INTERVIEW: Tim Roth and the cast of Tin Star talk “unpredictable” new revenge-thriller
Nestled in the idyllic landscape of the Canadian Rockies, Little Big Bear is a small, unassuming town. It’s a place where it’s easy to settle down, hide away and start a new life. It’s also the setting of Sky Atlantic’s new revenge-thriller, Tin Star, which stars BAFTA Award-winner Tim Roth.
Tin Star tells the story of British cop Jim Worth (Roth), who has recently moved to Little Big Bear with his wife Angela (Genevieve O’Reilly), daughter Anna (Abigail Lawrie) and baby son Petey. When an oil plant, fronted by the charismatic Elizabeth Bradshaw (Christina Hendricks), opens outside of the town, their little picturesque town is overrun with migrant workers. Despite how hard Worth tries to hide, he’s a man with a past – and that past is eager to catch up with him.
We were lucky enough to sit down with stars of the series Tim Roth, Genevieve O’Reilly, Abigail Lawrie and Oliver Coopersmith (who portrays the enigmatic Whitey, a man with a mission in Little Big Bear) in London last month to get scoop on the new series, what it was like to film in the Rockies and the misadventures on set.
Tin Star focuses on the complex character of Jim Worth. Police chief of Little Big Bear and seemingly an ordinary family man, Tin Star quickly peels back the layers to reveal a former alcoholic with a dangerous alter-ego and secret past.
“He’s hiding out,” says Roth, “He’s a drunk so he’s hiding out from that, trying to stay sober. Ostensively, that’s what his deal is.”
O’Reilly adds: “He’s been sober for a number of years now. In the first episode he’s going to an AA meeting, so that’s quite central to the platform the whole beast begins on. You have a family who are dealing with post-addiction.”
Roth describes talking about his character’s condition as a “heavy” process prior to the filming of the series. He admits finding some of what he learned surprising.
“There’s a point where you don’t get drunk,” he tells us, “[Worth] can be drinking all day, and he doesn’t [get drunk]. But he will certainly lead people to believe that he’s not functioning. It becomes useful, I would say. He’s a blackout drunk and he is one person. There’s a Jekyll and Hyde situation that happens as it progresses.”
Tin Star is filled with twists and turns, including one shocker at the end of episode one which sets the ball rolling for the entire series. The series filmed mostly in-sequence – a fact that the cast preferred because it meant they got to experience the shocks as their characters did.
“The show’s so unpredictable,” says Coopersmith, “we used to try and guess what we thought would happen, and we were always outsmarted by the writers.”
“Throughout the series, [our characters] are dragged through so many dark places,” says O’Reilly.
Coopersmith adds: “There’s so many secrets. Every character has secrets – a kind of hidden darkness.”
One of the crucial pieces of the Tin Star puzzle is the isolated and beautiful atmosphere created by a little town in the Rockies. In real life, Little Big Bear is a rural town called High River around 54 kilometres south of Calgary. The stunning shots of the Rockies seen in the show are the work of the show’s visual effects team, who transposed the surroundings from Waterton – a real town in the Rockies too small to allow for the filming infrastructure needed for the series.
The scenery was just as mesmerising in real life as it was in the show, says O’Reilly. “The locations were just truly cinematic really. White skies. Just extraordinary, you can see why people are seduced by that way of life.”
That’s not to say filming in Canada wasn’t challenging. The cast filmed over a period of six months from June to December, meaning they experienced some of the harshest winters in the world (winters definitely unpalatable to us sensitive Brits).
“It was cold!” admits Coopersmith. “Your nostril hairs freeze up!”
Lawrie adds: “In downtown Calgary, they have pavements or sidewalks in the sky. They have tunnels, so people don’t have to go outside.”
Harsh weather conditions were not the only thing the Tin Star cast had to deal with on set.
O’Reilly recalls: “We had this house at the edge of the river, and that was our family house and we were in there a lot. The first day we were there, they called a bear meeting.”
“It was a bit like a Little Britain sketch. People standing around, in the open, talking about how there are bears around. One of us went ‘what do we do if we see a bear?’ There were lots of different ideas.”
Exactly what to do if a bear does appear, nobody’s entirely sure. Roth says: “They had sprays. There was sound. There was ‘be still’. There was ‘run’. Depending on the bear.”