Jul 19th 2016

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We shot this episode as the pilot – so none of us quite knew what to expect. David, our producer, and Alex, our director, travelled out a couple of days before the rest of us to make sure everything was set up. They wanted the series to have an ‘off the cuff’ feel and I think we’ve achieved that, but even a series where it looks like we’re ‘winging it’ most of the time needs some sort of organisation! People and places have to be researched, hotels booked, minibuses ordered.  Once the basics are in place (and thank you Cherry, queen of line producers!) the crew and I turn up, and off we go.

I’m not a morning person, but you kind of have to become one during filming periods. I said a soppy goodbye to my lovely dog Bobby, who at the time was less than a year old, and took a morning flight from Gatwick, arriving into Istanbul late in the afternoon.  

The hotel, the W, was fabulous - a bit New Yorky in style, dark funky rooms, sleek furniture.  Pity there was so little free time to enjoy the place.  Filming days are long.  Brilliant, but long.

I’ve been to Istanbul before – and it never disappoints.  It’s a vibrant, exciting city where East and West really do seem to collide.  Literally sometimes: the traffic’s bonkers.  We had plenty of equipment to cart around, so really relied on the minibuses, but that meant we spent a lot of time sitting in gridlock listening to blaring horns.  And because it straddles the Bosphorus there were plenty of ferry journeys during our time there, too.  The water is actually a very good way to get around Istanbul.

If you’ve never been you’ll get a great flavour of how wonderful the markets and street cafés are: this is a city with a real passion for good food.  One thing you won’t see is how much time it takes to film on the streets.  This is especially true when you’re genuinely trying to do things on the fly.  Cameras attract a crowd, and crowds don’t always know the rules.  Late in the day, I’m hunting around for the right ingredients and the crew are lining up the best positions for the scene.  We shoot, it’s going perfectly, then some chap wanders across the shot and we have to start again.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s funny.  But everything takes twice as long as you’d planned!

It’s a football-loving city – and that puts it close to my heart.  We shot in May, towards the end of the season, and the street cafés were full of families glued to the giant, outdoor screens broadcasting a key game between Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe.  My idea of heaven.

I was really looking forward to filming at the match, but things didn’t quite turn out that way.  We got caught up in some crowd trouble and it was pretty scary.  Tear gas, water cannon-type scary!  As soon as we cleared the area we had to pour water over the eyes of Steve, the sound guy. My throat and nose were on fire. Not a pretty sight, so don’t expect a close up!

All in all – we were very pleased with our shoot.  It was hectic and exhausting – a taste of things to come – but we did feel that this could be the start of something very special…