Richard Coyle played the title role in Strange. I went on set at Ealing Studios on 15th October 2002, reporting for Shivers, along with David Richardson from Starburst who also contributed to this interview. That day, they were shooting scenes with a large, demonic tree.
What attracted you to this role?
"Just that it was different. It’s very dark and I love dark things anyway. There are sinister undertones, things that are disturbing, and I found all of those when I read the script. And I hadn’t seen anything else like this so that’s really why I wanted to do it. I enjoy doing science fiction and I haven’t had a chance to do a great deal."
Andrew Marshall said you were the only actor he considered for this role who could say this dialogue and make it believable.
"(laughs) I’m sure that’s not true. I don’t know, really. Maybe I just look a little bit quirkier than some actors, maybe that’s what it was."
Was this a definite move away from sitcoms?
"Definitely, although I don’t really think of it in those terms. I like to do things that I like, and if I read a script that I like then I’m interested in doing it. That’s about as much planning as there is: whether I like the script or not."
The character of John Strange is quite odd, in that we know some things and not other things. Does he have a back story?
"Yes, I’ve created one. There is a back story in the history of the show. There are things that are touched upon in the episodes, little bits that you learn about him. It’s like a jigsaw that you’re putting together slowly. Obviously I’ve had to think about it and explore that myself, just to get into the mindset of this chap. He’s got quite a dark past."
How different is it doing the series from doing the pilot?
"I think it’s different, yes. Obviously in a pilot you have to hit so many bases. Now that everyone’s got the confidence that we’re making it and we’re all relaxed about it, everyone’s not having to try so hard and trying to enjoy it. That’s the most important thing, I think - that people enjoy making it, and hopefully that comes across when you’re watching it."
How are you coping with the special effects?
"Actually I haven’t done a great many of them yet, but this is fantastic. It’s actually quite scary, lying there underneath the thing, and when it’s actually moving it’s quite convincing. We had a chap last week who was cobbled together, a sort of Frankenstein’s monster type demon, and that was quite spooky. He held me up in the air like this - I was on a rig. It's brilliant, I really like it."
Jack Davenport, your co-star in Coupling, did Ultraviolet, also directed by Joe Ahearne. Did he have any advice for you about this sort of drama?
"Not really. He had a great time working with Joe, and the same here, I’m really enjoying working with Joe. He’s fantastic."
Does it feel groundbreaking to be doing this?
"Yes, it does. Like I said before, it’s very different. I haven’t seen anything like it. It’s our take on everything the Americans do so well. This isn’t as dark as Buffy or Angel, but they definitely seem to have cornered the market in this kind of thing. It’s about time we responded."
Are you ready for conventions and fanzines and suchlike?
"If it happens and it’s flattering, yes of course. It’s an extra thing, isn’t it?"
How is the relationship between Strange and Jude developing over the series?
"I think it’s quite hard, actually. Obviously the common thread is that they’ve both had experiences of demons, and at the end of the day that’s the thing that drew them together. Jude is trying to put a closure on her experience with demons, while John Strange is out for vengeance. I think they get closer without realising it - they get closer and closer and closer. While they try to hide behind the fact that this is a quest for both of them, they’ve become quite bonded and got quite close."
It must be very difficult shooting blocks of three episodes together?
"It’s been manageable until we came here. Once we got here, it’s just been a complete mess, jumping from one episode to another and back to another, all over the place. It’s quite hard to keep your idea on a through line and a journey for a character, but it’s always like that with filming and it’s just something you have to get used to."
Do you have an idea about what will appeal most about the series?
"I’ve really enjoyed Episode 5, which is this one we’re doing at the moment, just because it seems to have gelled more for me. That could change and next week I might say something completely different, but for the moment this one has gelled very well for me. I’ve got a good tab on what I’m doing through out the episode. But it’s just that it’s so dark and sinister - that’s what I love about it. More so than the pilot - the series is much more disturbing and eerie. I love that kind of stuff."
Might people, knowing your and Samantha Janus’ backgrounds in sitcom, expect this to be lighter than it is?
"Well, we’ve both done sitcoms but we’ve done a lot of other things as well. I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think people are going to be under any illusions about what this is about. It’s quite clear that it’s not a sitcom, it’s not terribly funny, it’s quite upsetting in many ways."
If this takes off, would you be happy playing John Strange for years to come?
"We’ll see how it goes. Take it a day at a time.”
interview originally posted 16th May 2006