It’s been two years since the chaotic events of Boiling Point, actor-turned-director Philip Barantini’s audacious one-shot kitchen drama set over one hectic night in a busy, upmarket London restaurant and starring Stephen Graham as Andy Jones, a stressed-out head chef on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The film — Barantini’s debut feature (and based on his own experiences in the hospitality industry) — was a major success, landing four BAFTA nominations (including Graham’s first on the film side) and winning four of its 11 British Independent Film Award nominations.
While the natural response to such a hit would be to make a follow up, Boiling Point will instead be returning on the small screen, BBC Studios in 2022 announcing a new five-part series that will pick up eight months on from the film’s momentous night. Due to land on the BBC later this year (BBC Studios is shopping internationally), the Boiling Point TV series will follow Carly, Vinette Robinson’s character from the film, as she moves from second-in-command to head chef at a new restaurant in London’s Dalston neigbourhood (actually shot in Manchester) alongside her old kitchen crew.
Graham, whose final moments in the feature suggested an uncertain future for chef Andy, is back — both on screen and as an exec producer, with the Matriarch Productions banner he runs with wife and Boiling Point star Hannah Walters returning as producer (the film was its first credit), alongside Ascendant Fox and Made Up Productions. Barantini also returns to helm the first two episodes, while the series was written and exec produced by James Cummings.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Graham and exec producers Hestor Ruoff and Bart Ruspoli of Ascendent Fox discuss getting back in the kitchen, bringing back the original cast while also insisting on offering parts to emerging new talent, plans to turn Boiling Point into an international franchise and which chef show has more fucks in it, Boiling Point or The Bear.
Usually when there’s a film that’s as successful as Boiling Point, the response is to do a sequel. What was the decision to instead do a TV series?
Bart Ruspoli: Everything with Boiling Point seems to happen very, very quickly. We shot the short film in December 2018. By December 2019, we had the feature film script. And in March 2020 we shot it. And by December 2021, we had the first commission from the BBC. So we’d talked about it, about how it could make a great TV show and we had ideas. But it was when we were in Karlovy Vary for the world premiere where the conversations really started. And then in December 2021, before the film came out here in the U.K., the BBC got in touch. At the end of July we got the green light.
Stephen Graham: But not just that, we were told, can you start in December. We thought we’d take a year writing scripts… but no.
Hester Ruoff: But we did want to have it off the back of the film, while it was still fresh in everyone’s minds
And you managed to bring back all the cast?
Ruoff: The majority! Obviously we couldn’t bring back all the guests, although some were quite upset they weren’t asked.
Graham: But 90 percent of the kitchen is still there. With Phil having knowledge in this industry, the common theme is that people move to different restaurants, or pack it in.. there’s constant shift changing within the workforce. And that’s the great thing about the prospect of future series. But because it had been set up really nicely within the film, we decided that we’d have Vinette’s character go on and run her own restaurant.
And Stephen, you’re also in it. So you’re… not dead?
Graham: Aha! Maybe I’m a ghost. But of course, I’m back.
Slightly more chilled than in the film?
Graham: That’s something you’ll have to see for yourself. If I’m really honest, when we made the film, we made the film for the film — he’s had a heart attack and that it’s. We left it ambiguous. But when this came around we were like, ok he’s not dead. And then it was ok, how do we tie him in now, if Vinette’s character has moved on. But we wanted to have a story that can run simultaneously to whatever the drama is within the restaurant at the same time. And how can these two characters, who were close friends and now have a big rift between them… how can we find a way of bringing them back together at some point.
Ruoff: Also, we didn’t want to shoehorn any any people in, but that’s also the beauty of it. So we start with the characters we already have and we write around people’s strengths.
Ruspoli: That was biggest challenge — how do we weave in Andy’s narrative.
Graham: Also, the ethos of all our companies is to create opportunities and to give people who we feel are very talented the chance to be able to show what they can do. With the concept we had something that was already quite an exciting piece and reasonably successful, you could look at it and go, right okay, we want a name there, we want a face in that role. But we were steadfast in that and said: No, we want to create opportunities. This is something we all believe in and I’ve said it loads. How many John Lennons are sat in bedrooms? So there’s one actor who we’ve worked with a couple of times, and we’ve netted another, and we’ve found one immense new talent. And they’re all joining this ensemble. Vinette is the captain of the ship, but it’s an ensemble piece. And the actors that we have in this are absolutely outstanding, to the extent where we’ve given people an opportunity and they’ve been nicked straight away! But in the best way. They’re gonna be a star.
