RELLIK (the word “killer” backwards) is a new crime thriller premiering on Friday, April 13 on Cinemax. The show stars Richard Dormer as Detective Gabriel Markham, an emotionally broken and physically disfigured man pursuing the serial killer who nearly took his life. But as Det. Markham closes in on his suspect, he realizes that his target may actually be innocent. But an acid-throwing murderer isn’t Markham’s only problem as he navigates his inner demons, a complicated family life, and the trauma of being disfigured by an acid attack.
Black Nerd Problems: RELLIK embraces a unique way of storytelling. Instead of beginning to end, it tells the story backwards. What can viewers expect to experience watching the show?
Richard Dormer: Basically, what a detective does is they see a crime and they have to walk their way back to find out how that crime was done, by who, and why they did it if in fact they had a reason for doing it. That’s exactly what this does. It goes, “Here’s a man who’s fairly damaged insihell-bentt who is hell bent on getting revenge on the person who did this to him. It’s personal.” Because he’s such a narcissistic man to begin with, as we find out as we go further backwards, we realize that he was a womanizing narcissist and immortalizing character. That’s what a detective story is. You’re working your way backwards.
BNP: How did the backwards storytelling inform your approach to the character?
Richard Dormer: It didn’t really inform it really. I was just trying to get through each day. It was a tough shoot. The prosthetic wasn’t easy to wear. It was very tiring and was definitely the toughest shoot I’ve done.
BNP: How long did it take to put on the prosthetic?
Richard Dormer: It took two hours to put on, and then I had to wear it 11 hours a day, every day apart from Sunday. Then it was half an hour to take off every night.
BNP: RELLIK is a BBC production that will air in the United States on Cinemax. Do you find there’s a bigger appetite for creative experimentation like RELLIK’s reverse storytelling in the UK?
Richard Dormer: I think what’s important most of all is story. The danger of this (telling the story in reverse) is that people can think it’s some kind of storytelling gimmick, but that’s not what it’s doing. It’s analyzing motive and why we do things. If something happens in our lives, we have to work our way backwards and find out how that happened. I think that’s exactly what it’s doing. It’s basically doing what we do every day in our lives, in a way.
BNP: The show focuses a lot on mental illness, both for those living with it as well as their loved ones who care for them. How was RELLIK able to tackle such a tough subject with sensitivity and nuance?
Richard Dormer: I don’t think the cop show would work without the human show. Those relationships are what makes this character human. If we saw that he didn’t care or that he didn’t actually love his wife or his daughter, then we wouldn’t really care about him because he’s such a nihilistic character. He’s such a dangerous person. He’s sleeping around, having an affair, so those are the things I did the show for. I really wanted to play a human being first and foremost, and then play the cop second. The cop and the human being aren’t separate at all.
BNP: How wrapped up in this character did you become?
Richard Dormer: He looks like me, so he’s so much like me that it got a little too close sometimes. Sometimes that’s part of the process. It doesn’t become acting anymore sometimes. You’re actually emotionally and mentally in a state of mind that is that (character). It got under my skin.
BNP: Did that make it hard to put the character down when you got home?
Richard Dormer: I don’t’ want to say anything negative about it, but it compromised my life lets say. It took me a while to get over it. I know it’s only a piece of drama for television, but I think actors can sometimes get a little too absorbed in it, especially if they’re away from friends and family and they’re living on their own in an apartment in a part of the city they’re not familiar with. So I kind of did lose myself a little in that part emotionally. It took a while to get over it. But maybe it was a journey that I had to do. Maybe it was cathartic in some way. It was the hardest time in my life to be honest.
BNP: Regarding the reasons why people do the things they do, is there any sort of lesson you hope viewers take from RELLIK?
Richard Dormer: I think the lesson is that monsters are made. They don’t just create themselves. Society creates monsters and there is such a thing of consequence, like the consequence of how the job impacted me emotionally (laughter). But seriously, consequences in that monsters are made by society or by other monsters who were created by society. It’s a snake that’s eating its own tail basically.
BNP: What’s next for Richard Dormer?
Richard Dormer: I’m doing Fortitude, which is on Amazon Prime. The first two series are available to watch and we’re filming the third and final series at the moment. The other thing I’m doing is a certain show that is very famous (Beric Dondarrion on Game of Thrones), but I can’t say too much about that because I can’t give any spoilers. Then, I’m going to be unemployed!
BNP: Here’s hoping Robert can use his rare break after Game of Thrones, Fortitude, and RELLIK to take a well-deserved vacation. And in case you’re wondering, he wouldn’t tell me who ends up on the Iron Throne (you know I tried to ask!).
Check out RELLIK Fridays at 10 pm on Cinemax