"One decision pulls Christian in so much deeper than he ever thought he would be or ever wanted to be - and he has to face the consequences of it for six episodes."
Based on the hit Swedish series of the same name, Channel 4's new high-octane thriller, Before We Die stars Lesley Sharp as Detective Inspector Hannah Laing. Who after her married lover, Sean Hardacre, goes missing in mysterious circumstances, persuades her colleagues to launch an urgent manhunt. Determined to find whoever is responsible for killing him.
After accessing one of Sean’s confidential contacts, Hannah persuades them to help her unpick the tangled threads of Sean’s investigation into the Mimicas, a tight-knit family who left Croatia for Bristol and now run a successful restaurant.
Forced to operate undercover for fear of a criminal informer at Police HQ, Hannah and her sceptical new partner, Billy Murdoch, played by Vincent Regan, uncover a daring plot by the Mimicas to smuggle an enormous quantity of cocaine into the country. However, Hannah quickly realises there is far more at stake than bringing Sean’s killers to justice.
Patrick Gibson plays Hannah's British-born son of a Croatian father, Christian Radic, who is trying to put his life back together after going off the rails following his parents' divorce. After being introduced to the Mimica family by Stefan Vargic, a small-time criminal he met in jail, Christian now works as a dish-washer at the same restaurant his mother is investigating,
As he quarantines in Australia ahead of his next job, I caught up with Patrick Gibson over Zoom to discuss what it was like taking on such a complex character, working with Lesley Sharp and what he makes of the show's ending.
How would you best describe Before We Die?
Before We Die is a very fast-moving crime thriller and drama, that at the centre of it has an incredibly complex and detailed family drama element.
It's based on the hit Swedish series of the same name. Had you seen the original series before accepting the role?
No. I hadn't. I'd heard of it and spoke to somebody who had seen it. Then when I got it, I decided that I was going to hold off and wait until we'd finished shooting. So I've watched it since and I loved it. I thought it was awesome.
Having now watched the original, is there anything you wish you'd known before? Or are you glad you didn't, in case you'd inadvertently copy?
That was my concern. That I would maybe emulate what somebody else had done. And I think because the relationship between Hannah and Christian feels so grounded in the scripts, I was worried that I'd be influenced by somebody else's take on it.
Although it was really tempting to, because sometimes when you have questions you can just go "I wonder how they did..." But I'm glad I didn't in the end. Because it's such a strong piece of writing and you know who everybody is and the type of person they are quite early on, I didn't feel like what I did was that different.
I was expecting this entirely, completely, reinterpreted performance and I was a bit like "OK" which actually I think is a really good thing because it means there's real clarity in that story.
What's your take on Christian? He's very layered isn't he?
Yeah, he's really interested. It's not really explored that much in the show because it really gets into the action quite quickly. You see a few flashbacks of how Christian came to be in prison, initially, but you don't get the lead up to it. His parents are divorced.
There was a lot of fun with the director, working out what happened to lead these characters to that point at the start of the series. Especially because Hannah and Christian are estranged at that time.
I think he (Christian) was somebody who went to a boarding school, but was dealing drugs while he was in that school and had to navigate so many different walks of life. When he was school I imagine he was quite able to fly under the radar and seem relatively respectable. When he'd speak to teachers he'd have that skill. But then he'd be collecting drugs from pretty dangerous people.
We all want to rebel against our parents and Christian's mother is a police officer. Do you think that played a part?
Exactly. That's 100% it and it's definitely his attempt at defiance and an act of rebellion... which backfires pretty heavily!
What's the relationship like between Christian and his mother, Hannah?
It's a really complex relationship. Even from when we pick up in the show, she's got him arrested for dealing drugs. I think she felt like everything had come to a head and this was probably not the first incident they'd had. Christian is just relentlessly defying her and going out and continuing to sell drugs.
So she decides to get him arrested. Expecting for him really to only get a slap on the wrist. And he ends up getting two years in prison. So they are completely at odds with each other at the beginning of the show and through Christian - not initially working with Hannah - he starts to become a key informant in a major criminal conspiracy. So they end up getting forced together.
Christian detached from his dad when he was quite young. He saw that he didn't get what he needed from him, so there was never as much conflict with his father as there was with his mother, because there wasn't that much investment.
I don't think there are any heroes or villains. Both sides have equal amount of flaws and feel very grounded and real. I don't think anyone is without their faults.
Do you think Christian can ever trust her again?
Without giving away more than what we see in episode one, I would say the only way they could is through a situation that is so pressured and so intense that it forces them together to see past, what really is actually surface level conflict.
