Irish actor Timothy V. Murphy has built a handsome career on film and TV, often being drawn to villainous roles. We talked to him about his role in the second season of True Detective and the forthcoming series The Bastard Executioner…
So, True Detective, quite a big show to get involved with?
It was a very big show to get involved with, it was the most anticipated show of the summer everywhere it was being shown
Was that something that you felt on set when you were working on it, was that pressure there?
There’s always pressure because the first one had been such a success. I didn’t feel any pressure on myself as an actor.
There was a certain amount of pressure on Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn and on Nic [Pizzolatto] of course, the creator, bur for me personally I didn’t feel the pressure. But you could feel the pressure on at times.
Taking your character in particular, at the end, Frank, who Osip has gloriously ripped off for months, finally has Osip at his mercy. Osip’s very last words are “you were like a son.” He’s not alone in being a poor father figure on the show, but what’s your take on those words?
To tell you the truth, Frank would have been working in my circle for years beforehand. We weren’t given much information about the characters. It was up to us to interpret the characters how we wanted to in any particular scene we were doing. The scenes were given to us a few days beforehand. I didn’t know the full story or the script. Very little was told to me about the character until I met Nic on the first day and we discussed the character very briefly. He said basically what he wanted was the same energy that I had in the audition and I had to remember what exactly I’d done in the audition but once we got the balance of the character right, myself and [director] Justin Lin on the first day. It was up to me after that.
Are you now the go-to guy for Russian gangsters?
I worked with a fellow actor friend of mine he’s actually Russian, shooting in Russia at the moment and he has all the sensibilities, good and bad, that you would perceive a Russian to have so I worked with Pasha on the accent until I ended up getting all the Russian roles so he said he won’t help me any more!
You’ve done this several times now haven’t you? Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, you seem to be touring that part of the world.
Very much so. Especially living in LA, you have to play every nationality whether Russian or British or South African, Irish, American obviously. You have to have all those things in your closet.
How relevant was that to Osip, who was kind of an outsider? Obviously Frank was American but this outsider character seemed able to push things a little bit further. Is that part of his outsiderness?
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Osip considers himself better than these people, he considers them beneath him, that he’s smarter than them and that he’s making as much money out of them as he can.
That gave him a bit of extra freedom to act. For the main characters, there was a sense of being trapped by their pasts and their circumstances but your character had more freedom to play the game.
Very much so. As an actor its great to have those kind of roles, you don’t have to get too much into the emotionality of things, you just play it with a lot of confidence and you can have a huge amount of fun with it because there are no consequences. I love playing the character.
That’s actually a big deal in the show. Consequences have a lot to do with where the main characters ended up and for you not to have that… I think that really came across in how strident Osip could be.
Very much so. And confident. I played a similar character in Sons of Anarchy, an Irish character, but again full of confidence and didn’t think too much of the consequences in dealing with these people he thought were beneath him.
Obviously there were consequences ultimately, as there were for Osip as well.
Which I think is great because the downfall of a character like that, his ego is so big that he never sees it coming. A character like that is great to play and it makes the hero look a lot better if the bad guy is full of his own shit, you know?
Am I allowed to ask about The Bastard Executioner?
You are, yep.
That’s coming up very soon isn’t it?
It is yeah. I’m shooting at the moment in Wales and it airs, I think on the 15th of September.
You play a priest, right?
I do, which is a big change for me I can assure you! But he’s a priest with a past so he’s definitely not one dimensional if you know what I mean [laughs]
So possibly another villain?
I wouldn’t say villain, I think he’s quite good but I can’t say too much about the character but I think he’s quite a strong individual this priest but he veers on the good side than he bad side.
And it sees you working with Kurt Sutter again on a project.
Which is fantastic because we work very well together and he’s such a great writer as well. He seems to be able to hit the nerve of what’s cool in America
It’s exciting now that Sons is over that he’s moving on somewhere very different indeed.
It’s great and what’s great about is I think that True Detective was probably the most anticipated show of the summer and the Bastard Executioner will be the most anticipated show of the Fall so it’s great to be involved in the two shows with two great creators.
What’s next for you after that?
After that, you know you audition for a bunch of movies, another movie which will be going round the festivals very shortly is called No Way To Live, which is very much Southern Gothic in its writing so we’ll see how that goes. I play a Louisiana Sheriff and investigator. A very different character again. I haven’t seen the finished product yet so we’ll see how that works out.
That brings us back round to Nic Pizzolatto whose first season of True Detective was very Southern Gothic with a Louisiana setting. Did you speak to him at all about that?
I didn’t because I’d filmed that before I met Nic but I read his book Galveston and he’s adapting that into a movie and I would love to be part of that. I don’t know if he’s intending to shoot it but that is a fantastic piece for an actor to be in, it’d be great I’d imagine so I would like to be in that, so we’ll see how that goes.