Home TV News ‘The Lazarus Project’ Season 2: Interview With Writer/Creator Joe Barton

‘The Lazarus Project’ Season 2: Interview With Writer/Creator Joe Barton

Excellent drama returns for more time-lopping craziness!

by Dave Elliott

With The Lazarus ProjectSeason 2 due to premiere Wednesday, 15th November 2023 at 9pm on Sky Max and streaming service NOW, I had the chance for an extremely fun catch-up with the wonderful writer/creator of the series, Joe Barton, and put a few questions to him about the show.

I previously interviewed Joe for the launch of the series back in 2022, so we chat about whether he has learnt anything from doing Season 1, keeping track of time-loops, and get some more details on the new cast members. We also discuss the mysterious “Time Break Initiative”, the writing, the filming locations, and I put some questions to him from the cast themselves!

Interview With ‘The Lazarus Project’ Season 2 Writer/Creator Joe Barton

Geektown: ‘The Lazarus Project’ is coming back for Season 2. Did you have an idea where the story was going before you came back to it? How much of a plan had you got for an arc for it?

Joe: We had notions I would say more than a plan, right? [laughs] We got to the end of series one and sort of breathed a big sigh of relief. And then… I mean the process is, they say, you know, before they greenlight it or anything, they said like go away and have a think about what you would do and you know, tell us your ideas and stuff like that. So, we had gone away and we had had a little ponder about what we could do.

I did a draught of 2 episodes, I think, so we put the building blocks down a bit. The challenge was trying to work out how we crack on from how the first series ended. That was the big one. Just trying to crack that nut. But then, when they commissioned it, it was a really, really, quick turnaround. So we didn’t have to think on our feet and be essentially just like all hands to the pump just trying to come up with the story. And it’s a really complex one as well. There’s time travel and there’s loops, and there’s flashbacks… There’s all this stuff. The key thing was just trying to work out how to get out of the dead end that I’d written us into at the end of season one. That was the big challenge. [laughs]

Geektown: Yeah, thankfully there were places that you could take it at that point, you didn’t completely right yourself into a corner.

Joe: No. Although we had to invent time travel to get out of it. So it was… yeah. [laughs]

Geektown: Well, yeah! [laughs] Were there any sort of dos and don’ts that you learned going through the first season that you applied in the second season?

Joe: I wish there were… I mean… I find the time travel stuff really difficult. I don’t have a very analytical brain, you know, it’s quite sort of, I don’t know, chaotic… in that sense. So trying to keep hold of all of the strands and the narratives… And it was a big challenge in series one too. I think it’s even more complicated in series two… So to be honest, no, we learned nothing! We made all the same mistakes again and suffered. For about a year let’s say. [laughs]

Geektown: Ohh man… [laughs] Because we talked I think last time about whether you had a sort of murder board set up to keep track of things. You didn’t think of trying that this time?

Joe: I had one A4 piece of paper that I once tried to draw a diagram. And it was just pointless, and it was too complicated. So I gave up on that. I just relied on my notes app and my script editors to e-mail me and be like, “By the way… this doesn’t make sense.” [laughs]

Geektown: [laughs] Yeah, I mean… as long those issues all get caught before you start shooting things, and nobody comes up halfway through, going, “Actually…”

Joe: Ahh, well, you know… that’s what the ADR’s for! [laughs] NOTE: ADR = Automated Dialogue Replacement – when they record and add audio after filming.

I mean, as with anything, you always make mistakes and hopefully catch it, but I think we were pretty okay with this one. That’s the fear. I fear that there will be someone on Twitter who will just be like “By the way, this character shouldn’t know X…”.

Geektown: Yes, somebody will find that one little nit-picky thing.

Joe: Yeah. And I know there’s some out there. [laughs]

Geektown: So what can you say about Season 2 so far?

Joe: Well, Season 2 is a sort of exploration of how The Lazarus Project got out of the predicament that they were in at the end of the first series. And it’s about how, in doing that, we discover a lot of hidden secrets and skeletons in closets, by literally returning to the past. So it’s about slightly relitigating The Lazarus Project as an organisation, and asking questions about the morality of time travel, and if you can change the past, should you.

