Such a big sun | Hubert Benhamdine: “Christophe will try to find redemption”
During our stay on the set of Un si grand soleil we had the opportunity to deal with the subject of “Fleuriste” with several people, including his interpreter Hubert Benhamdine.
Wednesday May 3rd! We disembark at Montpellier train station for an appointment we’ve been waiting for. Even if we mostly come to the setsuch a big sunthis time we made sure to browse a file that has fascinated us for several months: that of the “florist”, a nickname given by the police to a murderer rampant in the city who appears to be targeting criminals escaping justice. This new “Dexter” is actually Christophe, a vet whose troubled personality has become increasingly difficult to hide since his heart surgery. So we asked the head of communications about the series (the excellent Sophie Tonelli) to bring us to the moment when his interpreter, Hubert Benhamdine will be present. Before the fateful meeting, we’ll stop at the Vendargues studios, where we’ll find most of the central sets of the series. With each new visit we notice changes, decorations make room for others. And among the novelties there is, and this falls, the veterinary practice of Christophe.
Before we leave, we will witness the shooting of a powerful sequence at the police station that will mark the return of an emblematic character of the series who will soon be suspended from his duties. We then leave Vendargues and make our way back to the center of Montpellier. There, in a very beautiful church, we find certain characters from the series, like Janet (Tonya Kinzinger) and… Christophe. If they are not present in the same scenes, the two characters have one point in common: they will become closer to a priest. And it’s good for Christophe a quest for redemptionn that the vet/serial killer is looking for. But it’s more than he’s likely to find. Between two scenes, Hubert Benhamdine agrees to answer us and discuss his character’s development.
Did Christophe’s transformation into a “florist” mark a turning point in the character’s story?
It’s the trauma of being betrayed by Johanna that triggers it all (Johanna cheats on him with his best friend’s editor’s note). Before this story he was a nice boy, a bit smooth. But he twisted well and this betrayal was something of a kind of initiation walk to “something else”. Christophe seems to have built himself up through suffering.
Remember the day the production told you Christophe was going to become a serial killer?
In fact, nobody really told me. I was told that with the heart transplant he underwent, his personality would change and there would be a back and forth. As I read the lyrics, I discovered that he became a murderer. It shocked me at first, but at the same time, discovering it like this is really great because it prevents me from predicting my character’s future. When Christophe kills the first person (A dealer), little did I know it would become a practice and that I would kill other people.
Does this change Christophe’s position as the show’s “super villain”?
It’s true that there is a little bogey side. I was told that once he got revenge on Johanna, got out of the hospital and got his cane, he would become a super villain. Then I entered the skin of an evil character. But with always a bipolar side to him: he kills, but he has a backlash where a form of guilt grips him, he can’t face his murderous nature and finds himself torn. But what I don’t know is where the character will go in the short or medium term. Just before filming a plot, I learn what will happen to Christophe, the main lines of the coming development.
At the moment I’m shooting a plot where Christophe enters a mystical phase, he will meet a priest and be touched by what this man releases and it will meet his need to find some form of forgiveness, of redemption. Basically: find a way out of his murderous logic. But not everything turns out the way he imagines.
Mysticism and serial killers can only give some explosives?
There’s actually always this problem with him and you never know how it’s going to turn out. But what is certain is that it always falls on the wrong side.
But he still has a vigilante aspect: he only kills bastards and that, in his eyes, morally justifies what he’s doing. And that allows him to endure his status as a murderer. He is still someone who needs to be surrounded, someone who is loving – he really loves his wife today! There’s also the farewell to Achille and we find something like Dexter: on a thread! It’s exciting to play, having to land on your feet all the time and not get fried.
What happens when Christophe, a kind of angel of extermination, faces a priest, representative of a religion in which we also find the law of retribution?
Instead of finding redemption, he may find some kind of legitimacy in what he’s doing. And that’s where we’re a bit scared, because it would be a bit of the ultimate justification. If he imagines that he is commissioned by God to be the vigilante he thinks he is, he is unlikely to stop.
How has the public’s view of Christophe changed?
I’m often told on the street that I’m nicer than Christophe, so that’s a good sign (Laugh). Before he started killing, I felt the character was perceived as unlikable. And since he took on his role as vigilante, there’s a lot more passion in the public eye. Even more chilling is that there are evidently many advocates of a fast-paced justice system who identify with him and “encourage me to keep going.” And there are those who want me to stop killing. But there’s a kind of fascination with this character.
This great mystical arc will follow on France 2 this summer
Obviously we dread the moment when this character will “fall”, the ultimate revelation in the face of the other characters. But with fine play, everything in nuances, Hubert Benhamdine, at the antipodes of his character (he is as cute as the other terrifying Note d. Red.) made Christophe one of the most fascinating characters of the whole series: “I savor every moment of the wonderful gift that this character has given me, even though I know it won’t last long. I don’t want that moment to happen, but it might happen in the end. For example, this summer I’m going to shoot another arc juxtaposing Cécile and Christophe. I don’t remember, I don’t know the instigators of this story, but obviously something is going to happen. Will she understand? If so, it will be terrible!“
We leave Hubert Benhamdine working on these lyrics, when the day comes to an end for us, he will shoot until 2am that day. But what we do know is that there’s a danger it might happen in this church, and the character could experience a powerful turning point there. But we are not done with our “florist” and the next day when we return to the studio we will finish this exchange.
It is first with Oliver Szulzinger (Head of collection am such a big sun) looks back on the origins of this character and its development: “Originally, the figure was only supposed to stay for a few weeks. But Hubert gave us so much that we didn’t want to let him go. He has therefore become a so-called “opponent”, not very sympathetic since he will try to set a trap for Johanna. And we were thinking about how to develop him further and in a meeting the idea came up to make him a serial killer. It’s not my idea at all, I’m even a bit reluctant to such ideas. But the idea is finally validated, we proceed by changing Dexter’s model and bringing him together with the judge. We’re working on a big story that will continue her story, being careful not to overdo the story. But we draw a lot of inspiration from different stories, including Tavernier’s film, Wipe and from the book from which it was adapted, viz. 1275 souls. The idea is to get him to find legitimacy in his actions. And if nobody investigates, it’s because nobody understands yet that he has a serial killer – except for the coroner – but the investigation into the florist is coming, we’re writing about it, and he is. Of course we have to catch him stuck at one point or another. But it’s not for now. On the other hand, for some characters, not all, we try to predict a fate over several years. We’re not done with the character yet!“
Last station around the figure with Manu aka Moses Santamaria. To this day he is the last to cross his path without knowing it and by killing Tresson Christophe saved Manu’s career. We therefore had to talk about it with the actor, who reminds us that Manu is the first to make Christophe work “secretly” by letting him operate on Elsa (Julie Boulanger), who was wounded by bullets: “It would be very interesting to put Manu before the “florist”. There would have to be a mutual agreement between them for him to stop. There’s a side of Manu that might understand, even sympathize with, for killing Tresson and saving his day. But Manu couldn’t accept that he himself does justice because there is a justice that he represents as a policeman.”