Vienna Blood's stars talk love triangles and filming '200 miles' from Ukraine

Oskar Rheinhardt (Juergen Maurer) and Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard)
Oskar Rheinhardt (Juergen Maurer) and Max Liebermann (Matthew Beard)

As Vienna Blood returns to BBC Two with three feature-length episodes, Danielle de Wolfe discovers more from its cast and director Robert Dornhelm.

Sometimes, it's necessary to give the fans what they want. In the case of acclaimed crime thriller Vienna Blood, the most common answer is simply 'more'.

More criminality, more romance, and without a doubt, more early twentieth-century decadence.

Shot on location in Vienna, Austria, the show is bristling with sumptuous interiors and ornate masonry, taking in some of the city's most elegant buildings, from the iconic St Stephen's Cathedral to the copious aristocratic palaces that fill the skyline.

Now the third series also integrates the architectural wonders of neighbouring Hungary - most notably, Budapest.

"We were starting to exhaust Vienna's 1900s locations," quips actor Matthew Beard, 33, who plays English doctor Max Liebermann in the series.

Best known for his role in Funny Woman, alongside actress Gemma Arterton, the actor is quick to reference the perks of working abroad.

"I have a sort of Viennese life. But then, it's also really exciting to see this new place and new people and lots of new locations.

"It was starting to feel like home, Vienna," he says, adding: "But it's quite nice to visit another part of the world I've never been here before."

Over the course of two series, Vienna Blood has garnered a loyal and unwavering fanbase hooked on the meandering exploits and criminal investigations of Max and local Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt (Juergen Maurer).

Beard's character is fascinated by the macabre minds of psychopaths, studying under the tutelage of acclaimed neurologist Sigmund Freud. His collaboration with Oskar, an astute and fastidious detective, suggests a continental incarnation of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

Led by Academy Award-nominated Austrian director Robert Dornhelm, series three presented a different dynamic - particularly where the weight of ongoing geo-political world events were concerned.

"We have the Ukrainian war next door, so we go from a pandemic to the war," says Dornhelm.

"It doesn't affect us, at least practically. But mentally, I think we're all aware that we're going from one troubled time period to the next.

"I think we're more aware of what we're doing and why we're doing it," adds the director, noting that Hungary's border with the Eastern European nation was a mere "200 miles away".

Meandering down a reflective path, the director, best known for his work on Anne Frank: The Whole Story, explains how the conflict mirrors the tensions seen within his pre-First World War drama.

"It's interesting, because it's a parallel to today," he reflects.

"The pacifists were condemning the First World War, just as right now, the pacifists in Europe say 'send ammunition to Kyiv to have them defend themselves' [but] the same literary group says 'no to war' and 'don't sell' - because if you sell weapons, and send weapons, there's going to be more war.

"The same discussion happened in the 1900s, just before the First World War... So, without making any kind of banal parallels, I would like everybody to know in which times we are living and how it affects our 1908 story - and what did we learn?"

Conflict aside, it's a series that intertwines dark criminality with a healthy helping of romance.

Based on the best-selling Liebermann novels by Frank Tallis, the series spans three feature-length episodes. Despite the characters (and their temperaments) remaining steadfast, each instalment features a singular backdrop - whether that be the dog-eat-dog world of high fashion or Asian-influenced political upheaval.

"One of the things I love is every episode and every novel takes us to a new world," says series writer and executive producer Steve Thompson, the creative talent behind episodes of Sherlock and Deep State. His respect for Tallis' original work is clear to see.

It's a point Beard expands upon, describing the "distinct worlds" contained in the novels and in each individual episode.

"The first episode of the new series is set in a fashion house, which is a really amazing location for that. And our costume designer obviously had a lot of fun," says Beard.

"The second one touches on a piece of history I knew nothing about, the Boxer Rebellion. So it has a sort of Chinese sub-plot to it.

"And then the third one is actually set in a film studio, obviously, a very early film studio, and the world of glamour and film stars."

Of course, Vienna Blood would not be complete without romance. Continuing his character's lacklustre form in matters of the heart, Beard notes the forthcoming series has "love triangles all over the place".

Opening in the spring of 1908, Max's primary love interest Amelia Lydgate appears to have returned to England. Suspicious his heart remains with former flame Clara Weiss, the state of play remains uncertain for the young neurologist.

However, fan theories suggests Max isn't entirely out of luck. After all, he and Oskar's working partnership appears to have fans begging for more.

Taking the show's romantic storylines into their own hands, dark corners of the internet have exploded with 'fandom' pages, brimming with new fictionalised romantic plotlines centred around the two lead stars.

Beard's co-star, Austrian actor Juergen Maurer, holds back a smile as he explains.

"The relationship that works best within the whole thing is ours, actually," he says.

"So there are websites about that.

"Really, no kidding."

Series three of Vienna Blood begins on BBC Two on Wednesday, 9pm