Sherlock star Benedict Cumerbatch returns to our screens next week in Parade’s End, a new BBC2 period drama adapted by Tom Stoppard from Ford Madox Ford’s quartet of novels about an explosive love triangle in the lead-up to World War One.
TV&Satellite Week magazine caught up with the actor to find out more…
Tell us about your character, Christopher Tietjens…
“I completely fell in love with Christopher; he is an aristocratic gentleman and the most long-suffering and virtuous character I have ever played. He lives by this outmoded feudal code of conduct where there is a duty to both above and below your station, but there are some very modern touches to his integrity.”
What about the two women in his life?
“Christopher’s wife Sylvia [Rebecca Hall] is a modern woman and takes what she wants without thinking of the consequences. They love each other, but it is a terrible mismatch and he is killing her with kindness. In contrast, Valentine [Adelaide Clemens], a suffragette, is younger but contains this incredibly old soul, but she is forbidden fruit because he has aligned himself to honouring the principles of marriage.”
What was it like filming the First World War scenes?
“I had one spooky incident when my then girlfriend said she had seen me at the bottom of the bed in uniform with half my face missing. Soon after, I filmed a scene where a German soldier has to fall on me with half a face missing and also a dream sequence where an explosion goes off and part of my face is missing. I ended up engulfed in flames on one take and luckily I just got my eyebrows singed, but it was terrifying.”
Did you enjoy having Rupert Everett play your half-brother in it?
“It was great; he is such a character in real life, almost as if he is out of the pages of the books, he really is to the manner born. He is really supportive but gossipy. You do fear that anything that comes out of your mouth is going to end up in his next autobiography, so I self-edited quite a lot more than I would normally.”
You’ve done quite a few period dramas. Is that your natural home?
“I have a long face and look weird so I suit period costumes, but I’m careful about not repeating myself. I just treat each job as a new experience. I’ve always had an eye on longevity and I have got lots more goals to achieve. It is a lifetime’s objective not an overnight thing, but it has been great to have a run of back-to-back well-received work.”
How do you deal with the increase in recognition since doing Sherlock?
“It is strange to deal with and any privacy in public now is an odd thing to negotiate. I’m still sensitive to it, but the only thing that annoys me is people surreptitiously trying to take a photo of me on their phone without asking. It’s not just that I feel it is invasive, I feel it is cowardly. Just ask me if you want a photo.”
You’ve been filming The Hobbit in New Zealand. What was it like playing a dragon?
“Weirdly, it was very freeing once I put the suit on with all the sensors. A serpent with cold blood twice the size of the Empire State Building that breathes fire and lives on a pile of gold in the middle of a mountain is a bit difficult to bring any reality to, though, so I went to London Zoo and looked at komodos and lizards to get an idea.”
Parade’s End begins on BBC2 on Friday, August 24 at 9pm