By Claire Bueno
Chatting to me from America where he is working at present Nick Blood reflects on his good fortune. The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actor’s luck continues as he appears in the binge worthy psychological drama Close to Me starring Gladiator’s Connie Nielsen and Thor: The Dark World’s Christopher Eccleston currently airing on All 4. Thankfully there were no mind games to be played in our interview only plenty of laughs as we discuss the fun he had playing the cocksure Thomas and how working on the show has helped him evolve as an actor.
Lovely to meet you this Sunday morning for you in America.
This morning for me, yes, 9:00 a.m. here, so, yeah, just dragged myself out of bed. (Laughs)
Thank you very much, especially to talk about this show, which I have to confess to you, I had to binge watch, (laughs)
(Laughs) oh, that's a good sign. They gave you all the episodes did they?
Yeah, literally once I started I had to see it to the end. So I imagine when you got the script, it was the same for you because it was just such a page turner?
Yeah, yeah. And I think that's the key to it really it’s that you want to go along, you feel like the audience go along this journey with Jo because they're finding out at the same pace she is. And you feel like each episode, there's always that cliff-hanger. It's the constant question, what's going on? And what's happened? So, yeah, the audience hopefully are gonna be along with Jo for that journey.
And can you tell us a little bit more about the story itself?
Yeah, so Jo's character, played by Connie Nielsen, starts off where she's had this accident, had a head injury, and she's forgotten what's happened for the past year. So she becomes a domestic detective trying to work out what's happened, and it's clear that people are keeping things from her. And each episode, she's uncovering new secrets and new deceptions and piecing it all together because she just feels like something's awry, something's gone on.
It's such a character driven piece, like you said with Connie Nielsen, Christopher Eccleston, their names speak for themselves. So for you acting alongside them and being your scene partners must have been such a gift for you to work with?
Oh yeah, it's one of the best things about my job is that you get to work with so many different people all the time, be that crew, or cast, or directors. And you're always trying to be observant and absorb what's going on around you, and certainly that was the case on this. Me and Connie had a lot of stuff to do together and she's just very matter of fact and cracks on with the all, so that really helped putting you at ease. And then Chris is a very generous actor, very focused very much on how to make this scene better for everyone and really got a lot of it. Enjoyed their company and enjoyed working with them.
I can well imagine. And your character Thomas, he’s a really kind of cheeky chappie isn't he? He’s a cocky little sod (laughs).
(Laughs) I think that's the polite way of putting it, I think cocky sod, is probably better. Yeah.
(Laughs) Probably not the first words that came to your mind when you read the script, but he’s definitely got a bravado, hasn’t he?
Yes he has an inflated sense of ego, certainly. Yeah, he's kind of a local celebrity in his own head and certainly has quite high opinion of himself, I think. And he lives in this small town, but I imagine he likes to think that he is the centre in that little universe and …
Like a big fish in a small pond?
Very much so. But he’s a disrupter. So he gets a kick out of not toeing the line of social etiquette and saying whatever's on his mind. And he likes to create this impression that he doesn't care what anyone thinks, but I've got an inkling that if you spend that much time on your appearance and you probably do care what people think, really. He thinks he's a little bit rock and roll and a little bit edgy. But he's got an honesty to him, which I think Connie's character, Jo is … It's really refreshing for her, and she appreciates, it's a breath of fresh air. And Rosie's (McEwen) character, Sash his girlfriend, the same thing, their quiet, typical middle class existence and very polite society that they live in, and he comes out and shakes all that up. So it’s a real joy to get to play those kind of roles because I spend a lot of my time just winding Chris’ character up and him wanting to give me a slap on the head (laughs).
Yeah, he’s the son-in-law to be that a father just completely disapproves of (laughs).
Yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, you just wouldn't want one of your kids dating someone like Thomas. I mean, it's just maybe after a while you get to know and see the good in him. He doesn't care about trying to impress anybody. I have full empathy with Rob, Chris Ecclestone's character (laughs). I think even when Thomas pops up on a photo that Jo is first shown by Sash of this boyfriend that she's acquired in the past year that Jo has forgotten about. When we had the screening, it got a real laugh showing that photo ‘cause he just looks like a bit of a dick (laugh).
He is quite a sort of flamboyant character and we can see that as well in dress. I wondered was it quite good fun for you working with wardrobe? Because you obviously have quite an impression of what he looks like in your head?
Yeah. Do you know what was amazing is that it can be quite common that when you're doing something that you have this view in your head, and maybe it doesn't quite align with the director, or the costume supervisor and it can be a little bit of a negotiation issue as you refine exactly how that character dresses, and what they what they're going to wear. And then on this I walked in and it was, “Oh, yeah, perfect, that’s exactly how I imagined it.” It looks like he’s done a supermarket sweep in All Saints that's the kind of vibe (laughs). So it was perfect really, it was probably the first time I've just walked in and just gone, “Yep, done, OK, we're on the same page.” They were great, the costume guys. And I mean it's not exactly my style, but I enjoyed wearing the costume because it does a lot of the work for you. You’re like right, I’m ready to role here, got my Cuban heels on. You’ve got too many necklaces on.
