Tom Bateman plays both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in ITV’s highly anticipated re-imagining of the classic Stevenson novel, here he reveals all about the updated to the 1930’s setting, his superhuman strength and filming in Sri Lanka.
Q: What were your thoughts when you heard about this series?
“I absolutely loved the idea and the 1930’s setting. I had read the original Robert Louis Stevenson novel and thought the re-imagining writer Charlie Higson created is so much fun. It’s something we haven’t seen on TV and I had never read anything like it. I loved the dual character and Robert’s struggle to come to grips with this evil – or liberated – side. The auditions were great because I got to keep doing these really fun Hyde scenes. There’s nothing else like it on TV. The way we’re shooting it is so cool and original. We’ve got the fight guy from Star Wars doing our fights and the director of photography from Peaky Blinders. There’s an A- team on this. Everyone coming together and creating this amazing world. A really fun adventure.”
Q: Who – or what – is Dr Robert Jekyll?
“Robert is a young doctor who has grown up in Ceylon. He has spent his entire life there with his foster mother and father. Although he obviously knows he is not from that world he doesn’t know anything about his past, aside from that he has this hormonal imbalance that makes him go a bit funny. But he’s got pills that can keep him under control. Hidden away in Ceylon he’s slightly naive of the world and has concentrated on being a doctor and a good man. He’s aware of the Hyde part of his character but he doesn’t really know what it is yet or about his family history in London.”
Q: Tell us about the accident which reveals he is not like other men?
“Robert is busy vaccinating children at a local clinic when a lorry drives off the road and smashes through the medical centre. He sees a young girl has been pinned underneath the lorry and the good side of Robert tells him he needs to help and he runs straight into the centre without a thought for his own safety. When he tries to lio this truck Hyde kicks in, because Robert is under extreme pressure. Just when you think he’s a good guy and he starts to lio the lorry, Hyde takes over and actually threatens the child’s life. It’s pretty shocking and dark. But then the audience will see Hyde isn’t truly evil as he just out to enjoy himself and have fun.”
Q: So the locals think you have real super powers?
“We filmed in Sri Lanka and the local people were very interested in the filming. The scene where I lift the truck is done with the help of a crane but the roof of the clinic also collapses. The villagers watched filming all day and they saw the crane but thought that was only to lift the roof off and on. So when I was lifting the truck, obviously acting as if it was heavy, they thought I was doing it for real. In between takes the kids were running up trying to lift the lorry as they thought it was fake and really light. Which is when they discovered it was real and thought I must have superhuman strength.”
Q: How did you enjoy filming on location in Sri Lanka?
“That was absolutely amazing. I did a TV show set in Florence and we filmed in Swansea. So as soon as they said, ‘You’re going to Sri Lanka,’ I thought, ‘This job has just got even better.’ It’s brilliant for the show because the audience is expecting a dark, grim, smoggy London. Which they get, but then suddenly we cut to these huge open skies and beautiful countryside on the other side of the world. There’s a different energy and tempo about filming in Sri Lanka. It’s hot, you move slower and the surroundings are breathtaking. There are also elephants everywhere. It’s a different universe and people have a different mentality. You can imagine how Robert feels when he leaves there, arrives in London and thinks, ‘What is this place?’
We were in Kandy which is out in the mountains. We also filmed with a beautiful old steam train in a working train station. I had to jump on the train as it was pulling away. That was a real Indiana Jones moment with my trilby hat flapping in the wind. It was an amazing day.”
Q: Are we right to think Jekyll is on a journey of discovery because he doesn’t know the full truth?
“Yes. He is discovering things as he goes along. Robert doesn’t know anything about the monsters that exist. He’s been hidden away in Ceylon and then comes into this world where everyone is clued up and also knows everything about him. I discover secrets episode by episode, with the audience.”
Q: What triggers Jekyll’s transformation into Hyde?
“Stress, anger, rage, jealousy, lust provide the trigger for the transformation from Jekyll into Hyde. Mostly it’s anger when he just loses it. Charlie Higson has brilliantly explored the frustration of this character. Hyde is stronger than Jekyll and Hyde is a necessary ‘evil’ because he can do things others can’t. Robert can think and plan, but it’s Hyde’s strength and boldness that is actually required. He’s really struggling to hold everything together. All these secrets and double lives. It’s wonderful segng the story in the 1930’s because of the very British way people behaved.”
Q: How do you approach that transformation as an actor?
