Just like its resident serial killer Paul Spector, last year’s The Fall crept up on us and wouldn’t let us go.
Indeed, while many detective dramas leave viewers in the dark, The Fall introduced us to the psychopathic Spector from the outset, which meant the audience have always known more than the investigative team, led by Gillian Anderson’s brilliantly aloof DSI Stella Gibson.
And perhaps that’s why the series proved so powerful. We saw the psychopath at work, his manipulation of both family and work colleagues. And despite the nightmares it induced, the drama became BBC Two’s biggest in years.
Now it’s back, picking up 10 days after the last series ended with the revelation that Spector’s last victim had regained consciousness, tracking the psychological impact of the killings on the police team, the victims’ families and on the city of Belfast as a whole.
“People have an appetite for this kind of drama and a morbid fascination with death,” muses Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan who plays the disturbingly handsome killer.
“And what’s particularly interesting in The Fall is knowing who the killer is from the start,” adds the former Calvin Klein model.
“I think there’s a slightly different tone with the second series, which is going to surprise people,” continues 32-year-old Dornan, who’s soon to be seen in Fifty Shades of Grey.
“We set out a lot of things in the first, where it was more about the act [of killing], and maybe the second series is more about what activates the act and the hunt [for Spector].”
“Definitely the hunt,” agrees Anderson, 46, who recently earned rave reviews for her role in a stage production of A Streetcar Named Desire.
“The team continues with the information they have and are following leads. There are more characters because the team is larger, and there’s an interesting dynamic in having people in different aspects of the investigation working simultaneously.”
Anderson reveals that she couldn’t wait to return to Stella, a woman she describes as “unknowable” – though she adds that there are “more reveals about what makes her tick” this series.
“Not in a massive way, but enough to make it compelling and interesting, in a non-gratuitous or cheesy way,” she says.
This series, the mother-of-three is also credited as executive producer, something she says she was in all but name previously.
“It’s just written down this time,” she explains. “I’m very opinionated, and it’s nice when you’re as involved as I am in this particular project, to feel I can speak up about something and people will take that on board, rather than rolling their eyes and waiting for me to shut up!”
Unlike Anderson, who found fame as Agent Scully in the Nineties TV series The X-Files, The Fall marks the first time dad-of-one Dornan (he and wife Amelia Warner have a daughter born last November) has returned to a role, and he admits he found it “almost worryingly easy” to step back into Spector’s psychopathic shoes.
“It’d been quite a long time [since filming the last series], and Gillian and I had both done other stuff in between, but I think there’s something about the people we had around us that made it feel easier than it could’ve been,” he says .
“We’ve more or less assembled the same crew from the first series, and that really helps you to ease back in.”
A few months before filming began, Dornan recalls receiving a detailed breakdown of series two from Allan Cubitt, The Fall’s creator, writer and, this time, director.
“It revealed what would potentially happen in each episode and I was genuinely shaking, I was so excited.”
Anderson nods in agreement before revealing that Stella can’t help but become more emotionally involved in the case as time passes.
“She obviously reins it in, but I think this time she definitely starts to be affected on other levels. It weighs on her because there are still lives at risk, and also because she feels increasingly closer and then sometimes increasingly further away,” says the Chicago-born actress.
It’s not the first time she’s been attached to dark material. Aside from The X-Files, there’s also Hannibal, a prequel TV series about the infamous cannibal psychiatrist.
“The Fall is a different sort of dark to anything else I’ve been involved in,” says Anderson. “It’s much more psychological and the human aspect is greater, which has added a different depth to it. It’s more disturbing.”
She remembers being intrigued by the project from the moment she heard about it. “But my head was holding me back a bit, because it was potentially a serial, and I wasn’t at that juncture, considering doing something that might continue,” she admits.
She sat down with team “and had a conversation” about the logistics of making it happen, she reveals. “I didn’t feel I read it and had to do it no matter what. It was more like, ‘Uh oh, I really like it. What does that mean to my life?’,” she recalls, laughing.
Now, the actress is looking forward to a third series.
“There have been discussions from the beginning that it would have a life past a couple [of series],” says Anderson. “Stella and Spector are on a collision course, but that could happen in series five.”
“We’re all immensely proud of the first series,” adds Dornan. “And when you’re onto something as good as that, you want to see it through and honour it in way that satisfies everyone.”
The Fall returns to BBC Two on Thursday, November 13