Rupert Evans – Bridgerton Interview
By Claire Bueno
As we enter into a new season of Bridgerton, it’s exciting to see some fresh faces being introduced to the sensational Netflix period drama. One such character firmly established from the onset was that of the dearly departed, Lord Edmund Bridgerton. Season two will formally introduce Rupert Evans as the actor to portray the family’s devoted, revered and sorely missed father.
This is an exciting time in the actor’s career. Many of us of course recognise Evans as Charmed Whitelighter, Harry Greenwood. But behind the scene’s he’s been busy applying his own magic and commitment to his craft by helming several episodes of the show, as a director. An experience which he has found challenging and hugely rewarding. It was my pleasure to interview the fellow Midlander and learn more about his acting process as well as the inner workings of TV production.
I’m much looking forward to talking to you about Bridgerton; dare I say, you’re making your debut into season two?!
Yeah, I’m really looking forward to seeing it all. They are very cagey, understandably so; they don’t really show us much. I was sent the episode and still haven’t had a moment, but I will watch it all on the premiere night, I suspect, or that week, when it all drops, as they say.
I know we can’t say too much because of giving away the plot, but your character feels very established because you’re playing Lord Edmund Bridgerton, beloved father. Through season one, his presence has always been there, so I wondered because the character is established but not necessarily known, how did you prepare?
Well, as you say, the strange thing about this one was that he’s talked about a lot in season one. I had to watch the whole season all the way through again because when I first watched it, I watched it as a viewer and just enjoyed it immensely and then watched it again with a notepad and pen to work out what people have said about him, and how his individual relationship is with each member of his family. His sons, daughters, wife obviously, and how that is represented in the first season. So that was my port of call to understand how he’s been written previously in season one. This was great because I think he is a much-loved character by the family, particularly by his wife, they were in love, and they were very happily married. So, it allowed me to build from that.
I think what’s so clever about the writing is that what your character establishes is giving context and backstory to the Anthony Bridgerton character. We get to understand a little more of how and why he functions the way he does because of what we see of him with you.
That’s very kind of you. I think certainly he informs all the children’s life choices in many ways. In their past, the sudden death of their father and all the implications of that is used very well in this season. It’s absolutely brilliant. And I think it is fair to say that this season focuses a little more on Anthony probably, I haven’t read them all,
but the bits I am in certainly was my focus. I think my character helps with that storyline to understand the character and why they do what they do.
The beauty with television dramas is it really does give us time to form a relationship with the characters and also explore different facets of a character’s personality, doesn’t it?
Yeah definitely. For the last 10/15 years, we all know there has been an unprecedented explosion of this television format. Eight to 10 episodes and the amount of money they spend per episode as well, it’s staggering, really. Bridgerton particularly focuses on set design and costume. They make every single costume which is rare. I’ve done so many other BBC period dramas over the years (laughs), and that’s not always the case. But this one because it has a style and a tone of its very own making that I think it is really unique because of that. They call it the golden age of TV. I don’t know; we will have to wait and see and look back in hindsight in years to come. But certainly, the amount of money they spend on a production now is the equivalent of what they spend on a mid-range movie, and they don’t really make those movies anymore, the 40/50 million dollar movies. They make indie movies and huge blockbusters, but that middle range disappeared, and I think television has taken its place really because they are like movies, aren’t they, but over a longer period. And so, you are able to dig deep and delve into characters that you otherwise wouldn’t do and wouldn’t be able to do because of time. So, it allows that, and because the quality of the writing now is so good, the money they spend on sets, the look of it is so good, it’s actually like a 10-hour movie. It’s exciting for everybody, all departments, and all the viewers because it’s opened a new world.
You’re a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), so I wondered when you are preparing for any of your roles do you revert back to Shakespeare? He has such a huge palette of personalities and characters to dip in to help inform. Do you use him at all as a reference?