“Before we started filming I had camera tests with the director Colin Teague, the designers and the CGI team. That was brilliantly useful because they were trying to create a language for Hyde. The producers showed me what I was going to look and feel like which was great to see. So I can have in my mind what this creature is. We’ve got five stages of Hyde and a lot of it is through make-up. Five being the big CGI monster who we only really see in flashes. One, two and three are him fevering in and out. The audience will know something is wrong before I become Hyde. Stage four is when Robert has completely gone and Hyde has taken over. He can still pass as a normal person until the monster at stage five. And you really don’t want to come across that guy!!”
Q: Tell us about the links to the past?
“It’s very clever. Donald Sumpter’s character Garson is the link. He in the beginning with Jekyll’s grandfather and here he is now guiding his grandson. He knows everything.”
Q: Is Hyde necessarily a bad man?
“The writer Charlie Higson gave me a book about the Greek god Pan to read. Everybody hated Pan. Traditionally they were very threatened by him because he was an evil, powerful guy no-one really understood. But actually he’s the god of mischief. So Hyde is a nasty piece of work but, as he says in the series, ‘All I want to do is have fun.’ And when you’re that powerful it’s very easy to have fun. As an actor you can’t approach anyone thinking they are evil. You have to understand how they operate. It’s for the audience to make their mind up about whether Hyde is bad or good. Me, as an actor? I have to look why he does the things he does. Why he behaves that way. Why he has no regard for anyone. Hyde does have a place and a function. There are evil forces at work and Hyde isn’t one of them. He saves the day a lot of the time and is the key to solving things. It’s very interesting to have a ‘bad’ superhero. Superman and Spiderman are almost infallibly good. Having a bad, malicious or just a fun hero is more accessible to people. How would you behave if you had superpowers? You wouldn’t really want to hide it. You would want to go around the world going, ‘Look at me. Look at what I can do!’ I think people will enjoy watching it. He’s a maverick and works for no-one.”
Q: Did you have to trash a posh hotel room during filming?
“That was my first outing as Hyde and also the most fun day on set in my career so far. They gave me a beautiful hotel room and everything was breakable. It’s all about this monster coming out. Robert hates his reflection as Hyde because he’s a monster. He’s trying to fight it and destroy those reflections, but then he just fully embraces it. It was wonderful to shoot because suddenly we’ll understand why he decides to ‘accept’ Hyde. It’s not just a character trashing the room although it was fantastic fun. I knew I only had one go at doing most of it. I smash mirrors, break chairs, blow doors off their hinges. There was a big wardrobe with a mirror and that got absolutely destroyed. Hyde also destroys the Empire drinking hall when he is fully transformed. That was three days of shooting. The set designers are amazing and it looks so beautiful but by the end of the third day everything was broken. They had to re-build it from scratch. They were like, ‘Please don’t break anything else.’”
Q: Tell us about the Jekyll and Hyde sets?
“I remember walking in and seeing the lab for the first time. It’s so amazing. I couldn’t wait to get started on filming. Jekyll’s house is also beautiful and steeped in history. A lot of these places have been leo abandoned for decades because of the original Jekyll and Hyde. There’s a nice time lapse difference of modern versus the old which is really interesting. I love all the sets.”
Q: Can you explain the darkness and humour in the series?
“The humour is what brings people in. Even if a film is absolutely incredible, if it doesn’t have any humour it doesn’t quite draw you in as much. There are actually really funny moments in a film like Jaws, for example. Humour makes the characters more human. It also keeps you on the rollercoaster because it can get a bit repetitive if it’s always tense and dark.”
Q: Tell us about the look of Jekyll…and Hyde?
“The costumes help tremendously. They hold you in a certain way. I love the coat I wear. I tried on loads of things to see what worked and what didn’t. The costume designer Howard Burden came up with this one coat and as soon as I put it on it felt completely right.”
Q: Is Captain Dance, played by Enzo Cilento, a major foe?
“Enzo is brilliant. I was sat next to him at the first script readthrough and he blew me away. He gets the brilliance of the comedy and is funny but also dark. Captain Dance is a proper evil character. He’s a monster but we don’t know what he is or where he comes from. Bit by bit Charlie teases us and lets us find out more about him. You will want to know more.”
Q: Tell us about working with Richard E Grant, who plays Bulstrode?
“Richard is amazing. My mum said, ‘What are you doing today?’ I said, ‘Today I’m pushing Withnail up against a wall.’ He’s a lovely, warm, generous man. And I get to act alongside him.”
