(SPOILER ALERT: They were filming scenes from the third Cormoran Strike book, Career of Evil, so if you haven’t read the book or seen the episode yet, then I don’t recommend reading this.)
I was lucky enough to find out they were filming Strike in Masham on 19th January 2017. I booked the day off work to make the hour-and-a-half car journey to the small town in North Yorkshire. Here’s how my day went.
When I arrived in Masham, lorries and vans were parked outside the town hall and in the market square; tape and cones were set up around the streets to keep people and cars out of the way; the equipment, including a camera on a crane and screens to watch the footage, were set up in the market square and outside the church gates. Apparently there were around one hundred crew members that day; there were certainly quite a few of them in the street, beckoning cars to pass by as they set up for the first takes of the day – that I luckily arrived in time to witness.
From a distance, I heard one of the crew members shout “Strike is in the car” from which I guessed they were filming the scene in which Cormoran arrives for the wedding. The first take or two that I saw must have been rehearsals, as Tom Burke/Strike was wearing a red coat over his suit, which he wasn’t wearing for the later takes. The car sped down the street toward the church, stopping with a loud skid just before the church gates, and then Tom/Strike jumped out of the car and ran to the church.
I never saw him, but apparently the actor who is playing Shanker (Ben Crompton) was actually driving the car. No stunt double.
Before the second take, some of my Twitter friends arrived and joined me to watch the next four or so takes of the car pulling up to the church. Below is a video of one of the takes I managed to film.
After the filming of the car was finished, we crept closer, into the square. Tom Burke was lingering by the churchyard gates, waiting for his next scene. Because I was in the company of Tom Burke fans who had met him many times before (Burketeers), Tom recognised them and gave a wave.
Next, they were filming in the churchyard, so we couldn’t see anything from where we were stood in the square. At this point, I was close enough to get some better shots of the two wedding cars that were parked up just outside the gates. I saw Holliday Grainger, who’s playing Robin, get out of a car and go through the gates into the churchyard and into the church to get changed into a wedding dress, which I’d seen one of the crew members carry inside.
There was a woman in a flowery dress wandering about the square who I assumed was a cast member. She had dark hair and looked all glamorous. I later found out from a crew member that she was Holliday Grainger’s mother, who had come to set for the day to be an extra. I got to meet Holliday’s mother later in the year at The Cuckoo’s Calling preview in London. She’s a lovely woman!
There was a bloke in one of the wedding cars that kept revving the engine. He eventually got shouted at by one of the crew members.
It wasn’t long before Tom reappeared out of the churchyard and crossed the road to greet us. I shook his hand and asked him, “Have you been catching killers?” – for his face was covered with cuts and grazes, and one of his hands was bandaged. If you can remember in the book, Strike had just been fighting with the murderer before setting off for Masham. I was too star struck to say anything more, but I tried to concentrate on what Tom had to say. The Burketeers got very chatty with him and I seem to recall one of them asking if they were filming in Edinburgh, to which Tom replied “no.” Tom also mentioned that the TV series is going to be quite different from the books, as is the case with most adaptations, so they had to cut the Edinburgh scenes out. The fact that they’re using some of the same locations as in the books is reassuring, instead of using any town or pub. Masham is quite unique. It has two breweries and numerous pubs; Strike would love it there!
It wasn’t long before Tom had to leave us to film more in the churchyard. I didn’t have my book signed or a photo taken with him, but he said he’d be back later. We waited at the café on the square, which is just beside the church. I ordered myself a full English breakfast and drank lots of coffee whilst waiting for Tom Burke to return.
This is when I tweeted that I’d just met Tom Burke. J.K. Rowling replied to me a few times throughout the day.
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 19, 2017
It's a beautiful little town! Wish you were here!
