Andrew Scott’s career is a varied one. Whilst his portrayal of Moriarty in the TV show Sherlock is his highest profile role, he’s consistently picked an interesting variety of roles, working across theatre and screen.
His most recent is in the incoming Pride, a brilliant new comedy that finally gets to cinemas later this month. And in advance of that, he spared us some time for a chat about the film, his career, and the mighty Jason Statham….
This is the second time this year – after The Stag – I’ve seen you in a comedy where you have to take on some of the serious, heavy lifting work, while others get the comedy lines.
Was Gethin always your role here, then? Or did you read the script and go ‘that’s the part I want’?
It was the other way round. It was very fortuitous in a sense, because I’ve been wanting this year to play characters that are a different note, more low key. Less presentational. Because I think that’s more interesting sometimes as an actor. Certainly some of the earlier stuff I did in theatre, I used to love those kind of parts. I think they’re cinematic. The parts where you have to be very present but you don’t necessarily have a huge amount to do. Garrulous characters.
Here, I went and spent time talking to Matthew [Warchus, director] about it, and my concern with Gethin was to make him present, and to have a suspicion… He’s a slow burner of a character I think.
Yes, he’s still for a lot of the film.
Yeah. But I think it’s a character that a lot of people recognise in a way. He’s distinctive in a group like LGSM [Lesbians & Gays Support The Miners], especially when he gets together with even more dynamic people. It’s important that you remember his story. A lot of what I talked to Matthew about were his moments in the story. It’s been gorgeous to play this character.
It strikes me as an anti-theatre role. In a theatre, you’re projecting to hundreds of people. Here, you’ve got a camera four feet away, and any little movement would over-exaggerate him?
Yeah, exactly. And it’s very beautifully plotted out his story in the script. It’s just really nice to play a completely different character.
You’ve never made any secret of the fact that you like to transcend expectation and jump genre.
Is that ongoing?
Are you settling on a genre you prefer, or would that in itself make you feel uncomfortable?
Absolutely the latter. That’s where I’m comfortable, being uncomfortable. I did Ken Loach’s film [Jimmy’s Hall], then Pride, and it was extraordinary, just the atmosphere on the different sets. From that I moved on to [Paul McGuigan’s upcoming film] Frankenstein and then I went to do a play at the Royal Court, playing a womanising rock star. It was very dizzy in a way. What I’ve needed to do is take it a little slower over the summer!
It’s interesting that you did a Ken Loach film, and yet Pride is arguably even more political.
Yeah, quite! They’re similar in themes. I remember telling Ken about it on the set. He’d heard of this story. Pride is an extraordinary example of something being mainstream, melancholy and hilarious, while not trivialising the politics. I think that’s its achievement. It’s undoubtedly a feelgood film. But I think there are connotations in that it’s cuddly, but it’s not in any way saccharine. All the things that move people in the movie are things that really, really happened.
To get people to buy a story like this as factual, you almost have to half-present it as fiction.
Right. But I think the movie just does something to you, and makes you feel good. I think the heart is being engaged, but I also think the brain is being engaged.
There are two pigeonholes it could have ended up in as well. It’s the story of two groups of people who, even 20 years ago, would be and were being demonised. It seems vaguely depressing that this story is only being told now. Have we progressed, I wonder, as much as we think we have?
Well, the thing I always feel is that I hate the ‘us and them’ mentality. The issues here are still prevalent to some degree. It’d be naive to suggest that they aren’t. But I think what the film is asking us to say is that we are not that different. It’s about people. It is that age old thing, about it being a romantic comedy, between two groups of people rather than two individuals.
United by a man with a stunning coat too. You must all have been very jealous of Paddy Considine’s jacket.
[Laughs] Exactly right!
Last time we spoke, it was just as Sherlock series 2 was starting, when all we’d seen of the character of Moriarty at that point was ten minutes of screen time at the end of series 1. You talked about how you had ten minutes to have an impact then, and that it was based on the fact that at that stage, unless you were a theatregoer – with all due respect – people didn’t know who you were.
Now, post-Sherlock, is the inverse true? That everyone seems to know who you are. Does that change in any way the choices you’re making? You said before that you’re looking for lower key roles, for instance: has it changed?
