Hinterland and 35 Diwrnod: Step aside Scandi thrillers, here comes Wales

The next big television thrillers are set not in Sweden or Denmark, but in Wales. Gerard Gilbert on the gripping Welsh-language dramas that are making waves internationally

Dankly atmospheric European-fringe landscapes? Check. Murder detectives? Check. Subtitles? Check. BBC4? Check. And yet Hinterland, the latest drama to follow in the hallowed footsteps of The Killing, The Bridge and Wallander is not set in Denmark or Sweden but in the peat bogs and ancient woodlands of Ceredigion in Mid Wales. Filmed simultaneously in English and Welsh, the S4C detective drama known in its native tongue as Y Gwill stars Merthyr Tydfil-raised actor Richard Harrington as a troubled policeman newly transferred to Aberystwyth from the Met.

Already screened on S4C, the publicly funded Welsh-language television channel based in Cardiff, and BBC Wales, the drama has also proved a hit domestically and internationally – having been snapped up by broadcasters in various countries, none more eye-catchingly than by DR, the Danish state broadcaster who make The Killing and Borgen. And now, The Independent can exclusively reveal, Netflix, the online streaming giant responsible for House of Cards, has purchased Hinterland for broadcast in North America and Canada. Little wonder that S4C have simultaneously announced that a second series will start filming in September.

The only disappointment for subtitled-noir purists is that Hinterland won't be shown in Welsh when it goes out on BBC4 later this month. The decision to film in dual languages was purely financial, says S4C's drama commissioner Gwawr Lloyd. "In order to sell it beyond Wales, we needed an English version," she says, adding that this was before the success of The Killing. "I think the success of those Scandi shows has proved the world really likes seeing the drama unfold through a different language," says Ed Thomas, the Swansea-born playwright who created Hinterland.

An acclaimed playwright, Thomas decided that his central character should be the mysterious and under-exploited landscape of the Welsh Mid West. "We wanted to try and grow the story out of that landscape and give it a local feel with a universal reach," he says.

Thomas came up with the idea for Hinterland before the vogue for Nordic noir. "We were aware of Wallander," he says. "But The Killing and The Bridge hadn't been aired. But [when they did] it certainly made it easier raising the finance, because people would think, 'Ah, okay, this is that kind of drama…' People liked that it had a sense of place." And that place is Aberystwyth and the dramatic hinterland that gives the show its title. Richard Harrington, who plays DCI Tom Mathias (a troubled soul, it almost goes without saying) and his co-star Mali Harries, who plays DS Mared Rhys, spent time with the local murder detectives, some of whom had worked on the case of April Jones, the five-year-old from Machynlleth murdered by Mark Bridger in 2012. "The sensitivity around that case [affected] what stories we developed and how we handled them," says Thomas.

'Hinterland' isn't S4C's only foray into the genre 'Hinterland' isn't S4C's only foray into the genre Hinterland isn't S4C's only foray into the genre, and 35 Diwrnod, which translates as 35 Days, is an innovative crime drama in which viewers play the detective. Written by Bafta Cymru-winning scriptwriter Siwan Jones and Welsh-language novelist Wiliam Owen Roberts, it starts with the body of a woman lying murdered on her suburban living-room carpet, the action spooling back 35 days as it introduces the victim's neighbours. "It's a murder mystery without police procedure," explains Gwawr Lloyd. "We try to work it out for ourselves."

In my opinion, 35 Days, which started screening in Wales in late March, is every bit as gripping in its smaller-scale way as Broadchurch, and you can find it on S4C's catch-up service, Clic. Non-Welsh-speakers should hit the subtitles button as, unlike Hinterland, 35 Days isn't a dual-language production. What was it like, I asked Ed Thomas, filming in two languages? "We'd rehearse and shoot it in English, because only some of the crew could speak Welsh," he says. "The actors soon got used to it." He adds that the use of Welsh had an unexpected benefit for those who feel that cop shows can become bogged down in official jargon. "Welsh is terrific for poetry and everyday speech and history," he says. "But it doesn't really lend itself to police procedural or legalese. Anyway, we wanted to be quite fast and loose about the procedural stuff."

It seems that viewers are in accord with Thomas's instincts, and crave this combination of localism and landscape; witness the success of BBC1's Shetland and the fact that Sky Atlantic are busy filming (in Iceland) a 12-part drama set in the Arctic Circle, and Fortitude, which will star Sofie Grabol from The Killing. "Maybe it is the fact that modern life is so homogenised," muses Thomas. "In Hinterland, the stories never take place in the suburbs… and there's no obvious reference to the sprawl of out-of-town shopping developments or things that would render Aberystwyth like everywhere else. Not that Aberystwyth has many of those. "

'Hinterland' begins on BBC4 on 28 April; '35 Days/35 Diwrnod' is on Sundays on S4C

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital