Interview: Malin-Sarah Gozin talks The Out-Laws (Walter Presents)
James R | On 15, Jul 2016
“Oh, I could kill him!” It’s something we’ve all said at some point our lives. But how many of us have actually gone ahead and done the deed? That’s the jumping off point for The Out-Laws, a Belgian TV series that premieres on Walter Presents on Friday 15th July, which sees a group of sisters apparently team up to bump off their brother-in-law, Jean-Claude.
Known as Clan in its home country, it’s dark and twisted stuff. Its creator, Malin-Sarah Gozin, though, is very upbeat about the whole thing.
It began one night when she couldn’t sleep, she tells me.
“I start to come up with stories when I can’t sleep and when I woke up the next morning, the idea stuck: what if we have a couple of sisters who wanted to kill their brother in law? And all these interesting questions popped up in my head. What kind of guy is he? He must be like crazy evil. And what are their motives?”
She’s disarmingly cheerful, often pausing in the middle of her sentences to giggle with enthusiasm. It’s not hard to imagine her doing the same as she plotted out the motives for each of the Goethals sisters to want rid of their siblings’ annoying husband.
“One of the things that I enjoyed, when I was a little child, I very much enjoyed movies like Throw Momma from the Train,” she continues, getting more animated.
“It just intrigued me, like, how to kill somebody but especially how to fuck up – because you’ve got a lot of TV shows and movies where it’s just a piece of cake, but if you start researching, it’s really difficult to do!”
She laughs. Somehow, it’s not completely terrifying.
“I initially felt there was a lot of story potential, a lot of layers with characters and scenes, so I just plunged in and started to develop the show,” she explains.
The result is an ensemble piece that’s refreshingly different from the norm – not just because we follow the thing in flashback, knowing that Jean-Clause is already dead, but because it’s led almost entirely by women.
It was a challenge to come up with five different female characters, she admits.
“It was my first show, my first TV script, so it was like ‘It’s hard to come up with one character who was pretty layered, but now I have to come up with five female characters!’ I had to do a lot of soul-searching to take bits of myself and put it in each of these different characters.”
Once created, the next challenge was to find actors who could deliver the chemistry needed to convince an audience that they’re all related.
“It was a year before shooting that we started casting them, but it was a very elaborate process, because we wanted the best actresses, but they had to fit the sisters,” she adds. “You have to take the looks into account and the chemistry – it was like a big puzzle and in the end, we had two groups: the blonde ones and the brunettes. Eventually, we went for the blondes.”
The result works – but only because Jean-Clause is also so despicable that you can’t help but cheer the Goethals on. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Malin-Sarah Gozin is just as fond of him as the rest of them.
“I always say he’s a little devil in a box: you love to hate but hate to love him,” she chuckles. “But I loved him. I loved writing him. You cannot write a character if you don’t love him.”
She found it tough, though, to put herself in his shoes.
“Jean-Claude was a challenge. It was like, he’s a male character, but also I’m not an evil person!”
She laughs, again managing to avoid sounding crazy. By this point, the effect isn’t even unnerving – a lot like watching the show, you find yourself settling into the blackly comic tone of the conversation.
“I imagine your head is like a house, you’ve got a bedroom and a kitchen and you’ve got dark rooms and cellars, so I had to spend a lot of time in my cellar and attic!” she elaborates. “But actually, I enjoyed it. I think he’s not 100% evil, because he loves his wife. For me, he was the summation of all the small, irritating things you find in humanity.”
The casting was also crucial for that, too.
“From the very beginning, I really needed him to be a good person too – maybe not in the perspective og the sisters, but in another way,” she agrees. “The way he loves his wife, or how he loves his daughter.”
The show arrives in the UK on More4, before it joins Walter Presents, Channel 4’s growing library of on-demand foreign TV shows. Clan was one of the first titles the site snapped up, although it has taken almost half a year to finally make its way to the top of the pile. Malin-Sarah is firmly on board with the whole thing.
“I think it’s the new way of watching TV,” she says. “For myself, if you have a busy job, or it’s hard to have a fixed appointment every week, on-demand you can see it whenever you want. Especially if I start a show and I get addicted after Episode 1 or 2, I love binge-viewing – just one more, one more and then go to bed at 3am!”
She’s a fan of Netflix, she tells us, but also buys stuff from iTunes and relies a lot upon her recorder to catch up with shows when she can. The last thing on her watchlist?
“Rectify – I love that show!”
US and UK shows are common on Belgium screens, along series from France and Scandinavia, but the reverse is also starting to become true: last year, Belgian thriller Cordon aired on BBC Four, while Walter Presents has continued to diversify the shows available in our living rooms to countries as wide-ranging as the Czech Republic, Brazil and Poland.
“I think the Scandinavian shows have shown it’s possible to cross the borders and opened the path for more shows,” says Malin-Sarah. It’s a good thing. There are a lot of interesting shows, a lot of different genres. But at the same time, they deal with real universal stories but they have their own cultural specific details, which is fun to watch and share around.”
While being acquired for another country is a big deal, arguably the highest form of praise is getting remade for another country – and The Out-Laws is set to join shows such as The Bridge and The Killing with its own US remake.
“I was very honoured and I’m very curious how it’s going to be adapted,” she comments.
Malin-Sarah is involved with the project, but from afar, as she’s currently working on another psychological thriller in Belgium.
“We definitely want someone else to do the showrunning and developing and writing, somebody from there to do the writing and adaptation,” she says.
The production company she’s working for, though, is also based in LA and they’re also working on Clan – in the world of international and online TV, it’s not just living rooms that are getting closer.
“It’s a long process,” she observes. “In the States, they want multiple seasons, but Clan is just one season. It’s a one-off. You know he’s dead when you’re watching the first episode, so now they’re developing how to turn it into multiple seasons.”
“We have a very nice idea how to do that,” she adds. “It’s very exciting.”
You can already feel another giggle bubbling beneath the surface.
For more on what else is new and coming soon to Channel 4’s foreign-language VOD service, click here.