TV SERIES: What to expect from the new series of Vienna Blood
Georgia Humphreys hears from stars Matthew Beard and Jeurgen Maurer, who discuss filming in Austria, learning about Freud and personal challenges.
Matthew Beard is recalling the tragic day last year when a gunman opened fire at six locations in the centre of Vienna.
It was November 2, the evening before a Coronavirus lockdown came into force. Bars and restaurants were reportedly particularly busy – and four people were killed in the attack (the gunman was also shot dead by police).
Londoner Beard, 32, had been on set in the city that day; he plays Max Liebermann in BBC Two period crime drama Vienna Blood, which is returning for a second series next month, and is filmed in the Austrian capital.
He had finished work early and was on his way home from a dinner out when the shooting started.
“I have lived through terrorist attacks in London, but it felt very different here,” reflects the star – who’s best known for films such as The Imitation Game and And When Did You Last See Your Father? – when he chats over Zoom from the set.
“It’s relatively small compared to London. I knew those streets very well; I knew those bars very well. So, it felt very different when it happens in London. Even though this isn’t my home city, it was very shocking.”
They were already due to have the next day off from filming, he adds.
“I think everyone needed that because everyone was so shaken.”
Vienna Blood, which was last on our screens at the end of 2019, is written by Sherlock’s Steve Thompson. The new episodes are once again inspired by the Max Liebermann novels from author Frank Tallis.
Each story is 90 minutes long and follows the perceptive young doctor Max – he has impressive psychology skills – and the tenacious Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt (Juergen Maurer) as they investigate a different disturbing murder case.
Max is a middle-class British Jew who moved to Austria in his teens, while Oskar is half-Slovak. Filmed in English, the series has become a hit around the world, and perhaps one of the reasons why is its setting of 1900s Vienna, with grand cafes and opera houses as a backdrop.
These new episodes explore the city in 1907, and the change between the centuries is a particularly interesting time, notes Austrian star Maurer.
“It was the time for revolution not only in science, like psychology, but also in fine arts and music. Vienna was a hotspot for this development.”
Maurer, 54, studied art himself as a young man, in the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and he still lives in the city.
“What really surprised me was how filming changed my view on Vienna because you get so used to all the pictures and buildings and the sites that you forget how well you can shoot a period film in it,” says the actor, who’s previously starred in long-running German cop show Tatort. “It’s like, ‘Wow, look at this! This is where I live’.”
“Often we just turn up to an amazing location, and it’s just ready for shooting,” adds Beard excitedly.
“There are a few touches – obviously historical things and plug sockets have to be hidden and whatnot. But, apart from that, most places are ready to shoot at. So, it’s a great trip through the city.”
Like so many other TV shows, the filming of Vienna Blood was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beard admits he was worried about getting back into the headspace of the character after such a long break.
“I was thinking, ‘How am I going to find this again? Am I this person? How can I do this?’
“It did take a day or so. But once the costume was on, and especially once the Max and Oskar scenes started and that relationship kicked back in, it became second nature again.
“I’ve never had to do that before; I’ve never really returned to a character. So, I was nervous about it.”
Setting the scene for the new episodes, Beard explains that Max has now set up his private practice, away from the hospital where certain people look down on the Freudian treatments and practices he employs.
“He’s taking on responsibility and he’s committing even more to what he believes in.
“His passion for psychoanalysis and Freud in the first season is there, against those people telling him that it’s a fad or it’s not based on any rational science, and he just doubles down on that in this season.”
And then Oskar turns up, quite early on in the first episode of the new series, teases Beard.
“I think Max, as much as he’s enjoying having this private practice and going out on his own, is also quite happy when Oskar appears with another case for him because I think he misses that world – the seedy underside of Vienna.”
What makes the relationship between Max and Oskar so special is that they come from “really opposite ends of the personality spectrum”, offers Maurer.
“Oskar is not an intellectual kind of man,” he elaborates.
“He likes Max a lot and often he simply doesn’t understand him. But he understands that the things that Max tells him about psychology make great sense for his job, for his success in hunting down criminals.”
Vienna Blood is Maurer’s first English-speaking role, and he confides “the first challenge was to dare to do it”.
“The producers from England were friendly enough to tell me, after our first discussion we had, that they will take my accent as a role model for the other German spoken actors, which really relieved me a lot,” he adds. “And we have a brilliant voice coach who really helps me to be understandable.”
What’s clever with Thompson’s writing is the balance of the show’s themes; it’s a thriller, but there is also an intriguing psychoanalytical element.
Beard says he read a lot of Freud at university, as part of his English Literature degree. When the role in Vienna Blood come up, it was “a great excuse” to delve into his works once more.
“I read Interpretation Of Dreams again and also visited his house in London, which is a great museum, and his office here.
“The original waiting room is here, which is pretty special to sit in.”
Does he find Freud’s work is subconsciously in his mind while playing Max?
“He totally haunts the production because every morning we’re always talking about our dreams from the night before,” he quips.
“It’s always there and you can’t help but look at the props in the scene and the Freudian angle on everything does start to take over. Even the crew get involved, it’s quite fun.”
Vienna Blood returns to BBC Two on Friday, December 10.
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