Actor Tom Hardy talks about his new gritty four-part drama on Sky1 and on the perils of playing a psychopath…

You’re best known for playing violent criminal Charlie Bronson and villain Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist, is your character Freddie Jackson another psychopath?
“Yes, I’m playing another psychopath! Freddie’s a gangster and this is a gangster story. He’s a bit terrifying. I’ve got this slush fund of characters that I met while researching Bronson and Freddie’s loosely based on elements of those.”

Is Freddie similar to other characters you’ve played in the past?
“Freddie is different; he’s not going to be like Bill Sykes or like Charlie Bronson. While he’s based on a group of different people I met in the four years I researched Bronson he’s a stand-alone character. I made him a jock type, physically fit but an obvious drug abuser. He’s a bad boy – a complicated mess and an interesting character.”

Do you ever worry about the people you associated with in the name of research being offended by your portrayal of their world?
“My research for Bronson was about finding out about a man as opposed to becoming a gangster so I moved in those circles without actually getting involved in anything criminal. I did come into contact with a lot of different people who left definite impressions on me. Many of them didn’t understand the world of entertainment or how the media works. Often I was the go between Charlie and the press company, which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, but at the end of the day all I could promise Charlie is that I’d do the best I could to portray him.”

In The Take Freddie and his cousin Jimmy are gangsters on the rise in London’s East End but all is not well at home with their partners Jackie and Maggie…
“There’s a lot running under the surface of the different relationships between all these characters. All of them have dark secrets and no character is fully aware of what another character is doing at any one time.”

So, how would you describe The Take?
“It’s a bit like a Greek drama. The gangster genre is a great melting pot for human desires – family, sex, religion – it’s dramatic stuff. You need to infuse it with as much reality as possible and then step back and hopefully the drama will roll. With all of these things combined, Freddie’s probably the most complicated psychopath I’ve played. It really takes on some very heavy and tough subject matters but without being judgemental. It’s a cracking piece of drama!”

It spans 10 years from 1980s Thatcher-era to the emergence of ecstasy and New Labour, how true to life is it?
“It was important to keep everything as close to the bone as possible and make it authentic but we didn’t want to glamorise anything. The relationships between Freddie, his wife Jackie, Maggie and Jimmy deal with complicated issues and themes but I’m not here to glorify or to condemn. My role is to portray without judging.”

*The Take kicks off with a double bill on Wednesday 17 June at 9pm on Sky1*