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Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview that took place on June 18, 2014 with Richard Coyle from Crossbones.

Crossbones

Question:
Can you talk about what it was that first attracted you to the role that made you know that you just have to do it?

Richard Coyle:
It's a great script and I immediately liked the pas de das between Lowe and Blackbeard, which was fascinating, and obviously it's a series-long arc between these two characters. But in the pilot, the first episode that I read initially it's very much like a boxing match, these two characters going toe-to-toe. I found that very interesting, the idea of an agent of the crown square to an Osama Bin Laden like terrorist, and the potential for where that would lead, so it was intriguing.

Question:
Can you talk about some of the stunts in the show? You guys have jumped around a lot.

Richard Coyle:
Yes, it's a very physical role, it's a physical show. There's a lot of stunts, a lot of sword fighting, a lot of running around, a lot of hand-to-hand combat. But I love to do that stuff, and that was a full-time job in itself, a full-time part of this role, was hands-on with the stunts. And an amazing stunt department. Keith Campbell and Andy Dillan leading, and Thomas Dupont. I've worked with them before, and it was amazing to have a chance to work with them again in such a close way on this brilliant, brilliant guys.

Question:
What is it that drew you to this character?

Richard Coyle:
I think there's something really interesting about Tom Lowe, there's a duality about him which I find interesting. Whenever I find the kind of dualities like this, I'm always drawn to it. And then with Tom Lowe, it's a case of his nature is to tell the truth, but his job is to be a liar. So it was like how do you reconcile those two sides of who you are? And I found that fascinating, that he had to lie and dissemble, really, is the word, for a living. He is a man of integrity and truth, and tallying those two things was fascinating prospect, especially given how the series develops, and what happens later on, which obviously we haven't seen yet.

Question:
What would you say is the most challenging thing, other than the stunts, about being in the series?

Richard Coyle:
The most challenging thing other than the stunts. I think probably some of the learning, the sheer volume of some of the dialogue probably, in a short amount of time. As the series progresses, there are some incredibly wordy exchanges between Lowe and Blackbeard. It's like you have to own it, and make it truth, and you have to make it native to you, and sometimes that takes time, and you need the luxury of time sometimes to make that really land. So the challenge, I suppose, was making all that stuff work with the time limitation that we had but it's just part and parcel of what is required. But that was probably the most challenging thing apart from the stunts and the physicality.

Question:
You were saying when you first read that script you loved character, but also you have to love the idea of just going opposite John Malkovich. What is that like?

Richard Coyle:
I've worked with John Malkovich before. I worked with John ten years ago on a film, and I had great memories of being around him, and what he was like, and I wasn't out of drama school that long when I worked with him then, and I was pretty starstruck. It's amazing to work with John, because he's almost unique amongst actors in that he's become this kind of cultural icon. He's more than just an actor nowadays, he's one of the only actors who's actually got a movie named after him with his own name in the title.

He designs clothes, and he's like a cultural behemoth. He's an amazing character, and an amazing man to be around, and it was a great thrill and a real privilege to be able to square off to John in character as Tom Lowe. And he's very generous, and he was just amazing. I'm a huge fan of John Malkovich.

Question:
Did you find the working relationship between the two of you has changed much since the first time you worked with him until now?

Richard Coyle:
When I first worked with him ten years ago, I was a character on the sidelines as it were, I was trying to make my mark as an actor. This is very different, because I am sort of going toe-to-toe with him as equals in Crossbones in a sense we're adversaries as it were. But it's a much more complicated relationship. It's like adversaries and friends. There's a weird mutual respect, kind of mutual envy, and a hate, and it's a complicated relationship here, so much more is required here than it was when I first worked with John.

Question:
When you got the job, and since then, do they tell you very much about your character or any of the secrets behind him, or do they just sort of let you figure it out on your own, or combination?

Richard Coyle:
Before we started filming, I read the script, or as many scripts as were written, which was six, I think, at that point. So there was a lot of information available to me. Obviously I could pick up the phone and speak to Neil Cross, which I did frequently. Once we all arrived in Puerto Rico the weeks before we started shooting, there was plenty of opportunity to sit down and flesh out back stories and ideas and secrets.

I think it's important to have that stuff on hand, and I think as the series progresses, you'll see that it sort of deepens. The sort of direction of the characters, certainly of Lowe and Blackbeard, changes a little bit, and you realize there's a lot more going on than you may have first have realized. So it was all sort of plotted and planned there's a direction.

Question:
How do you explain the continuing appeal of pirate stories? Do you know why it is that audiences love watching pirates on film or TV?

Richard Coyle:
I think it's probably something to do with the romance of it. It's a bygone era, we don't have that anymore, it's gone, it's a time of romance and thrill, and swashbuckle, and all that. And we've made pirates into these sort of romantic figures of villainy, and I think there's kind of an enduring appeal in there. It's like we can make anything up, anything goes, because we don't really know much, to be honest, about pirates.

They can exist in any sort of way we want them to, I think there's something appealing in that, in itself. We don't have any definites really. Pirates were figures of mystery and fear, and you know, and they still are in a way. I think you can almost tell any story and we find it fascinating, any pirate story, because they can be anything we want them to be. It's amazing. I mean that's probably part of what it is.

