Tag Archives: Russell Tovey

Ones to Watch: Actors

DQ casts its eye over a range of upcoming series from around the world and picks out 20 actors to tune in for, from Zoë Kravitz in Hulu’s High Fidelity to Marcel Rodriguez in German series Dignity.

20. Kai Ko
The Taiwanese actor and singer is making his television debut in what has been dubbed Taiwan’s most expensive drama ever. Described by producers as an ‘Asian Constantine,’ fantasy crime thriller Agent from Above is based on the book of the same name and tells the story of supernatural crime-fighter Han Jie, who is serving as a heavenly agent on Earth and must defeat demons and solve crimes in order to atone for his sins. The six-part series is expected to cost NT$30m (US$1m) per episode.

19. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson
Recognisable from Icelandic drama Trapped and countless English-language series, including The Widow, NOS4A2, Emerald City and The Missing, Ólafsson is now set to star in Icelandic political drama The Minister. He plays Benedikt Ríkhardsson, a politician with a unique approach to politics as he rides a wave of discontent to become the country’s prime minister – all while hiding the fact he suffers from bipolar disorder.

18. Shira Haas
With credits including Harem and The Conductor, Israeli actor Haas takes the lead in Unorthodox, a four-part miniseries from showrunner Anna Winger (the Deutschland series) in which a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish woman in New York flees her arranged marriage and religious community to start a new life in Berlin. The series explores female emancipation, identity and sexuality through the experience of a unique young woman, Haas’s Esther.

17. Anthony Mackie
Television appearances are few and far between on Mackie’s CV, but 2020 is going to be different. First, the actor stars in the second season of Netflix’s Altered Carbon, set in a future where a person’s memory and consciousness can be transferred between different bodies, known as ‘sleeves.’ He plays Takeshi Kovacs, a character portrayed by Joel Kinnaman in season one but with Mackie now serving as the character’s host body in its second run. Meanwhile, following his success as Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon) in Marvel’s Avenger films, Mackie will reprise the role in Disney+’s upcoming series The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, which picks up after Sam was handed Captain America’s shield at the end of Avengers: Endgame.

16. Sian Clifford
The Emmy-nominated actor starred in Fleabag alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge, bringing to life the title character’s tense, uptight and high-achieving sister Claire with a performance that was one of the best things about the series. Having previously appeared in period drama Vanity Fair, Clifford will next be seen in Quiz, a three-part miniseries that dramatises how Charles and Diana Ingram (Matthew Macfadyen and Clifford) attempted to cheat their way to the top prize on gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. She will also star alongside Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams in Sky comedy Two Weeks To Live, about a daughter who steps away from her mother’s life of seclusion and survival techniques and sets out into the real world.

15. Eve Hewson
Irish actor Hewson will already be familiar to US viewers after starring in medical period drama The Knick. This year she joins Eva Green in The Luminaries, based on Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel. Hewson plays young adventurer Anna Wetherell, who begins a new life in New Zealand, set against the backdrop of the 1860s gold rush in a story of love, murder and revenge. She will also appear in Netflix psychological thriller Behind Her Eyes, about an unconventional love triangle that reveals a dangerous web of secrets.

14. Otto Farrant
After an extensive casting search that scoured agents, schools and drama groups, Farrant was chosen to step into the shoes of Alex Rider in a small-screen adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s novels about the young spy. Some 14 years after Rider appeared in movie Stormbreaker, Farrant brings energy and charm to this story, based on the novel Point Blanc, of a schoolboy who discovers he has been secretly trained as a spy and is then sent on undercover by a shadowy government agency.

13. Zoë Kravitz
In a cast that boasted Hollywood heavyweights such as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Meryl Street, arguably the breakout performance in HBO’s hit series Big Little Lies came from Zoë Kravitz. Her career has been built on film roles in Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: First Class and the Divergent series, while she will soon play Catwoman in upcoming movie The Batman. For now, though, she is starring in High Fidelity (pictured top), the Hulu series based on Nick Hornby’s novel that flips the lead character’s gender to introduce Kravitz as Rob, the owner of a record store who revisits past relationships through music and pop culture, while trying to get over her one true love.

12. Joanna Kulig
Polish star Kulig takes centre stage, literally, in The Eddy, Netflix’s vibrant Parisian drama about the titular nightclub from director Damian Chazelle (La La Land). As Maja, the singer of the house band and the on/off girlfriend of club owner Elliot (Andre Holland), Kulig’s conflicted performance gives an extra edge to the drama as Elliot’s personal and professional worlds quickly begin to unravel.

