Stan Lee’s Lucky Man: Creating A New Hero For Sky 1


If you could control luck would that be the best superpower ever or your worst nightmare? James Nesbitt (The Hobbit Trilogy, Jekyll) stars in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, a bold new crime drama debuting on Sky 1 in January that’s been co-created by legendary comic book writer Stan Lee and Neil Biswas (The Take) and produced by the company behind Downton Abbey, The Last Kingdom and The Hollow Crown, Carnival Films.

Brilliant but troubled cop Harry Clayton (Nesbitt) is a compulsive gambler in danger of losing the thing he values the most: his family. Then, one night at the casino, just as he is approaching rock bottom, Harry meets them beautiful and enigmatic Eve (Sienna Guillory), who gives him a mysterious bracelet said to endow the wearer with immense luck.

To his great surprise, this lucky charm seems to work and Harry sees his fortunes begin to shift. However, this kind of luck comes with a price and soon Harry finds himself at the heart of a sinister crime wave sweeping through London. With luck on his side he sets himself against the city’s dark forces. But will it be enough to save him and his family?

A thrilling, action-packed crime drama about fate, gambling, superstition and the consequences of our actions, the series also stars Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited), Eve Best (Nurse Jackie), Darren Boyd (Spy), Omid Djalili (Moonfleet), Steven Mackintosh (Inside Men), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes), Jing Lusi (Holby City), Stephen Hagan (Against The Dark) and Alex Jennings (The Lady In The Van).


Stan LeeStan Lee Q&A

Where did the idea for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man originate?
“People always ask me what superpower I would have, or what power there is that I haven’t
already given to a hero. I have always thought that luck would probably be the greatest power
of all, because if you are lucky, everything turns out right. If it were an adventure story the bullet would miss. That led us to working out how that concept could be transferred to a television show, and decided that a man, our modern day hero, receiving a certain type of luck would make an interesting show. Luck is something that affects everybody and everybody can relate to it.”

Lucky Man Character 1What were your top-three lucky breaks in life?
“Being born to a mother who insisted I do a lot of reading. She was always buying me books and magazines and loved to see me read. And that is where my passion for reading stemmed from. Another lucky break was when I went to apply for a job at a publishing company and I found out that the opening was as an assistant in their comic-book department. My third lucky break, well that would be sitting here talking about this new show for Sky 1, which I am enormously excited about!”

Do you consider yourself lucky?
“Well I must be lucky. I am doing the type of work that I like to do and I have been doing it most of my life. A person has to do something in life and so many people have jobs where they do not particularly love what they are doing, but it is a living. They can’t wait to leave their job at the end of the day, but I can’t wait to go to my job and do what I do.”

Why is London the perfect backdrop for the show?
“I think London is the perfect backdrop for any type of show that has adventure, good characterisation, mystery and colourful backgrounds. London has everything you could want in a city that has to smack of realism and yet have an air of fantasy about it. I’ve loved the city of London from its descriptions in the novels of Arthur Conan Doyle and having visited London myself, I’ve loved the vibrancy of Soho. I am thrilled that this is where the show is being filmed and set.”

What can audiences expect from the show?
“I think people can expect a thrilling story, a surprise in almost every scene, fine acting and directing and a show that you don’t want to turn off or come to an end. At least that is what I feel when I watch these episodes.”

Neil BiswasCo-Creator Neil Biswas Q&A

Neil Biswas adapted the critically-acclaimed 2009 Sky 1 drama The Take from the novel by Martina Cole. Set in Dublin it starred Tom Hardy as a just-out-of prison sociopath called Freddie Jackson. Biswas has also worked on Sky 1’s under-appreciated Sinbad (it seemed so much better after we got to see the BBC’s Atlantis) and directed two episodes of Skins. He is co-creator and co-executive producer of Stan Lee’s Lucky Man.

Can you walk us through the steps of co-creating this series with Stan Lee?
“What drew me to Stan’s idea is that it is both a high-concept premise as well as a psychological exploration of a flawed character. Luck is something that you either believe in or you don’t; it can’t be seen or proven to exist. If you do believe in such things then Harry received this bracelet that brings him incredible good luck and this is akin to him gaining a special power. But if you don’t believe in it then Harry’s growing dependence on such an object becomes a portrait of a compulsive gambler who has gone too close to the edge. This dual vision provided us as writers with a wonderful emotional and psychological landscape to shape.

Lucky Man character 2“One of the first things I needed to create was the mythology behind the bracelet. This incredible object had to have a history as well as a set of rules governing it before it suddenly comes into the life of our main character. This is a history that Harry will slowly start to learn as he progresses through the series.”