We don't know anything about Blackbeard, really. It's like it's amazing, this figure who is like public enemy number one for so many years, and we really don't know much about him at all. We don't even actually know what his actual name was. It could be Edward Teach, or Edward Thatch, or all of these possibilities. I mean it's amazing that these people came out of sort of out of the mist, and then vanished into the mist, and I think that's fascinating right there. So I'm sure that's part of its appeal, the whole piracy thing.

Question:
I think the production values on Crossbones are fantastic and I wanted to ask you, how do the costumes and the sets further inspire you with your performance?

Richard Coyle:
It was amazing I have to say, because it was a disused naval base, and basically we had the run of the place. So they were able to build, like a pirate town. It's amazing to be able to work like that, because it's not like you're stopping off a block in New York City. We actually exist in that place, it's weird, I mean they had really ships.

It's like you can just go no acting required, because I'm standing in this amazing costume, and I'm looking around, and I can see 100 people dressed as pirates, or as whatever they are, in this town square, and a period town, and I'm in situ. I don't really have to do too much imagining, because I'm right there. So it's kind of amazing to be able to work in those circumstances. It's not like you're standing in front of a green screen having to draw these places and people in your mind. It's all there in front of you for real, which is terrific. And it's a real help for you as an actor.

Question:
Did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up, or did you have other professions in mind?

Richard Coyle:
I never even knew about acting, it wasn't even in the realm of possibility for me growing up. I'm not from any kind of a background in this business. So I guess once I'd decided that I didn't want to be a spaceman anymore, or a cowboy, which was obviously as a little boy I wanted to do, I then I wanted to be an architect. That was what I really wanted to do, and it was just kind of like a curve ball out of left field, I started doing plays when I was at college, and I still even then didn't think I could do this for a living.

Eventually somebody said why don't you consider this, you're pretty good, and they sort of said this is how you would go about pursuing it. And that's when I first got the germ of the idea, and I just sort of went down that path. It was out of left field, really. But I'm very glad. And I've been very lucky I always thank my lucky stars, because I've been doing well, and it's a notoriously difficult thing to do for a living. So yes, probably had I had that knowledge, had I known that it is such a difficult thing, I probably wouldn't be doing it. My blind faith and determination has kept me going, so.

Question:
A TV show you did a while back, Strange. If you wouldn't mind, just a little bit about that show, and what maybe you enjoyed most about that character, playing him.

Richard Coyle:
Well I loved that. I'm always drawn to those kind of characters who exist on the fringes, and slightly strange people who don't walk down the middle, they sort of walk on the edges. And I loved that character, John Strange. I loved the idea of a defrocked priest, somebody who'd witnessed ??? seen demons, and I loved that idea. I'm really into science fiction, not necessarily space, but science fiction in its original true sense, which is fiction that is influenced slightly by science.

I loved that character, I loved that show, and I liked the darkness, the gothic-ness of it. I think we were ahead of our time with Strange, I think now ??? if Strange was on now, it would be a very different story. But Strange was on 10 years ago, 11 years ago, and in Britain, we were quite ready for that kind of stuff back then. I think the TV landscape has changed in Britain. I mean it was always slightly different in America. You've always been slightly ahead of the game, I think, comparatively. But I don't think we were ready in Britain for Strange, which is a shame actually.

I think now it would be a very different story. It was a shame we didn't get to make any more, because I think it was very interesting, it was definitely heading in a dark and strange direction, if you pardon the pun, which I liked.

Question:
Can you tease a little bit about what we're going to see coming up in the next few weeks on Crossbones?

Richard Coyle:
I don't know how to tease without giving it all away. Well obviously I mean we see a the fabric of the town. Santa Campana becomes much richer, we get to learn a lot more about some of the other characters in the town. The deepening of the relationship between Lowe and Blackbeard is very important, and I think Lowe's job becomes complicated, much more complicated than it would at first seem.

As things go on, one of his main jobs is to assassinate Blackbeard, and I think as time goes on that the relationship between them deepens to a point where it sort of compromises everything about his mission, everything about who he is, what he believes, and where he's from, his loyalties. It's an amazingly complicated thing as it spreads, Crossbones and it was the same in the script, it becomes very rich and it's an intelligent drama, as the series progresses, we see that things deepen and becoming more complicated.

Question:
What is Tom's greatest weakness?

Richard Coyle:
As I said earlier, I think there are two things about Tom. The thing that drew me to him initially, is the fact that he is a man of integrity, and his nature is to tell the truth, and his job is to lie. I found that fascinating. I think that is also his weakness, is that he is a man of integrity in a business where he is required to lie and dissemble and cheat and manipulate, because that's his job, he works for the crown as an agent, and I think his weakness is, well I wouldn't say a weakness.

He has a conscience that is slowly creeping up, and gaining in strength and power. All the things he had to do in the past are slowly creeping up on him, and catching up with him, and so I suppose you might say that would be his weakness, that he can no longer square away some of the things he's had to do.

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