11. Russell Tovey
Tovey has grown up on British screens, notably starring in the History Boys stage show and its subsequent movie adaptation and then supernatural drama Being Human. Last year, he was a key member of the cast of Russell T Davies’ dystopian family saga Years & Years, while in 2020 he has already appeared in Flesh & Blood, playing one of three siblings suspicious of their widowed mother’s new love interest. Tovey’s character shines a light on toxic masculinity, addiction and the struggle of a father separated from his wife and children. Later this year, he will take the lead in Because the Night, a four-part story about a man trying to escape his past, written by Neil Cross (Luther).

10. Juno Temple
The English actor’s film credits include Killer Joe, Black Mass, The Other Boleyn Girl and Atonement, as well as US TV series Vinyl and Dirty John. This year she will headline Little Birds, a visually enticing Sky Atlantic series set in the hedonistic environs of 1950s Tangier. Temple’s character, New York heiress Lucy Savage, is given the chance to flee her gilded cage and embark on a moving and provocative journey towards freedom and independence.

9. Marcel Rodriguez
Having played roles in 7 Days Berlin and Der Barcelona Krimi, Rodriguez now fronts political thriller Dignity, the first original drama for fledgling German streaming platform Joyn, which is inspired by the true story of German sect Colonia Dignidad in Chile. He plays federal prosecutor Leo Ramírez, who is tasked with bringing the group’s elusive leader and former Nazi soldier Paul Schaefer to justice – though his mission is clouded by his own secret history with Colonia.

8. Sonoya Mizuno
The Japanese-born British actor has become a regular cast member in Alex Garland’s beautifully shot and realised sci-fi dramas. Having appeared in the writer/director’s movies Ex Machina and Annihilation, Mizuno now leads audiences through the complex themes of Garland’s BBC and FX series Devs, a thriller set against the backdrop of a giant tech company and its messianic leader. In an emotionally taut and nuanced performance, she plays Lily, who is investigating the apparent suicide of her boyfriend.

7. Aaron Pedersen
The Aboriginal actor became one of Australia’s biggest stars on the back of roles in shows such as Jack Irish, The Circuit, City Homicide and The Code, with recent credits including period drama A Place to Call Home, political thriller Total Control and supernatural mystery The Gloaming. But it’s his towering performances as Detective Jay Swan with which Pedersen has become most synonymous, first in films Mystery Road and sequel Goldstone and then in the Mystery Road series that bridges the two movies and brings Indigenous stories to a mainstream audience. Season two airs this year.

6. Josefin Asplund
Swedish actor Asplund has a list of credits familiar to many international viewers, from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Vikings and Arne Dahl to Ingen Utan Skuld (Conspiracy of Silence) and Sanctuary. Next she will star in Top Dog, a series based on Jens Lapidus’s novels, as lawyer Emily Jansson, a hard-working careerist who comes together with ex-criminal Teddy Maksumic (Alexej Manvelov) to solve a mysterious disappearance.

5. Tahar Rahim
Rahim broke into television in European crime drama The Last Panthers, before playing a CIA agent in Amazon drama The Looming Tower. This year, he stars in Netflix music drama The Eddy as Farid (right), one of the struggling nightclub’s owners who may be involved in some questions practices, before leading the cast of BBC drama The Serpent. The latter is based on real events and sees Rahim play Charles Sobhraj, the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of young Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal’s ‘Hippie Trail’ in 1975 and 1976, who repeatedly avoided capture to become Interpol’s most wanted man.

4. Gugu Mbatha-Raw
The UK-born actor began her career with appearances in British series such as Spooks and Doctor Who, before a breakout performance as Kelly in acclaimed Black Mirror episode San Junipero. More recently, she played a pivotal role in Apple TV+’s standout series The Morning Show, portraying the show-within-a-show’s head booker Hannah, a character whose traumatic experience goes on to shape the series’ powerful #MeToo storyline. From one new streaming service to another, Mbatha-Raw’s next television series will be Loki, the Disney+ drama based on the Asgardian villain from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

3. Laura Smet
From the team behind Dix Pour Cent (Call My Agent) comes La Garçonne, in which French star Smet (Les Corps Impatients, The Bridesmaid) plays Louise Kerlac. In Paris in 1920, Kerlac witnesses the murder of a relative by government agents who want to blame her. She subsequently poses as a man to join the police under her brother’s identity as a means to investigate the killing, drawing her into the dark underbelly of high society and bohemian Parisian nightlife.