It has, absolutely. I always thought I’d love to play the villain, but I always used to be cast as the cherubic, innocent type. And then post-Moriarty the challenge is not to play villains. It’s as difficult as you can make it really. Of course I’ve been asked to play a lot of similar roles to Moriarty. And the answer is if you don’t want to just play villains, you say no. So it means that you just look for different things, or think about them differently.
But one of the great things about Moriarty, or maybe it’s something to do with being around for a long time, is that within Moriarty I was able to play a lot of different characters in a sense. That he was a chameleonic character anyway….
Just remember the more long words you use like that, the harder it’s going to be for me to transcribe…
[Laughs. A lot]. It’s hard to say that word! Chameleonic!
That’s the great challenge of it though.
You described the role as playful in the past?
Yeah, totally playful. And that’s what I try to be as an actor. It’s never really bothered me [about being pigeonholed as a viillain]. Maybe because the decision makers in the industry saw me pre-Sherlock and know I’ve got different stuff I can do. I have been trying to do that, and long may that continue if I get the opportunity.
My one Sherlock question, as I appreciate you can’t divulge anyway about the plot or anything like that. But would you like the role of Moriarty to be a constant in your career? That you could come back to him every few years, have a bit more fun, and move on? That’s not asking anything specific, I think!
[Laughs] I know, I know!
The reason I ask is that at the end of series two, I got the sense you were done with him. That you’d moved on.
I’m totally accepting always of what Steven [Moffat] and Mark [Gatiss] do. I really trust them, and they’ve always listened to me about what I think. They’ve always been very tasteful. I’m very, very protective of the effect that the character has. That he should be treated with real reverence. I absolutely trust that whatever decisions they make will be the right ones.
It’s interesting. I ask you a Sherlock question, and firstly, you’ve clearly been asked it tons of times before, and secondly, you’re having to double check every word before you say it!
Absolutely yeah! [Laughs]
We have a reader on the site, Richie C, and he was running a one man campaign for you to be the next Doctor Who. He was almost going to get into a fistfight with Peter Capaldi at one stage I think. I clearly only ask this for Richie C then, but do you ever foresee a point where you’d duck into Doctor Who very briefly?
No. I don’t honestly. Tell Richie C I thank him for his passion, but no!
[Richie C, if you’re reading: Andrew says thank you for your passion]
You talked in the past about how you’ve been offered roles because you’d played a successful villain. Presumably, post-Moriarty, you got a selection of Hollywood offers. You must have been offered some villains in big films.
Yeah. There’s definitely been offers.
But do you take the Tim Roth approach, though? That he instructed his agent that anything independent, he couldn’t turn away, he had to read it?
Did he really?
If memory serves! Is that the sort of ethos you’re looking for? Because I’d imagine you’d been offered fairly rich pickings, yet there’s an unpredictability and intelligence to your choices?
I always think that the idea of a successful actor… what happens is that there’s a real lot of nonsense about what a successful actor is. In my mind, it’s somebody who can move between different genres and play lots of different parts – and be allowed to create a thing for the audience. What sometimes happens is that if you get a profile for playing something, say a villain, that the name of the game then is for you to become more famous and more rich. And that is a real trap. I’ve seen it happen. People live in these fantastic big houses, they play exactly the same thing, and they’re bored. My thing has always been that life is very, very short, so do what you want to do.
To answer your question: the profile of the project or the paycheque are not high on my list of criteria.
But if you had a lot more money, you could afford more coats like Paddy’s….
[Laughs] Maybe some nice person would lend me a coat. I’ll ask Paddy!
I’ve got to ask before I’m chucked out: what’s your favourite Jason Statham movie?
[Laughs hard, then adopts a quiet voice]. Oh God, have I ever seen a Jason Statham movie? I don’t think I’ve seen one…
Not even one of the Guy Ritchie ones? Lock, Stock? Snatch?
Oh wait, I’ve seen Snatch!
Seen it, or liked it?
[Laughs] That’s the one where Brad Pitt speaks like that [er, Andrew’s impression of Brad Pitt’s accent probably doesn’t come across quite so well in print].
That’s it. Again though, you’re going with ‘seen’, not edging towards ‘liked’ there?
[Laughs very hard indeed, but gives nothing away in response to our cutting question] Cheeky bastard!
Andrew Scott, thank you very much!
Pride is in cinemas on September 12th. Our review is here.
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