How did the writers’ room process help with storyline development?
“The focus of the writers’ room was on the development of compelling characters. We
wanted to create individuals who brought vivid colour and tone to the world Harry inhabited. I think working on a Stan Lee concept freed us up and allowed us to explore the kind of characters who had not necessarily been seen on British TV. I think Lily-Anne Lau [played by Jing Lusi] is a terrific example of a new type of complex villain; someone whose cold-blooded mercenary instincts are swaddled by layers of style, panache and barbed wit. Harry’s compulsion as a gambler was particularly important to Stan’s personal vision for the series.

“What we’ve done with this aspect of Harry’s character sets the series apart from an ordinary cop show. He is ruled by an internal instinct that he can’t control. I wanted to show how Harry’s compulsion is not only manifested when he goes gambling but in so many other things in his life, his work, his family, his relationships. Harry has had an ongoing relationship with luck from way before the bracelet came to him. What particular factors were key to you when creating and writing this series?”

What did you want to bring to the screen?
“First of all I wanted to create a series that grabs the viewer and doesn’t let go. This truly original template from Stan has allowed me to take a London-based detective show and push it into new ground and stretch the scope of the genre. I wanted each episode to have a completely thrilling storyline in which the crime story was prominent, but for it to also have totally unexpected twists thrown up by Harry’s continued interaction with the bracelet.

Lucky Man character 3“Central to this was creating a hero whom we believe in and totally root for, but also one that was all the more compelling because of the personal battles and dilemmas he faced. More than anything I wanted to create something that had guts and emotional truth, something that wasn’t soft-edged in its depiction of the harder aspects of the crime world yet was also really fun to watch, with humour and fantastic set pieces that took your breath away.”

How important is London as a character in the story?
“I wanted to show a London I recognised in terms of its diversity and culture. This is very important to me, as I believe British drama is really far behind the curve when it comes to depicting the incredibly multicultural country we live in. But I wanted to show this with a story in which diversity is an absolute strength, where the different cultures London has absorbed make it such an interesting quasi-mythical city full of different histories and tales.

“Harry is very much a London detective. We can see it’s become part of his soul and equally he is a part of it, living and working among the various cultures and subcultures spread out across the capital. I wanted to pitch him right into the heart of worlds whose rules he didn’t understand at first but had to work out fast as the stakes grew higher. The set pieces we have created throughout the show are all designed with one eye on showing what a thrilling, beautiful place London is.”

Harry Clayton is a multi-layered character. What qualities did you want him to have?
“I wanted Harry to be the kind of hero I love to watch: a flawed man who wants and tries to do the right thing. A person with a good heart, yet someone who is naturally drawn to the darker elements of life.”

What are your personal feelings on luck?
“It’s one of those great unknowables. That’s why I loved writing this series. Controlling luck would drive you mad, but it is so alluring to believe it’s possible. It’s hard not to look at the life stories of some of the most successful people and attribute them to immense moments of fortune. And then you think about the people left on the side who never had that luck.”

What would you like viewers to take away from watching the show?
“I want them to be thrilled, entertained, and addicted to Harry’s journey. I want them to fall in love with a London that has never looked so good. I want them to question what they believe in. And I want them to be surprised by something truly original.”


James Nesbitt Q&A

What sort of character is Harry Clayton?
“He has been a detective inspector for a long time. He has a good heart and believes in doing
right but has developed a serious gambling addiction, which has resulted in the loss of his home and his marriage. These issues stem from a devastating event in his childhood. Ever since, he has felt a bit guilty about his position in life and his reaction has always been to push things to the limit. Despite the fact he has a strong moral background, his methodology and his weaknesses sometimes get in the way.”

Lucky Man character 4What is Harry’s character trajectory as we follow him through the series?
“The arc of his story is huge; a lot happens to him in the first five minutes, let alone ten hours! When we first meet him, he’s in a casino losing money and his debt is called in. He later meets the mysterious Eve [Sienna Guillory] and after Harry wins big at the roulette table, they spend the night together. The next day he wakes up with an ancient bracelet attached to his wrist, which he can’t get off.

“Each episode has a different story but there is a serial arc weaved through every instalment. We learn that the crimes Harry and his team are getting further and further involved in may all be linked. He starts to believe the mysterious bracelet may be able to help with his investigations but that there is a price to be paid, a yin and yang effect.

“That is where the Stan Lee aspect of the show comes in. It’s essentially about a flawed, modern-day hero who gets more and more entangled in this complex story.”