Q: Tell us about Jekyll’s relationship with Lily (Stephanie Hyam) and Hyde’s with Bella (Natalie Gumede)?
“Robert is trying to be an upstanding member of society. So Lily is the perfect candidate for him. There’s an instant spark and it’s love at first sight. Whereas Bella appears to be the only person able to handle Hyde. Everyone else just runs away screaming or gets beaten up. She meets him toe to toe and he really likes that. Bella is a kick-ass character. It’s interesting because he is not cheating. He is a different person so Hyde will be with Bella and then when he is back to being Robert he will be with Lily.”
Q: Do you think we all have a good and a bad side?
“Everyone has a Hyde in them. Sometimes you have to behave in a certain way. An example of that is when you come across someone you don’t like. I’ve been brought up to be very polite and I’m not very confrontational at all. And then walk away and think, ‘If only I’d said or done that.’ We’re working very hard on this series and you want to go crazy, let your hair down and feel like you’re not tied down to things or you have to behave in a certain way. It’s quite nice to go out and be a bit crazy. But I don’t go around trashing bars!”
Q: What was the reaction of your family when you got this role?
“They are all very proud. I’ve got a wonderful family. They’re so non-showbiz. My mum is a primary school teacher and my dad is a music teacher and I’ve got loads of brothers and sisters. They’re really excited for me and supportive but also stuff happening in their own lives which is nice and grounding. Also my mum and dad can actually see this series. They live in the dark ages and don’t have all the channels. So the TV stuff I’ve done before, they’ve never seen because it’s been on American channels or Sky. But they can tune in to ITV every week and see this.”
Q: You have a twin brother?
“We’re not identical twins. He’s called Merlin and he came to visit me on set for Da Vinci’s Demons. We’d been given these swanky flats and a posh car comes to drive you to work. So he thought, ‘This is quite nice.’ Then he saw that you get your own trailer and people bring you food and stuff. Then you dress up and walk on set. The day he visited I did a fight scene and he went, ‘I think I want to do this. It looks really fun.’ And I said, ‘If you’d have come on a different day you might not think that because it can be hard work. He asked to come on the Jekyll and Hyde set and wanted to be an extra. But, again, I had to warn him, ‘Look, it’ll be fun for about an hour. Aoer eight hours you’re going to be saying – Tom, can we go home now? And the answer will be no, because you’re in the shot. You can’t just disappear.’”
Q: Have you ever been really spooked by anything or had an unexplained experience?
“I have actually. I don’t think I’ve told anyone this before. When I was 16 or 17 I was doing some work with the father of my girlfriend at the time. He was an archeologist and we were working and camping in the fields. I was in a tent in the middle of the night when suddenly this bright light appeared. I thought it was a helicopter but it was absolutely silent. I stuck my head out of the tent, blinded by this light with still no noise at all. And then it just disappeared. And we were in the middle of a field. I woke up in the morning and thought, ‘That was weird. I definitely didn’t dream that.”
The Miniaturist Interviews: Romola Garai
Romola Garai plays Marin Brandt in The Miniaturist, premiering soon on BBC-1, here she talks about what drew her to the drama and being in a costume drama where she pretty much only gets to wear one costume.
What attracted you to the role of Marin?
I’d read the book shortly after it came out and I thought it was a really surprising novel, really interesting and with very strong feminist themes in it, so I was very excited about it. Time passed and then an email popped into my inbox with the subject, The Miniaturist. I thought it was fantastic they were making it and I was really excited to read the script.
It’s a very genre-bending novel; it appears to be like a costume drama we have seen before, but very quickly we realise that it’s not that. It’s about a woman coming into her own in a society that’s very patriarchal, it’s about a love affair, it’s about discrimination, and it’s about people trying to survive in an incredibly controlled state. It’s a thriller and it’s also a story about political and emotional awakening.
Marin is a particularly interesting character, I think she has one of the best arcs. When I first read the book, she was the character that stayed with me, and when I read the scripts I immediately remembered everything about her. She’s told in beautiful detail in the novel, which John has retained in the script. Marin is just a great character to play, it was a real treat.
Tell us about Marin.
When you first meet her, because the story is told through Nella’s perspective, you meet a woman who seems very cold and intimidating. Then gradually you get this drip-feed of information about her; you see she’s been helping Johannes run the business and you learn that they were orphaned at a young age. She’s very intellectual, she’s very well read, and she’s not married, which is very unusual at the time.
