While the broadcast of “HPI” continues this evening on TF1, Mehdi Nebbou returns for us on the reasons which pushed him to accept the role of Karadec, on the atypical duo that he forms with Audrey Fleurot, and on the set from the Serie.
AlloCiné: What did you like about the character of Karadec when TF1 offered you HPI?
Mehdi Nebbou : I liked the fact that this character is psychoactive, manic, a little stuck. That he is not very comfortable with women too. Because from the start, of course, one necessarily wonders why, at that age, he does not have a romantic relationship, or children that he would have had from a previous companion. He is not a monk after all. So that made me curious. We wondered what the reasons could be, and in this case it is the fear of commitment. He is actually afraid of women. I liked the idea of a cop who is afraid of women and ends up with a woman who is not afraid of anything (laughs).
And then, beyond my character, I found the pitch attractive, especially since I was immediately able to visualize it knowing that this heroine was going to be played by Audrey Fleurot. It helped me to know that Audrey would be my partner. And that convinced me to say yes because we met on season 2 of Gears in 2008. And I always found that she was an incredible actress, and humanly a ray of sunshine. So all that made me really want to embark on this adventure. I really liked the promise of a duet with Audrey.
It seems that Audrey Fleurot blew your name in the production. It is rather a nice gift that she gave you …
It seems, yes. Has she already confirmed this to me? I am not sure. But it is the rumor that circulates. That Audrey breathed my name to the producers and that they wanted to meet me. So if that’s true, thank you Audrey (laughs).
The fact that Karadec is a recurring hero, and that there are already a lot of detective series on television, did that make you hesitate a little at the beginning?
Of course, that clearly made me hesitate at first. The warmed up side of detective series, which is still the most made genre in the world, left me skeptical. But the pitch was original, Audrey’s presence reassured me, and we had great freedom. I appreciated that the producers, the writers, and our collection director Alice Chegaray-Breugnot were open to our proposals. For example, I was able to submit to them the idea that Karadec was addicted to dating apps, and it stuck.
And then we wanted to work with real cops, so that they bring us their glance. And the involvement of Franck Martins, the head of the Lille PJ criminal squad, reassured me. He was kind enough to give us feedback on the scenarios, on the credibility or not of the police jargon present in the scripts, and to share with us a little of his experience. And his advice has helped me a lot. In fact, we all participated in the creation of the series, and I think that made the basic project even better.
And the combination of all these elements made that, quickly, I felt confident and I felt that with Audrey we could form a great duo. And make an atypical detective comedy, while the comedy aspect was not fully assumed at the start. We weren’t sure the show was really going to go in that direction. The trap would have been to just go towards the exceptionality of Audrey’s character, which is HPI, brilliant. And to turn it into a detective series with a Marvel heroine. It was important that we bring in self-mockery, offset, irony, contrasting characters who openly hate each other. I think that’s what gave the show its DNA.
The dialogues of HPI are very funny, which is a bit of an exception in the panorama of French detective series. At least at this point. Was the good humor that emanates from the series also felt on the set?
Yes really. Well, at 80% I would say. Because I was perhaps the one who was the most serious. But my character is pretty psycho-origid, so I think this explains it. But Bruno Sanches is like Obélix, he fell into the pot of comedy. A frown and he makes you laugh. It was great to have him as a colleague. Marie Denarnaud is an angel, such a wonderful actress that I have known for twenty years, and with whom I am friends. Similarly, having him as a boss was a treat. Bérangère McNeese, it is not yet sufficiently exploited, but she really comes from the comedy, she is very funny, as much in life as when she plays. And Audrey, she sets fire to the powder. It’s an antidote to bad humor, a real ray of sunshine on the set. Who relaxes everyone and makes everyone laugh.
Finally, it was really me the too serious at times. Probably because I was a little nervous at the beginning, since it was about a creation, and therefore a bet. I was a bit introverted. But to have these great partners around me, it was a gift. A real happiness, a real breath of fresh air. And so much the better if it is felt on the screen.
How would you describe the mismatched duo formed by Morgane and Karadec?
Karadec is a bit of a ball (laughs) He’s a white clown, he has a broom in his ass, this boy. While Morgane is quite the opposite. It is lively, unpredictable and chaotic. But it is this contrast that makes the duo fun and endearing. The more they are at the extreme of each other, the more they judge and bump into each other, and the funnier they are without knowing it. It is all these points of friction that make the strength of the duo.