Geektown: Some new characters are joining this season. We’ve seen lots of Colin Salmon in the new trailer, which, I mean… if you’re having Colin Salmon in something, of course, you put a lot of Colin Salmon in the trailer! Is there anything you can tell us about some of the new characters?

Joe: Yeah, we’ve got Colin Salmon, we’ve got Sam Troughton as well. We’ve got Safia Oakley-Green coming in… A lot of these characters are people who are connected to an organisation called the Time Break Initiative, which is a sort of, rival Lazarus Project.

So Sam Troughton, for example, plays a scientist who was working for this team of people trying to create a true time travel machine. What the Time Break Initiative is trying to do is create an actual, like proper Jules Verne, time travel so you can go back to, you know, 1983 or whatever you want to do with it. That’s what they’re trying to do. Colin is playing the head of that organisation. And we see what they’ve been up to and how they all get on.

I was talking to Sam Troughton the other day and he said that he and Colin had basically played almost very similar characters in ‘Alien versus Predator’. He said there’s a scene where Colin is making him do something. He’s like, “yeah, that’s basically what Colin did in ‘Alien versus Predator’… made me go somewhere and then I got eaten by an alien!” [laughs] Familiar territory in some ways for these guys, which is nice!

They’re all brilliant, and it’s really lovely just to get these these fantastic actors in. And also, we had some people coming back from the first series. People at Brian Gleeson and obviously Charly Clive’s got a bigger part to play, and Vinette Robinson, all of these guys. Lovely group of actors.

Geektown: Yeah, I mean, Sam Troughton is no stranger to time travel things being the grandson of a Doctor Who, so you know!

Joe: Exactly! All very familiar to him!

Geektown: Yes, and Charly’s [Clive] role [Sarah] is interesting this time around because she got to do an awful lot more than be in the dark…

Joe: Yes. Or be dead. [laughs]

Geektown: [laughs] Yes, be dead or in the dark, which is pretty much how she was in the first season. That’s interesting to expand some of the existing characters. Wes [Caroline Quentin] also has more to play with this time around.

Joe: Yes, Caroline has more to do, which is great. And we get to dig into her character a lot more, and again, like, look into the things that she’s done in the past. And… I don’t want to give anything away… But again, it is about the history of The Lazarus Project and the things that people have done that may or may not have been the right thing to have done, or possibly the right thing at that time, but now, through fresh eyes, it’s possibly slightly villainous. So we get a lot of the brilliance of Caroline Quentin, just being a bit shady, which is always fun!

Charly comes back and she has a lot more to do. Partly it’s just because I really like writing for her and she’s such a great actor. And also, because it’s such an outlandish premise, to have a character who is a totally new to it – obviously in series one that was Paapa – but here, Charly comes in and she is a school teacher who suddenly finds herself stuck in this insane world, and we get to see it through her eyes and also just look at the effect of all of this mad stuff actually has on someone who is just a normal person. Like, what does it do to you? How does it change how you view the world? How has it changed your morality? How has it changed the way she sees her relationship with George and all this stuff? So that that was really fun. Being able to make her more of a main character in it.

Geektown: I’m really interested to see where Charly goes. And it is, like you said, quite interesting for the second season to have Sarah as a newcomer with George being pushed out. So you’ve got this interesting dynamic between the two of them as well.

Joe: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Geektown: I have actually just spoken to the actors… So… I asked them if they had any questions for you. So I’m sorry about this…

Joe: [laughs] Yeah, okay!

Geektown: There was a there was a theme that came through from some of them. So Anjli [Mohindra] said she wants Archie to travel a bit more. That was her pitch.

Joe: Time travel will just travel?

Geektown: Just travel a bit more, Charly reiterated that with “can we go somewhere warmer?” So I think they’re both pitching for them to be sent to check out an evil base in the Maldives…

Joe: [laughs] What? They don’t like South Wales? In the middle of an industrial estate? What’s the matter with them!

