Julia Stiles has lifted the lid on playing a Michael Corleone-influenced antihero in glitzy crime drama Riviera as well as how she reacted when creator Neil Jordan distanced himself from the show and plans for a third season.
This comes after the show, which was commissioned by British pay-TV broadcaster Sky Atlantic, debuted on U.S. cable network Ovation, its debut linear bow following a North American launch on SVOD service SundanceNow.
Stiles plays Georgina Clios, a U.S. art curator who attempts to uncover the truth about her husband’s death in the series, which is produced by Archery Pictures in association with Altice Studios and Primo Productions.
During the course of the first season, Clios battles with her inherited family as she seeks the truth and dealing with the likes of Irina Atman, played by Lena Olin, Robert Carver, played by Adrian Lester, and Adam Clios, played by Iwan Rheon.
The show had a bump origin story; Interview with a Vampire and The Crying Game director Neil Jordan created the show with U2 manager Paul McGuinness and wrote the first two episodes with John Banville. However, Jordan disowned it soon after it first aired.
Stiles told Deadline, “When Neil Jordan was no longer involved – he gave me a sense of what the show was going to be about – I asked where was this going and one of the things that they referenced was Michael Corleone from The Godfather and I held them to that. I wanted to push the idea of how much do we sympathize with Georgina and how much should we be shocked by what she does in order to stay in the family.”
Stiles admitted that she stayed out of the politics of the Jordan exit and “focused on making a good show”. “I felt very lucky to be the main character and protagonist in a sophisticated drama and be filming in the south of France. I did really want the show to be good and I was fortunate that the producers and writers were receptive to my opinion, because sometimes they are not,” she added.
Season one was a huge hit in the UK with it becoming its biggest premiere of the year when it launched in June 2017.
Without giving too much away, Stiles’ Clios does some pretty dark stuff towards the end of the first ten episodes, turning her into a female Walter White character. “I don’t know how much the audience is rooting for her at the end of season one or think what she did was wrong. There was a big discussion with the final scene on the sailboat – we ended up changing it so that it was clear that it wasn’t self-defence and I was very happy about that. But then where do you pick up with season two?”
Stiles said that she’s revelling playing an anti-hero. “In terms of being an anti-hero, you would be amazed at how much when you’re talking about a female protagonist, inevitably the conversation becomes, ‘but is she sympathetic’? and I don’t think you’d do that as much with a male character. Granted, I’m playing a character that does commit murder and then does even worse things in the second season. It’s not that important to me whether she is sympathetic or has done something morally right, but is it interesting and how does she deal with it. How’s she going to be deal with it; now that she’s committed murder, what’s she going to do, how’s she going to stay out of jail, how’s she going to deal with her conscience, how does she deal with not getting caught and we explore the repercussions of that and she doesn’t just get away with it. The thing I think about an anti-hero that I think is interesting is that, I like watching the process of how does this person slide into immorality.”
In season two, Stiles is joined by stars including Will Arnett, Juliet Stevenson, Poppy Delevingne, Jack Fox and Grégory Fitoussi. While the Clios family contend with the devastation caused by Constantine’s death, Georgina’s focus is on getting away with murder. However, things become even more complicated with the introduction of the Elthams, an aristocratic English family with secrets of their own.
“The second season, I remember sitting at a table read, and I thought if the Greeks and Shakespeare had a love-child it would be Riviera,” she said.
Stiles said that she believes the second season, which launches on May 23 in the UK, showcases the female-driven sense of the show. “I’m really proud that the show, particularly in season two, that is a very strong female driven show and one of the most interesting things for me is the relationship between my character and Lena Olin’s character – two women who are sometimes allies for mutual benefit and sometimes fight. This show could so easily be about the wealthy businessmen in the South of France but it’s actually more about the wife and the ex-wife and the daughter and sure we have our girls in bikinis and the crime of it all but there’s character under the story and it’s not just about the moguls.”
The 10 Things I Hate About You Star also revealed to Deadline that there are already talks about a third season. “It does have legs [to run]; they haven’t officially announced another season but we’re talking about it and it’s certainly possible. We’re figuring out the story and who is there and what happens. There is another big cliffhanger at the end of season two.”
In fact, she said that the drama has reignited her desire to work on more projects behind the camera. Stiles has directed a number of shorts such as Raving starring Zoeey Deschanel. “I would love to direct something longer. I’m looking at what that is. In terms of Riviera, I have found myself stepping into a position, more of leadership than I ever have before. I think a lot of times on a movie, I’d be the good soldier and come in and do my work, and do what the director tells you, stand where they tell you to stand and say my lines. I found because on TV shows the directors change, they certainly helm the project just as much, I felt comfortable leading the other actors and not trying to direct it myself but be more collaborative and it was the first time that I felt in a position to have the liberty to do that.”
The second season of the show could also end up on arts network Ovation. Scott Woodward, EVP, Programming and Acquisitions told Deadline that it has the option of future seasons. He said that the show was “absolutely on brand” for the network, “because it dealt with the world of art and dealt with it in a dramatic fashion, it’s a bit of a crime drama with an amazing cast.
Woodward admitted that he doesn’t mind that it previously aired on SundanceNow. “We’re a little less concerned by where shows are airing; everyone is watching content in different ways, whether it’s an SVOD platform that’s a small platform or Ovation, people are finding it.” The show continues on Saturday evenings at 10pm.