Lennie James tells Gemma Dunn what’s in store for the second series of his gripping kidnap thriller, Save Me.
LENNIE James knew from the off that Save Me would return.
The Sky original — created, written and co-produced by the actor familiar from The Walking Dead and Fear — put James in the titular role of Nelly Rowe, a chancer whose life was turned upside down after being accused of the abduction of the daughter he barely knew.
Exposing the horrors of the criminal underworld in his search for a missing girl, the gripping London-based drama quickly became one of the channel’s most binged box sets upon launch, receiving critical acclaim, as well as a Bafta nomination for Drama Series.
Now, 17 months later, its much-anticipated sequel, Save Me Too, ollows the return of the estranged father — complete with iconic yellow puffer jacket — as he continues on his so far unsuccessful search.
“The reality was there was going to be two years between Save Me going out and Save Me Too going out — and the options are to ignore that distance or use it,” explains James, 54, who chose to write in real-time.
“But when I thought about using it, loads of ideas came to pass; Save Me Too became much more about when the cameras are turned off, when everybody has gone back to their normal lives,” he maintains.
“When people close to Nelly are trying to find a way of saying, ‘Maybe you should give up’.
But what does he do then? What does that moment, that period, look like for Nelly and for the people left waking up every morning thinking of Jody — and going to bed every night thinking of Jody still?”
Time will tell. But what else do we need to know before we delve in?
In addition to Nelly’s ongoing quest, this season follows the high-profile trial of Gideon, accused of the sexual exploitation of Grace — the young woman Nelly found in a caravan park — which brings newfound hope.
Will details emerge that provide a fresh lead to Jody?
Claire, meanwhile, is confronted with the grim possibilities of her daughter’s fate; and Gideon’s wife Jenniferfaces the grim truth of the monster she’s been married to.
Elsewhere, Nelly puts his relationships — and his life — on the line as he heads deeper into Gideon’s hidden world.
New potential suspects will be revealed, and long-buried secrets unearthed as Nelly is torn between protecting Grace and keeping alive his search.
As well as returning cast members, Lesley Manville joins the ensemble as Jennifer — the unsuspecting wife of Gideon, whose life is upturned by her husband’s arrest.
And according to James, there was only ever one woman for the job.
“I remember very clearly being in a script meeting at World Productions and [founder] Simon Heath saying to me, ‘So, who have you got in mind for Jennifer?’ And I said, ‘I wrote it for Lesley Manville, but we’ll never get her’,” recalls the Nottingham-born star.
“I said, ‘You busy?’ And she said, ‘Why are you asking?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this thing that I’d like you to do’. And she said, ‘Well, send me a script’.
“I did it, she read it, she watched Save Me — she’d missed it the first time around — and she phoned her agent and said, ‘I’d like
to be involved!’”
Returning for a second run also meant James had the advantage of knowing who all the characters were: “From what they looked like to how they did their hair, how they speak, all things.
“The fact that they all came back, that they all bought into the way the second season is being told and showed up with the same kind of enthusiasm, and worked hard and loved being together... It’s the thing I am most grateful for,” he follows.
“There’s a sense because I wrote it, I am in it, I produced it and I created it, that this is all down to me. And it really isn’t,” says James, praising the people around him.
As for writing another chapter of the hit, his biggest challenge was to maintain perspective, James insists.
“It was, on one level, not paying too much attention to how well received and successful the first series was — to not let that get in the way and stay true to the story I was always intending to tell.
“And not to try and second guess it, or try and over-think why the first series landed like it did. That — along with not eating too much set food.”
Could James make it a trilogy?
“Yes! I’m putting it all together — or trying to,” he vows.
“But it’s got to be an idea that encompasses all the characters; it’s not just about the continuing adventures of Nelly and his search for his child, it’s also about what that journey does to the people around him,” he finishes.
“So, if I can finalise one that brings the gang, then yeah absolutely!”