Often in those kind of conflicts, there's a lot of love that's driving it. And both of those people actually want to feel close but if you keep butting heads for long enough, the communication breaks down and without a major event - of which there are like ten of them in the show - it's really difficult to get past that.
Someone Christian is close to, is Sean. Explain who he is and their relationship.
Sean is in a relationship with Hannah but he's also married, so they're having an affair. So again, it's incredibly complex! He's the one who's able to speak to Christian on a level and treats him with dignity and respect. He doesn't necessarily treat him like a drug dealer. He sees that he's more than that.
When Christian gets arrested, he's the one who actually visits. I think for Hannah, the shame and the guilt for what she did, meant she couldn't. In a lot of ways, Sean is the catalyst for the whole explosion that happens after the first episode.
I guess what you're hinting at there, is that by wanting to help Sean, Christian finds himself drawn back into criminality.
Yeah. I think what's so fun about it is that he thinks he has this minor shot at redemption and that he'll score points for Sean and Sean will be able to go out and finish his career as a detective. I should have mentioned that earlier, Sean works with Hannah.
He really wants Sean to end his career on a high and Christian feels like he's indebted to him. He wants to repay him in some way and this is the only way he knows how. That one decision pulls Christian in so much deeper than he ever thought he would be or ever wanted to be - and he has to face the consequences of it for six episodes.
What was it like working with Lesley Sharp?
She was so so great. She was actually a big part of what initially drew me to doing the show. I thought if she was on board, she always brings a level of depth that's more than you expect from whatever it is that she's doing and a level of nuance to everything.
It was so cool to work with her. It was always an evolving thing, so we'd meet for breakfast on Sundays and talk through the scenes. She was so into getting as much out of it as possible. Even right up to just before we're shooting, we'd be figuring out other little ways to approach certain beats. It was honestly such a dream to work with her.
What was the biggest challenge you faced filming the series?
It's such a fast-paced show. Once it gets going, every character has their back up against the wall. Whether the clock's running out or they're in jeopardy or danger - to maintain that throughout the whole thing, was overall the biggest challenge. But also, that was the appeal.
Sometimes you'd have four scenes in a day and you're like, right so I'm having a breakdown, and then I'm getting shot at and so on...
All episodes are going to made available straight away after episode one airs. Is that how you watch TV? Is that how you'd like the audience to watch Before We Die?
I think for this, yeah. I don't know. Part of me really loves the magic of waiting for that day when something comes out. That was something that when I was growing up, you'd have shows like Misfits that gave you something to be excited about on a Thursday or a Wednesday.
It's so hard to say, because I haven't see it yet! I think it caters to both. I read the scripts in one go and I didn't intend to. I kept getting to the end of an episode and going "Nooooo! What?!" Even within the episodes, there are moments where you have no idea how the story can possibly continue!
When you read the script for the final episode and discovered how it all ends. Were you surprised? Do you think audiences will be satisfied?
I think so. I think the momentum builds quietly in every episode, it's not just that the pace gets bigger but the stakes get raised. There are a few moments where you ask yourself, how are they going to get out of this?! Whether they do or not... I can't remember! (Laughs) The ending for me, I loved it.
What was your favourite memory, filming Before We Die?
I'm going to say - and this isn't specifically when we were on set - but because of Covid, we were quarantined together in a hotel in Belgium. We had to get a jet into Belgium, which was crazy! I thought it was going to be like a Jay-Z situation, it was kind of like World War Z - not as glamorous as it sounds.
But then we had a couple of weeks of just mucking about in the hotel before we started shooting again. So we had a lot of laughs and a lot of good times!
Even now, I'm in quarantine and I've just done a film in LA where I had to quarantine for two weeks and honestly, moving forward I think I'll put myself in a hotel for a week (before a job) and not leave. You have none of that anxiety that should be working on the character. You just get completely focussed on it.
Everything I watch and everything I'm reading is all to do with the next job that I'm doing. One of the very few positives to have come out of this situation.
Finally, I have to mention The OA. There was quite the fan reaction when Netflix cancelled the series after two seasons. What do you make of the strong fan response and their campaign to get the show back? Were you surprised?
I was. We didn't really know what we were making. I always remember when we were shooting, it was very apparent that either this would completely crash and burn or some people would really love it. So I wasn't prepared for the amount that people did enjoy it. It really blew me away.
I thought it was so cool that people responded to it so much. I was aware of the empathy Brits have for people who have experienced trauma, during shooting, but I didn't think that people who have had PTSD or have had traumatic experiences, would find such a positive in it.
The fact that it got cancelled was a real shame, but the show was serious from the start until the end.
Before We Die starts Wednesday at 10pm on Channel 4 with all episodes available on All 4 at launch