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5 Things You Need To Know About Dispatches From Elsewhere, According to Richard E. Grant

The Withnail and I star talks Dispatches From Elsewhere.

5 Things You Need To Know About Dispatches From Elsewhere, According to Richard E. Grant
09 May 2020

We don’t know about you, but we could do with a bit of whimsy right now.

Thankfully, AMC’s Dispatches From Elsewhere is bringing it to our front rooms by the bucket load.
The all-new Philadelphia-set drama follows a group of ordinary people, thrown together in a strange and surreal puzzle-solving game to follow clues and unravel a mystery they never knew lay just under the veil of their city. Think The Wizard Of Oz meets Twin Peaks, with dance numbers, a bit of magic, and a Big Mouth Billy Bass thrown in.
Jason Segel is both creator and star of the show, with Oscar-winner Sally Field, Outkast’s André Benjamin and newcomer Eve Lindley rounding out the unassuming team thrown together on a fantastical adventure together. Richard E. Grant also stars as Octavio Coleman, Esq, the enigmatic, charming but unsettling head of the mysterious ‘Jejune Institute,’ which our heroes find themselves investigating on a surreal scavenger hunt.
We spoke to Richard E. Grant about his role in the 10-part series, from his home in lockdown - which he has accidentally become perfectly prepared for.
“Not to be disingenuous about it, but that's the nature of an actor's life,” he tells Shortlist of his current, homebound life, “I have actor friends that have said that apart from not being able to go anywhere, it doesn't really feel any different because, for a lot of the time it's feast or famine: if you’re working, then you're filming every hour of the day, and you're so grateful when you have a day off, but the majority of the time you're not working.”
Allow the BAFTA-winning screen legend to reveal what you need to know about the new, most escapist show on telly…

1. Jason Segel is why Richard E. Grant signed up

5 Things You Need To Know About Dispatches From Elsewhere, According to Richard E. Grant

“Because Jason Segel is an actor, writer and director, he’s a triple whammy. He's very articulate and persuasive. It just seemed worth taking a leap of faith, as Sally Field did as well. Not knowing how something's going to end makes a change from shows where everything is predictable and you're foretold how it’s all going to end. I liked that about it.”

2. Nothing is what it seems

5 Things You Need To Know About Dispatches From Elsewhere, According to Richard E. Grant

“When he pitched it to me, Jason said, ‘Nothing is as it seems’. And I thought, well that's intriguing as well, because that's my experience of my life! Like John Lennon said just before he was murdered, ‘Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.’ You have no idea - you walk around the corner, and then suddenly you're in lockdown for the next seven months! Nobody knows what the fuck is going to happen next, so I like that quality about it. And he certainly captured that in this story that we're telling.”

3. The cast were surprised by the ending

5 Things You Need To Know About Dispatches From Elsewhere, According to Richard E. Grant

“We were constantly asking, ‘What the fuck is next?!’ I think that’s what was so attractive about it - if I don't know what’s going to happen, then, it's intriguing. Yeah, the ending did surprise me. It surprised all of us I think. Because you then think, ‘Oh god, is that what I was doing?’ The choices that I made in the first nine episodes, did they make sense, when you find out what the final thing is?’”

4. Richard didn’t know what was going on most of the time

5 Things You Need To Know About Dispatches From Elsewhere, According to Richard E. Grant

“The majority of what I did in it was literally looking down the barrel of the camera and talking as though I'm talking to the viewer, on my own. Obviously, at lunchtime, we'd all meet up, but generally I was on my own.
As soon as I saw any of the other actors, I always had hundreds of questions for them, I was asking, ‘What’s going on? What have you been doing?’ That was a unique experience for me, because normally you're interacting with other people all the time. I was like somebody who had Coronavirus, I couldn't be with other people, I just had to be with the camera on my own.”

5. The show was almost as surreal to make as it is to watch

5 Things You Need To Know About Dispatches From Elsewhere, According to Richard E. Grant

“What will surprise audiences most about the show? Hopefully, that you don't know what will happen, it's not obvious. I don't think of what's going to happen or how it's going to turn out. That's the draw of it.
The most common question I’ve been getting since it’s been airing in the States, is ‘Who is Octavio?’ But I have no answer. I can't tell you because I do know who he is, but nothing is what it seems or how it's laid out. If I told you, that’d be a spoiler and then I'd be in deep trouble and AMC would ban me and blacklist me for the rest of my breathing days.”
“There was stuff that involved body doubles - now how can I say this without giving it away? I can't tell you what it is, because it's a plot spoiler. Anyway, there are doubles of things, put it that way. And that was surreal to do.”
Dispatches from Elsewhere airs on Wednesdays at 9pm on AMC UK, exclusively to BT TV (channel 332)