In an interview with Deadline, the Big Talk Productions CEO said that the two seasons are being filmed back-to-back in Bristol, southwest England, in an unexpected fillip for the comedy-drama after it was shut down in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Allen said filming on the six-part series, which will star Christopher Walken, was halted after just 12 days last March, at which point the BBC asked if Merchant would consider writing a second season.
This quickly snowballed into a green light for Season 2 after all parties agreed that it would make sense to shoot both seasons at the same time. Production got back underway in Bristol late last year and the shoot will run to October 2021 as Big Talk and Merchant’s Four Eyes capture 12 hours of drama.
Allen said the renewal will help improve the quality of both seasons, with Merchant’s writing benefiting from some of the show already being shot. He has also been able to hone Season 1 storylines knowing what will happen to characters in Season 2.
With an eye on safety, Big Talk has used the two-season commission to build sets so that location shooting is reduced. Meanwhile, Walken will wait until March to film his scenes. “We’ve constructed the schedule in such a way that he’s not coming here during peak corona. He’s coming when we hope it will be safer and there will be a vaccine,” Allen said.
Created by Merchant (who also stars and directs) and Elgin James, the series follows seven strangers, The Offenders, from different walks of life forced together to complete a community payback sentence in Bristol.
Walken plays Frank, an inveterate scoundrel trying to reconnect with his family. Merchant plays Greg, a lonely lawyer coping with divorce, work-place bullying and scary men with knives.
Other cast includes Rhianne Barreto (Honour), Gamba Cole (Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle), Darren Boyd (Killing Eve), Clare Perkins (EastEnders), and Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark). Bend It Like Beckham’s Nina Wadia and Dracula’s Dolly Wells also feature.
The Offenders will premiere later this year on BBC One and BBC iPlayer in the UK and on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. BBC Studios is handling global distribution and brokered the deal with Amazon Studios.