On the occasion of the broadcast of the first episodes of the event series this evening on France 2, Louis Peres, Thierry Godard and Guillaume de Tonquédec analyze their characters, and the symbolism around the fact of adapting Zola’s work today .
This evening at 9:05 p.m., France 2 broadcasts the first two episodes of Germinal, a miniseries in six episodes written by Julien Lilti and directed by David Hourrègue revisiting the naturalist novel by Emile Zola on the revolt of minors at the end of the 19th century.
By assuming the role of Etienne Lantier, Louis Peres, 25, had many apprehensions. “Etienne is someone who doubts. He wonders all the time if he is going to be up to the revolution, up to the people who place their hopes in him … He is a young man full of ideals, but who doubts.“
“And I too, of course, had a lot of doubts. Was I going to be up to the historical monument that is Germinal? Am I going to live up to the role and especially the other actors, who are also monuments and who have nothing to prove?“
With the director David Hourrègue, the actor drew on his own questions to embody the hero, by working on his weaknesses and on what made him human. “Je thinks that thanks to that, we can suddenly meet Étienne better. Because if it was just the charismatic leader who is also charismatic, he would be less interesting.“
In front of him, Thierry Godard, himself a descendant of a miner, embodies the Maheu, one of the many “black mouths” of the series. A patriarch close to his family, wanting to defend his fellows and having a certain aura within the mining town of Montsou.
“It pleased me a lot to defend this kind of individuals who come out of this social class, because I too, now have the chance to be an actor and to live a little better than my ancestors. It pleased me a lot to defend that.“
Guillaume de Tonquédec, for his part, plays Mr. Hennebeau, owner of the mine who finds himself caught between shareholders above him and the workers under his orders, who bear the cost of the profits made on their backs and end up being rebel, galvanized by the proselytism of Etienne Lantier.
“He’s a character that’s caught between a rock and a hard place (…) We tell him that we must do better. So the adjustment variable is going to be to crush the miners below and to be able to create a larger margin. He has decision-makers above and people who can grind below.“
But despite his status, Hennebeau’s personal life is a failure. Arranged marriage, infidelity, addiction, prostitutes … “He is a character who is not happy (…) the authors have added this little element of the drug to show that this man, in the end, is also tossed about and is not totally in control of his destiny.“
A contemporary transposition of a classic of French literature “eminently modern“according to the actor, for which the screenwriter Julien lilti has updated most of the contemporary themes already present in Zola’s work to propose them to today’s viewers.
“It is important to remake Germinal today. Obviously, we can see the echo that it can have today with us, in France (…) It’s a booster shot and I think in the life of humanity it’s important to have booster shots, to look to the past to try to build the future“, concludes Louis Peres.
To go further around the series, listen to the director David Hourrègue talk about the creation of Germinal in Spotlight, the Allociné program recorded during the Séries Mania 2021 festival: