Rollover Information
About the Series Schedule The Archive Learning Resources The American Collection Home Search Shop
Kidnapped
Robert Louis Stevenson Production Notes Episode Descriptions Cast + Credits Links + Bibliography The Forum Masterpiece Theatre Kidnapped
Production Notes [imagemap with 6 links]

Production Notes

Iain Glen plays Alan Breck
James Anthony Pearson plays Davie Balfour
Adrian Dunbar plays Ebenezer and Alexander Balfour
Gregor Fisher plays James Stewart
Paul McGann plays Colonel MacNab
Kirstin Coulter Smith plays Catriona Stewart
Brendan Maher, Director




Iain Glen plays Alan Breck

"Kidnapped really is a wonderful adventure story. It's character driven and it has big, big themes, which makes for very thrilling drama. It's the power of Alan Breck's character that draws Davie into this 'road movie' across the Highlands into his world."

As swashbuckling Highland rebel Alan Breck, internationally renowned actor Iain Glen helps Davie Balfour escape his kidnappers and leads him on a journey into the heart of the Highlands.

"Stevenson describes [Breck] as someone whose every thought can be read on his face. That's what I've tried to create in him. This very colorful, very rich, very romantic character; a great poet; a traditional romantic. He's a great swordsman as well, which is fun. It's something I've always loved."

And in the grand tradition of the romantic hero, Breck's heroic idealism is tempered with a healthy dose of egotism, a contrast Glen clearly enjoyed. "He's a very dual personality. He's an extrovert who has a deep vainglorious belief, but nonetheless he's sacrificed his life in fighting for Highland independence and their right to retain the life and community that they want. It's a wonderful contradiction. Something quite altruistic done in a very egotistical way."

Glen says that while Breck's larger than life persona makes him a very watchable character, he's also immensely likeable. "There's not a malicious bone in Alan Breck's body. He's very intuitive and has a great love of life. That's a lovely mix to play. I'm very fond of Alan and I think that Robert Louis Stevenson was very fond of Alan as well."

The relationship between the characters Alan Breck and Davie Balfour lies at the heart of Kidnapped. "Stevenson developed this wonderful relationship between these two characters who are opposites in so many ways."

The story's strong characters were a large part of what attracted Glen to the role. "Kidnapped is a great old adventure yarn but I think it's much more than that. It's character driven and that is really what I look for in a role. The novel was Robert Louis Stevenson's first real investigation into character-led stories. The psychological detail that Stevenson investigated in the novel is quite ahead of his time. It's his equivalent of Hamlet. I think that the audience will get drawn into the world that we're creating and will fall for these characters."

Iain Glen is an accomplished stage and screen actor who has won international acclaim for his performances in everything from Shakespeare to sell-out contemporary theatre, to blockbuster feature films. Glen trained at RADA where he was awarded the Bancroft Gold Medal in 1986. His theatre credits include The Seagull; A Streetcar Named Desire; The Blue Room (directed by Sam Mendes), in which he starred opposite Nicole Kidman; Henry V; Macbeth; and Hamlet. Glen's film and television credits include Man to Man; The Kingdom of Heaven (directed by Ridley Scott); Resident Evil: Apocalypse; Carla; The Tyndale Bible; Song For a Raggy Boy; Darkness; Tomb Raider; Silent Scream, for which he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival as well as a Scottish BAFTA and the Michael Powell Award; Mountains of the Moon, for which he was awarded Best Actor in the Evening Standard Awards; Anchor Me; Glasgow Kiss; Wives and Daughters; Death of a Salesman, for which he received a BAFTA nomination; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, directed by Tom Stoppard; and Gorillas in the Mist, directed by Michael Apted.

back to top



James Anthony Pearson plays Davie Balfour

"When I found out I was auditioning for Kidnapped I started to read the book. I had about 25 pages to go and I said to myself that I wouldn't finish it unless I got the part. So I finished it."

Kidnapped is a classic coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of its young protagonist Davie Balfour, as he is catapulted out of his sheltered, Protestant life and into the bold, dangerous world of the Highlands.

