Meet Steven Lightfoot and Charlie Hunnam, respectively showrunner and main actor of the “Shantaram” series (adapted from the eponymous novel) to discover on the AppleTV+ platform.
How did the idea of adapting Gregory David Roberts’ book into a television series come about?
Steve Lightfoot (showrunner): I was lucky not to have to wait several years to put together this series. Apple+ and Paramount TV came to see me and I immediately loved the project they offered me. Shantaram is a huge huge book and adapting it into a movie would have been impossible. Nowadays thanks to the world of television and platforms, we can really do whatever we want.
To do honor to this book it was therefore essential to adapt it in series. For me it was a great challenge to produce a series mixing romance, adventure, and action, all the elements are there to offer the public great entertainment. It is also the story of a man in search of a form of redemption. I think we can all identify, in some way, with Lin’s journey, played by Charlie Hunnam.
Tell us about your attraction to India.
Steve Lightfoot: Gregory Roberts’ book really captures the passion he had for India. India has always been a country considered fascinating in the eyes of the whole world and I hope that this passion is well transcribed in our series. Lin makes a mistake by going to live in India with his own vision of things since he will have to blend into this country to really discover what this country can bring him.
He will gradually understand as India asks him to transform himself and no longer be this man chaining setbacks. This is also the vision of India in the 80s, which is obviously not the same today. During his journey, he will gradually discover what this country can teach him about himself.
Charlie Hunnam : The only things I knew about India I owed them to reading the novel Shantaram which I loved. This reading made me want to adapt it. When Apple started developing the project and offered me the lead role, I took the plunge and went to India for over a month.
The idea was to land in Bombai with a single hotel night reserved and then set off on an adventure to discover India. I really fell in love with this country, its people, its culture, its tasty dishes and its incredible landscapes. Unfortunately the pandemic started again and in the end we were only able to shoot a few scenes in India before relocating production to Australia and Thailand.
This trip to India nevertheless helped me a lot during filming because it allowed me to better understand the stakes of the plot and to understand what India can represent in the eyes of its population. It was a great lesson in humility.
Why did you choose Charlie Hunnam for the main role of the series?
Steve Lightfoot: I wanted an actor with a great spirituality, a form of wisdom, but also someone who was very strong and who could embody the soul of someone rebellious. Charlie was perfect to play Lin because he knows how to find the balance between wisdom and explosion. Also, Charlie was a fan of the book and I was really lucky to be able to convince him to accept this role.
Are several seasons planned?
Steve Lightfoot: The first season only covers a quarter of the book. So there is definitely the possibility of continuing Lin’s adventures if we are successful with this season 1. I would love to continue this story.