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Q&A: Andrew Scott on 'His Dark Materials' Season 2.

Q&A: Andrew Scott on 'His Dark Materials' Season 2.

You probably recognise him for his iconic role on 'Fleabag' as Hot Priest, but Andrew Scott's new role in 'His Dark Materials' sees him in a completely different light, starring as the mysterious Colonel John Parry.

Sharing about 'Fleabag' co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge voicing his daemon, Scott says: "It’s really lovely that people associate us with each other and when it’s a very close relationship like that it’s really nice and hopefully we’ve created something here that people will enjoy."

Read on for a Q&A with Andrew Scott about his appearance in the new season, his knowledge of the books, and much more...

Although your character didn’t appear in season one – or there was just a glimpse of him - we kind of feel his presence don’t we? And now we’re going to get to see you in season two...
ANDREW SCOTT: You know it’s expert storytelling when they are able to excite the audience as much as possible so you have a great introduction to a character before they even appear on the pages or in our case on the screen. Sometimes I think characters are more powerful the less screen time they have, you just get a lot of bang for your buck when they arrive and I hope that’s the case here. I hope we don’t let you down!

Did you know the books?
ANDREW: Yes, I’m familiar with the books. My instinct a lot of the time with literary adaptations is to pay attention to the story that we’re required to tell on the screen. And (screenwriter) Jack Thorne is obviously a brilliant dramatist and so my job I suppose, in a way, is to interpret Jack’s interpretation, if you know what I’m saying. So sometimes I think you can focus too much on what the literary adaptation is rather than what the screen adaptation is so I’m not reading this as a pleasure, I’m doing it for my work and envisage it purely as a cinematic world rather than a literary one. So I tend to have a familiarity with the books but that is usually what my priority is.

But had you read the books for pleasure before the role was offered to you?
ANDREW: Yes. And they are wonderful books. I think Philip is a great writer in the sense that he writes about very adult themes - he talks about religion and he’s not afraid of adulthood, he’s not afraid of being dark and he’s not afraid of talking about religion and the darkness of family and the scariness of being alive.

For those who haven’t read the books, could you tell us about John Parry? He’s an extraordinary character and he has certainly had a life before we meet him…
ANDREW: Yes, we see John Parry in a lot of different guises throughout the story so he’s many, many different things and that’s the challenge of it really, because we see him in a number of guises. But we also see him through Will, his son’s eyes. And I think because they haven’t had a lot of time with each other Will’s imagined idea of his father is almost as strong as the reality of his father. So it’s really nice to see the two characters talk about each other before they see each other.

So John has left our world and journeyed to another world. And Will has keenly felt the absence of his father…
ANDREW: Yes, he has and vice versa. And I felt what was really nice was to play a man who has made a decision for this family but maybe for the wrong reasons. He’s a desperately solitary character and I think that’s pretty sad for somebody who doesn’t have to be a solitary character. I think the idea of being separated from your children when you don’t have to be and trying desperately to get back to your family without the means of being able to communicate with them in any way, is completely tortuous. So when he meets Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), this unlikely friendship begins and that was brilliant to work with Lin. I love the interaction between those two characters and I think it will be really fun for an audience because they are very different.

We should all have a daemon and I’m kind of envious that you’ve got one…
ANDREW: <laughs>. Yes, well you do have one - you just can’t see your daemon.

Tell us about John Parry’s daemon…
ANDREW: My daemon is an osprey, very beautiful in female form, and it’s voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge who is my friend and colleague so that was a pretty nice thing to discover that it was Phoebe who they had decided to cast as my daemon’s voice.

That’s just such a great bonus for fans of 'Fleabag'…
ANDREW: It’s a wonderful idea. <laughs> It’s really nice and I think it makes sense.

When you found out that it was Phoebe who was voicing the daemon, did you have a little chat about it?
ANDREW: Yes we did have a little chat about it. It’s a really sweet idea. And it’s really lovely that people associate us with each other and when it’s a very close relationship like that it’s really nice and hopefully we’ve created something here that people will enjoy. So that’s really cool.