— Cormoran Strike (@CormoranStrike_) January 19, 2017
So do I. This chapter's killing me. https://t.co/LPVGW6arvG
— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) January 19, 2017
The Burketeers and I spent a lot of our time sat outside the café drinking coffee and talking to the production medic (they need a medic on set, just in case), who was happy to speak with us. He had a lot of interesting things to tell us about the filming, actors and crew. He had met a lot of the cast members, including Leo Bill, who’s playing John Bristow, whom he said was a really nice guy. He’d also met Elarica Johnson, who’s playing Lula Landry, and Martin Shaw, who’s playing Tony Landry. The medic had also met J.K. Rowling on set and managed to get an autograph and selfie with her.
The medic also revealed to us that they had finished filming episode one and that it had taken them weeks and weeks just for that one 60-minute episode.
There were a few other interesting things the medic told us in between the times he had to run into the church to pass an antibacterial wipe to crew or to see to the vicar, who had fallen over at one point. He told us that Tom Burke has a body double who is a real amputee for close-up shots of Strike’s amputated leg. The leg double, Mark Wildish, actually looks nothing like Tom Burke and has a long dark beard.
Tom Burke returned to us a while later. He was kind enough to seek us out and approach us at the café. Here I managed to get my photo taken with him and also get my copy of Career of Evil signed in a purple pen that one of the Burketeers lent him.
After talking for a little while, Tom was called away again, leaving us with the medic, which meant more interesting conversations and stories. Finally, around one o’clock, it was lunch time, which meant cast and crew were leaving the church to go and eat.
Extras as wedding guests were leaving for the town hall and Tom waved goodbye as he passed us to get in his car. But I was still waiting for Holliday Grainger.
Worried that I’d miss her if she came out of the church and straight into a car, I decided to go into the churchyard to wait for her to come out. I suspected the reason that she was in the church for so long was that she was getting out of the wedding dress and into her casual clothes.
Some of the upper church windows were covered with large black sheets; the lower windows had large lights shining through them to make it seem as though it was sunny outside. I was surprised to see how much equipment they needed for filming; half of the stuff I didn’t have a clue what was for.
A few actors walked past me in their wedding suits. One of the Burketeers asked me to approach them and I didn’t understand why, until I realised one of the three men was the actor who is playing Matthew Cunliffe, Kerr Logan. I stopped him as he was walking off.
“Excuse me? You’re playing Matthew, aren’t you?” I asked him nervously. When he replied “yes,” I approached him and shook his hand. I asked him if I could have a photo taken with him.
Unfortunately, I forgot to ask Kerr to sign my book, a mistake I was determined not to make if I got the chance to meet Holly.
We waited outside the church a little longer until finally a short woman with red-golden hair came out of the church. She was wearing baggy turquoise clothes. I approached her and asked if I could have a photo taken. I was shaking the whole time. She was so beautiful. She was super nice and sweet and had the loveliest smile. Exactly what I’d hoped she’d be like.
After I had a photo taken with her and she signed my copy of Career of Evil, she hurried off for her lunch. I felt like I was in a dream. In a sense, the characters I have loved for so long had been standing beside me. The whole experience was a bit of a blur.
Later, I asked a man at the church door if I could have a look inside the church, and he let me in. He wouldn’t let me take photos of the actual set, with the long wooden benches decorated for the wedding, but I got a couple of photos I wanted: one of the crab on the wall (mentioned in the Silkworm) and also one of the stained-glass window at the back of the church.
The whole church looked amazing. Along with the wedding decorations, there were smoke machines that formed beams of light from through the church windows, giving the scene a more dramatic look. I wish I could have taken photos, but I guess you’ll see it for yourself in the final episode of Career of Evil.
The Burketeers got something to eat while I went off to the Bay Horse, the pub that Robin’s brothers go to in The Silkworm. I had a pint of Black Sheep (just like Robin’s brothers), took some photos and had a chat with a bloke who works behind the bar. I then returned to the café where the Burketeers were having their lunch. I soon set off back home.
It would be difficult to top a day like this, and I feel so lucky to have been able to meet Cormoran, Robin and Matthew, along with some amazing Burketeers.
It will be very interesting to watch scenes I actually saw being filmed. I hope everyone is looking forward to the final Career of Evil episode as much as I am.
Strike – Career of Evil episode 2 airs this Sunday at 9pm on BBC One!
Posted by Bill Reeves