Fans of the first season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency know that it can take a few episodes – or an entire season – to get a grasp on the oddball characters and appreciate the interconnectedness of their wacky journeys.
Judging by Reel People’s recent conversation with Vancouver actors Lee Majdoub and Aleks Paunovic, the second season of BBC America’s smash hit is poised to be just as deliciously and deliriously vexing as the first.
“No one would ever predict what’s actually going on,” quips Paunovic, who, like Majdoub, joins Dirk Gently for a mysterious arc, the fullness of which will only be revealed as the second season unfolds.
Based on the cult favourite novel by Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency stars Samuel Barnett as the titular holistic detective who investigates cases involving the supernatural, and Elijah Wood as Todd, Dirk’s reluctant assistant.
The locally shot series is at times zany, surreal, brilliant, and preposterous, and features a long list of Vancouver actors in key supporting roles, including Michael Eklund, Dustin Milligan, Viv Leacock, Zak Santiago, and Osric Chau – and now, Paunovic and Majdoub.
The TV version of Dirk Gently is the brainchild of acclaimed writer-director Max Landis. Paunovic describes Landis as “like a kid in a candy store when it comes to his work. Usually there’s a lot of heaviness to [showrunning], but he looks like he’s just having a blast.”
The second season premiered earlier this month on BBC America. Majdoub and Paunovic play Silas Dengdamor and Wygar Oak respectively, two citizens of a fantasy realm called Wendimoor.
Exactly how this fantasy realm connects to Dirk and his cohorts is (in true Max Landis fashion) awash in mystery. “It was supposed to be a Happily Ever After place, and that’s not going on,” is as close to a spoiler as Majdoub gets during the interview.
Fans got their first glimpse of the royal Silas and his protector Wygar at New York Comic-Con, after which Deadline released a two-minute clip featuring the pair encountering Panto (Christopher Russell), a member of the Trost family with bubblegum-coloured hair. The Dengdamors and the Trosts are at war, but Silas and Panto clearly are not, because the clip ends with a passionate kiss.
Like Silas and Wygar, Majdoub and Paunovic have known each other for years. They’ve helped each other prepare for auditions, and solidified their friendship in 2015 when they filmed the indie horror film Puppet Killer, carpooling together to the set each day, 1.5 hours each way.
Dirk Gently producers didn’t know that Paunovic and Majdoub were friends when they were cast to play Wygar and Silas, but their off-screen friendship affected the on-screen work regardless, according to Majdoub. “It actually felt like Silas and Wygar had the relationship that me and Aleks have,” says Majdoub. “One of the writers mentioned a few times, ‘On and off camera, we’re watching you, and you can tell that you and Aleks, and Silas and Wygar, have this thing, that you enjoy yourselves, you trust each other, and you have fun.’” Speaking of fun, Majdoub documented their carpool sessions – including their own version of carpool karaoke – on Instagram.
As for Dirk Gently, Majdoub notes that he and Paunovic “got to work quite a bit with Elijah [Wood], and he was someone who made it simple to spitball stuff with” – although neither could explain how it all plays out, because #spoilers.
“Elijah is next level,” adds Paunovic. “He’s phenomenal. He’s one of the dudes. There’s no hierarchy with him. Both of them, Sam (Barnett) and him, they were great to work with. It was seamless.”
It’s been a busy year for both actors: Paunovic shot films with Keanu Reeves (Siberia) and Liam Neeson (Hard Powder), played an evolved albino gorilla in War for the Planet of the Apes, and returned to the nuanced role of vampire Julius in Van Helsing, which kicked off its second season on October 5; Majdoub appeared in the Prison Break event series and Zoo, and picked up accolades and awards for his role in Kyra Zagorsky’s short film The Prince, which explores Islamaphobia and the role of art in combating prejudice and xenophobia (“Make sure you put in him being nominated for The Prince,” says Paunovic).
Majdoub and Paunovic aren’t the only Vancouver actors joining the Dirk Gently cast for the second season. Karin Konoval (who portrayed Maurice in the Planet of the Apes trilogy) plays Frija Dengdamor, Silas’ mom, and Leo Award-winning actress Agam Darshi (Sanctuary) will appear in the role of Wakti Wapnasi, a character (like everything in the Dirk-verse) with a shadowy path.
“[Dirk Gently producers] took a page out of what Battlestar Galactica did back in the day when they realized how high the quality of talent was in this city and went for it,” says Paunovic. “You see all of these people who you know are killer actors and they’re just showing their chops on the show. That’s the really rewarding thing.”
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency airs Saturdays on BBC America.
In their words
Aleks Paunovic on his physical transformation into Wygar Oak: “It was a long process. For my hair, I really wanted the long dreads. The length shows how long he’s been around. When the beard happened, they had to make the beard longer because of the hair, and when the buttons and everything came in, I thought it was hilarious. There was one point where I went, ‘Is that a jack in my beard?’ And they went, ‘Yeah!’ And I said, ‘Could you put another one over here?’ They were great with working it out. The hair and makeup team were phenomenal. But I was there for three hours every morning.”
Lee Majdoub on auditioning for Dirk Gently after watching the first season: “I think there was this element of not knowing how to go into the audition based on the insane, crazy genius of season one. When I watched season one, the first three episodes, I had to keep the faith that it would all start to make sense, and then it all started to make sense.”
Aleks Paunovic on what it means to have a successful year: “I feel like having a successful year is treating people kindly and vice versa, and if I’m working and I’m paying my bills, regardless of what aspect, I’m successful. Success is working and being present in the moment and doing what you love with great people.”