Geektown: Should stress, they both said they love South Wales! But it would be nice to be able to go somewhere a bit warmer! [laughs]

Joe: Well, Paapa got to go to Morocco for… two days I think… [laughs] You know what, there was actually a whole sequence planned in, not a very warm place, but in Salzburg or somewhere. Then Anjli broke her leg right before we started shooting. So that all got scrapped. Soo… I will just say, she might have got to travel more, but it didn’t happen. [laughs]

Geektown: Yeah, carelessness! [laughs] So Caroline requested that Wes get out of the office a bit more. She does get out of the office a little bit this season.

Joe: [laughs] Yeah… there’s like, one scene… It’s true actually, I hadn’t thought that! Okay. Yes, I take take into account, [laughs]

Geektown: Paapa was the only one who actually took it slightly more seriously, and said he wanted to know more about George’s past relationships. So like, how his previous relationships ended, whether he acted the same way as he did with Charly. That sort of thing.

Joe: Yeah, okay. That would be interesting to go even further back. Maybe he’s just an obsessive boyfriend with all of his partners and he’s just this, like, really awful stalker. [laughs] I don’t know. That’d be interesting. Yeah, we’d go back to women in about 2010 or something. That’s a good question! He’s smart that Paapa!

Geektown: Yes he is! The others just wanted to go on holiday! [laughs]

Joe: Yeah, true. [laughs] South of France or something!

Geektown: So most of the filming for this was done in South Wales?

Joe: Yes, we’re based out of Newport on a sort of industrial estate where we film most of it. There’s a little bit in Cardiff and Bristol. We went to Morocco for, like, literally 3 days. And the Alps for, like, 2 days. But yeah, I mean, it’s a globetrotting show. There’s stuff in China and Japan, all sorts of places, but we don’t actually get to go there.

Geektown: Once it starts shooting, how involved are you at that point? Are you still rewriting stuff then or have you mainly handed it over?

Joe: Oh my God, no, I hadn’t handed it over at all! No, it was a very tight schedule, so I was writing it throughout. So I actually never went on set at all for the second series just because I just was trying to get the scripts out in time so that people weren’t turning up with nothing to say on set. Out of everything I’ve ever done, this was the most demanding of my time. I mean, it’s usually when you film you’re still writing. There was a show I did a few years ago where we got all the scripts done before we started, just because it was a tricky shoot. We were in Japan and we did actually go to Japan for that one! So we got all the scripts done beforehand, and we were ready. But that’s the only time it’s ever happened. Every other time we were writing it as they’re filming it, which is a challenge, and could be stressful. This one was stressful, I’m not going to lie. [laughs]

Geektown: Is it different working for different platforms? So working for somebody like Sky compared to working for somebody like Netflix? Because you worked for a variety of different companies.

Joe: It is and it isn’t. I mean, broadly it’s the same kind of relationship. You have your execs and they give you notes. Every channel has its own personality, which is partly to do with the people that are working there, and it’s partly to do their remit or their audience or whatever.

So for example, Sky has adverts. It has commercial breaks, it’s a channel that traditionally was about selling satellite dishes, right? You get your football and then you get your drama and it’s this big sort of, multimedia company. Netflix is just Netflix. They make content that is all they do. They just make telly and films and they want you to come and watch their telly and their films. Someone like Amazon, they’re like, “Hey, come watch a show and then maybe buy a mop while you’re here!” That’s why they make stuff. So that you’re on their website and then you do your shopping when you’re there. So everyone has different motivations.

Ultimately, you’re there just trying to make the best show you can. I mean, the streamers have a real obsession with the first two minutes or three minutes of a show. It’s all about keeping people. I don’t know if Sky have that same kind of concern or not. But yeah, at the end of the day, you’re just trying to make something that’s good. So it generally feels similar-ish!

Geektown: Obviously, there’s been the strikes going on recently in the US for writers and actors. Thankfully that’s now over. Were you affected by that much over here? I don’t know whether you’re a member of the WGA or the British equivalent.

