The Ultimate Whodunit?
Even the cast don’t know who murdered the pretty air hostess who lives down the street in new S4C drama 35 Diwrnod (35 Days). Phil Boucher talks to Lois Jones - who plays the unfortunate victim
The saying that “you never know what’s going on behind closed doors” has never been more apt than on the suburban housing estate of Crud yr Awel. Under normal circumstances the small cul-de-sac would be viewed the same as any other upmarket housing estate in the UK, whether it be in Wrexham, Widnes or Brighton. Yet that’s without reckoning on the fact that Crud yr Awel provides the backdrop to S4C’s new murder-mystery series 35 Diwrnod (35 Days).
Written by the BAFTA Cymru winning scriptwriter Siwan Jones and award-winning novelist and scriptwriter William Owen Roberts, the show begins with the murder of a young woman called Jan and then immediately whisks you back 35 days to the moment she arrives on the estate.
From that hour until her death in her own home, 35 days later, viewers are hurled into a twisted suburban world of secrets, revenge, lies and ambition as the story unlocks Jan’s past and details her rapid descent from middle-class home mover to crime statistic in the space of just over a month.
Viewers are then left to pick their way through an assortment of plot twists and red herrings to try and identify the killer – and offer an educated guess at why they have committed the crime in the first place. “The viewers are the ones who will analyse the clues and events,” explains writer Siwan Jones, who describes the concept as turning the traditional detective genre “inside out.” Co-writer Roberts, adds: “We will sustain the mystery about the body until the very end and let the viewers solve the different motives by attempting to understand the suggestions we’ve planted here and there. We’ve also misled and teased with suggestions and secrets which could be significant – or then again, might not.”
This air of mystery hasn’t been restricted to the viewers either. Due to the nature of the plot, the entire cast has been kept completely in the dark about the true nature of the goings on in the estate. This even extends to actress Lois Jones, who plays murder victim Jan.
While she knows that Jan dies at the very start of the series, Lois is in the exact same boat as everyone else and won’t know the identity of her own murderer until the final episode airs. Which, let’s face it, is weird on all manner of different levels. "We have filmed two different endings, so like everyone else I guess we are just going to have to wait and see, as nobody is going to tell us!” says Lois.
During filming the 28-year-old also had to go to great lengths not to reveal any details of the plot either, just in case anything leaked out that may have spoiled the big ‘Who Shot JR’ moment. “It’s been a bit of a struggle to keep it all secret,” she adds. “My boyfriend asks me every day ‘how has your day been?’ and I sometimes just had to say ‘well, you’re just going to have to wait and see!’ “So I haven’t spoken to anyone about it really. I have just tried to keep my head down and kept everything about the character under wraps. I haven’t really said anything about the show to anyone, so it is going to be a bit of a surprise to my friends and family when they watch it.”
So what, then, can she reveal? “I can say that she is called Jan and she is new on the close,” reveals Lois. “There are five houses in this close and everyone who lives there is kind of wary of her. In the first three episodes she doesn’t really sat anything - she is just more of a presence really, and all her neighbours are wondering why she is there.
“Then you get to know that she is an air hostess and she has moved there for a purpose. Jan has got a reason for living there and that is slowly unveiled through each episode. “There are lots of twists and turns and lots of mystery about it.”
If this sounds intriguing then you had better tune into S4C on Sunday March 23 and keep tabs on the story for the subsequent eight episodes (English subtitles are available). Your only other option is to somehow find one of the tiny band of people at S4C who know the identity of the killer and ply them with booze until they reveal the name. But even then you’ll still have to watch the final installment of the show to be certain that they haven’t given you a bum steer.
Meanwhile, Lois will be busy working on the comedy Gwlad Yr Astra Gwyn, which is just about as far removed from a murder mystery as it’s possible to be. Or is it? After all, even appearing in a comedy that takes place entirely in a taxi and is largely shot at night can’t be as absurd as playing a character who is, well, basically dead from the very first second of the show? “Jan was quite an unusual role, as I knew it wasn’t going to end well for her!” jokes Lois. “At the beginning of every episode you will see my body on the floor. So it was slightly weird because I knew what was coming, but obviously I couldn’t play it like that when I was acting, as the character didn’t know what was coming. It was all very weird!”
Yet one thing is for sure: along with Gwlad Yr Astra Gwyn and the recent success of gritty crime thriller Hinterland, 35 Diwrnod (35 Days) proves beyond any doubt that S4C is capable of producing some of the most original, thought-provoking drama anywhere. “When I first got the script I was thrilled,” adds Lois. “It is such a meaty part and such a great role and is part of something that S4C have never done before either, so it is really exciting to be involved.
“S4C does try to produce things that are slightly different to the norm. That’s great. It’s really good to know that Wales can produce different things and original ideas. “Dr Who is filmed in Cardiff now and James Bond is going to be there soon too. Wales is taking over!”
The first episode of 35 Diwrnod airs on
Sunday March 23 on S4C
For more information visit: s4c.co.uk