Tell us about the character you play in The Fall.
I play Paul Spector, who is a family man, first and foremost, and he’s in what seems
like a pretty conventional family existence – wife, two young kids, a boy and a girl –
and he’s got a good job as a bereavement councillor. So on paper everything looks
pretty set and pretty normal, but he also has a different side to him, which is that he
hunts down and murders women and as a result is a serial killer and is the evil within
How do you go about playing a character like that?
He’s quite an interesting character to play in that there’s two very distinctive sides to
him and they have to played very differently. I approach him as two different characters
and what makes that a little bit easier is that when he’s doing his rotten killing stuff,
there is an outfit that he wears and there is a ritual to it and I found that really helps
[me] to become that side of him and to enter that side of his being. I think when
he’s playing the family man, that is made easier by the fact I’m wearing normal clothes
and the kids are there and the wife is there and that all feels very natural. When he is
doing the nastier side of his life, [the outfits help me lock into that part of his character].
What attracted you to the part?
I was attracted to the part in that it was fantastically written by Allan Cubitt. I had never
read for anything like that before and I suppose a lot of actors don’t get the opportunity
to go up for a part for that let alone getting it. He was fantastically realised and you
know, every facet of him, he was so much more than what was just on the page. I just
thought that it made it all the more harrowing that he could live this double life and be
genuinely a good husband and genuinely a good father but they’d be blissfully unaware
to the heinous acts that he’s getting up to. I for one hadn’t read a lot of stuff like that.
And just beyond my character, the whole thing is written so bloody well and it was
quite easy to be drawn to it.
What was it like playing a father?
Actually that’s one of the bits that I’ve struggled with more. I know I do want children
of my own one day but in my head I’m not quite there yet and then suddenly its thrust
on you. That not only do you have two children but they’re six and five they’re not
babies even, and suddenly you’re put in a position to sell the idea that you’ve been
with these children since day one. But luckily the kids that we found are brilliant. They
are brother and sister in real life, which helps, so they already have a sort of instant
ease with each other. I’ve loved that aspect of it. And I think it’s really essential to
show that side of him, as he is a good father and his kids adore him and he adores the
kids. It doesn’t quite add up when you see what he’s doing, but in his head I think as
long as it’s not directly affecting them then he’s still a good father.
How did you prepare for playing the killer?
Every day that I had with Karen Hassan playing Annie Brawley and with Laura
Donnelly playing Sarah Kay I apologised at the start of the day. I said, I apologise for
everything that we do today because it doesn’t come easy to me and I don’t get a
genuine enjoyment out of tying your own underwear around your neck and squeezing
it until you die, I don’t. But they’ve all be fantastic with the whole thing, because it’s
not an easy thing to be involved in and it’s not an easy thing to subject yourself to,
and I’ve been amazed at how they’ve handled it, and weirdly they’ve given it an ease
and those days that we’ve had to do that stuff hasn’t been as harrowing as it’s been
on the page.
The role of Paul Spector is quite a physical part. Did you enjoy that side of it?
I’ve loved that side of it. It becomes a little bit easier when I’m in my killing gear.
When I’m in my trailer every day when I’m doing that stuff, I have a ritual of it now,
that’s very Spector like in its approach. I lay out everything in quite an orderly fashion and put it on in order, if time allows. And it’s amazing, when I’m putting on those
running, tracksuit bottoms, I instantly feel more capable of doing physical stuff. I feel
that I could spring up scaffolding in two seconds and jump over that fence. You sort of
become that person who is probably more capable that I am.
You’re obviously a Northern Irish actor, so how has it been filming in Belfast?
I lived in Belfast for twenty years and I’ve lived in London for the last ten and I’ve never
worked in Belfast before, I’ve never worked in Ireland before, so it was an amazing
opportunity to come back and work here. And I’ve never felt more at home than I have
over the last couple of months. You realise that this place is filled with really brilliant
people and I always was aware of that but if you are away for long enough you just
sort of fall out of tune with that and it’s just brilliant to come back and see that not only
are brilliant people still here but they are really talented and brilliant at what they do.
The crew has been fantastic and they work really hard but also its fun. And it’s great to
do something that is set here and is made here and isn’t directly about – yes it’s about
some gruesome stuff, but it’s not sectarian and whereas of course there is mention of
that, it’s rare to have something set in this part of Ireland and for it not to be led by the
troubles and hatred so that’s been refreshing. I’ve loved that.