The Durrells in Corfu returns to US screens next month with six new episodes.
Set in Corfu in the 1930s, the British family drama series is based upon Gerald Durrell’s classic trilogy of Corfu memoirs, telling the story of Louisa Durrell (Upstairs Downstairs star Keeley Hawes), who decides to uproot her family from Bournemouth to start a new life in Corfu.
Season 2 premieres at 8/7c on Sunday October 15 on Masterpiece on PBS.
Here, writer and creator Simon Nye chats about the surprise success of The Durrells in Corfu, what’s coming up in the new season, and his future plans for the show…
“I’ve written TV series that were greeted by bafflement, critical vitriol or -‐ worst of all -‐ nothing more than the rustle of tumbleweed. Thank you therefore to everyone, on both sides of the Atlantic, who responded so warmly to the first series of The Durrells last year, and helped us rack up such fantastic viewing figures. So let’s hope we haven’t ****ed up series 2!
“It’s a nice problem to have. The big choice facing writer and producers if a first series has gone well is broadly: more of the same or different? Well we’ve resisted the temptation to move the family onto a houseboat in Albania. Margo was not savaged to death by the pelicans over the winter and replaced by Spiro’s evil twin.
“Instead I hope we’ve built on what most people liked: an accessible show which illuminates and celebrates family life, and spreads just a little bit of happiness in these alarming times. Louisa Durrell struck a chord, I like to think, particularly with women. Her children, for all their selfishness and ridiculous frailties, were credible, and made our own families look good. The animals were beautifully shot, the scenery transported us in both senses.
“Everyone wanted to live in the Durrells’ house, despite it looking about to fall down. And Greece, and the Greeks, were seen as they are: lovable, characterful, like us but with better food and weather.
“We make no apologies for the comforting quality of the show -‐ not least because it is true to Gerald Durrell’s writing. Despite the looming Second World War, the world of the 1930s was more innocent and manageable. But it wasn’t a picnic for the real-‐life Durrells, as this second series will continue to show.
“Being British and essentially middle class, they are -‐ wrongly -‐ assumed by the Greeks to be well-‐off. Unable to pay the rent to their mysteriously antagonistic new landlady Vasilia, Louisa galvanises the family into growing, cooking and selling produce at the market. They don’t know what they’re doing until Spiro, as ever their guardian angel, shows them how to make a sale, Greek-‐style.
“Spiro, polymath Theo and lugubrious home help Lugaretzia remain the three-‐cornered stool supporting the Durrells, their new Greek family. We were keen to see old friends: Louisa’s thwarted love interest Sven, eccentric aristo the Countess Mavrodaki, Margo’s monk, English matriarch Aunt Hermione, and dryly acerbic Florence who finally has the baby she craves.
“In the first series we were accused by some tabloids of “straight-‐washing” Sven -‐ a hasty piece of journalism as if anybody had asked we would have quietly told them he is revealed as gay in the final episode. On the other hand -‐ well done for reading the books closely.
“I’ve continued to plunder the trilogy that makes up the Corfu memoir, for stories, characters and animals. But the books’ charm lies in the way they skate entertainingly over the family’s life on the island, with vignettes and anecdotes rather than plots. So most of the stories are new, and we hope Gerald Durrell would have approved.
“And approved of the show’s eco-‐content too. This series traces the 12-‐year-‐old Gerald’s attempt to look after and breed otters, which were then endangered on Corfu. If it was a breeding challenge, it was certainly a filming one, with the complicated logistics of filming half of the show in Corfu and half in Ealing Studios. The animals do throw in an unknown quantity for a writer, and I’m told I continue to be optimistic in my stage directions. But if you don’t ask for a quizzical look from a donkey you don’t get it.
“The weight falls again on Keeley Hawes’ shoulders for the full gamut of acting, and she is as funny and touching as ever.
“And a shout-‐out for some gorgeous senior guest-‐acting: Una Stubbs, always a joy, as spiritualist Mrs Haddock; Vernon Dobtcheff as Mr Kralefsky, and Barbara Flynn as the Aunt whose defences are being broken down by the Mediterranean’s magic. May I continue to write as lustily as they continue to act.
“Louisa has a new love interest -‐ Hugh, an olive-‐growing Brit, who attracts and perturbs her -‐ which brings out Spiro’s protective side. Her relationship with Spiro is delicate, with more, iceberg-‐like, below the surface. Vasilia on the other hand is overtly sexual and homes in on Larry… The liaison is all the more charged because she is the Durrells’ landlady and could evict from the house and garden they have come to adore.
“For scheduling reasons and to break new narrative ground we have an episode set almost entirely in the house. That was the plan, but write in some rain and add a little ambition, and it all became far more complicated. It actually rains a lot on Corfu, more than in the UK, but not at the right times.
“The Durrells were in Corfu for five years. Gerry arrived a boy with an inquiring mind and left a raging adolescent naturalist, Margo and Leslie matured falteringly into adulthood, and Larry became a successful writer and intellectual (I’ll get Tom Stoppard in to write that dialogue).
“It would be a joy and a privilege to be able to travel the whole distance with them… But in the meantime we present the next instalment of the Durrells’ search for fun, equilibrium, love and a thriving otter population.”
Season 1 is available to buy now on DVD.
A third season of The Durrells in Corfu is currently filming and will air in 2018.