James Anthony Pearson, who has a diploma in mathematics and physics and several television and theatre productions under his belt, was working in repertory theatre when he auditioned for the role. "I was really thrilled to get it. I was so pleased. It was exactly what I wanted to do next."

Pearson describes Davie's story as a journey from boyhood to manhood. "Davie definitely begins as child. He's launched into the adult world and has to fend for himself and he really doesn't have a clue. His world is really sheltered and grey but he doesn't realize it because it's his world."

The death of Davie's father and the revelation that he is the heir to a fortune sets Davie on a journey that he has no control over -- at least at the start. "When Davie meets Ebenezer it's like he jumps on a roller coaster. It's not until the moment he smacks the wine out of Alan's hand that he stands up and decides he's going to put the brakes on and jump off the roller coaster."

In quick succession Davie is kidnapped and sold into slavery; comes under fire and joins forces with heroic outlaw Alan Breck; is shipwrecked; and finds himself alone in the Highlands, with nothing to do but follow Breck's trail. His relationship with Breck is an alliance born of circumstance, but one that will teach Davie important lessons about how he can choose to live his life.

Filming Kidnapped has been a dream job for the young actor: "I actually can't believe my luck having the main part in something like this. I just hope I do it justice. Part of it's really scary because I'm in every scene, but I just love it -- working every single day, and seeing the production side as well. I really like the collaborative process of acting. It's been brilliant to work so closely with such experienced actors and great crew. It's the perfect job."

James Anthony Pearson has a BSc from Edinburgh University where he was involved in Scottish Youth Theatre. He played the lead in three series of the BBC drama Jeopardy and has also appeared in the BBC series Monarch of the Glen and Doctors. His theatre credits include BFG and Vincent in Brixton; Jack and the Beanstalk at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh; and the Edinburgh University Footlights' productions of West Side Story, Crazy For You and Cabaret. He won the Spirit of the Fringe Award at the 2001 Edinburgh Festival for his portrayal of Sally Bowles in Cabaret. He has performed in Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing and Cyrano de Bergerac with the Scottish Youth Theatre.

back to top



Adrian Dunbar plays Ebenezer and Alexander Balfour

"Ebenezer's a sad, old, mean-spirited bachelor. I think what he represents is that simple thing that you can have all the money and land in the world but if you don't have love, or the notion of what love is, it's all totally worthless."

Adrian Dunbar had no hesitation in accepting the dual roles of brothers Ebenezer and Alexander Balfour in Kidnapped. "I thought 'This is a great script' so I had no problems saying yes." Dunbar hadn't read the classic Stevenson novel but had read and enjoyed the writer's poetry as a child. He was immediately attracted by the pivotal role of Ebenezer Balfour, the embittered uncle whose betrayal of Davie Balfour is the catalyst for the boy's adventures. "The part of Ebenezer really appealed to me. It really appealed to me playing a definite character with a definite physicality; how he sounded, what he looked like. It's a challenge to play outside my normal accent so it's a challenge on many levels. I was also very aware that I had the opportunity of giving the story a good start. In all great yarns there comes a point where, as an audience, we realize the territory the story is going to take you into. In a way Ebenezer is the first really three-dimensional character you come across. He sets the stage for the whole story."

Dunbar is clearly relishing playing a larger-than-life character in the 'boy's own story' of Kidnapped. "When I was a child I liked that business of being thrilled and repelled at the same time. That's what I'm trying to achieve with Ebenezer. [Director Brendan Maher] is hitting the same pitch -- heightened reality."

Like all good villains Ebenezer is given the chance to redeem himself at the end of the story when an older, wiser Davie returns to settle a few old scores. "The adults arrive and suddenly Ebenezer's not so scary because he's dealing with adults and Davie's not a boy anymore. Like all tyrants, Ebenezer's a coward."

