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A Town Called Malice cast share perils of TV 'glamourising crime'

The new Sky Max show is set during the 1980s heyday of the Costa Del Crime

Watch: The cast of A Town Called Malice talk UK crime dramas

The cast of Sky Max's A Town Called Malice – the latest 1980s-set crime drama from Nick Love, co-creator of Bulletproof, and the man behind The Football Factory (2004) and The Firm (2009) – have mixed feelings on whether TV shows like their own can be guilty of glamouring criminal activities.

The show is set in the early heyday of Spain's Costa del Crime – so-called because of the British criminals decamping to Spain following the breakdown of the extradition treaty between the countries – and follows south London crime family the Lords, who find themselves in line for a gilt-edged opportunity on the Spanish coast.

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Love said that he cares about “creating mainstream content that celebrates the aspirations of the working classes without being patronising", but is there a danger of glamourising crime?

“I think maybe to a certain extent,” says Tahirah Sharif, who plays Cindy Carter, girlfriend to the youngest of the Lord sons, Gene (Jack Rowan), in the series.

“I don't think that this show does that at all though. Crime is obviously a major player in our show, but everyone pays for it... there are always consequences whether it be emotionally, physically, criminally.

Set amongst the beach clubs and palm trees of the Costa del Sol in the early 80s, A Town Called Malice follows the Lords, a crime family of petty thieves from South London, as they decamp from London to Spain to profit from an unexpected windfall – and to escape the attention of the police in a high-profile murder enquiry.
Cindy Carter (Tahirah Sharif) in A Town Called Malice. (Sky)

"There are always consequences to all of the character's actions.”

Eliza Butterworth, who plays Carly, the partner of eldest Lord son, Leonard (Lex Shrapnel), said: “I don't really know if there's a danger in it at all... there's going to be a lot of elements of [the series] where [the audience is] shocked and they're bowled over by the stuff that's happening, but a lot of it is seeped in truth in a way, of things that did happen.

"I guess we're not glamourising, more just telling a story that's already been.”

Set amongst the beach clubs and palm trees of the Costa del Sol in the early 80s, A Town Called Malice follows the Lords, a crime family of petty thieves from South London, as they decamp from London to Spain to profit from an unexpected windfall – and to escape the attention of the police in a high-profile murder enquiry.
Eliza Butterworth in A Town Called Malice. (Sky)

However, Eighties icon Martha Plimpton — star of The Goonies and Parenthood — who plays family matriarch Mint Ma in the series, disagreed: “I'm having a hard time imagining what story like this hasn’t glamourised [crime] on some level, from The Godfather on.

"That's sort of the job of entertainment. It's bringing this hopefully very truthful and grounded in an honest reality [story], but heightening it a little bit.

"I think that's where the fun is. And in storytelling, hey, crime happens.”

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Recent BBC drama The Gold revisited the era, too, but both follow successful British crime series such as Line of Duty, Happy Valley, Gangs of London, Peaky Blinders, and Nick Love’s own Bulletproof – which begs the question: are we in the midst of a golden age of British crime drama?

Jason Flemyng and Martha Plimpton in A Town Called Malice. (Sky)
Jason Flemyng and Martha Plimpton in A Town Called Malice. (Sky)

“Well, it certainly seems that way,” adds Plimpton. And the Costa del Crime-era, in particular could be driving its growth.

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“There's a long history of stories about this period in British — and Spanish — history,” says Plimpton. Indeed, there’s even a Spanish series on Netflix called Drug Squad: Costa del Sol about the time.

Set amongst the beach clubs and palm trees of the Costa del Sol in the early 80s, A Town Called Malice follows the Lords, a crime family of petty thieves from South London, as they decamp from London to Spain to profit from an unexpected windfall – and to escape the attention of the police in a high-profile murder enquiry.
Gene Lord (Jack Rowan) and Leonard Lord (Lex Shrapnel) and Albert Lord (Jason Flemyng) and Eddie Carter (Josh Tedeku) and Kelly Lord (Daniel Sharman) in A Town Called Malice. (Sky)

“But I also think there's something about the cultural moment right now that makes it a particular fascination because of Brexit and these relationships that have obviously changed enormously since the ‘80s between England and the rest of Europe.

"And so I think there's a fascination with this ability to take off and start anew that's lost to England now for the moment. Hopefully not forever, but because it's lost, I think the fascination is bubbling up again.”

A Town Called Malice is available on Sky Max and streaming service NOW from 16 March. Watch a trailer below.