It’d have been hard to guess, going into Cannes, that by far the most entertaining of my Croisette interviews would be with Jane Campion, and her Top of the Lake: China Girl cast. After all, the first season of Top of the Lake was dark, following Elisabeth Moss’s Robin Griffin, a tortured detective investigating the pregnancy and disappearance of a 12-year-old girl. And Moss had prepped me, ahead of the festival, that China Girl was darker still, opening with a prostitute’s body shoved into a suitcase, pushed over a cliff.
But Campion and co. were in a festive mood last week, when China Girl joined Twin Peaks in becoming one of the first television shows ever screened at the prestigious celebration of cinema. “Cannes is really fussy about what they want to share because curation is their whole thing,” Campion told me, of the honor of being selected. “Nobody can say their stuff is made on film anymore—it’s a joke, it’s all digital—but anything that can be seen on a big screen and enjoyed like that, I think, is right for this festival.”
The season aired in full at Cannes, with an unusual concession—a drinks’ stand—set up at the back of the theater to help people through the six hours in a single sitting. Moss explained that her interest in coming back for Season 2—aside from reteaming with Campion—was that Robin’s arc would start dark and get more desperate from there. “I love that she’s far worse than where we left her right away and then goes further down. It was a request on my part, and then three years later I got it.”
“Gerard [Lee, co-creator] and I would be thinking, ‘What can we do to her?'” laughed Campion.
Check out more from the interview in the video above, including Gwendoline Christie’s confession that she relentlessly pursued a role, and Alice Englert’s story about working with her mother, Campion, for the first time since she appeared in Campion’s short, The Water Diary, more than ten years ago.
Top of the Lake: China Girl debuts on SundanceTV in September.