When HBO Max officially launched on May 27, many viewers were anxious to see what the new streaming service had to offer. The show “Trigonometry”—which debuted on BBC a few weeks earlier—is one of the splashier offerings for the just-launched network.
Young London couple Kieran (Gary Carr) and Gemma (Thalissa Teixeira) are in love but dealing with their hectic schedules, he as a paramedic and she as the owner of a new café. They decide to take in a roommate to help with finances, but it’s a move that changes their lives forever. Not long after Ray (Ariane Labed), a former synchronized swimmer, is in their flat, they find they are all attracted to each other and are contemplating how to handle the situation.
Five of the eight episodes are directed by Athiná-Rachél Tsangári, known mostly for her work in film. She loved the script, sent to her by producers in London, especially its fast-paced dialogue and a tone that veered between drama and comedy. “It was very much up my alley,” she recalls. “I had done a little bit of television. The producers and I met and looked at the script and it felt like we were on the same page. A few weeks later I was in London casting and starting production.”
The director also loved that the script gave complexity to each of the three principal characters and didn’t rush their relationship. Although there are moments of fleeting attraction between Ray and Kieran and Ray and Gemma (who has dated women before) individually, it’s not until halfway through the series that the three have sexual relations for the first time. “It veers away from the cliché of the threesome,” Tsangári says. “They actually meet and fall in love at the same time. It’s not a couple who are bored with each other and at an impasse. Ray, to them, offers them a breath of fresh air. Her coming in as a lodger is convenient but she quickly becomes part of the union and it’s a complete adventure between them. Even after Kieran and Gemma decide to marry, Ray is in their thoughts and someone they want to be around.”
Finding three performers who were comfortable with their characters and the situation was vital. Tsangári had previously worked with French actress Labed before and thought she would make a perfect Ray. The actress was also a dancer and athlete before she began performing. Tsangári found Teixeira on the first day of auditions. “She had much of the same personality of Gemma—direct and strong but also sensitive and vulnerable—and like the character was mixed race. She really stayed with me.”
A short Skype call with Carr (“HBO’s “The Deuce”) turned into a three hour talk and she knew she had her Kieran. “I was familiar with his work. There is something very specific about him I thought was important for the character,” she says. Eventually she had her central characters and the producers of the series generously gave her time to rehearse with them.
Polyamory is something that has become more accepted in today’s society. When the three characters decide to move forward as a throuple, they have to deal with those who don’t understand or approve. Yet they are willing to make that sacrifice.
Tsangári doesn’t have personal experience with polyamory, but has friends who have. She feels today’s society seems much more willing to find their own accepted family. “Especially in the millennial generation I think these kinds of relationships are more normalized. In the end what I really love is that this is a great love story. It’s not didactic, hitting you with a hammer over the head.”
A second season of “Trigonometry” would be up to BBC and the show’s producers and writers, she says, but she’d be receptive if the opportunity came up.
Born in Athens, Greece, the director—known for such films as “Chevalier,” “Attenberg,” The Slow Business of Going” and two episodes of “Borgia”—is currently living in East Atlanta. She moved to the area in March because her partner has a house here. So far she’s a big fan of the city and loves that it’s such a viable place to work in the television and film industry. Like everyone else, though, she is waiting on the COVID-19 lockdown to end so she may get back to work and projects she had started. In the interim, she has been spending a lot of free time in her garden planting tomatoes and picking up new hobbies.
Now that “Trigonometry” is available in the United States, she is also looking forward to the reaction to it.