Interview with Yolanda Ramke: Troppo | Screen Rant
Amazon Freevee troppo tells the story of former detective Ted Conkaffey (Thomas Jane) and Amanda Pharrell (Nicole Chamoun) – whose unexpected bond plunges them into the series of mysterious deaths of a small Australian town. In search of the truth, the stories of Ted and Amanda are revealed, testing each person’s character and resolve.
Based on crimson lake – a 2017 novel written by Candice Fox – Troppo features Yolanda Ramke as showrunner, who notably co-directed a pair of Netflix episodes The Haunting of Bly Manor in 2020.
Screen Rant spoke with Ramke about the joys and challenges of bringing troppo live.
Screen rate: troppo is based on the novel by Candice Fox, crimson lake. How did this story attract you to the project of its television adaptation?
Yolanda Ramke: It was absolutely the dynamic between Ted and Amanda in the book – this kind of oil and water, chalk and cheese awkward, unlikely friendship dynamic. I think I really loved that it picked up the idea of your two detective characters who are often quite noble and authoritative in terms of being armed with a badge and having that support behind them.
But the version here was the idea that they’re both seen as criminals and outcasts and don’t have any real resources at their disposal, and need to be much more resourceful with how they operate. That tough chemistry combined with the world they inhabited — that wild place where anything can kill you, from people to wild animals, it felt like a really juicy setting for a crime show.
During the adaptation of this story, how much did you work with Candice and rely on her vision for the novel?
Yolanda Ramke: I had a very early meeting with Candice when I came on board the project and had written a draft of the pilot script. It was a really cool experience. I have a lot of respect for Candice and to see, especially in Australia, a detective novelist making her stand out on a global scale is truly inspiring.
I think the thing that was particularly nice about Candice was that she was super generous and really, really passive with the project. She read drafts as she went and was always very positive, supportive, and not at all helpful in understanding that we had to deviate from the book in places to make this story fit over eight hours of viewing. It was a relatively distant collaboration in that sense.
I was fascinated by how in just 8 episodes you present 3 different murder mysteries. Even though they are related to some extent, how did you manage to give each storyline and the characters involved the proper attention and payoff in the end?
Yolanda Ramke: Oh my God. Honestly, that was the writers room challenge. Sometimes we thought we were stupid [laughs] to bite so much. It was the big challenge. Obviously you’ve got the “A” story regarding Jong Min’s missing man turned into something a little more insidious, and that weird crocodile death, and of course, the backstory. Amanda. It’s sidelined, but there’s also a sense of trying to bring up Ted’s past as well.
At every turn, Jane Ellen – the script producer – and I were looking for the emotional connection between these characters and these storylines and trying to really drive these threads from this place as opposed to what was starting to feel too conspiratorial. That was definitely, I would say, the biggest challenge we faced in terms of the plot of the show.
troppo really emphasizes the stories and personal relationships of its characters and we see Ted and Amanda develop this very unlikely friendship. What was it like to see Thomas and Nicole embody this couple and create from their dynamic in each episode?
Yolanda Ramke: That kind of thing is the thrill. When Thomas came on board, I was delighted. I knew his work and he has a lot of credibility in the genre with films like The Mist. I just knew he would bring this ironic, stable presence to the center of the show. With Nicole, there is real malice, strength and passion in her. I think the show starts out in a relatively light place in those first two episodes and their relationship, that unlikely friendship starts to grow, but it really is a weird couple storyline.
It was nice to see that evolve over those eight episodes into something more substantial and more of a feeling of these two people acknowledging that they’re kind of a reflection of each other and that they are both in a similar situation in terms of struggling to figure out who they are in the wake of the society that puts them in a corner and saying, “You are this, and you are this”, and then having to reinvent under the weight of it and help each other towards some sort of redemption.
What do you think is the quality that brings Ted and Amanda together despite their differences?
Yolanda Ramke: I think initially it’s a pragmatic thing on the surface in terms of Ted needing the money and some kind of distraction to get out of this malaise, and Amanda needs his expertise in as someone she considers an ex-cop. It’s very practical. It feels like they both recognize an outsider, an outcast, another lost soul. I don’t think any of them are particularly aware of their loneliness. That’s the dynamic for me.
One of the main differences between the series and the novel is that in the series, Ted is an American instead of an Australian. How did this change come about and what did you hope to accomplish by making Ted an outsider in this context?
Yolanda Ramke: I think that’s exactly what you said. There are certainly practical considerations involved in terms of the business side of things in terms of financing a show and the caliber and profile of an actor we needed to generate the kind of resources we needed to do what is a really ambitious show. When Thomas’ idea came up, we also saw creative potential there. It’s just like you said, it’s that feeling of making Ted even more of a fish out of water.
If his goal when you meet him is to keep a low profile and not get noticed in this small remote community, a thick American drawstring is the absolute antithesis and creates problems for him. When you’re already playing with this kind of weird couple dynamic of two people who feel like they couldn’t be more opposite, the idea of there being a culture clash inside of that as well was a really juicy prospect. It’s interesting. Hopefully the audience will either forget or become less aware that there is even a difference there. It was something that we were really interested in while we were doing the show is that at the beginning it was like this character really appeared in this world but after a while he started to have the impression that he could absolutely inhabit this place. It was as if, oddly, it had started to become part of the furniture at some point.
troppoThe setting of in the Australian wilderness is so immersive with crocodiles, snakes and all. What went into choosing the ideal locations and creating the most authentic atmosphere for the show?
Yolanda Ramke: It was a challenge, especially because we were in the middle of the pandemic and there were all kinds of issues in terms of travel and that sort of thing. We based it on the Gold Coast in Queensland, which is the same state where the show is set, but it’s a bit further south, so not quite as jungle. But there are definitely those elements to play with, so the challenge for us in terms of finding locations and building the world was having a lot fewer options in terms of locations that were within our feasible shooting area that could offer that lush tropical feel. .
I think our team has done an amazing job of finding places to help sell this idea that you’re further north and you’re in this extremely isolated and unruly pocket of the country where anything can happen. And snakes, you can find them all over the country, which is a lot of fun for us. That side of things wasn’t that hard, but it was that feeling of wanting to have a feeling of overwhelming warmth and a feeling of wildness where it’s a place where people come to disappear or be disappeared – maybe against their willpower – and feeling like you have to watch your back at all levels.
Obviously, there are three other novels after crimson lake. Yes troppo continues beyond a first season, do you see yourself coming back? If so, what are your hopes for where this show can go?
Yolanda Ramke: I would love to come back. I have a lot of affection for Ted and Amanda, and for the team.
I think, true to the trajectory of this trilogy of books that Candice Fox wrote, the second book unpacks Ted’s case and really gets to the heart of it. I think that’s something we would really like to explore. I know this is something Thomas is very keen to explore, so I’m crossing my fingers that we have the chance to do so.
Amanda Pharrell, an eccentric private investigator with a disturbing criminal past, recruits disgraced ex-cop Ted Conkaffey to help her solve her first real case: the disappearance of a Korean family man and tech pioneer.
Discover our previous troppo interview with stars Thomas Jane & Nicole Chamoun as well as author Candice Fox.
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The 8 episodes of troppo premiering May 20 on Amazon Freevee.
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