The Creator and Cast Of YEARS AND YEARS Talk About The Limited Drama Series Debuting 6/24 On HBO
They're a more-or-less typical British family from Manchester, but their experiences over the course of 15 years are shaped by incredible technological innovations and profound political upheaval. Following the day-to-day lives of the Lyons family beginning on one crucial night in 2019, as they face all the hopes and fears of an unknowable future, YEARS AND YEARS debuts MONDAY, JUNE 24 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT), on HBO.
The six-episode limited drama series is created, written and executive produced by Russell T Davies ("A Very English Scandal," "Queer as Folk"), and stars Rory Kinnear ("The Imitation Game"), T'Nia Miller ("Obey"), Russell Tovey (HBO's "Looking"), Jessica Hynes ("Paddington 2"), Ruth Madeley ("Cold Feet") and Anne Reid ("Last Tango in Halifax"), along with Emma Thompson (Oscar® winner for "Howards End" and "Sense and Sensibility").
Creator, writer and executive producer Russel T Davies says that the concept of YEARS AND YEARS has been on his mind for more than a decade, but "over the past few years the world itself seems to have been boiling faster and hotter and wilder than ever. The age today just seems fevered - we're either more political, or more scornful of politics, than ever before."
He adds, however, that the show is a family drama "at the heart of it. People tune in for characters, I think. We want to see them falling in and out of love, to see parents and children surviving what's thrown at them, to see friendships across decades. People might talk about the politics of YEARS AND YEARS, but it's the people who will get you watching."
While Davies is not trying to predict the future with the limited series, he does have a favorite technological innovation from his narrative, noting, "My favorite is happening already, and that's WhatsApp, especially THE FAMILY group. It's transforming family life, right in front of my eyes. Technology has made us closer, and I've shown this with the Lyons family. They're an extraordinarily close-knit bunch, because they all talk to each other, all the time, and I've dramatized that fully."
What is the significance of Emma Thompson's charismatic character, Vivienne Rook? Responds Davies, "The series follows the Lyons family, while in the background, huge shifts in politics and in the very nature of Great Britain take shape. I hope people will be fascinated by Vivienne Rook. She's a maverick, she's a danger, she's a wildcard. And she's also very, very clever - much cleverer than she first appears."
Emma Thompson recalls being impressed by Russell T Davies' script and by Davies himself. "I met him when we were in London talking about doing it, and I loved him so much," she recalls. "What an amazing guy and what an extraordinary writer. His writing is absolutely the level of George Orwell's. It's extraordinary how he's imagined the future of our relationship with AI. His work on YEARS AND YEARS has so many shades of all the best Science fiction writing."
How does she view her character? "I play an independent politician who speaks her mind and becomes incredibly popular because she's very forthright. Russell's writing made her so incredibly alive and believable. In the beginning, many members of the Lyons family think she's great. They think there's decency and humanity there, when actually it's a will to power. She clearly has no moral fiber whatsoever. It's terrifying."
She adds, "What's clever about Vivienne, in terms of Russell's creation of this creature, is that she presents as a down-to-earth, ordinary, working woman who just wants the best for everybody and feels passionately about ordinary people and ordinary issues. Of course, she's not that at all. She's something a great deal more sinister and is someone who wants power."
Anne Reid, who plays matriarch Muriel Lyons, describes her character as "the glue that holds THE FAMILY together. She's very old. Throughout the 15 years I go from 88 to 103! She's a strong northern woman who doesn't take any prisoners. Muriel is a really feisty character and it's a privilege to have been given that to play."
What does she think audiences will take away from YEARS AND YEARS? "I think a little bit of anxiety about what's going to happen with the future, but it's a story that will stay in their minds. I think the relationships will catch the public's imagination because it's a lovely story."
Rory Kinnear, who plays Stephen Lyons, observes, "Russell's depiction of an oncoming time that isn't too distant feels quite real. It's not all flying cars, it's a very tangible future. That sense of a family saga being played out against global politics and national politics feels utterly plausible, but is fictitious."
He continues, "Stephen and his whole family go through a set of twists and turns. The way Stephen behaves, the way he reacts to pressure, loss and change, reveals a lot about him and about how people can make the wrong choices in times of pressure. Fundamentally, despite the wrong choices he makes at times, you hope you can continue to understand and empathize with his situation."
Russell Tovey, who plays Stephen's brother, Daniel, calls the world Russell T Davies has created "terrifying, but it's our world. It doesn't feel that far beyond where we are now. Our generation has had a lucky time in that nothing has affected us too much, but in the world Russell has written about it's all gone awry. The world is changing around us daily."
Asked how viewers will feel about the Lyons family, he says, "I hope they project their own family dynamics onto them, and care about them. You're watching a domestic drama about a family in Manchester and it just happens to be set around what's going on in the world. You hope the audience will connect with all of them and want to hang out with them."
Jessica Hynes, playing sister Edith Lyons, thinks that audiences will be surprised by the "twists and turns. So much about the plot and storyline is unconventional. Russell's incredible imagination is really shown off in this show. You never know what the characters are going to do next."
What does she hope audiences take away from YEARS AND YEARS? "I hope they enjoy it and are uplifted by it," she says, adding, "Love brings about hope. Anything that focuses the mind on the love that we have for one another and what binds us, brings us closer. That always brings hope, and I think this series tries to do that."
Ruth Madeley, who plays sister Rosie Lyons, says that filming THE FAMILY scenes "felt so natural, which made it harder when you weren't filming, because you genuinely missed all of them. Shooting those scenes was like you were just around a table at your own house with your own family, eating, laughing and drinking and having a great time just being together."
She feels that YEARS AND YEARS "will give people hope that no matter how bad the world may get, you still have each other. Although there are incredibly difficult parts to the story, there's a lot of humor, love and comfort in there."
T'Nia Miller, who stars as Stephen Lyons' wife, Celeste Bisme-Lyons, praises Russell T Davies' writing, noting, "There were times when I read this script that I had to stop to pause for breath, because the writing is so strong. Those characters are going to draw people in."
What does she hope the audience will take away from YEARS AND YEARS? "Hope. Because it holds the mirror up to us to where we're heading and how detached we have become from our neighbors and our community. If we could just take a step back and think, 'If I just had a little bit more consideration and do a 360, instead of this tunnel vision, then we have time to change things.' That's why I say hope."
YEARS AND YEARS is created and written by Russell T Davies; executive producers, Nicola Shindler, Michaela Fereday, Lucy Richer, Simon Cellan Jones, Russell T Davies; producer, Karen Lewis; director, Simon Cellan Jones.