Page last updated at 11:50 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Talking Shop: Paterson Joseph

Paterson Joseph in Survivors

Paterson Joseph plays a lead role in the BBC's forthcoming post-apocalyptic sci-fi series, Survivors.

The story is set in the aftermath of a devastating virus which wipes out most of the world's population.

Joseph plays Greg Preston, a former systems analyst for a big multi-national, who now believes he can live without friendship or family.

The BBC's original series of Survivors launched in April 1975 and ran for 38 episodes.


How much do you remember the original Survivors?

I don't remember it vividly but I do remember the opening sequence. I watched the first three episodes whilst I was filming. It came to me immediately, I don't remember the story or any of the actors but I remember that opening sequence with the vial of liquid dropping.

Did you immerse yourself in the old series in preparation for this role?

I avoided looking at anything, but as soon as I was up and running and I felt comfortable with Greg, I had a look at it.

England now is so very different to the England of 1976. Obviously the racial mix is very different, but the technology has gone through the roof - the way we rely so much on what we can press, twist, turn and push. We really do rely on technology much more than we did then.

Freema Agyeman
Torchwood star Freema Agyeman is another of the few remaining people

There's one line in Survivors when someone asks: "When was the last time you ever did anything truly practical?" If the worst happened, what would be your special skill that would help you survive?

People will need entertaining! I've got a few songs and a dance routine. I think it's the most frightening aspect of this whole idea of losing civilisation.

What do I know how to do? Not much - I've learnt quite a bit. When I first came on set I saw Greg's Landrover which is full of the most practical stuff anyone will ever need to survive - and I didn't know what anything did.

So I was handed the SAS Survival Guide and got to work. I know now that I could make some kind of shelter, and not to make it facing the wind. I know how to make fire.

What's the character of Greg Preston like?

Greg is Mr Independent/Practical. He wants to be on his own, on a small farm maybe.

He's had a very corporate lifestyle but even before the virus hits his work as a systems analyst was making him feel like he was trapped in an office the whole time.

He was making a lot of money but wasn't connected with the land or with the seasons. He just felt a pull to it. So much so that he kind of lost his family.

His heroes would probably be Bear Grylls and Ray Mears.

How difficult was it filming scenes of a deserted world - such as the one on the empty motorway in the first episode?

I'm obsessed with that image myself and I'd keep that in my head whenever I was on set.

It was important to remember that the world is de-peopled. You look at any city centre and it's impossible to think what it would be like without anybody there. Once you get that eerie sense of emptiness it really helps set the scene.

We were lucky enough to get the Jaguar test track which is near Nuneaton and there they've got all sorts of roads - miles of them.

There we managed to get places that looked like motorways, but without any busy traffic.

The stuff created by the art department was truly stunning. My favourite shots in the whole thing are the aerial shots of the empty city streets.

Those are the most heart-breaking end-of-the-world shots.

Survivors begins on Sunday 23 November on BBC One at 2100 GMT. Paterson Joseph talked to BBC News entertainment reporter Tim Masters.

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