‘Trying’ burns brightly because of cast chemistry

Rick's Reviews

Esther Smith (left) and Rafe Spall star in the Apple TV+ series “Trying.” (Photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

(KGET) — The Apple TV+ series “Trying” manages to mix elements of a heavy drama about a young couple trying to adopt a child with light comedy. The challenge of making both parts of that acting formula work generally falls to Esther Smith and Rafe Spall who play Nikki and Jason, the hopeful parents-to-be in the series.

The first season dealt with them trying to qualify to adopt a child while season two – set to launch on the streaming service May 21 – has them in search of a boy or girl they can make part of their family. New episodes of the eight-episode season will be available every Friday.

For “Trying” to work, the audience must believe the characters played by Smith and Spall have the kind of chemistry that makes them come across as a real couple in both the dark and light moments. Spall says there are several factors that went into igniting the spark between the characters.

“That chemistry was very important to the creators. It’s really what the show lives and dies on,” Spall says. “They were very keen that was in place before we started filming. We did a chemistry test and it was immediate. We really got on and found acting together very easy.

“You are only as good as the person you are acting opposite of and in this case, with me, it’s Esther. I think it is helped because we get on as people. We really like each other. We make each other laugh and have a really good time making this show.”

Smith comes to “Trying” after working in the television shows “Uncle” and “Cuckoo” and for originating the role of Delphi Diggory in the stage production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”

Acting credits for Spall include the films “Prometheus,” Life of Pi,” “The Big Short,” “Men in Black: International” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” His television resume features the likes of “Black Mirror” and “The Shadow Line.”

Spall adds it’s not enough just to have chemistry. There must be fuel added to that fire and that comes through strong writing. In this case that comes from Andy Wolton, the writer and creator of “Trying.” Before creating “Trying,” Dalton worked on dozens of radio and TV shows. He was on the 2017 BBC New Talent Hotlist, a list of new emerging talent considered to be future stars.

What Dalton has written for the second season has Nikki and Jason facing the harsh reality that just saying they want to be parents and becoming parents is a long journey. They feel left behind as it appears that children are being snapped up by other couples while somehow they’re being left behind.  Despite the snags, they continue to get help from their eccentric social worker Penny (Imelda Staunton)in their quest.

Nikki accidentally meets a little girl named Princess at an adoption event and she knows instantly that this is the child for them. The obstacles they face are both highly dramatic and comical.

The laughter and the tears generated by the struggle to build a family often come from the same moment.

Smith says, “A lot of the comedy does come during this heart-rending, painful moments which is then beautifully undercut by a bit of comedy. A bit of relief. So, you have to be ready for that.

“There is such truth in the scripts. Andy is so clever. He’s created this thing where even things which feel like they are emotional, you just have to be ready for anything.”

 Both actors agree that whether the scene is serious or silly, the way of playing them is the same. It all comes down to being honest and relaxed enough to handle whatever comes up in the moment.

The first season of “Trying” was a roller coaster of emotions but the highs and lows are far more pronounced in season two. That comes from the couple going from starting the process of finding a child to being in the middle of the effort.

Smith says, “It feels like there is a lot more to lose now because they found a child they have fallen for, fallen in love with. And, if they don’t get her, that heartbreak is going to be huge.

“It (season two) also finds them in some very funny and weird situations because they want it so badly. That’s where those highs and lows come from. It’s very fun to play and very emotional to play.”

Season two also stars Ophelia Lovibond (“Elementary”), Oliver Chris (“Motherland”), Sian Brooke (“Sherlock”), Darren Boyd (“Killing Eve”) and Robyn Cara (“Life”). 

The chemistry Smith and Small have found through two seasons of “Trying” will continue as a third season of the Apple TV+ series has been ordered.

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