World on Fire began in the US last night on PBS.
Created by award-winning writer Peter Bowker (The A Word), the epic seven-part series tells the story of ordinary people from all sides of the global conflict of the Second World War.
Here’s some interesting trivia about World on Fire from the cast and crew:
The show’s creator Peter Bowker already has story lines for the entire War planned out. He revealed: “I know what happens over six series for the main characters.”
Julia Brown and Jonah Hauer-King made up their own version of Lois and Harry’s history together: “When we sat down for our first rehearsals together, he came to the table with so many ideas and we were able to create a backstory together.
“Peter [Bowker] was quite open with us and allowed us to almost create our own love story in the lead up to starting work.”
Julia Brown sang ‘Dream A Little Dream’ in her audition for the role of Lois: “The funny thing about that was when I auditioned, they asked me to sing a snippet of a song that I liked and I sang that one because my granny used to sing it to me when I was young.
“She sang during the Second World War as a young girl and it was crazy and lovely that when I finally got the part and the script, I got to perform it.”
Jonah Hauer-King (Harry) says he’s “always felt quite connected to the Second World War” as his grandparents were Polish Jews who fled to America in the 1930s.
Brian J. Smith (Webster) made a Spotify playlist during filming featuring songs that were “either descriptive of the character or evocative of the era or songs that I think that the character would really love. There’s ‘Cello Sonata’ by Rachmaninoff. It’s this beautiful recording with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax. The cello and the piano remind me of Albert and Webster.
“It’s something that I listen to sometimes if I need to immediately grab on to an emotion in a scene. It fuels their feeling for each other. It’s this thing you can’t get with words but music can do it.
“There’s a piece of music, ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’, that to me feels like Webster’s relationship with Paris. It’s just this sweeping, almost corny piece of music, but it has that feeling of being free and to have your whole body alive and tingling. I think that’s what Webster feels like with Albert and living in Paris.”
Peter Bowker’s inspirations to write World on Fire were ITV’s World War II documentary The World at War, voiced by Sir Laurence Olivier, and German TV drama Deutschland 83.
Sean Bean (Douglas) has always been fascinated by World War II: “I did a fair bit of research for the part but it’s something I’ve always been quite interested in as an area of history.
“The Second World War fascinates me, but it was the reparations that were set in place following the end of the First World War that heralded the introduction of Hitler.”
The show’s director Adam Smith made a pretend trailer before filming even began, using music and archive footage he’d found, to give the cast an idea of the style and tone he was aiming for.
The friendship between Lois and Connie is based on writer Peter Bowker’s real-life grandma and her best friend during the War. Julia Brown (Lois) explained: “It was really special to understand that this was a real friendship at the time, especially between a white woman and a black woman.”
Ewan Mitchell did a lot of research for his role as Tom: “I’ve read a lot of books about the navy, the Battle of River Plate, and the ordeals that those soldiers went through.
“It was immense and insane and it’s hard when you realise that it only started 80 years ago. Such a short time ago and my grandmother’s brother was killed at the Battle of the River Plate – he drowned during the sinking of the HMS Exeter.”
Arthur Darvill previously starred in three seasons of time-travel drama Doctor Who, including an episode set in World War II called ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ in which he punched Adolf Hitler in the face.
Borys Szyc (Konrad) has an amazing true story from his own family’s past: “My grandmother was involved in the Warsaw uprising. One day she left her house to get some food, the uprising started, and when she came back there was only half a house left.
“She climbed to the second floor to get some belongings from what was left from the apartment but was caught by Germans on the street and put onto transport to Auschwitz.
“She was a beautiful blonde woman. On the way to Auschwitz there was a change of trains, and was walking towards the next train when a German soldier saw her, caught her and told her to run.
“This German soldier saved her life. She was running and running on foot for many days and eventually she was reunited with her husband, my grandfather.”
The second season of World on Fire is expected to begin filming later this year.
World on Fire is available on DVD on Amazon.