Attention conservation notice: I’ve discovered a new TV miniseries I’ve really enjoyed so far. While I haven’t yet seen all six episodes, the first three are worth writing about.
The BBC’s Jekyll is a fun, wild ride of a TV thriller. If you like genre TV or great acting, check it out.
It opens in a strange and compelling way: Instead of watching the character face a new problem (a doctor slowly realizes his blackouts mark the appearance of a violent second personality), the show begins as Dr. Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt, absolutely wonderful in the role) is strapping himself into a scary-looking chair with locks and restraints, explaining to the private-duty psych nurse he’s just hired that the security measures are meant to keep her safe from the man he is about to become.
As the show begins, Hyde isn’t just arriving but already here in full force. No boring backstory, and we go right to the action!
In a drastic and heartbreaking attempt to keep his family safe, Jackman has separated from his wife and installed himself in a high-security apartment. He and the Hyde persona communicate via leaving notes and dictaphone messages for one another, and schedule body-time on a wall calendar, with blocks marked TOM and HYDE in erasable marker.
It seems to me to be the talented Nesbitt that makes the show work so well. What an actor! He looks so completely different as Hyde that I checked the IMBD, really quite sure two different people were playing Hyde and Jackman.
And despite minor changes worked by a makeup team, Nesbitt looks natural and unaltered despite the character he plays. He never looks made-up or fake. He just looks like two different men, which is exactly what works for the character.
And I think what makes the characters so different is not only a shockingly effective and convincing physical transformation, but also Nesbitt’s approach to each role.
Jackman is careworn, tired-looking, worried, moral, decent and dull. His face is lined, his hair graying and frizzy, and he always looks like he desperately needs a cig, a drink, a back rub, some amazing sex and a long tropical vacation. He’s repressed, unhappy, stressed out and permanently prepared for the worst. He has no zest for life, and seems to cling to a miserable existence with a few fraying strands of hope.
The Hyde character is a sort of cross between The Threepenny Opera’s Macheath and Andy Kaufman’s Vic Ferrari character, with a pinch of Ben Kingsley’s character from Sexy Beast. (Nesbitt’s crooked teeth make Hyde’s wicked grin sharklike and chilling to see.) He’s suave but crude, predatory but funny, less evil than completely amoral. All of Jackman’s joy and pleasure seem to have pooled in Hyde, who definitely has a voracious appetite for pleasure and experience. And violence…
Nesbitt plays him with a completely different and far more theatrical flair. Jackman is nebbishy and realistic; Hyde is over-the-top, grandiose.
It really works.
Jekyll is a 2007 BBC show that may be hard to get in the U.S., though I had no trouble getting it from Netflix. It’s more of a thriller than horror, and is not gory or gratuitous, though it’s not a good choice for kids.
Six episodes on two discs; I’m on episode four.
Short 40-second trailer:
Opening four minutes of the first episode: