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White Lines: Secrets from the set of Netflix’s Ibiza-based thriller
Daniel Mays, Laura Haddock and the cast of the eagerly-anticipated new Netflix drama talk to BT TV about what it was like shooting the high-octane thriller in the Balearic Islands.
Created by Alex Pina, the man behind Netflix’s Spanish smash hit Money Heist, the series tells the story of Manchester DJ Axel, whose body is found 20 years after he disappeared from Ibiza.
His sister Zoe heads to Ibiza searching for answers about his disappearance, reuniting with his old friends and enemies on the beautiful Spanish island and starting her own shocking and surprising journey into a dark world of dance clubs, lies and cover-ups.
Starring Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy), Daniel Mays (Rogue One), Angela Griffin (Turn Up Charlie) and Cel Spellman (Cold Feet), the show perfectly timed for anyone searching for escapism during lockdown.
BT TV caught up with the British members of the White Lines cast to get the gossip from their year shooting in the Spanish sunshine.
The stunning White Isle
“It was beautiful and absolutely stunning,” said Laura Haddock, who plays Zoe, a character desperately searching for the truth about her brother after two decades of lies.
“The cinematographers on White Lines were just so talented. Absolute visionaries. I would step out onto set and often say, ‘Gosh, how lucky we are’.
“To be people working in that environment, playing in it and bring characters to life in it. It was real pinch-yourself moments.
Cel Spellman, best known for playing Adam's son Matt in Cold Feet and for DJ-ing on Radio 1, plays the young version of party animal Marcus, one of Axel’s best friends. Daniel Mays (Line of Duty, Code 404) plays Marcus in the modern timeline.
Comparing the shoot to his years on Cold Feet, he joked: “It was a far cry from rainy grey Manchester. It was great to have some time topping up the vitamin D levels.
“It was incredible to film out there, the Old Town was stunning. I’ll probably never see a place like that again.”
“I don’t know,” chips in Daniel Mays. “Series 2?”
Returning to the drizzle of the UK proved to be a bit underwhelming for Haddock who was determined to carry on driving a Vespa after catching the scooter bug during filming.
“My character drove this Vespa, and I vowed to get one when I came back to London,” she said.
“But I got back to London and thought, ‘Yeah, it’s not going to feel the same’. Being on a scooter behind a bus doesn’t really match having the ocean to the left of me and mountains to the other side.
Magical party scenes
Tom Rhys Harries, who plays wild young DJ Axel, wouldn’t admit whether he had a hidden hedonist side (“That would be telling”), but did reveal that one of his Portuguese co-stars Nuno Lopes is familiar with the club scene.
Lopes plays the bruising bodyguard Boxer, but away from acting he also has a DJ career.
“I spoke to Nuno quite a bit about what it’s like to be in a communion of people,” said Harries.
“Because that’s what it is when you’re in those moments, music crosses borders and languages. I found it really profound actually.
“I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but Alex’s writing taps into something really human and it grabs you. Those big party sequences look like everyone is partying, but it’s just people communicating and having a big communion.”
Spellman, who shares most of the DJ scenes with Harries, said the massive party sequences were an “absolute buzz” to shoot.
“Our supporting artists were from Madrid or Majorca and they brought a whole new energy to those scenes.
"That’s what makes it look believable. We had the absolute best time – it was a free licence to go party and feel like a DJ.”
One of the biggest party sequences for Axel’s birthday celebrations were shot in a huge villa in Majorca.
“It’s like a town within itself. You need a golf buggy to get around it. And it opened up onto the sea. To have a week there was a real buzz," Spellman said.
The venue was also expecting a very special visitor one week after filming ended.
“Rafa Nadal was having his wedding at that house the weekend after filming,” revealed Spellman. You could not get two more contrasting things.”
No sex please, we’re British
Angela Griffin, returning for her second Netflix summer in Spain after shooting Idris Elba series Turn Up Charlie there in 2018, is “thrown in at the deep end” in episode one.
Griffin plays Anna, one of the original Manchester foursome who move from the northern city to Ibiza in 1996. In the modern day timeline, Anna continues to live a wild lifestyle, and orchestrates some extraordinary sex parties.
“That was my first day filming on White Lines. It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve filmed in my entire life,” reveals Griffin.
“There was no time for typical British politeness or niceties, we were getting on with it. Everyone knew why we were there, everyone had consented and to be honest, all the people who were part of the sex party knew why they were there.
“I just had to get over myself and just get stuck in really.”
Griffin said the biggest challenge was coming across on screen like this all came naturally to her and that she hosts orgies on a weekly basis (“Which I categorically do not! Ha-ha”).
The former Coronation Street star added: “You do eventually get used to everyone around you being naked. And they stop being naked strangers on set, they become the story.”
Daniel Mays threw himself into it...
“I would put it out there and say, it was one of, if not the most enjoyable role I’ve ever played,” says Daniel Mays, who plays the older version of Marcus.
For a man who studied at Rada, has appeared in Mike Leigh’s All or Nothing and Vera Drake, movies such as 1917 and Made In Dagenham and TV series such as Line of Duty, Ashes to Ashes and Red Riding, that's quite the claim.
Mays’ enthusiasm for the series comes from an admiration for writer Alex Pina, who impressed the actor with a willingness to take risks.
“That’s the beauty of the show and Alex’s writing. It works in extremes,” explains Mays.
“[I’m] involved in some terrific sequences. It was a performance that demanded you throw yourself into it. Literally, when I’m being thrown into a swimming pool and nearly drowned.
“There was so much to play with. On the surface, Marcus is completely hapless. He is struggling to make ends meet. He is going through a divorce. He is living in really desperate circumstances.
“But he still thinks he’s the man – and he’s really not. It lends itself to moments of hilarity and he gets himself into all sorts of difficult situations. And there’s also a lot of pain, longing and regret that he’s carrying along with him. There’s lots of layers to play around with.”
All 10 episodes of White Lines are available on Netflix now.