You play Abe in this new four-part series set during the political chaos of England and America in the 1680s. How have you enjoyed being in a big historical production?
“The first job I ever did was in a period drama [Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette] and I don’t think I realised at the time how much being in costume helps. You have to work a little harder if you’re doing a job in the modern day. For Abe I had a wig clipped into my own hair, that and the costume definitely helped with the role. I’d sometimes catch a glimpse of my reflection with the hair and the garb and it lifted me a bit.”
Tell us about your character in New Worlds?
“Abe’s an idealistic outlaw, who wants justice in England. He fights very hard to end the tyrannical rule of the Stewarts and topple Charles II from the throne – but in a very rough and ready way! He’s passionate and principled because he’s fighting for what he believes in.”
How are we first introduced to him?
“Abe’s been ousted out of London, where he was studying medicine, because his dad is exiled rebel William Goffe. William was a real man and is played here by James Cosmo.
“We see Abe at the beginning with a couple of other outlaws chasing a deer in the woods in Oxfordshire in order to feed six starving families. When the deer goes into the grounds of Fanshawe House he’s introduced to Beth.”
What does this meeting with Beth (The White Queen’s Freya Mavor) mean for the characters?
“It’s two worlds colliding. We see quite astounding differences in their lives. It seems impossible they could fall in love. But somehow they find each other.”
Is it a very physical role?
“Abe seems to run a lot! He’s an outlaw who wants to overturn things, so there is quite a bit of running. I’ve got a dodgy shoulder so luckily there isn’t too much physical fighting. They’re a little cautious about letting actors near horses too much. Anything widely shot was done with a stunt double – with equally interesting hair! One time, when the horse wasn’t behaving for a close up, I ended up on the stuntman’s shoulders. The poor guy’s got reins on and everything and I had to sort of wriggle about. I don’t know who it was worse for!”
These were violent times. Is there a high body count?
“Along with the big love aspect of the star-crossed lovers there’s a lot of loss. It seems every time Abe has a sidekick they die – he certainly doesn’t seem to bring anyone any luck!”
Despite the body count, this is very different to playing a serial killer in The Fall with Gillian Anderson…
“That’s the thing you want most as an actor, a diversity of characters. It keeps it interesting. I also like the challenge of playing very different roles. There’s also a fear of typecasting! I wouldn’t want to do just one thing for my whole life. But it doesn’t always work like that. Luckily this came along. It’s nice to mix it up.”