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Jamie Dornan didn't let his hopes get too high after auditioning for the BBC 2 series The Fall, where he hoped to play a policeman who would be killed in dramatic fashion in episode two. "Usually auditions don't go well for me," says the Irish actor, "but when I was done I thought, 'Yeah, I did okay."'
Indeed. When producers called the Belfast native back some weeks later, it was to ask if he'd take on the lead role opposite Gillian Anderson of Paul Spector, a serial killer who by day is a husband and loving father and by night a monster terrorizing the women of London.
"I had actually come to Los Angeles for pilot season and had committed to renting a place for a month. But once I got that call, I was going back for sure."
Since that time, the series has been picked up for a third season and has developed a fan base in the U.S., where it is seen on Netflix. And Dornan has learned a great deal about serial killers.
"It's really fascinating stuff," he says. "Watching the YouTube videos of Ted Bundy, you realize that the guy was charming and articulate and bright. At one point I thought to myself, 'Should I even be thinking these things about someone who's done what he's done?'"
The role would mark a turning point for Dornan, who had spent the better part of a decade working as a model for Dior, Calvin Klein and other luxury brands and struggling to break into acting. "Up until then, I'd never been given the opportunity to read for a role like that," he admits.
Now the somewhat shy actor with the intense visage is the subject of tabloid fever following his performance as Christian Grey the business magnate who likes his women in bondage in Fifty Shades of Grey. Dornan, who is married and the father of a toddler, is trying to adjust to life on the other side of the fame equation.
"For me," he says modestly, "it's all been a bit unlikely and certainly unexpected."