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July 03, 2018

Summon the Detectives

A J.K. Rowling thriller (with no boy wizard) unspools on Cinemax.


Ann Farmer
  • Holliday Grainger and Tom Burke in C.B. Strike

    Steffan Hill

After finishing her last Harry Potter book, J.K. Rowling conjured up something radically different: a crime novel series she wrote as "Robert Galbraith."

The seven-episode Cinemax miniseries based on that work, C.B. Strike, features Tom Burke as war-veteran-turned- detective Cormoran Strike and Holliday Grainger as his sidekick, Robin Ellacott. Emmy's Ann Farmer gave them the third degree.

What, if anything, has made you think, "Oh yeah, this is Rowling."

TB: Her cleverness and her ability to turn on a sixpence from something funny to something touching or dark or absurdist and back to something else.

HG: I loved Harry Potter. I read them avidly as a kid. This storyline and the context is completely different. It's far more adult. But it certainly is Rowling, who's such a master of creating a page-turner. Each book, she peels off further layers of the characters.

Cormoran Strike seems cool, if disheveled and brooding.

TB: There is a reason for his bluff exterior. The more I read about his exotically dark childhood, the more I felt that this was somebody who's not just a bloke who drinks and eats a lot. There is a lot going on under that.

What are the demons in his head saying?

TB: I don't think he listens to them. The one note that J. K. Rowling gave me is that he's never, never available to self-pity.

Holliday, you've been acting since you were five. What attracted you to play Robin?

HG: I felt like I knew her. And she has a kind of bravery and also a no-nonsense integrity to her that really interested me.

Unlike Cormoran, Robin seems pretty upbeat and normal.

HG: She's quite different from a lot of detective sidekicks in that she's soft and fresh. Over the three books, you find out that she... was raped. So I read a lot of rape memoirs, that were hard to get through but were really so positive and told such brave stories and gave a lot of explanation for why Robin acts the way she acts.

There is apparent sexual chemistry between Cormoran and Robin. What's holding them back?

HG: Well, Robin has a partner whom she's in love with.

TB: It's a mystery at the heart of a mystery. I think it's their blind spot.

Some of the crimes are pretty gruesome, like the severed torso in the book Career of Evil. What are the challenges of that?

HG: You've got to find the reality in it. The emotions that anything dark like that brings up, it's all the more fun to play. If Robin is feeling terrified or upset or heartbroken, it's something I look forward to. It feels like somewhere to dig into.

Tom, your character lost a leg in the Afghan war and there are scenes when it looks truly missing.

TB: It was literally CGI and me, with a green sock on that leg.

Rowling recently finished the fourth book in the series, Lethal White.

HG: I'm dying to know what happens to Robin and Cormoran, and where it might be set and what the focus is. Because, so far, all three books have been set in completely different aspects of London society and London locations.

TB: I can't wait to do more.

Viewers can catch up on C.B. Strike via Cinemax on Demand or the MaxGo app.

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 6, 2018

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