Ruoff: What’s wonderful is that some of the guests roles and one of the regulars in the restaurant don’t have agents. And these are people that we’re giving their first TV jobs to. And for them to come into an environment of actors who are so welcoming and supportive, they don’t feel scared.
One of the uniques aspects about the film was that it was all done in one take and set over one night. I’m assuming that’s not happening with the TV series?
Ruoff: Not quite. But it’s going to have the same vibe. There are lots of long shots used throughout, but there’ll used as and when the material lends itself to doing a shot like that.
Graham: But we still maintain that pace and we still have that kind of intensity. But also we had an opportunity to be able to go out of the world. We’re in a microcosm within the restaurant, but there’s a macrocosm out there. So we got an opportunity to explore that as well. So it’s not just in the kitchen. It’s our hub and that’s the heartbeat of our series. Be we go to people’s houses to go and see what’s going on in your life, what what are you up to when you leave work, what trials and tribulations do you have. So we get to really kind of meticulously go through and understand our characters. But still maybe about 70 percent of each episode is in the kitchen.
One thing about the film was that anyone who’s ever been anywhere near a restaurant kitchen knows kind of what it’s like inside. It was obviously a very British film, but it had that universality. I guess that’s continuing with the series?
Ruoff: Yeah, we’ve got a French character, an American character…
Ruspoli: We have plans to spread Boiling Point out and a make it into a franchise. You could have Boiling Point wherever you want.
So it sounds like there’s definite hope that this won’t just be a one-off series?
Graham: No, it’s got legs. Keep it in the same venue for a while, but it’s got a lot of legs.
Ruoff: And it’s a transitional world as well. People are in and out so characters can come in and go. You could easily refresh the kitchen and swap out the chef.
Ruspoli: And as we say, we could spin it off throughout the world. [Izuka Hoyle’s character] Camille could go back to France in season 3. Maybe they run a restaurant as she comes from a cooking family, and that becomes Boiling Point France. You could follow another character back to the States.
The Bear on Disney+ has been a huge hit. What do you think it is about people losing their minds making nice food that is so appealing to audiences?
Ruspoli: Again, it’s using that word universal. Everyone eats. Everyone’s been out for dinner once. Dining is a universal thing that everyone can relate to. Or we’ve worked there! But the themes we touched upon in Boiling Point in the film and the TV series — racism, bullying, substance abuse, invisible illnesses and stuff that, they’re not relevant just in the hospitality industry. Why the film did so well all over the world is that everyone could relate to it. And it’ll be the same in the TV series because we’ve taken those themes and have explored them deeper, and explored new ones. That’s something that The Bear doesn’t do. It’s brilliant, but we hold a mirror up to life and I think are much more socially conscious.
Graham: The hope is that one, you enjoy this as a piece of drama, but two, if it provoke or create any kind of conversation, then that’s that’s all good.
Ruoff: A lot of people have gotten in touch since we did the film and have said thank you for making this, thank you for showing this side of it. Or even that I’ve just watched my life play out on the screen and it’s moved me so much and this is the way my life is now going to turn a different direction.
Graham: I went to an event recently and there was a private chef there. And as I walked in the door he was just like, “Oh my God.” So I asked if he’d seen Boiling Point. And he was like, You don’t understand, this film changed my life. I used to be like that. That was me. That was where I was living my life and it it made me realise — it helped me change my way.” And he was really lovely and very sweet. And he must be brilliant because he’s a private chef, and is food was actually delicious. But he it resonated with him so much.
Is the new TV series going to be as sweary as The Bear?
Ruspoli: I think probably, yes.
Graham: Not within the first 8 minutes! We cut loads out, because even I said there was too much swearing in it. I was like, you’ve got to calm it down a bit! It’s not proper real life! So we have to be aware of our demographic. We’ve got to be mindful. But when you throw a ‘fuck’ in, it’s got to have some power to it.