Adrian Dunbar is an accomplished actor, writer and director. His film credits include The General; Richard III; The Crying Game; and Hear My Song, which he co-wrote with director Peter Chelsom and played the lead role in. His television credits include Suspicion; Tough Love; Cracker; Murder in Mind; Melissa; Force of Duty; The Englishman's Wife; Drowning at the Shallow End; Murphy's Law; and Growing Pains. His theatre credits include The Shaughraun at Dublin's Abbey Theatre; King Lear, Pope's Wedding, Saved and Up To The Sun And Down To The Centre at The Royal Court Theatre. Dunbar is working on new screenplays and recently directed a critically acclaimed theatre production of Philadelphia Here I Come.

back to top



Gregor Fisher plays James Stewart

"I'm desperate to be hung. I've been in the business nigh on 30 years and I've never been hung. I want to feel the noose around my neck."

Gregor Fisher plays the role of James of the Glens, the Highland leader who has put his rebellious ideals to one side in order to ensure the survival of his people. The pragmatic Stewart is a contrast to the glamour of Alan Breck's eternal rebel and opens Davie Balfour's eyes to the reality of Highland life under English oppression.

Fisher is keenly aware of the historical basis of Kidnapped and its on-going relevance. "This is a story but it's based on real events. This is a time when the English tried to erase Highland culture and Highland life. The Jacobite uprising draws strong parallels with the Irish and their struggle for independence. You weren't allowed to play bagpipes. You weren't allowed to wear Highland dress. It was a pretty oppressive time and some pretty stark choices had to be made. It was a long, long period of oppression. Stewart's belief that his people can live in peace under the English regime is shattered when he is arrested and sentenced to death -- unless Alan Breck gives himself up. It's a harsh lesson in reality for Alan's rebels. Historically it was a hellish time and old James is right in the middle of it trying to make the right decision."

Gregor Fisher is one of Britain's most recognizable character actors. He won acclaim in the role of Perks in The Railway Children; the lead in the BBC sitcom Brotherly Love; and he played Mr. Squeers in Company Television's Nicholas Nickleby. His numerous theatre credits include As You Like It; The Cherry Orchard; Juno and the Paycock; and The Homecoming. Fisher's film credits include Another Time, Another Place; 1984; White Mischief; and Richard Curtis's Love Actually. He recently appeared in The Merchant of Venice with Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino.

back to top



Paul McGann plays Colonel MacNab

"MacNab is intelligent and resourceful and really influential and he holds all the cards in that respect. It's an exciting time for him. It's the beginning of superpowerdom. It's the beginning of the empire. It's up for grabs."

Actor Paul McGann plays Colonel MacNab, a commander of the English occupation forces. MacNab is determined to maintain order and that means capturing Alan Breck and Davie Balfour, no matter what it takes. McGann describes his character as an opportunist -- a man with a job to do who keeps his eye firmly on what could be a substantial prize. "MacNab represents the English military and the English state. There's a chance that he and the other officers, as a reward for his campaign, may end up in Scotland with land and in politics. He may have a future in Scotland."

Despite MacNab's ferocious pursuit of Alan and Davie, McGann says the Colonel's attitude towards the Highlanders is generally one of frustration at their efforts at rebellion. "When I read it I thought there's no hatred there. It's more out of frustration. He's saying to the Scots, 'Be real. Give in. Admit it.'" McGann has enjoyed the villainous side of MacNab. "Most actors relish the chance to play the bad guy because it usually means mixed morality. It's better, it's more fun as an actor to play those dark roles."

McGann sees plenty of contemporary relevance in Robert Louis Stevenson's historical portrayal of oppression and rebellion. "Nationalism has a destructive streak but at its heart it has a romantic streak as well. Alan Breck, for my money, is one of the best characters in literature because he embodies that almost childlike romanticism but in the end there's pragmatism. They're good adversaries, Breck and MacNab. You can imagine them meeting again 25 years later in politics and getting on well. Generals and so-called terrorists end up as presidents of countries, cutting deals with their former adversaries."