And the rings, don’t forget the rings
Yeah, all the rings.
He’s a real trendsetters isn’t he?
Yeah, yeah. Or the way I like to think was that he's slightly, ten years behind, what he was wearing was cool ten years ago. He's got the dregs of the Libertines hanging over him.
The way I saw him was that he is relatable in the sense, all of us know somebody like Thomas. So when it comes to you preparing I’m sure there’s plenty of people that you've known from your past that you can kind of borrow from?
Yeah, yeah, there was, there's quite a few. Because one of the things which I did; I was intrigued by what it is that drives him. Michael the director described it as social hand grenades that he’d just throw in situations. So I was reading around some of the psychology of what drives people to behave like that and then that led me down the path of people with similar character traits. I was watching a lot of YouTuber people, but also remembering like you say, people that I've known and there’s somebody which I knew to say hello to back in the day, who was this club promoter. And had this really terrible mullet and really thought he
was the coolest cat in town, and always remember where we were sat in this bar and he'd come and drop off a load of flyers. And he turned and walked away with his back to us, he just went, “Latez!” Like that (laughs). And then hit the door frame with his hand accidentally as he walked out and went, “Ouch.” (Laughs). So that's the guy (laughs).
You got it in one there. I think what was great about your character, he's the outsider, isn't he? He's almost in some respects, all of the audience observing what's going on in the madness of this family. I can't say too much, without giving too much of the plot away, but he's definitely our eyes and ears as well?
Yeah. And he is our way in for us because he's asking some difficult questions or kind of steering Jo towards some this difficult questions she has to ask. So he gives the audience that opportunity to nudge things along a little bit and get the truth out.
And again, not without giving any spoilers away, but I felt with the last episode. There's like this real kind of Agatha Christie moment?
Yeah. I know what you mean (laughs). Yeah, it's very true. Very true. So the big confrontation in Scooby Doo revealing the mask.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Because this for me as well, and I hope you may have seen it the same way. It is a real psychological drama, isn't it? There are many twists and turns in the whole plot of this story?
Yeah. And about trust and about marriage and relationships and how they're sustained. And there's a lot of questions about when you're caring for somebody because obviously she needs looking after, is that how you manage that when you're completely unqualified to do it. And the power of dynamics in a relationship and how it can be abused. It's a really nice concoction of lots of things that make good TV.
Exactly. And the writing's really good. So for you as an actor, when you're looking for future scripts and work, I imagine good writing is it right at the heart of it?
Oh, definitely. Yeah, yeah. We're nothing without the writers, really. That’s how I've always felt. I feel that writers don't get enough credit for what they do and in this one it was just the character, you just right away start thinking, oh, this is going to be a lot of fun to play this role, it’s gonna be a real laugh.
And you're working over in America at the moment. For you as you continue to emerge and grow. How important is it for you as an actor to not just have work here, but also kind of cast your net and be able to work in places like America?
Well one of the great things is the sunshine, that’s a real bonus (laughs). I feel very fortunate I've been able to do that work over here and have a life over here. Pre-pandemic, I'd spend half the year here, half the year in the UK and just felt very lucky and grateful to be able to do that. My girlfriend's American, so it makes sense to be out here. And like you say, it's down to what the project is and what the role is really and whether that's in the UK, in America or wherever. It's just a real treat to get to move around. I was just in Portugal doing a film and that again felt very lucky when the sun's going down in the UK and it’s still beautiful and bright out in Portugal, I felt pretty smug (laughs).
And finally, before I let you go, I just wanted to ask you what you took from working on the show? And if there's anything that you've learned that you will take to your next projects?
Mm-Hmm. Yeah one of the things like I said, this is getting to work with a bunch of different actors and seeing how they work. I mean me and Rosie always had great conversations about our job and about what we would do in that day and so on. I do remember where there was one moment where we were doing the dinner table scene. And those scenes can be quite tricky because although it seems that it's quite a conventional set up around the dinner table, we've seen that 1,000,000 times. But one of the things with it, because you have to get everyone's coverage, the more people are in the scene, the more times you have to do it, which the danger is that it becomes stale. And there's a bit in that scene where Rob says something, just out of turn that breaks the social mores in that moment by calling me out a little bit. And it shocks Jo and Sash, but by the time it got, I can’t remember whose coverage it was, but we were working around the table, but by the time it got to Rosie, we've done it 20 times. So that reaction, particularly when you meant to hear something for the first time. So, Chris, when it got around to me, he just said something really outrageous to me because the camera wasn't on him. So it doesn't matter what he says, but it got this really visceral reaction. And that was something which I thought was really smart of him to do, because what he's thinking of is how can we make this better, the focus is not on him, he’s not even on camera. How can I make the scene better? How can I offer something to this other actor that's going to help them? And yeah, it definitely took that into things. I was doing something recently when it was on the other coverage, just trying to just up the ante a little bit with it just to give the other actors something to play off.
Nick Blood stars in Close to ME currently airing on ALL 4
Photographer: Mollie Rose Stylist: Justin Hamilton Grooming: Shukeel Murtaza @ The Only
With special thanks to Epilogue