Tin Star returns for a thrilling final season on Sky Atlantic and Female First caught up with lead actor Tim Roth, as he admitted the captivating thriller could be the last project he works on in his career.
The third and final season of Tin Star is the most thrilling, shocking and darkly comic rollercoaster ride yet.
It tells the story of Jack, Angela and Anna returning to Liverpool, where their story began 20 years ago, to face their deadliest enemies in a battle with the past to win freedom in the present.
Instead, our heroes are forced to face up to the devastating and inescapable truth about who they really are.
Where is Jack Worth when we meet him again, physically and psychologically?
After the mass madness of Season 2, we worked towards bringing the family home. It seemed like the logical step. I’m not sure if it was Gen [O’Reilly, playing Angela]’s idea, but we wanted to explore what they would be like in an urban environment – the polar opposite to Season 1, which was taking a family from the city and putting them in the countryside.
Now, we’d be putting them on the attack as opposed to on the defence. That was the premise for the third season: they’re on a spree and putting the cork in the bottle.
Jack seems, despite everything, to be in a good place with his family. Yeah, he loves his wife and kid. We added some stuff to those relationships over Season 2, improvising between the three of us, working all night to bring new elements to it. But he’s in a good place, even if he’s out of his mind!
Has his past finally caught up with Jack or is he catching up with his past?
More the latter. For the first two seasons it was his past catching up with him and now he’s taking aim at it. It felt the show needed that kick.
How have his experiences in Canada changed him?
He went there for a quiet, cup of tea-type job. We spoke to English police over there when we were filming at the very beginning, and they’d gone there with that intention but found it a lot busier than they’d been led to believe.
It’s quite wild out there. Jack was ready to settle down and was hiding from his past, so we’re working back towards that after digging into it in season two.
Season 3 was shot in Liverpool. Did you miss filming in Canada?
I loved it out there and I missed the people we worked with, as corny as that sounds. They were a really good team. The gang we had in Liverpool was like the one we had in Canada – crazy, but incredibly dedicated.
What does the word ‘Liverpool’ mean to Jack?
I said to Gen, when I mention Liverpool to you in this scene [from the climax to Season 2], I want you to collapse like it’s the worst news in the world. Which she did, without knowing where we were going with it.
The Liverpool thing came out of playing a torturer in a BBC play years ago with Janet McTeer and Imelda Staunton [1990’s Yellowbacks].
When I was looking into interrogation techniques, there was this rumoured project where people were working to come up with a torture system that would leave no fingerprints – psychological torture of the senses, pain that you couldn’t expose. Supposedly one of the guys who ran it for the British Services was using it in Northern Ireland, but his seniors were killing people and children started turning up dead.
I thought: what if Jack worked within that and saw it go to hell, saw criminal activity within that. Then he exposed it so they came after him and his family? That’s what we did, more or less.
I chose Liverpool because I’d worked there with Jimmy McGovern on a BBC drama called Reg. Liverpool has all kinds of landscapes and communities, it’s a city almost intentionally run into the ground by the government.
Instead of using it as a set, it became a character in the show itself.
Has Jack’s story played out as you thought it would way back at the start of Season 1?
No, not really. What attracted me to it in the first place was when Alison Jackson and Rowan Joffe came to me with a couple of episodes. Losing a main character in such an awful way so early in the series [when Jack’s son is shot] was gutsy, I felt.
As we moved forward, we started to improvise and change dialogue a bit. As hard work as that was, it was liberating and it reminded me of working with Stephen Frears or Mike Leigh. The script is there to get you on your way, but we had freedom to play within that. It can create headaches for the producers but it was exciting and fun.
Then dropping the Liverpool bomb and putting together the list of enemies, it seemed right to end it in a bustling city.
Given that you’ve only really done it with Lie to Me before, how has it been to return to a character this often?
It’s been tough, although I like him – he’s an enjoyable character to play because he’s so anarchic and soppy for his family, but cross him and it’s an awful way to go!
There’s something to be said for shaping a character as you go. The process can be exhausting. In the first two series, as we started fleshing it out, it took an emotional toll but it always felt worth doing.
You never know where Jack’s going to go, which is always fun.
Has doing Tin Star made you more inclined to do long-form TV?
When I did Lie to Me I was one of few film actors to make the jump to television, but it never bothered me. When I was emerging in Britain, you went where the work was; there was no snobbery.
In America you were either a film actor or a TV actor – it was almost seen as a step down to TV, but I never thought that.
I don’t have a career agenda. Maybe it’s the English thing of fear of unemployment. I’m amazed I’m still working, to be honest.
Will you miss Jack when it’s all over?
I gave them an option – ‘there is one way out’ – and jaws dropped...
I’ll miss my family in it. I love Gen and Abigail [Lawrie, playing Anna], they were everything. It wouldn’t have been possible without actors of that calibre.
What have been the biggest challenges of filming Season 3?
Knowing where we were going was hard and it was a tough way to leave. As the days ticked by, I got increasingly sad about it. We’d been working together for three years. The downside of doing some kind of long-form series comes when it’s time to move on.
Gen, Abs and I now, we check in with each other. When you love who you work with, it’s tough saying goodbye.
And the high points?
It was consistently insane. Breakneck pace, and there were times when Abs was doing stories on her own, so was I and so was Gen, then we’d cross paths and catch up.
The pace and wildness of it had to be sustained so that was exhausting, but exhilarating. But I got to see Liverpool and Manchester United play, so that was good.
What’s next for you?
I went to Mexico and did a movie after Tin Star. Now I’m interested in two series in Europe, a movie in New York, a movie in Scotland and a movie in Africa, plus a streaming series out here in the States as well.
What’s happening with Covid-19, which is interesting, is that people are focusing on scripts and getting ready for when this is over, so there’s a lot coming in.
All episodes of Tin Star are available to watch on Sky Atlantic now.
Words by Kevin Palmer, who you can follow on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer.