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Otto Farrant: 'Alex Rider' puts typical teen on espionage roller coaster

Otto Farrant's teen spy drama Alex Rider premieres on IMDB TV Friday. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television
Otto Farrant's teen spy drama "Alex Rider" premieres on IMDB TV Friday. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Television

NEW YORK, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- White Queen and Clash of the Titans alum Otto Farrant said Alex Rider might be a high-octane, teen spy thriller, but it also is rooted in reality.

Set to debut Friday in the United States on IMDB TV, the eight-part series is based on Anthony Horowitz's best-selling, young-adult novels.

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Farrant plays the title character -- a resourceful, orphaned, high school student pressured to go undercover by a shadowy government agency after the mysterious death of his uncle.

"He's a normal kid, an ordinary teenager who goes to parties and school and hangs out with his mate, but he's thrown into this world of espionage and doesn't know who to trust, and I think that that grounds him," the 23-year-old actor told UPI in a recent Zoom conference with Horowitz.

Farrant wasn't a big reader as a boy, but remembers devouring the Alex Rider novels.

"That's just a testament to how great a character this is and how great this franchise is, so getting the opportunity to play this role was a dream come true," Farrant said.

Action scenes that required the actor to run, bike, climb and fight forced him to embrace a level of athleticism he hadn't for a role before, he said. The physical challenges also were cathartic in how they offset the more intense moments.

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"Tracking the journey of someone who has lost a guardian, lost their uncle, the grieving process is a difficult thing, emotionally, to go through. So, having those moments where all I was doing was literally running was so nice in some ways, because it was such a release of physical and emotional tension," he said.

Horowitz, 65, is the author of several Sherlock Holmes and James Bond novels, and published nine books for young adults before he created Alex Rider.

What sets Alex apart from other protagonists he has written about is "a sort of seriousness," Horowitz said.

"This was a real teenager, with real emotions who wanted to get on with his life, who did not want to be a hero in a book or a film or in life, but who was sucked into it reluctantly," the writer said.

"His reluctance, his desire to have an ordinary life, the fact that he can't believe anyone around him, that he is alone, is what has made him so enduring and it's why so many people [for] over 20 years now have related to the character."

Hororowitz said it always is his intention to empower and inspire his readers.

"When I write for young people, I am always writing that, if you are in any [difficult] circumstances, if you draw on your inner strength, your self-confidence, your inner voice, your inner beliefs, you will prevail," he said. "A writer for young people has one duty, and that is to be optimistic and be positive about what it is possible to achieve."

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Farrant said he thinks viewers of the show will see themselves in Alex.

"It's such a hard thing to grow up, to learn about who you are and find your identity and Alex is a great example because he is still working that out, but he also knows what's right and wrong and follows his heart a lot of the time," the actor said.

"That's something [the show] can teach people: follow your heart, listen to yourself and don't always trust everyone."

The show's U.S. debut comes at a time when many teens and adolescents have had their social lives and education upended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Horowitz hopes Alex Rider serves as "a beacon of hope that there is always a brighter future."

"Books and storytelling have had a huge importance, especially for young people who have been out of school and away from their friends and in an environment that has been something so alien and hostile to them. I think there is something to be said about Alex Rider arriving at this moment and providing pure escapism, fun and adventure on television," Horowitz said.

Farrant agreed, adding with a laugh, "It's going to be a roller coaster watching it, so buckle up."

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Alex Rider co-stars Stephen Dillane, Vicky McClure and Andrew Buchan. The show has been renewed for a second season.

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