost a fish out of water story. He’s being pursued by people with guns. He’s in waters over his head. At the same time, you want things to be stylistic and interesting and dynamic, and the action to feel kinetic. You also have to make sure that you’re not playing a guy that’s handling the situation better than he should. So, that was a challenge. It was also a psychological challenge. Without giving too much of the story away, Andy knows more than the audience knows, for quite some time, so finding ways for him not to be coming clean about that until deep into the story was a challenge.
FROGGATT: Every job has different challenges, obviously, and for this, I loved doing all the action stuff. I really loved it. Me and Matthew both had the same experience, where you read it on the page and go, “Oh, yeah, great. We’re doing that, where I’ll run down the street, smash a window, ad it will be all good.” And then, you get to it and you’re like, “I’ve forgotten how to clear this. This is going to take a little bit. I really should’ve got down to the gym a little bit more, before I started.” But also for Elena, she’s a mom. She’s just a normal woman. She’s not an action hero. She’s not used to being in these situations. She’s fighting for survival. She’s not used to having to literally do that, in such a visceral way. I had to remember that because part of your ego, as an actor, goes, “I’m going to do this and I’m going to be really good at it.” But they’re like, “No, that doesn’t quite make sense.” I remember the first scene, where I had to smash a window, and the stunt team was really nervous and didn’t think I’d be able to do it because it’s quite hard to do. They were like, “I don’t know. She’s quite small. I don’t know if she’ll manage it.” And then, we did it in one take. The first hit, it bounced off the glass, and then the second one, it went through. It was a perfect take because she’d never smashed a window before, so that was the perfect scenario. I was also quite pleased with myself, that I managed to actually smash a window.
FOX: That was really good. I was there that night.
Matthew, you directed an episode of Party of Five, over 20 years ago, and you haven’t directed since then. You didn’t even direct an episode of Lost. Now that you’re dipping your toe back into this world, is that something you’d like to do again? Have you thought about that, at all?
FOX: Yeah, I have. Especially after this experience on Last Light, that entered my mind, for the first time in a long time. So, the answer to that question is yes, with the right material, I would consider that, if there was room for it. It’s a pretty all-consuming job, so it would require a situation where, if I was acting in it as well, I’d have to make room for everything that needs to be done. But I am very much fascinated in giving that a shot, at some point. Being in the executive producer position on Last Light made me re-engage with the idea that could be really rewarding, so it could happen. We’ll see. I don’t know.
Joanne, you’ve also done some producing with your projects, as well. After an experience like this, are you looking for more action hero work for yourself, now that you’ve had this experience?
I would definitely watch that.
FROGGATT: Thank you. Thank you very much.
FOX: You’d have to have some sort of cape.
FROGGATT: Yeah, exactly. I need a cape. I was born for a cape. I don’t know why this hasn’t happened yet. No, I’d love to, of course. It’s a complete fantasy, but it would be absolutely fantastic. I’d relish the prospect.
It also feels like you deserve some comedy, after some of the roles you’ve done, in the last few years.
FROGGATT: I know. I do. I’m quite positive, in real life, but maybe that’s why I end up playing the drama.
What was it like for the two of you to not really spend all that much time on screen together, but to have the relationship between your characters be so important to the story and the driving factor for each of them?
FROGGATT: Yeah, we were all very aware of that. When Dennie Gordon, our brilliant director, put us all together in a room for rehearsal time, before we started shooting it, we all built a backstory for Andy and Elena’s relationship. We talked about their history as a couple, why they are where they are now, in their relationship, and what Matthew and I both felt, for our own characters, as far as what the strains in their relationship might be, even though there’s so much love there. It was definitely important for me to be able to have the opportunity to do that with Matthew and Dennie, so that we were all on the same page. Otherwise, you’re forced to do that for yourself, and it might not be in line with what the other actor is doing. When you’re not on set together, that could be tricky, so it was important to feel the love between them and to feel the stretch between them, and to find the inconsistencies in the way they miss each other. We had to play that from afar, so it was really important that we filled that in.
FOX: Yeah, we knew it was important for the story to set that stuff up early, like that scene in the bedroom where he’s gotta leave, and to try to load that with as much subtext as possible. I just love that stuff. I love it, as a viewer, when I see relationships on the screen that are dripping in subtext, but you don’t really know the details of it. It’s just really interesting to watch that, to me. Hopefully, we made that work. It was amazing that Dennie Gordon also really understood how important it was to make sure that we had that, at the top of the story. It was going to be so important for how the audience invested in this family getting back together again, that they feel that strain and all the unspoken stuff going on there, but they also feel the love and the fighting for it. Hopefully, that reads and plays.
Last Light is available to stream at Peacock.
Timothy is a senior writer based in Atlanta, specializing in celebrity-related news. She is always ready to cover trending TV stories with an unbiased perspective and a pinch of gossip.