I’m not going to lie, but no, Claire, not always, no (laughs), depends. I have a love for Shakespeare that will be with me forever. But what always amazes me when I watch and read new scripts is that they are actually very like Bridgerton. People often ask me, “Why has Bridgerton become so popular? What is its secret?” And I think very similar to Shakespeare, at its core Bridgerton, whether you like the look of it, you like the acting, don’t like the acting, like the script, it’s kind of irrelevant really because at its core it has a great love story. I think season one particularly, and I’m sure season two is the same. It has a love story that we all identify with and buy into. And I think that kind of story-telling comes very much from Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet; whatever play you want to look at, a lot of the plays of Shakespeare, at their core, is a great story that we all identify with. And we go back time and time again, don’t we? Whether we watch Pretty Woman for the 89th time, or we go and watch Romeo and Juliet in the theatre, or our favourite movie, whatever it may be, we go back because there is something in the film, television show, or play that we want to see and identify with. Shakespeare did that, and I think it’s in our historic DNA that kinds of stories. And Bridgerton is similar, and it caught the imagination of people because it took people back to a time when they were in love and will they? Won’t they? We want to see what happens, and we are completely drawn in. I suppose I do often think about Shakespeare, but in more general terms about the stories and how great Shakespeare stories are, how big they are and how wonderful they are. I think there are parallels, and it is quite Shakespearean in many ways, Bridgerton. But a lot of stuff is, even Line of Duty is pretty Shakespearean, Succession is very Shakespearean.
You’re in the evolution of your career as you’re now turning to directing. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Yeah, I’ve been very lucky. I think generally there are two types of actors, there’s the actor that focuses on their character, and is immersed in that role. And I’m generalising here, but then there’s the other type of actor who is generally nosey while on set and asks a lot of questions. And after years and years of asking questions like, “What does that do? And why are you pointing the camera there?”
You start to gain an understanding about how the camera works, and you become so nosy that eventually, you ask to direct, and purely to stop you from talking, they say, “Yes”, and you’ve got a shot. I think that’s how it works. If I’m honest, I’m in the camp of course, of nosy actor, so eventually to shut me up, “Look, do you just want to have a go?” And I was like, “Yeah! Yeah!” So, I’ve been very lucky on this job, Charmed, they’ve let me direct three or four times now, and it’s been great. I thought acting was really hard, but actually directing is really hard (laughs). You forget you don’t realise what’s involved. And creatively, you’re involved in a much earlier stage than actors. Particularly in American television, you’re thrown into the deep end, you get given a script, and it’s potluck what script you get, you don’t know. Network television I’m talking about, not so much cable, but with network television which I’m doing right now, you get given a script, and you have to fall in love with that script, and you have to make it work and find the story, find the integral parts of it and create it in 10 days. And they give you the keys to a very expensive Ferrari and say, “Here you are, it’s very expensive, and in 10 days’ time you have to drive it from here, to here and I don’t
want it to have a scratch on it. And if you do, I’ll kill you.” So that’s how it works, really. And in amongst that 10 days, there’s potholes and screaming 1000s of questions at you, and you’ve got to get it to the end of the road in one piece and present it to them as a film, as a TV show. So it’s great, and I really enjoy it, it’s a real challenge and something that I‘ve enjoyed, and I hope to do more of.
Yeah, because you’re there from the beginning, then working with the actors and the editing process afterwards, it’s doesn’t end for you after the shoot.
Yeah, you learn as a director that prep is more important than the actual shooting. If you haven’t done your prep the weeks before you start filming, you’re dead in the water. I’ve learned a huge amount about preparing and how crucial the art director is, the art department, props, costumes, all these elements that you take for granted as an actor. Everybody works so hard to create this vision. On the first day of your prep, you pitch them all your ideas for this episode in the concept meeting. Then they go away, and very quickly, they establish that idea and try and fulfil your concept, your ideas. So, it’s great, and then as you mentioned, editing as well. It’s weird because editing is one of the most natural things for me, I don’t know why, but I felt very comfortable at editing. I think it’s instinctive; it’s like music in many ways for me; there’s a rhythm to it. Some people don’t enjoy it, some people do. I love editing, and it can be very frustrating if you haven’t got the shot, you thought you had or hoped you had; you’ve run out of time. But it’s extraordinary what you can do nowadays with editing. But I enjoy the process, and we’ll see what happens, and I’ll hopefully do a bit more of it if they let me.
I was gonna say what are your aspirations for the future is that something that I would like to pursue.
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I’m just about to do a short, and then hopefully, I’ll do a feature at some point as well. And I’m on board to do this feature with a friend of mine who has written a great feature called Half Moon Bay, so we are hoping to shoot that soon. And I’m developing other stuff, so it’s a hectic time, and it’s very creative for me. I’m very fortunate, so we’ll see where it takes me.
RUPERT EVANS stars in BRIDGERTON
available from 25 March, exclusively on NETFLIX
Photographer: Ross Ferguson @rossfergusonphoto Stylist: Holly Macnaghten @holly_macnaghten Groomer: Carlos Ferraz @carlosferraz_
Production Stills: Bridgerton: Liam Daniel/Netflix © / Charmed: Kailey Schwerman/The CW ©
With special thanks to Personal PR