Behind Her Eyes: How we made it - Keeping the shock twist ending secret, choosing the cast and voyeurism
The show’s producers Jessica Burdett and Suzanne Mackie and Behind Her Eyes author Sarah Pinborough reveal the secrets of the dark psychological drama.
Behind Her Eyes is going to be a TV show that you hear a lot of people talking about.
A beautiful cast, dark psychological thrills and a sprinkling of shock twists - it ticks all sorts of boxes that viewers love in Netflix shows.
An adaptation of Sarah Pinborough’s best-selling book, the series stars Eve Hewson, Tom Bateman and Simona Brown and takes viewers on a wild and twisted journey.
It takes a classic love triangle story and throws in supernatural chills and has an ending that will totally floor you. It's six episodes of escapism, which captures the page-turning qualities of the book to make the series an essential binge-watch.
But how did the series make the transformation from book to screen? We hear from executive producers Jessica Burdett and Susanna Mackie and writer Sarah Pinborough about the making of the show…
That shock ending explained
Trust us, once you’ve watched the whole of Behind Her Eyes, you will realise why people keep banging on about the ending. It’s the ending nobody is allowed to talk about and also the one that absolutely nobody will see coming.
The series doesn’t deviate from the book, which wore proudly a ‘WTF ending’ crown and the team behind the show are hopeful viewers will be as respectful as readers at keeping schtum about exactly what happens.
"Part of the buzz for a reader is keeping it a secret then being able to share it with someone else when they’ve read it too,” said exec Jessica Burdett.
“Hopefully our version will provide that ‘water cooler moment’, too. People don’t really want to spoil things for each other. Hopefully they will be sitting on the edge of their sofas, dying to talk about it with people as soon as they’ve finished watching it.”
And what about viewers who have already read the book?
“It’s our job to really honour what excited us in the book, because it’s all about the execution,” said Susanna Mackie.
People don’t really want to spoil things for each other. Hopefully they will be sitting on the edge of their sofas, dying to talk about it with people as soon as they’ve finished watching it.
- Jessica Burdett
“We had to find a writer and a director who absolutely matched the creative vision we had for it in the beginning. That’s one of the biggest decisions we had to make because the book is ambitious and heightened and beautiful.
"When we found [director] Erik Richter Strand, we pursued him for quite a while. There’s something about his filmmaking and visual style that felt very interesting for this, to give it some edge.”
Writer Pinborough came up with the idea of the book in a pub with a glass of wine and her notebook, bringing together her interest in dreams and the nature of affairs.
“The twist just came to me,” she said.
“Then my editor said, ‘This is going to be really hard to write’ and I didn't agree because the story was so clear in my head, but then I started and she was right. Writing the characters honestly, and still making sure the twist is there but not obvious was really hard.
“I thought every clue I put in had a huge red arrow pointing at it but my editor ended up saying, ‘More please, we need more clues and please make them more clear’.”
Choosing the cast
Bateman, Hewson and Brown are an incredible cast with sizzling chemistry, who manage to hold together the drama even in its most surreal and crazy moments.
And it’s probably not surprising to learn it took a long time to find the trio.
“Olivia Scott-Webb has done an amazing job. When I think back to the casting process, it was tough because so much of it relies on performance,” said Burdett.
“It’s such a character piece. It’s about the four of them, pretty much. Out of all of the tapes we had, we all felt instinctively the same about these four, and once the last of them fell into place we unanimously went, ‘That’s them’.
“So it was great that they all wanted to do it and their performances are incredible. The characters are very vivid in the book and our actors are all that and more.”
Pinborough admits that the cast “blew me away” with their portrayal of her characters, even when they differed in many ways to how they looked in the book.
“I like that Simona is clearly not overweight and is quite beautiful so her insecurities have to be a bit more interesting than, ‘Do I look fat?’, even though there is that too at the beginning,” said the author.
“She really is engaging and you warm to her which is exactly what Louise is like, and she's really got the blend of insecurity and humour that Louise has.
“I think Tom is great because how do you get a man that good-looking who could be good or bad? He is charismatic and there is a Jamie Dornan-esque look to him. He's a very intriguing actor.
“As for Eve, I couldn’t have chosen a better Adele. She has such poise and is exactly how I picture Adele, slightly fragile, but at the same time could be batsh*t.”
The theme of voyeurism
“We are all Louise but we want to be Adele. We are all a bit stubborn and insecure and clumsy,” argues Pinborough, who believes we all live voyeuristic lives in the age of social media.
“I’m sure there are people who think my life is interesting but you don’t go on Facebook and say ‘I am not going to shower today. My back hurts. I am watching TV. I have to go to Tesco’,” she said.
“I do think we have a fascination with other people’s relationships. When you see people getting divorced and you think, ‘Oh my God, I thought they were perfect.’ So voyeurism is this idea of being able to see behind the façade we all have of our lives.
“I remember when I was about 21 I had a nasty break up but there were no mobiles or social media, and I got over it a lot quicker because I couldn’t check in and see what he was doing.
I think that if I had the magic kitchen island, then I would become a writer who does yoga every morning at 5am and drinks peppermint tea. The truth is, I am never going to be that person
- Author, Sarah Pinborough
Explaining how the theme fits into the story, she added: “Part of the book, I suppose, is you can’t hide who you really are. I am nearly 50 but I still have this idea in my head that one day I am going to have this huge kitchen with an enormous marble island in the middle and one of those amazing does-everything coffee machines, even though I drink one cup of weak coffee a day.
“I think that if I had the magic kitchen island, then I would become a writer who does yoga every morning at 5am and drinks peppermint tea. The truth is, I am never going to be that person.
“I am the Tetley tea drinker, thinking about wine at 5pm and putting off the exercise until tomorrow. I can’t be something else. Adele keeps trying to be somebody else but it is never going to change.”
Pinborough’s fascination with dreaming stems from her childhood fear of the dark and the vivid dreams she used to have that took on a life of their own.
“They were quite novelistic in that they were quite logical, nothing jumped from somewhere to the next,” she said.
“I would have vampire dreams where I could fly and ones about the apocalypse. I was better at things in dreams than reality. It is great because you wake up exhausted from saving the world all night. It is like having a second life.”
It was important for the producers of the show to capture the dream sequences of the book to convey to viewers that this is no ordinary drama.
“The dreams are a great way to introduce this heightened sense of reality,” said Barratt.
“We’ve shot dream sequences that are disturbing and which reflect Louise’s night terrors and inner turmoil, and then her dreams get better and more beautiful as she becomes happier.
“We do that from quite early on which will help the audience to think, ‘Okay, there is something else going on here, we’re delving into something quite deep in people’s emotions and consciousness’.”
Watch Behind Her Eyes on Netflix now.