But what I find cool is that these characters are like everyone else. They have their armor, their defense systems. Her, her armor, is her snug fit, her provocation, and her intelligence. Him, his, it is his professional status: police commander, head of the criminal brigade of the PJ. But behind it all, they are both touching. They are more sensitive than we think, more lonely too.
She has her children, but her guys are having a bit of trouble keeping them (laughs). He takes care of his brother, but he has no wife in his life. And we feel that there is a difference between what they sell to the world and what is behind it. And I find that makes them touching. Little by little, they are less and less fooled by what one or the other claims in terms of life management (laughs). Little by little, the armor cracks. And that pleases me. Obviously I wanted these characters to be funny, but I wanted them to be just as touching as well.
Karadec’s personal life is not covered very much in these first eight episodes. We just know he lives with his brother. Would you like this aspect of your character to be further explored later?
I do not say no. In the first season, we look for each other a bit, that’s normal, we test things. And you should know that at the beginning we did not really know what form the series would take. Was it going to be an investigation that develops over an entire season, or investigations completed with each episode. And finally it is this second option that was chosen. So that changes the game. There is a given time in the hour of the episode that must obviously be devoted to the investigation.
Maybe in the future they’re going to open the door to some story telling about two episodes, for example, I don’t know. The advantage of this is that it leaves more room for the characters. We can spend a little more time with the characters outside of the investigation.
But, of course, I would love to get to know Karadec a bit more. It is the characters, and the specificity of their daily lives that will give a particular DNA to a series. If you are asked if you remember a single investigation by Starsky and Hutch, the answer is obviously no (laughs). We only remember Starsky and Hutch. Afterwards, I’m not saying that to denigrate the investigations. Above all, we didn’t want to dehumanize them. This is why the secondary characters are so important in HPI. And thanks to them, and to the great actors who interpret them episode after episode, the level of the series is only growing.
However, despite everything, the duet, and the intimacy of these characters, could be more striking in the length. It is really with them that we will spend time. But I imagine that the more intimate relationship with these two characters will be created over time, over the seasons, without denigrating the investigations. There is a balance that is not easy to find in writing in my opinion, especially in this curly format. The private-to-survey ratio must be a real headache for screenwriters.
You are currently filming in Italy House of Gucci, Ridley Scott’s next film starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, and Jared Leto. What can you tell us about it?
The film will be released in November normally. My character is part of an investment group that is going to buy the Gucci house. All of this is inspired by real events. It’s an investment group that really exists. And the film is a family drama within a dynasty. Rivalries, manipulations, greed, power within a fashion and financial empire. It’s also a love story, in the middle of it all, between Patrizia Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci. A love story that ends in a tragic way because she had her husband assassinated in 1995 by a hired killer. There is a very Shakespearean side to the film. It’s adapted from a book, and both the book and the adaptation are very well written.
What put me in a crazy state was having a scene with Al Pacino. I was like a kid, I stuttered in my head (laughs). And at the same time I had my zygomatics which went up to the ears without my being able to control anything. I was really like a child who was going to meet a hero, a legend, an actor whom I admired since I was little. It was very moving. It’s a scene where he talks a lot and I just say “Of course” (laughs). In terms of play, it’s limited, but I was up against Al Pacino! I had a hard time concentrating. Which gift ! Afterwards, the scene where I have the most things to play is with Adam Driver, who is just brilliant. You feel the hard worker, he is in his character. It has a finesse, a subtlety, a listening, it’s incredible.
And Ridley Scott, he’s an angel. He is so caring to everyone. He is not at all hierarchical in his relationship to the other. And he is still so enthusiastic at 83 years old. He makes two films a year. At the end of the filming, on May 7, he took a plane and he was already setting off on scouting for his biopic on Napoleon with Joaquin Phoenix. You feel that the realization is his drug, his passion, his oxygen. That’s what keeps him alive. We have the impression that he still wants to make as many films as possible. And filming with him gives you confidence. And that pushes us to give the best of ourselves. This is the second time I have toured with him, the last time was 12 years ago in State Lies. And it’s still so amazing.
And after House of Gucci, are you going to move on to HPI season 2?
In June, I am going to shoot a film in Germany. A road movie between a father who refuses to grow up, a depressed and self-destructive 15-year-old son, and a donkey who embark on a 15-day mountain hike. It’s a social comedy, a bit of an Into the Wild vibe, and there is something that really touches me in this story and in this father-son relationship. And then, after that, yes, the idea is to shoot season 2 of HPI this year, for a broadcast next year. But I haven’t read anything yet.
The HPI trailer, which continues tonight at 9:05 p.m. on TF1: