Press Centre

Perspectives

  • Episode: 

    1 of 6

  • Title: 

    Michael Jackson’s Thriller with Ashley Banjo
  • Transmission (TX): 

    Sun 19 Apr 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

    Yes
  • Time: 

    10.15pm - 11.20pm
  • Week: 

    Week 17 2015 : Sat 18 Apr - Fri 24 Apr
  • Channel: 

    ITV
  • Status: 

    Returning
The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press, online and social media use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 14 April 2015.
 
Series overview
 
The Perspectives documentary strand brings together powerful stories and unique insights into the arts from a range of well-known figures. Now in its fifth series, the strand will encompass six films from a rich variety of distinctive individuals offering their take on subjects for which they have a personal enthusiasm and fascination.  
 
Episode 1: Michael Jackson’s Thriller with Ashley Banjo
 
It was one of the best days of Ashley Banjo’s life when Michael Jackson invited the young British choreographer and his dance group, Diversity, to support him at his planned London concerts in 2009.  But the concerts never happened – the American superstar died following an overdose of prescription drugs – so Ashley never got to meet his musical idol.  This documentary follows Ashley as he finds out more about the man who inspired him to dance and, in particular, Thriller - the album which sold a record breaking sixty million copies and catapulted Michael Jackson to global superstardom. 
 
Ashley heads out to California to meet the people who Jackson worked with to create the best selling album of all time.  Engineer Bruce Swedien recalls the first day of the recording when legendary producer Quincy Jones told the team that they were there to save the ailing music industry.  It was a bold ambition which Michael Jackson accepted and fulfilled with room to spare.  
 
We hear from Greg Phillinganes, the main keyboard player on the album about hearing the demo of Billie Jean for the first time, his explanation of why this track became a soul classic and the pressures of fame on Michael at that time.  Michael Jackson chose Irish director, Steve Barron, to make the video for Billie Jean after seeing his work on The Human League’s Don’t You Want me.  Steve shares what it was like to witness the explosive dance sequence for the video to very first time it was revealed to the world. The moonwalk became associated with Jackson’s live performances of Billie Jean but the first time he executed the move in public came some months after the video at the Motown 25 celebrations. Jeffrey Daniel talks about working with Michael on his dance moves, his own response to the famous Motown performance and the part the Michael Jackson and Thriller played in bringing Street Dance to a wider audience.
 
The follow up single to Billie Jean was another Michael Jackson composition: the rock inspired Beat It.  Members of rock group Toto share the hilarious tale of how they came to work on this song – and helped to open up Michael Jackson to a whole new audience.  Bob Giraldi, director of the video for Beat It, explains how Michael Jackson got members of two notorious Los Angeles gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, involved in the video shoot and the moment of film magic that saved the production.  Dancer and choreographer, Vincent Paterson, talks to Ashley about working with Michael for first time on the Beat It video – and the way that life changed for the young singer after the phenomenal success of the Thriller album.
 
The next top ten hit off Thriller was Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.  Ashley meets up with famous backing singers the Waters Family to hear what it was like working on this track and their impressions of working with the soul superstar over many years.  Steve Porcaro, the composer of yet another US hit single from Thriller, Human Nature, tells Ashley of the amazing stroke of good luck that meant that Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones listened to his demo and went on to select it for the bestselling album of all time. 
 
After nearly a year on the charts album sales finally started to drop away but Michael Jackson had one card left to play:  the release of the album’s title track – and, perhaps most importantly, it’s ground breaking video…
 
Ashley meets John Landis the A list Hollywood director behind the Thriller film, Rick Baker the seven times Oscar winning makeup artist who made Michael into a monster and Ola Ray, the former playboy model who lost her heart to Michael as his co-star in the film. He sees the iconic red leather jacket from the video and gets his hands on one of the custom made fedoras that became a part of Michael Jackson’s on stage identity.
 
Ashley learns about the enduring legacy of Michael Jackson and his musical masterpiece from the creator of the London musical Thriller Live! and from leading choreographer, Travis Payne, who worked with Jackson on his ill-fated final concert rehearsals.  The people who worked with Michael Jackson on his masterpiece reveal what made Thriller so special – and the price that he paid for his unprecedented success…
 
Directed/Produced by Gareth Williams for Blakeway North