What attracted you to the drama?
My introduction to the book was unusual. I was having lunch in Cape Town with Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan and they suddenly said to me, if they ever film Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel l, you have to play The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair.
This was their favourite book and my first introduction to Susanna Clarke’s extraordinary world. A year later I heard the BBC were dramatising the book so I got myself an audition and got the part. Without that introduction the show would have, no doubt, passed me by.
What was it like playing The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair?
The Gentleman is a gift of a part for an actor to play. He is a Faerie who reigns over his kingdom of Lost Hope with regality and grace combined with petulance and great selfishness. Alongside this he has hypnotic and magical powers that can induce trance like states that leave women speechless and men reduced to rubble.
Was there anything that was particularly challenging?
The greatest challenge was finding the voice that fitted into Susanna Clarke’s description of The Gentleman. Probably the most difficult element beyond that was the long nails that I wore. These were not easy to wear when it came to toilet breaks. Consequently I had to drink little and I couldn’t use any gadgets for texting or emails in between scenes.
Was it difficult acting with all of the hair, makeup and costumes?
The hair, make up and costume departments excelled themselves on this production. They each contributed vital elements to the creation of The Gentleman. When you are working with artists of this level of skill, they make the rest of your job so much easier. It took three hours every morning for the three departments to create the look and all that was left was for me was to remember the lines.
What do you hope people get out of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell?
There was a sense of magic for everybody who took part in this production. Every actor and member of the crew performed to the peak of their ability. The show has the feel of a Dickensian world crossed with magic. It is vast in its scale and covers the Napoleonic wars and historical events, whilst mixing in a degree of fantasy and personal journeys. I don’t feel that we have seen anything like it before and I hope that it will make as deep an impression on the audience as it did for all of us that had the joy of making it.
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