2. Adam Pålsson
Stepping into the shoes of police officer Kurt Wallander, a role already made famous by Rolf Lassgård, Krister Henriksson and Kenneth Branagh, is no easy task. But that’s next up for Swedish actor Pålsson, best known for roles in The Bridge, Moscow Noir and Before We Die, who will appear this year in Netflix original series Young Wallander. Inspired by Henning Mankell’s detective, the English-language series is set in contemporary Sweden and sees the young Wallander investigate his first case as a recently graduated police officer in his early 20s.

1. Yvonne Strahovski
The Australian actor is best known as Serena Joy in the harrowing adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. She can now be seen on screen with an equally emotional and complex performance in six-part Australian drama Stateless. Strahovski plays Sofie, an air hostess who, after fleeing a performance cult that initially captivates her before leaving her on the brink of a breakdown, surfaces at an on-shore detention centre. Under a new German identity, Sofie’s experience is shown alongside that of an Afghan refugee, a prison guard and a bureaucrat who all come under unprecedented pressure.

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In the Flesh

Francesca Annis, Imelda Staunton, Stephen Rea and Russell Tovey discuss starring in ITV drama Flesh & Blood, a family drama about modern relationships in which three siblings come to terms with their mother’s new love interest.

The opening moments of Flesh & Blood are illuminated by flashing police lights, with officers trudging across a shingle beach and into a pretty seafront house. A destroyed balcony and bloodied floor reveal signs of a struggle as what appears to be dead body, wrapped up and tied to a trolley, is wheeled away.

It’s an ominous start for this four-part family drama, commissioned by ITV, as long-buried secrets and lies threaten to tear apart the relationship between widowed mother Vivien and her three grown-up children, Helen, Jake and Natalie. The catalyst is Vivien’s blossoming relationship with Mark, whose increasing presence raises suspicion among the siblings as he turns Vivien’s attention and priorities away from them.

As they begin to question their mother’s 45-year marriage to their late father, Terry, and attempt to find out more about Mark, the trio try to pull together amid long-held grudges and their own complicated personal lives as they spiral towards tragedy.

Francesca Annis (Cranford) stars as Vivien, with Mark played by Stephen Rea (The Honourable Woman). Claudie Blakley (Manhunt) is Helen, whose high-powered job causes her to neglect her marriage; Russell Tovey (Years & Years) plays Jake, a gambling addict trying to reunite with his estranged wife while sleeping with his personal training client for money; and Lydia Leonard (Gentleman Jack) completes the family as Natalie, who is sleeping with her married boss.

Francesca Annis as Vivien alongside Stephen Rea as Mark in Flesh & Blood

“I loved it from when I read it,” Annis says of her interest in the project. “It opens up with quite a classic scene – the body being carried out. I like the ease of it all and also it’s two daughters and a son – no acting required there. It was really nice to be offered a script that seemed quite light and then it gradually slips into what it is, which is a thriller.”

Annis says Vivien is too busy having a good time with romantic new beau Mark to notice any upset among her children, but must eventually confront their unease. “She’s a very bright woman and she can see what’s going on,” she says. “Her children, like all children, have got issues and she’s not party to that. But she is very aware that there’s something going on with each one of them.

“Her husband died 18 months before, which gives her the platform to just move on without a sense of guilt, I would imagine. I don’t think she feels guilty. Why should she? It’s not deeply complicated, it’s quite clear she wants to live in the moment and get hold of life now.”

Rea was also intrigued by his “great role” in a show that goes inside “the hell that is family.” He adds: “It’s a nice way for people to think about their own families as they are watching and seeing how fucked up they are. I never know how the family remains as an item. All it does is drive people insane.”

As for Mark’s reception when he arrives unannounced at the family home, “I just thought the girls were horrible to me,” he says of Helen and Natalie’s reaction. “They really were, the way Claudie looked at me. They could have been warmer!”

Years & Years star Russell Tovey plays Jake

Having built a successful business with her late husband, Vivien is not short of money, and thus the siblings are immediately suspicious of Mark’s intentions towards their mother. Rea’s ambiguous performance, meanwhile, means viewers are equally unsure of his motives.

“It was difficult because there had to be an ambiguity and a lot about him was much less presentational than some parts that you get,” the actor explains. “I thought that was quite interesting. He’s a man who’s trying to live a new life.

“The writing is very, very good,” Rea adds of Sarah Williams‘ scripts.  “It’s very easy to inhabit, and that’s all you ever look for when you get a script. You know within two pages if it’s got a structure and a sense of itself, and this is particularly good. She’s really considered how she wants to approach the whole notion of family.”