One of the reasons I found her such a fascinating character is that she’s full of secrets and she’s layered; very conflicted and has great faith, but also passions. The house they live in is essentially a tinder box of secrets that Marin has been sitting on to try and stop the secrets exploding out. However although it seems she is trying to keep a lid on it I think she believes that they could subtly break all the rules and be free within the house at least, if only her brother stopped acting so recklessly.
Hopefully audiences will question what is driving her hostility towards Nella. Marin needs Nella a lot to maintain the appearance of being a normal household but it’s also very important that Nella is afraid of her so that she doesn’t try digging and discovering the secrets that they are all trying to keep – because if anyone finds out then their futures are ruined.
What was it like doing the scenes between Marin and Nella?
I loved working with Anya, she’s an incredibly accomplished actress. She’s got a difficult job in this, because Nella has to be very innocent at the beginning of the story, which is always difficult for an actor to play, and also more innocent that a woman of that age would be now. She’s constantly making discoveries, she doesn’t have the information that the rest of us do so she’s always learning new things, and she’s done that with real beauty and subtlety. I really enjoyed doing all our scenes together.
Tell us about Marin’s costume.
Marin only had one costume until a very late stage of the story. Her costume is typical of the puritan values of the period which rejected anything that smacked of luxury or louche values. They also didn’t wear make-up in this period at all, certainly not women of this class and station, and the hair was very simple and scraped back. Her head would have been covered at all times, so I had a black cap that I wore, but to be honest when I wore it I couldn’t really hear what anyone was saying and also talked incredibly loudly because I couldn’t hear myself, so essentially I was shouting at the other actors!
What makes The Miniaturist stand out from other period dramas?
I’ve done lots of historical pieces but there’s something very unusual about this. When you do contemporary novels set in the past the writers are able to do a lot more, and tackle complex themes which writers writing at the time weren’t able to do. More than that, it’s interesting in that it explores a number of different genres. It has elements of a thriller and then it becomes a family drama and then it becomes a polemic about what happens in societies that are so controlling.
I hope people will sit down to watch the show because it’s a pretty costume drama and will be surprised that it is actually rebellious and constantly bringing up important issues – and that they’ll be so engaged they won’t be able to look away.
Trust Me Interviews: Sharon Small
Interview with Sharon Small, who plays Dr. Brigitte McAdams in new three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs this August on BBC One.
What attracted you to this project?
I liked the character and the premise of the piece – I don’t think we’ve seen this before. And everyone is like an armchair detective, everyone is an armchair actor or doctor, so I thought that people would get off on that and think, gosh what would I do in that circumstance? The audience are the people who are privy to the truth and not us. With my character, Brigitte, I like her neediness, her sassiness – she’s fun and quick-fire talking – and quite honestly I rather fancied myself as a doctor [laughs].
How would you describe your character?
Brigitte is a good person; she’s sassy and is a really good doctor. She has got some issues, but she is trying her best to run this ward and with great intentions, which I think a lot of NHS doctors are.
How did you prepare for the role?
I grew my hair so that I could tie it up – normally I have short hair. We had a fantastic medical training day with Dan and got to do airways and cannulas and stitching and things like that, I loved that. The most important thing for me was to go around the actual A&E department (or ED department as I now know it’s called) in Edinburgh. We met this fantastic doctor – just watching him and really getting to observe what goes on in a ward, the dynamic, what people do and noticing that people are always looking at folders, everyone’s always collaborating and talking to each other. Everyone is always moving around, a lot more than you think and not that quickly. It’s less dramatic than you think.
Is your character challenging to play?
She was. Similarly in something that Jodie mentioned, I had quite a lot of medical jargon to say quite quickly, but I had less of the procedural stuff to do in terms of operational things. As the character is more and more revealed I had to make sure that I took care of how that happened, and that it was subtly done.
What makes a hospital a good arena for a drama?
It’s an ever-changing landscape, a hospital. Every new sort of event that you’re presented with means that you’re having to make life-saving decisions. People’s lives really are at stake, and honestly, my little taste of pretending that I was an ED doctor made me feel quite powerful. If I could fix people so that they survived, that would be an amazing ability.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced so far during filming?
Saying the medical words Metronidazole – Met-ron-ida-zole, Metron-i-dazole – and trying to make scrubs look even remotely interesting, I don’t rock scrubs like Jodie does, I’m way too curvy for that!
What do you hope audiences will take away from this drama?
I hope that they’ll find themselves in that dilemma of wanting Cath/Ally to succeed, because she’s a good person and she ironically is brilliant at the job. I’m hoping that they’ll see the dilemma that she has, and as you want her to keep succeeding, it means she’s going to keep compromising people as she goes, as well as herself.
Trust Me Interviews: Jodie Whittaker
Jodie Whittaker plays Cath in three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs on BBC One this August.
What appealed to you about this project?
I was sent the script for the first episode and it fascinated me because it went in a completely different direction to how I thought it was going to. Particularly at the beginning when she’s suspended for whistleblowing and loses her job. It could have gone so many ways, and the fact that she takes on this new identity isn’t the way that I thought it would go. I love the fact that her choices are quite morally dubious – they certainly aren’t black and white. She makes decisions that are quite challenging to justify, even though we know her reasons. I’ve never acted in anything medical before, so it felt completely new.
How does Cath’s lie come about?
Cath starts off by having a conversation with her best friend, Ally, who is a middle grade doctor in A&E and is giving it all up to emigrate to New Zealand. Ally is packing up the life that Cath would have loved to have had, leaving it all behind to go and do something completely different. Suddenly there is an opportunity for her to take on the identity of her friend and in that panic, not necessarily the clearest thinking moment in her life, she does it. Once you set off on a path of lies it’s very difficult to undo it without bringing everything crashing down.
Did you receive any training on medical procedures?
Yes! The writer, Dan, who is also medical consultant and a doctor outside of TV production, showed us a load of stuff that he used when he was training people. He brought in the CPR dummy and showed us how to do a cannula and he, very bravely, let me put a cannula in his vein. I did it right, thank God! Also, YouTube is amazing. The genius of the internet is that you can basically sit at home and Google medical procedures, and TV shows such as 24 hours in A&E, which I watched hours of.
How else did you prepare for the role?
With regards to the technical stuff, we had an on-set consultant so that there was always someone to help when we had to do the procedures. The best thing for me was that my character was also out of her depth and didn’t always know what she was doing, so it kind of covered my own personal fumbles. I’m not someone who likes to over prepare for dialogue scenes, because I think that makes me not listen to what the other person is saying as I’ve already decided how I’m going to do it. It immediately makes it interesting and new and you can’t plan for that, which is great. You can’t ‘wing’ the medical stuff so I had to do my research for that. One of my friends is a Sister in A&E and I sent her a lot of messages asking ‘how do you pronounce this?’ and ‘what does that mean?’, so basically she was my personal medical coach even though she works full time!
Is it challenging playing someone who leads a double life?
Yes, but no more challenging that playing someone who has had something happen to them that I haven’t personally experienced. What’s hard is trying to gauge how good a liar she is, or how in a panic she is. You’ve got to be careful, because you can’t make the other actors seem stupid. These are intelligent, fully formed characters that you’re working with, so it was a fine line of being able to deceive and it not being something that comes easily to her. However, it can’t be that it makes everyone around her feel a bit like an idiot for not working it out. That was tricky, but the director is there to help guide you through it.
Did the uniform help to get you into character?
Yes. It feels odd when you put it on. I did five weeks of studio filming, back to back – all the medical stuff was contained so everything started to become a bit like second nature. The first few times I had to put on an apron, the ‘take’ ended up being about 15 minutes long. Then I worked out that you shouldn’t put the gloves on before the apron! There was lots of daft stuff like that, but you then get into a rhythm. It’s good because it makes you immediately feel like you look the part and then all I had to do was make sure that I knew the lines!
What were some of the challenges that you faced during filming?
I’m not very good with learning dialogue when there are lots of medical terms! I enjoy the adrenaline of being on set because I’m quite good at choreography, I respond well to being taught something physically. That’s why I was terrible at school, because they talk you through things rather than physically show you. I enjoyed doing the different types of surgery as it was fascinating, it’s nerve-wracking but you realise that you can do it. Also, the team who created the props put in so much hard work to make sure we didn’t mess up our bits. I struggled with having massive speeches that involved these medical words. I don’t have a brain for that!
Did you enjoy working in Scotland?
I absolutely loved Glasgow! The crew were phenomenal and the city is wonderful. I could move my family up there and we had a great time as there were loads of brilliant restaurants and everyone was lovely. It was brilliant and I would snap up another job there very quickly, although it does get very dark and cold over winter!
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