You’ve been in several productions, including 'Sherlock' and 'Fleabag' that mean so much to people. And 'His Dark Materials' is another one that has such a devoted fan base. What’s it like to connect with an audience in that way?
ANDREW: I think what you want to do is surprise the audience a little bit so I’ve always wanted to do things that are different and play really different, opposite things, and your job is to make somebody believe you are one thing and then try and change their minds the next time. And you can only do that with the help of really strong writing and a lot of these things – not 'Fleabag' obviously – but with Arthur Conan Doyle and Philip Pullman the source material is great, so it makes my job easier. My job is to convince the audience that they have to reimagine you, as an actor, in a completely different way and you can only do that when it’s really powerful writing. I’m addicted to really good writing and that’s the actor’s great ally.

'His Dark Materials' is stunning to look at and a lot of the visuals are obviously done in post-production. What’s it like when you have been acting on the day – as you say often with a puppet – and then see it when it’s all put together?
ANDREW: It’s extraordinary. The production values are genuinely extraordinary. It’s quite difficult sometimes, honestly, when it’s green screen and I very much rely on the director. A lot of my stuff – most of it – is with Lin (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and we have to create this incredible imaginary world but really that’s no different from children being in their bedroom and pretending they are in space and being as imaginative as possible. But when you see that stuff that they do after the actors have gone it’s absolutely mind blowing. I’ve only seen a little bit of the show but it’s extraordinary what they do. We really are spoilt.

You have scenes with Amir Wilson, who plays Will, your on screen son. Tell us about working with Amir…
ANDREW: Amir is an absolutely wonderful young actor – he’s completely open, a lovely person. I met some of his family and they are just lovely. He carries the weight of this job and I was amazed at how brilliant he was. And you are very aware when you are working with young actors about what they are absorbing and what this industry is and so I hope he had a good time. I think he did. We had some really beautiful stuff to do together and I think people will be really amazed by his work.

You also started acting when you were a child. You were at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin when you were in your late teens. How important was that time at the Abbey for you?
ANDREW: It was amazing. I was a kind of shy, sensitive kid – and I still am a little bit shy – and being an actor, doing drama classes as a kid, allowed me to build up my confidence and I found that I had a sort of kinship with it. And yes, I found myself at the Abbey and making films when I was 17, 18, 19 and I didn’t really know any different. I’m very grateful that I didn't train formally as an actor. Although I’m sure I missed out on some things, I feel like I haven’t moved too far away from that idea of acting as playing and just using your own imagination as much as possible. Sometimes I feel it’s taken too seriously – not that I don’t think it’s a very admirable and difficult profession that requires a lot of skill – but I do think that your number one goal is to ignite your childhood imagination, when you are in the middle of a set, when there is a lot of crew around you, you have to keep that spirit alive and when you are working with a green screen you have to remember you are just playing and that’s why you really rely on the other actors because it’s much more fun to play with other people rather than play on your own.

And that’s really true of 'His Dark Materials', where you are literally creating different worlds with your imagination – that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
ANDREW: Yes, that’s absolutely what it’s all about. I love the fact that with filmmaking, particularly on something like 'His Dark Materials', it’s a genuine team effort because you can’t create something like this without all of the departments being at the top of their game and I love the enormous passion that everybody puts into it. And it starts with Philip Pullman and it starts with his quite solitary process. I like that it starts with one man’s vision that turns into a collaboration with hundreds and hundreds of people who create something wonderful for millions and millions of people to watch. It’s really extraordinary that one nucleus of an idea can grow into something so amazing.

Do you think that some roles change you?
ANDREW: Oh what a great question. Yes, I think one of the wonderful things about being an actor is that you are exploring different parts of yourself that may exist within you but may remain dormant. So I think the further you get into acting, when you’ve had a bit of experience, you want to find other parts of yourself that you haven’t yet explored. So they may change you but I suppose it’s more that once you express that part of you, you are more at ease with that part of yourself. So that’s why I think it’s an admirable profession and why I think it if you seek it, it can make you a better human being because of course you are in the empathy game – you are trying to imagine what it’s like to be somebody else. And so if you imagine that, when you meet other people that are similar to something that you might have experienced as an actor it increases your empathy. So I hope after all of these roles that I’ve become a bit of a better person <laughs>. I don’t know – I’ll leave that for other people to answer.

The second season of 'His Dark Materials' is airing now on Neon - watch the trailer below:

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