Joe: Yeah, I am a member of the WGA and the WGGB [Writers’ Guild of Great Britain] the British version. I was affected a little bit. I was quite lucky and British writers were quite lucky in that we were able to carry on working so most of my projects weren’t affected. I had one project which was affected. I was doing this Amazon show with Michael Bay through WGA, so that got put on hold, but everything else was fine. So it’s lucky. I do really feel for people. It was just really difficult. You know, people hadn’t worked for months and you see that. I follow lots of American writers and speak to them on Twitter or wherever, and saw genuine fear, concern and hardship for people making no income for half a year. I admire greatly the sacrifices, and I’m very grateful as well that they did that. In the UK, I think we will eventually feel the benefit of those changes. Generally, there’s a trickle-down affected, and our contracts will start to reflect the gains that they made. So yeah, it’s it was a remarkable thing.

Geektown: So the last question is the same one that I gave you last time, just to see if your answer has changed! If you had the opportunity to work on any TV series, something past, present or future or maybe a genre you haven’t worked in before, what would it be?

Joe: What did I say last time?

Geektown: You went for a Jurassic Park series because your kids were obsessed with ‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’!

Joe: [laughs] Ah yeah! Camp Cretaceous, definitely! Well, if it’s not season three of ‘The Lazarus Project’ obviously, I’m doing a show at the moment, which I’m really, really, excited about with Netflix called Black Doves, which I feel very, very lucky and excited to be to be doing that. So I feel in a weird position at the moment. I feel like I’m working on exactly the sort of things that I want to be… But, if I was to pick a big sort of show. I liked Andor a lot. One of them classy Star Wars ones! [laughs]

Geektown: Any thoughts on ‘Doctor Who’, given that’s the other big time-travel thing which is about to drop?

Joe: I know a few people working on it, and you know chat to Russell [T Davies] a bit and I know one of the directors. I think you have to really love it, and I think you have to really, really know it, and I’ve never watched enough. I’m looking forward to seeing what Russell does with the new series, but I think I wouldn’t be the right person to do it.

About ‘The Lazarus Project’ Season 2

The riveting, propulsive and action-packed 8-part series is a timely and affecting exploration of the desire to take charge of your own fate. Season one introduced us to George (Paapa Essiedu) who woke up one day and found himself reliving a day from months ago. All of his recent milestones had been undone, including his success at work and his marriage to the love of his life Sarah (Charly Clive). Worst of all, he seemed to be the only one who’d noticed what had happened… That was until he met Archie (Anjli Mohindra), who recruited George for the Lazarus Project – a secret organisation that has harnessed the ability to turn back time every time the world is at threat of extinction.

When the world locks into a never-ending time loop that will ultimately end with the planet’s complete extinction, the Lazarus team must race against time to find a solution before humanity is wiped out forever. Among their number is resolute Lazarus agent, George (Paapa Essiedu), who’s been left in disgrace after betraying the organisation in the name of love.

George is determined to redeem himself and win back the trust of his friends, colleagues, and the love of his life. But when he discovers that the cause he’s fighting is more sinister than it appears, George begins to suspect that the only person he can really trust is himself.

The epic, action-packed second series is led by Emmy and BAFTA-nominated Pappa Essiedu (I May Destroy You, Gangs of London), with Anjli Mohindra (Bodyguard, Vigil), Charly Clive (Pure), Vinette Robinson (Boiling Point), Rudi Dharmalingam (Wakefield), Caroline Quentin and Tom Burke (Strike) all reprising their roles.

Joining the cast in the second series are Royce Pierreson (The Irregulars, The Witcher), Colin Salmon (Resident Evil, Limitless), Safia Oakley-Green (Sherwood), Lorne MacFayden (Vigil), Zoe Telford (Genius), Sam Troughton (The Outlaws) and James Atherton (Hollyoaks).

The Lazarus Project‘ Season 2 premieres Wednesday, 15th November 2023 at 9pm on Sky Max and streaming service NOW.

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