The title of Cinemax’s new limited series Rellik, or “killer” spelled backwards, is nod to its unorthodox narrative. The story quite literally starts at the end where a presumed serial killer is unjustly shot dead. From there, the story works its way back in time.
The first time the show’s star Richard Dormer read the script, he said the structure dizzied him. “I kind of got used to it toward the end of the second episode. Then I was mystified and drawn in,” he told Den of Geek.
Dormer, perhaps best known to American audiences for his turn in Game of Thrones, has worn the badge on TV before, starring as a police chief in the British cop drama Fortitude. Accepting the lead role of Gabriel in Rellik posed a different challenge for Dormer. The character is a detective who is physically deformed after a brutal acid attack, but presses on with the investigation to take down the serial killer who nearly murdered him. What stood out to Dormer about the script was the amoral protagonist, a man damaged on the inside as much as he is on the outside. Yet Rellik doesn’t fully rely on the antihero-like characterization, but puts a rather unique spin on the crime drama with its story structure.
“If you spell it differently, relic in the dictionary means something that is destroyed or ruined,” Dormer said. “Which is exactly what Gabriel is. He’s a relic of who he was. He’s a destroyed, a ruined man, basically. So, that’s another level to it.”
Gabriel filled the voids in his life with booze, drugs, and sex. Part of what drives him post-acid attack is revenge, what Dormer called “narcissism and immense pride.”
The first thing the audience notices about Gabriel is his physical appearance. With much of the character’s face deformed, Dormer would sit in the makeup room for two hours to put on the prosthetics. On the longer days of shooting he had to wear it for nearly 11 hours. Stepping into character became a physically and emotionally exhausting process, what Dormer calls the hardest shoot he’s ever done.
“The prosthetic really, really swamped the performance because it was absolute hell to wear,” he said. “I really had a hard time, but at least I got to take it off every night. And I feel for anyone who’s experienced anything similar.”
Unfortunately life did mirror art. Around the same time they were shooting the show, stories surfaced of acid attacks in London. It was unnerving for Dormer. And to stay inside Gabriel’s mind for long periods of time became an emotionally taxing experience.
“It really upset me in a lot of ways. The thought of having to go through ‘what if I had to go through the rest of my life with a part of identity removed?’”
Viewers can begin to piece together Gabriel’s true identity when Rellik airs Fridays at 10:00 p.m. on Cinemax.