Chief among those struggling with Mark’s arrival is Jake, who finds himself drifting through life after being dumped by his wife and sleeping with one of his personal training clients for money, which he then spends on his kids.

“Jake is like the most popular boy at school, who didn’t do well academically but just sailed through on charm and being cheeky, had loads of mates, was really sporty, left school and never really grew up,” Tovey says of his character.

The ITV drama also stars Lydia Leonard as Natalie

“I feel like he’s one of these people that would say your school years are the best years of your life. When people say that now, I’m like, ‘You left there when you were 16. What the fuck have you been doing since?’ I find it so strange.

“He’s an example of when men get to their 30s and they just drift too far away from the shore and can’t find their way back and don’t really know who they are. He’s led a quite a charmed life with his family. Now he’s definitely got this alpha-male toxic agenda, which he’s never really dealt with.”

Things come to a head when Jake discovers his mother is in a new relationship and doesn’t need to turn to her son for support in the aftermath of Terry’s death. “That’s the role [Jake] should have taken when his dad died and it’s holding a mirror up to him and saying, ‘You failed at life, you’ve nearly sent your kids out onto the street because you’re a gambling addict, you broke up with your wife. You’re failing,’” Tovey notes.

“He’s a man trying to blame someone for where he’s got to in his life, and then Mark turns up and he’s like, ‘Bingo, it’s him – that’s the reason it’s all screwed up for me.’”

Through Jake, Flesh & Blood shines a light on mental health issues, focusing on a character struggling to turn his life around. “He says at one point he got into gambling because he wanted more money for his kids, and that’s so tragic to me because it’s that paradox,” Tovey says. “I love him. I love playing him. I love the nuances in him. I love how proud he is, how arrogant he is.”

Blakley, Tovey and Leonard would often improvise on set to hone their sibling dynamic, but their relationship is in stark contrast to Tovey’s recent series, Years & Years, in which his character Daniel had a close bond with brother Stephen (Rory Kinnear).

L-R: Imelda Staunton, Claudie Blakley and Lydia Leonard pictured during filming

“When you go to other people’s families and you spend time with them, they always feel quite alien to your own,” Tovey says. “I find that fascinating. In Years & Years, Stephen and Daniel felt like they were best mates and they talked. In this one, they are with each other all the time but they know fuck all about each other. They’d be there for each other, but they wouldn’t know what was going on or why they’re there.

“I thought that was really fascinating in what Sarah’s written, and it’s good for the thriller because it means that so much stuff can be bedded and hidden and obscure and kept away from the truth.”

Complicating matters further for the family is neighbour Mary (Imelda Staunton), who has lived next door to Vivien for 40 years. Despite not being family, Mary appears unhealthily attached to Vivien and her family’s unfolding drama.

It’s through Mary that the drama opens up, with her voice offering early narration as she recalls events from her perspective, with each subsequent episode featuring a different voiceover.

The Oscar-nominated actor, known for film roles in Vera Drake and the Harry Potter franchise, says she was drawn to project through the page-turning script, the characters’ messy lives and the fact she hadn’t ever done anything quite like it. “She’s a pretty ordinary woman, she’s a bit weird,” she says of Mary.

“She’s just a good mate next door, but a little bit protective, one might think. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, and then it was, and then it changed again so it really kept me guessing. You don’t know where it’s going and it didn’t have a logical arc, which is quite nice.”

Filming took place on the south coast of England in Sussex, on location at real beachfront houses. An uncharacteristically unbroken spell of beautiful weather accompanied the 10-week shoot, evident on screen, meaning all the actors relished their time on set. They also praise director Louise Hooper’s relaxed approach and willingness to empower her cast’s creativity, hence the aforementioned improvisation.

“It really didn’t matter if you emailed her in the middle of the night, she always got back to you,” Annis recalls. “She was great and she always listened to everybody.”

“These guys are at the top of their game, they’re fantastic,” says Hooper (Cheat). “They’re bringing tonnes to it and, because they’re so experienced and relaxed, and I’m pretty relaxed about everything, we can enjoy it and talk about it and discuss things.”

There’s nothing relaxing about this story, however, as the family face up to a multitude of problems, while the prospect of a murder taking place is likely to keep viewers intrigued through the four-hour running time.

But rather than being the main pull of the series, produced by Silverprint Pictures and distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, the thriller element “just gives it another layer than just a family dynamic,” adds the director. “It works really well, and also what I like about it is it’s not pushed too much. The family is the main thing and the thriller’s the little tease.”

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