RadioTimes.com — Nearly 25 years after his groundbreaking debut in Queer as Folk, Charlie Hunnam’s zeal for stories that seek to understand the human condition hasn’t wavered. He’s here to talk about his new series Shantaram, an Apple TV+ crime epic set in India, which the Sons of Anarchy star has long had his eyes on.
Based on a partly-fictional 936 page novel by Gregory David Roberts that spans continents, heroin addiction and arms smuggling for mujahideen freedom fighters, Shantaram has been a hot Hollywood property since its publication in 2003. Warner Bros splashed out $2m for the film rights, with Johnny Depp set to star as Lin, an Australian bank robber who breaks out of prison and flees to India. But that didn’t materialise, with Hunnam watching from the sidelines as others attempted to bring his dream project to life for two decades.
“It was always clear why this was an impossible task to adapt for film,” he says of the attempts to squeeze the expansive narrative into just two hours. But then streaming disrupted the film and TV industry as we once knew it, with enormous corporations such as Apple (who has funded the first season to the tune of $100m) wanting in on the entertainment boom.
Reflecting on the shifting industry economics that eventually made it possible to make Shantaram, Hunnam says: “It’s such an odyssey and in a film-centric world, I don’t think it was possible. By the time we nabbed the rights, we were in the golden age of television.”
Hunnam describes himself as an actor willing to give himself over entirely to his director and loves nothing more than immersing himself in the inner lives of his characters. “I was possessed by this material,” he says of Lin, who has seen hell but remains hopeful. Due to a COVID-enforced shutdown and a change in showrunner as a result of creative differences between Eric Singer and Apple, Hunnam was given the time and space to interrogate how he wanted to approach the character.
“I had this very powerful conviction that he needed to be a regular guy who had made a mistake that was going to dictate the next decade of his life,” he says. “In the beginning, I wanted him to be stripped down and naked. There were others who wanted to bring elements from later in the novel to earlier in the show, but I rejected that violently because it felt right to me to go on a journey.”
Hunnam remains committed to his vision for Lin but isn’t so sure it will work for everyone: “Whether or not my conviction was right, I don’t know. But it was right for me.” Continue reading Press/Interview: Charlie reflects on his most iconic role and the long road to Apple TV+ epic Shantaram