Allan Cubitt: "I had the story for The Fall mapped out from the beginning. If I was to tell the story in all its complexity, I needed 12 episodes, which I knew was ambitious. I was asking for something that doesn’t happen often but you live in hope. So the second series is essentially the second half of the story.
There was a misconception that this was a serial killer story. But that was the starting point to move into a psychological study. For me it is more of an existential thriller, not a serial killer story or police procedural. We didn’t set out in any way to make a violent programme or a show depicting awful acts. I have a real aversion to graphic violence being used as a plot point. There were serious intentions underlying what we were trying to do. It is important both lead characters are compelling. I am as happy spending time, dramatically, as disturbing as it might be, with Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) as I am with Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson).
Jamie Dornan wasn’t well known when we saw him for a smaller part. But I found him interesting, charismatic. We ran through a scene with Spector’s son, and some people who auditioned for the part looked like they wanted to strangle their own child. They were playing a kind of rage-driven murderer as if that’s what he was all the time. But Jamie understood he could be more subtle.
I didn’t think much about how good looking he was. But I did think that if you have someone as iconic on the screen as Gillian Anderson, and you are an actor, to balance her they’d better be interesting to look at.
One of the things I am trying to do slightly differently with The Fall is to make it a detailed character study of the sort of person who’s capable of doing what Spector does, trying to atomise the components of that behaviour and, bit by bit, maybe some of the roots of it. I wanted to show the toxic attitudes possessed by people who are capable of doing things like that. My thinking is, they’re on a continuum with the rest of us – it’s just that they are very far out there.
I read an interesting book recently called Bad Men Do What Good Men Dream by Robert Simon, which is an attempt to illuminate the darker side of human nature. It articulates a notion that we all have sexual fantasies but there are a couple of crucial points: what form do they take and do you seek to put those matters into action in any way? They are the things we are trying to explore. From Dostoevsky to Poe, Shakespeare and William Golding, there is a long tradition of writers recognising we are frightened but fascinated by the dark side.
Whether the first season indulged too much or not, it wasn’t the intention. But it was important to depict Spector’s modus operandi.Whether the first season indulged too much or not, it wasn’t the intention. But it was important to depict Spector’s modus operandi. I wanted to illuminate his behaviour, not leave the audience in the dark. We tried to tap into fundamental elements of his behaviour. So the stalking and fantasising was shown at the beginning, with him playing with and stealing a woman’s underwear but also leaving this calling card on the bed, indicating his arrogance knows no bounds. He can leave a clear message he’s been there and still come back.
Spector is too clever to parade his misogyny. But certain attitudes you hear from men, about women being unknowable, if you combine those with other ideas you hear articulated, which is that men’s sex drives are uncontrollable. Add to that notions of entitlement, which are strong in those characters I’ve read about. That is why I’m saying these traits aren’t entirely alien to the rest of us, it is a matter of degree. The Fall wouldn’t work if Spector looked evil all the time, it would be a travesty of reality – the truth is that all kinds of people you think are trustworthy and fine turn out not to be. That is the scary part.
This is not a government health warning – but look out for that narcissism, that selfishness, the fact that these people often have incredibly inflated notions of themselves. They think they could’ve been something special if the world hadn’t contrived against them and are filled with hatred against the world for thwarting them.
They often don’t have that standing in reality – it is one of the things that is driving them into those areas of acting out extreme control over people."
Allan Cubitt is the creator of The Fall and was speaking to Adrian Lobb. The Fall returns November 13 on BBC Two, 9pm.