Paul McGann made his name as the lead in the BBC serial The Monocled Mutineer and is best known for his performance in the classic feature film Withnail and I. Other film credits include The Rainbow (directed by Ken Russell); Dealers; Paper Mask; Downtime; Alien 3; My Kingdom; and Queen of the Damned. He has an international following for his role as the eighth doctor in the popular television series Doctor Who, and starred with his actor brothers Mark, Stephen and Joe in the television miniseries The Hanging Gale.

back to top



Kirstin Coulter Smith plays Catriona Stewart

"Catriona is very strong, very to the point, really competent. She's very aware of how much work it takes to survive every day and to lead the people around her. It's really nice to play because it's a role that could be done as victim, but isn't."

Kirstin Coulter Smith plays the part of Catriona, the daughter of James Stewart -- a bonnie lass and an excellent shot. "Catriona is the daughter of James of the Glens and she's in this interesting position because they were a noble family. But as a result of the persecutions the clan is under, they're very put upon and her family has managed to compromise with the English to make an unhappy peace."

Catriona meets Alan and Davie when they visit the Stewart farm, fugitives from English justice. After her father is arrested, she hunts down Alan and Davie and they form an uneasy alliance. Smith says Catriona and her father show Davie a life and upbringing very different to his own. "Catriona is similar to Davie but a world away. She's in a difficult situation and her father has had to compromise his ideals. That makes an interesting comparison with Davie and Alan."

Smith also relishes the active side of her courageous heroine. "I love that there's quite a lot of physical stuff to do and some key moments of conflict. I've been training with rifles and other things." A university student, Smith's studies stand her in good stead for the role. "I was familiar with Kidnapped. I have studied English literature so have read the book. I was really enthusiastic about doing this part because it comes from such a great text. It marries history with a great kids' adventure. It has real depth. Every character in this is very rounded and interesting."

She has enjoyed the challenge of playing a character who is part of a larger than life adventure but is still firmly rooted in historical reality. "You can do something like this incredibly romantically but you also have to remember that this is how people lived and you've got to respect that and make it as real as possible."

Kirstin Coulter Smith has been acting since the age of 13 when she appeared in My Life So Far with Colin Firth and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. She has a number of theatre, film and television credits including Sea of Souls; Higher History: Mary Queen of Scots; Sunset Song; Life Support; The Last Musketeer; Taggart; Blood Lines; the short film First It's Dark; and the theatre productions The Burning and The New.

back to top



Brendan Maher, Director

"I want the audience to get involved in a really fantastic and exciting adventure story. To really get on board and go with Davie through this wild adventure. Hopefully they are struck by the beauty of it and also struck by its bigger historical context. I think they will be transported. They'll be taken somewhere else."

Kidnapped director Brendan Maher describes his new adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic as an action-packed period piece that feels like a contemporary road movie: "It's a mad adventure. Davie has an incredibly adventurous time and it's all the things that kids dream about. The landscape and the characters he comes up against are larger than life. And the characters are not black and white. They are very vulnerable. They have redeeming features and they're all flawed in some way."

To create the 18th-century world of Kidnapped, Maher collaborated with production designer Jo Ford and costume designer Lesley Burkes-Harding. For Maher, the production design began with the locations Davie travels through. Maher decided to keep the landscape uncluttered, keeping the frame as clear as possible: "We needed the landscape to have a major impact. You end up with clear skies, mountain ranges and whatever Davie's standing on."

Brendan Maher has directed extensively for television in a career spanning two decades. His recent projects include the television series The Cooks; MDA; White Collar Blue Flat; After The Deluge; Beastmaster; Farscape; Seachange; Misery Guts; Tale of the South Seas; and Good Guys Bad Guys, for which he won the 1997 Australian Film Institute Award for Best Direction in Television Drama. He has also directed films for television including Halifax; Doomrunners; The Road from Coorain, for which he was awarded the 2002 Australian Film Institute Award for Best Direction in Television Drama; and a feature film, The Bit Part.


Robert Louis Stevenson | Production Notes | Episode Descriptions
Cast + Credits | Links + Bibliography | The Forum

Home | About The Series | The American Collection | The Archive
Schedule & Season | Feature Library | eNewsletter | Book Club
Learning Resources | Forum | Search | Shop | Feedback

WGBH Logo PBS logo

©

Masterpiece is sponsored by: