a big hit when it was shown in England in March. What does it offer that other series don’t?
in television crime dramas, for very obvious and often quite legitimate reasons, you don’t really feel the genuine impact
of what crime does to the victim and those around it. In Broadchurch,
you can taste the grief and the horror and the extraordinariness of this random ghastly event happening to these people. It
just felt electrifyingly real. And [Alec Hardy] is a great character — he’s noble, inscrutable and rather taciturn.
also has terrible people skills. Why is rudeness so funny?
I suppose because most of
us go through life fantasizing about being ruder than we are. You kind of replay moments in your day when you wish you’d
been a little blunter than inevitably you were. There’s a certain wish fulfillment in getting to portray someone who
is very candid about what he’s feeling from moment to moment. We may recoil from it, but part of us want to be like
that. Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm? I’m glad that’s
not me, but sometimes I wish it was.
Did you know the killer’s identity when you started filming?
We were all completely in
the dark. [Pause.] As far as I know, that’s true. Obviously, if certain people knew certain things, they weren’t
the past you’ve traced your interest in acting to being a 3-year-old Doctor
Who fan. Really?
It all seems kind of absurd, doesn’t it? But broadly
speaking, it’s true. I remember distinctly a conversation with my parents — or at least I think I do — about
the people on TV and the fact that they were people pretending and thinking that was what I wanted to do with my life.
When you were cast on the series, did it signify the
fulfillment of a long-held dream? Or was it mostly sheer terror?
When I became an actor, Doctor
Who had been off the air for however many years. It wasn’t something
that I could imagine being part of. Then suddenly it came back, and suddenly I was in it. It was very surreal. But the pressure
not to muck it up? It was quite extreme.
In Britain, Doctor Who has an enormous
fan base. What’s your sense of its popularity in the United States?
increasingly difficult to walk around without a hat on, which is my very crude thermometer for such things. I’m not
saying it’s House or CSI, but it’s gathering a following that it didn’t used to have.
you tell me anything about the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special
to be shown in November?
No. I cannot tell you anything.
I’m sure that BBC America is listening in to this call, and if I tell you anything, they will send an electric charge
down the phone line and kill us both. I’m only thinking about your personal safety.
You’ve done comedy, drama, sci-fi, movies, television, theater.
Weren’t you once the host of a TV quiz show?
I was. I love the idea that one can have that kind of
variety of professional experiences. But I don’t know if that makes me versatile or a bit of a whore.
almost added NBC’s Hannibal to your résumé, right?
I did talk to Bryan Fuller [the creator of Hannibal], and I certainly had some discussions. But they went
for Mads Mikkelsen, and why not? I’d have cast him. I’d cast him in everything. He’s one of my favorite
actors on the planet.
Hoffman has spoken about how Tootsie opened
his eyes to the struggles of being a women. One of your first roles was as a transgender barmaid on a Scottish sitcom. What
did you learn?
Dustin Hoffman prepared for Tootsie and
played the part for several months. I did three days. I could make something up, but the truth of it is it was about my second
or third television job ever, and I was just very thrilled to be in something that my mom and dad had heard of. It was and
still is a career highlight.
This winter you’ll star in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s
production of Richard II. What excites you most about playing a king
who loses his crown?
I love the politics of it. At first he’s quite an unappealing monarch. He’s
not particularly good at it. He’s being arbitrary and thoughtless. I’m saying all these things before I’ve
even started rehearsal. I’ll probably change my mind. Ask me in two months’ time, and I’ll be saying [in
a defensive voice], “He’s the most loving, compassionate king that England has ever had.”
on BBC America on Wednesday 7th August at 10pm/9c