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Industry Report: Television

One Vision Série Series 2016: Anne Landois & Caroline Proust


- A woman’s view of female characters

One Vision Série Series 2016: Anne Landois & Caroline Proust

(© Sylvain Bardin & Philippe Cabaret)

Spiral is not only one of the most exported French series (to more than 70 countries), but also emblematic in the renewal of quality French drama. And what if this international success were linked to the authenticity of its female characters, who are both powerful and realistic and not age-old clichés? The screenwriter, Anne Landois, accompanied by Caroline Proust, the actress, look back over the origins of this wonderful venture, which has been running for 10 years now and is already into its 6th season, the filming of which began in May and which will be aired in 2017.

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The two heroines – police captain Laure Berthaud, played by Caroline Proust, and Joséphine Karlsson, the unscrupulous lawyer with a nefarious reputation, played by Audrey Fleurot – have without doubt become the keystones of the series, Anne Landois tells us. She wanted to develop the storyline and plot first and foremost as a female author and so every season gives pride of place to women.

Caroline Proust knew nothing of what she was getting into and has become one of the heroines as the story has progressed. She commends the freedom that CANAL+ has given them, trusting the team from the beginning and providing such a wonderful platform for women, in a society which she still finds much too misogynistic. It is true that television can provide a space for great freedom and creativity and Anne Landois says she identifies with and projects herself onto all the roles, both male and female, whatever their ages or walks of life. When authors, producers and broadcasters all agree, one can go beyond conventions, notably in the creation of characters.

Laure Berthaud’s character has, of course, evolved over the seasons. Up to season 4 included, it was more a question of the career of a police officer who felt she “had to justify herself by being one of the boys”. From season 5 onwards, writing methods were changed. Although she does not really like the label of showrunner, Anne Landois confides that it was on her initiative that the detective angle took more of a back seat, whereas the “tailoring of the characters” became primordial; they have taken on more depth and their shortcomings and contradictions have been looked into in more detail. Season 4 came to a close with tragedy, as Laure mourned the love of her life, killed in an attack. Whereas season 5 starts with the counterpart of this death, which is of course life, in the shape of her pregnancy, which results in her confronting her true self.

The advantage of a series is to be able to go into the characters in depth, more so than is possible in cinema. This can be done in close consultation with the actors, Proust is pleased to say. Spiral is also an adventure about “growing together”, Anne Landois confirms. The series has lasted for so long that naturally everyone has changed. With each new season, she finds her actresses “in a different place”. Through this long process, a successful dialogue between the author and actors has been established. Laure Berthaud is a woman of her time, making the most out of her career, with a strong character, even more easily set off than usual, due to this unwanted pregnancy, to a point that she is very perturbed… Caroline Proust suggested to Anne Landois that Laure spend a short time in a psychiatric hospital (but this was not possible since a police officer can not then return to fieldwork). She often asked the screenwriters for more action and that’s exactly what she got. She also asked that in season 5, her relationship with Lieutenant Gilou be developed. In short, Anne Landois may conceive and pitch the narrative arc, but they all discuss it round the table and from this essential exchange come new ideas and new challenges. Who knows a character any better than the actor playing it? With time, a symbiotic relationship was created: “working on a series becomes organic”.

Television reigns over intimacy. We watch it at any time of the day or night, even in bed. The craze for series has changed the situation for screenwriters, who take on a greater responsibility. With more freedom on the editorial policy front, one can swear and move the needle, notably the way in which women are represented. Spiral is a realistic series, rooted in the reality of the police and the political-judicial system maybe, but also in a world of active, multifaceted women; women who are reassuring and “not always chasing after” their image and their beauty. One must be wise and humble in the face of passing years, Caroline Proust concludes charmingly, “live well, so as to age well”; which is lucky as Spiral lives and ages rather well.

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