Tom Lappin talks to John Brown, writer of TheJustice Game starring Denis Lawson, as it hits our
screen for a second series.
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Aﬂcionados of the Scottish-set thriller are offered an alternative to 'I'aggart from 23 March. with the return of BBC Scotland’s 'l'lzeJuinee (iame. The second three-part series takes the hero. (ilasgow lawyer Dominic Rossi. to Italy. a welcome contrast to the granite-faced one inveterately uncovering corpses in the ('ity of (‘ulture.
Viewers of the first series will be familiar with Rossi. played by Denis Lawson. The ‘silk with a social conscience' is a refreshing release from the hackneyed private eye. and a fully~rounded figure with a lawyer's natural fondness for making money. Originally. the character was the brainchild of producer l’eter Broughan (now producing Your (’heatin' Heart) and developed by writer John Brown.
‘I’eter came to me with the character.‘ explains Brown. ‘And I said “That sounds very interesting. what‘s the story?" Peter said “Er. I haven't got one yet. ” So we worked out a kind of biography for the character and I went off and wrote the first series. We made him a lawyer so that he would be able to move across a whole spectrum of society. Neither of us had any legal background. just a shared fantasy: “criminal lawyer— yeah. I could do that”. sort ofthing.‘
Brown admits that the development of Rossi‘s character has had a great deal to do with Denis Lawson who plays him. Lawson (of Bill Forsyth's Local Hero and Thai L'neerlain Feeling. and Becb Two‘s Dead Head) was cast even before the part was written. ‘When Peter and I were talking about Rossi he said. “I think Denis Lawson would be good for it". and that was the name I had just been about to mention. That mental image of the character helps with the writing of the part and perhaps shapes him in ways you're not aware of. Denis is terrific in the part.‘
Whereas the first series concentrated on the public side of Rossi. following up murky conspiracies in (ilasgow and New York. the new series takes a closer look at his personal relationships. ‘We didn‘t want to repeat the same formula.‘ explains the writer. ‘where Rossi is discovering the real reason behind the recovery of (ilasgow. Whether you believe it is close to the truth or a paranoid fantasy. we didn't want him uncovering another nest of corruption. We didn't see much about his private life so we've taken a different angle with the second series and given it a different mood. I thought it would be
interesting to focus on a single relationship with a woman. So we've got Rossi falling in love.‘
The love interest is provided by a rich and beautiful Italian woman. Francesca Arcalli. played by Italian actress Anita Zagaria (whom filmgoers may have seen in the recent critically-acclaimed British feature film Queen Of Hearts). In best thriller tradition she turns out to have more than a few enemies from the past
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turning up trying to spoil things.
Tht’JIlSIfCU (Jame stands out from the run-of-the-mill thriller by virtue ofits attention to filling in the background details. Brown is keen that the series should steer well clear ofwhat he calls the English ‘body in the library" syndrome. ‘The Americans are still the best at this type of programme. and ifyou look at American thrillers you can see how they grow out of American life. you get the full range ofsituations and people in them. We’re trying to get that sort of contemporary reality in the series.‘
The expense of television drama nowadays makes the idea of addressing a specific audience a luxury producers cannot afford. The key word is network. with overseas sales highly desirable as well. TlieJus'Iree (fame takes (ilasgow as its setting. but Brown is keen to reach as wide an audience as possible. ‘Rightly or wrongly. you can‘t write drama for a purely Scottish audience.‘
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he admits. ‘In many ways that can be an inhibition for some writers. .\'ot for me I must say. In l'actit's rather nice to imagine an linglish audience who don‘t know anything about Glasgow. and addressing them.‘
Brown has written some episodes of the I long Kong cop show Yellowtlzread Street for Yorkshire Television. and has just completed an adaptation ofa Ruth Rendell story for 'I'VS. but with The Justice Game you get the feeling that he is trying to push the thriller genre into some interesting new areas. ‘Well. first and foremost it's a thriller. You‘ve got to get that right before you can try anything else. There‘s lots ofaction and I hope people will carry on to the end (there‘s a big twist in the plot forthose that do). After that. yes. ldo hope it‘s about other stuff as well. with references to things that have been in the news. I hope there is that kind ofecho about it.‘ (Tom I.appin)
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The List ‘) — 23 March 1900 75