How would you describe Harry’s relationship with his colleagues?
“Suri is a detective sergeant and Harry’s number two in the Murder Investigation Squad. They have a very strong relationship as Harry has been her mentor. As Harry pushes things to the limit and begins to walk a thin line between what is legitimate and what is questionable, almost illegal, their relationship becomes fractured. I think that’s one of the most interesting things about the show, seeing how the glue between them is weakening and how their relationship reaches quite a bad state later on in the series.”

Harry seems to butt heads with Detective Superintendent Winter quite early on.
“Winter is Harry’s boss and they have history. It’s hard to gauge what he is like at the beginning but you get that he doesn’t trust Harry because of something that happened in the past. There’s also a sense he is out to nail Harry and he believes Harry is on the wrong side of the law. Seeing two policemen with similar causes and objectives, coming from very different places and the friction that causes is so interesting.”

Lucky Man character 5What do you think of Harry’s policing methods?
“Within this genre, it’s not a huge surprise that Harry is a maverick but brings a human element to it. Everything he does has an element of risk to it, but where his story differs most from those of other cops is the gambling aspect, and of course when the story develops and we see the bracelet begin to make more sense to him.”

How would you describe Harry’s relationship with Eve?
“Eve is the only one who can move this bracelet from person to person. She sees something in Harry. There is an attraction there but it’s much deeper than that. As the relationship develops, Harry begins to question why she’s bestowed the bracelet on him, what it means. They are inextricably linked but it becomes a relationship Harry begins to question a lot.”

How does Harry’s ex-wife fit into the story?
“Harry and Anna [Eve Best] were the sort of couple people aspire to. However, Harry’scompulsive behaviour, his inability to sort out his gambling has pushed Anna to the edge. She has given him one last chance after another but when he loses the house she has no option but to kick him out. Despite this, you can’t help but feel throughout the show the very strong love and connection between them.”

What were your first reactions on reading the scripts and joining the show?
“There are so many things that make this story amazing, it just seemed so different to me. It’s a Stan Lee creation. There’s a great hero, and a massive thriller element to the show. The episodic stories alone are great but the way the serial arc is woven throughout the episodes adds an exciting twist of old-schoolstyle storytelling but in a modern context. The show also has a very strong ensemble cast with wonderful directors, some I’d worked with before and some I had wanted to work with. It just appealed hugely and I’m well aware of how lucky I am to be in this show.”

Were there any of the London locations that were a particular highlight?
“The locations have been incredible. We filmed on the top floor of the Tate Modern with extraordinary views of St Paul’s and the river. London will be shown in a very modern context, in quite a slick and sexy way. What is so interesting about the city is that it still has the ancient buildings right next to the modern, and that’s most obvious in the shots of St Paul’s, which makes a very striking image. The pace of the show is integral and London really helps with that.”

Lucky Man character 6There are a host of stunts throughout the show. Did you have a particular favourite?
“Driving a speedboat at 4am through the Thames barrier was incredible, we were absolutely flying. At one point, Harry ends up going into the water, and we filmed the scene in an underwater tank/studio. It’s amazing – there are speakers in the water, so the director can watch you and can speak to you. And if you’re having issues with chlorine and your eyes – and mine are incredibly sensitive and you have to have chlorine for health and safety reasons the way to deal with it is to drop full-fat milk on your eyes. There you go: a secret from the set!”

What would you like the audience to take away with them after watching Stan Lee’s Lucky Man?
“I hope the audience gets involved in all the stories and feel the jeopardy the characters are in and feel the pain they go through. Ihope they understand and discuss the notion of luck and the difficulty that it can bring and, of course, that they have and exhilarating time watching it.

Lucky Man character 7Richard Fell, Exec Producer Q&A

There are a lot of set pieces and stunts in the show. Were there any that made the series stand out?
“We wanted to bring a sense of high-octane action to the show, to do this with the city as the backdrop, and make the set pieces memorable in a way that is rare in British TV. One sequence that stands out is when Harry is speeding though traffic, whizzing past traffic lights and they all turn green for him, rather extraordinarily. We’ve all wanted to have that type of luck!”
Stan Lee is known for his cameos. Might we expect him to pop up in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man?
“Stan is a complete legend in the world of comic books, having come up with some of the most iconic characters in the whole comic-book canon. He is also known for his cameos in their films, so I would keep your eyes peeled for a Stan Lee cameo early on in the series. I won’t tell you any more, you’ll just have to watch it and find out.”
What role does the London setting play?

“London is definitely a character in this drama. Many of us have that love affair with the city. It’s multilayered, multicultural, and vibrant. I think the city is undergoing a huge renaissance at the moment, and we wanted to portray the vibrancy and the colour, the richness and the energy that London has to offer. That was really important to me.”

Interviews courtesy of Sky 1


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