Whereas some performers gush about their latest projects, how much they love the industry and how enamoured they are with their co-stars, Paddy Considine gives a more warts and all appraisal of his acting work.
That doesn’t mean he’s negative, and nor is this intended to suggest he doesn’t know how to handle the media – he’s more than capable of that. It’s just that he doesn’t necessarily believe in playing the PR game. He tells you exactly what he thinks.
Considine’s latest project is ITV’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – The Murder in Angel Lane, a follow up to 2011’s highly successful The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.
The first was based on a book by Kate Summerscale, while this new drama is an original story penned by screenwriter Neil McKay.
For Considine, the fact it wasn’t based on an existing book unlocked something in him – and gave him the chance to play Victorian detective Whicher the way he had wanted to. This new drama, he says, is like the “first film” in the Whicher saga to him.
“I didn’t feel I did that the first time round, for a lot of reasons,” he says. “I felt this time there was a lot more scope, as we weren’t tied into a true story and there was lots more room to play and add complexities. I enjoyed it a lot more and felt more comfortable with the character. I felt I got a better grasp of the role this time round.”
One of the differences viewers may notice with Considine’s performance this time is that the character of Whicher no longer has a strong London accent.
This was something he decided to drop himself, with the producers noticing he had done so a few days into the shoot, prompting them to ask Considine what his reasons were for doing so. He told them, quite simply, that he didn’t want to do the London accent, because it didn’t sit right with how he felt the role should be played. He didn’t raise this in the original drama because, he says, he wasn’t “strong enough or interested enough” to fight his corner.
“I wasn’t in the greatest of places, so I’ve only myself to blame,” he reveals. “If I’d been stronger, I think I would have said ‘Look, I am not going to do it. If you want someone to play it with a London accent, and play it all Bill Sikes, then don’t cast me’. But you get scared of losing a gig.” He adds: “And I am pointing out the different accent now before some smart arse on Twitter does.”
If Considine didn’t feel up to raising his accent concerns the first time round, he found his voice during the making of the second drama. An example is a scene that McKay wrote and then rewrote to make it simpler for another cast member. Considine wasn’t happy with the result, and demanded that the scene remain as it was. “I read it and said ‘No, I am not doing it’,” he recalls. “I did dig my heels in there. Neil had written something that diluted a perfectly brilliant scene to nothing.” He adds: “I can be a little bit like that, because I care.”
Considine – once again implying that the first Whicher may not have been altogether positive for him – says he would not have challenged things when making the original drama, admitting that he “would not have cared less” and that he “just wanted to get out of there”. He admits: “I would have said, ‘Whatever, I just want to go’.”
Generally, however, Considine believes that actors should not interfere with a production, particularly where direction is concerned.
Considine has directed himself – notably on the film Tyrannosaur, which he also wrote. He says there is “nothing worse” than actors getting involved in this side of things when they have been employed to play a character.
“I would never interfere [with a director’s work],” he says. “I am too busy doing the other stuff. But I did feel on Whicher that I was able to throw up suggestions – not about directing, but about things that came to me. Creative things – such as ideas on how to play a scene.”
Speaking about his own experiences as a director, he adds: “There is nothing worse than when actors come to a set – and it happens a lot with big stars – and they are too aware of where the camera is. They are the show. And that becomes apparent and it affects the production. I am like ‘You should not know where the camera is, you should act and I will do the rest. It’s not your job to know when I am going to say cut, quite frankly’.”
Considine didn’t have this problem with Olivia Colman, who he directed in Tyrannosaur. And having forged a relationship with her on that film, he was delighted when McKay and executive producer Mark Redhead said they were thinking about Colman for the part of Susan Spencer in The Murder in Angel Lane. Spencer is the character who hires Whicher as a private inquiry agent to investigate the murder of her niece.
“I thought it was a good idea so I contacted her,” he reveals. “Luckily she read it and she wanted to do the work. It was as simple as that.”
He says that, when he directed Colman in Tyrannosaur, Eddie Marsan, who was also in the film, told him: “When you act with Olivia, she’s got this quality whereby you just want to give her everything.”
Considine says: “I wanted to experience that myself as an actor. And in the end I did and absolutely loved it.” He says that Colman is “riding the crest of a wave right now”, thanks to her successes in productions such as Broadchurch on ITV.
But if he recognises Colman’s acting talents, Considine is more critical of his own. He says he feels he has only just started to “grasp acting now and what is required” from him.
With this in mind, he says he refuses to watch himself back in case it turns out he is not in fact achieving this. “If I was to see this and see that was not apparent I think I would be devastated,” he admits. “I might watch a few scenes but I am not sure I can watch the whole thing. I wish it was not so, but I immediately get anxious and self conscious and have to leave the room.”
One way to avoid seeing himself on television would be to work on the stage instead. It’s an area he is keen to explore. “Of all my friends it’s the only thing I have not experienced,” he says. “But it is a long commitment and I have a family. I was asked to look at one in New York, but I am not in a position to do it. With filming you can nip home in between. It all works out. But if it’s six months on Broadway and you live in Burton on Trent, it logistically makes things difficult.”
His family comes up again when he talks about the work choices he makes – and whether or not he is picky about what he does.
“I am as selective as the mortgage payments allow me to be, quite frankly,” he says. “There is an impression of me out there that I choose only great roles, but that is because no one has seen the shit I have done. I am lucky in that respect, as it seems like, unless you stir the pond, no one gives a crap. They still quote the good stuff, which is lovely.”
He adds: “Every time I have done something I know in my heart I did not want to do, I can tell you now there was no other alternative on the table. I am not a man who lives alone. I have a wife and three children to feed. I can’t sit in a flat on a milk crate turning down shit until the Cohen brothers call me. I’ve got to work.”
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher – The Murder in Angel Lane will be broadcast on ITV on Sunday, May 12, 8pm