New police drama to uncover dark side

Holly Richards
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New police drama to uncover dark side

The cast of Low Winter Sun. Picture: Supplied

In 2008, Walter White introduced audiences to the antihero with an almost completely broken moral compass.

His fascinating, depressing and thrilling spiral towards hell in groundbreaking series Breaking Bad - which airs on AMC in the US - opened up a can of worms.

Now the same network plans to cash in on the theme of morality with new series Low Winter Sun which starts on Foxtel tonight.

Based on the 2006 award-winning British two-part miniseries and written and executive-produced by Criminal Minds and Cold Case producer Chris Mundy, Low Winter Sun is a story of murder, deception, revenge and corruption in a world where the line between cops and criminals is blurred.

It begins with the murder of a police officer by a fellow detective Frank Agnew (Mark Strong). Seemingly the perfect crime, in reality, the murder activates forces that will forever alter the detective's life and pull him into the heart of the Detroit underworld.

"Frank certainly started off as this good guy who does this terrible thing," Strong says.

"He's the best cop in the department. He's very good at his job. He's admired but, through the love of a woman and the persuasion of a colleague, he decides to kill someone.

"So morally speaking, it's automatically dubious. He's a good guy but he's killed somebody. So as an audience, that plays with your perceptions of what you're seeing. And as the episodes have wound on, it literally swings from bad to good.

"One week, he'll do something when you feel sorry for him and you realise how difficult it is being him and the other week, he'll do something really terrible. And you'll think, well that's not justifying. I suppose that's the interesting thing about the script, it's not black or white, it's everything. As Lennie's (James) character says in the beginning, it's a strobe. Morality isn't black or white."

Haunted by a tragedy in his recent past, Frank is vengeful when his new love is abruptly taken from him, so he takes an eye for an eye. That puts him at the mercy of fellow detective Joe Geddes (The Walking Dead's Lennie James), a possibly corrupt cop who may not hesitate to use Frank's guilt against him.

Hot on the heels of Geddes is internal affairs officer Simon Boyd, played by David Costabile aka Gale in Breaking Bad.

To ensure authenticity in Low Winter Sun, the producers hired Ira Todd, a Detroit detective, to advise cast and crew.

"Ira is a solid cop," James says.

"We went to his house at one point and he brought in loads of officers and they were some real young guys. If you walked past them on the street, you wouldn't know if they were a cop or a criminal. I mean, men all tattooed.

"This year, their pay decreased by 10 per cent, and last year, it went down by 20 per cent. So they are working at 30 per cent less than the worst-paid cop in the rest of the country. And they're still getting it done. In that environment, black or white, right or wrong, it's real easy to get blurred."

Like Breaking Bad, Low Winter Sun was not filmed in Los Angeles like the hordes of other synthesised US shows it is pitted against. Filming took place entirely in the urban wasteland that is Detroit.

"It's amazing in a way. Lots of people said 'Don't go to Detroit, it's awful'," James says.

"It's a symbiotic relationship. It's a give and take. We kind of shine a spotlight on the city and make people realise that Detroit isn't this apocalyptic wasteland and, in return, you get this incredible kind of backdrop and flavour of a city that everybody has written off but is really way more interesting than you would believe."

With the original miniseries shot in Edinburgh, it begs the question, why the shift to Detroit?

"It's tough. It's gritty. Edinburgh was where the original was shot. Come dusk, it looks a bit gloomy and Gothic, dangerous and peculiar," Strong explains.

And how different is Frank?

"Somebody recently asked me is it the same guy? And that was a really hard question to answer because it's me at its core but it is and it isn't," he says. "So yes, he's also called Frank Agnew and yes, he also commits this crime with Lennie. And actually what has happened is that the Americans have cherry-picked the best moments of the original and have run with it. The story points are the same but completely different because the culture is different."

Low Winter Sun starts today at 6.30pm on FX.