If you're not familiar with Rufus Sewell, you haven't been paying attention. A mainstay of rom-coms (A Knight's Tale, The Holiday), Hollywood epics (The Legend of Zorro, Hercules, Gods of Egypt) and costume dramas (Middlemarch, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, Tristan & Isolde), Sewell's been playing mustache-twirling villains, legendary kings, literary heroes and the undead—in various iterations and even combinations—for more than 25 years.
This year, he brings this experience to two wildly different TV series: Amazon's The Man in the High Castle, playing Obergruppenführer John Smith, a Nazi in a world where the Axis powers won World War II, and Masterpiece PBS's Victoria as Lord Melbourne, Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister, close confidant and, the show suggests, first love. The two roles are complete opposites—which is exactly why Sewell was attracted to them: "These two opposing typecasts represent a pretty good statement of intent, or calling card," he says of his unorthodox career. Below, Sewell lets us in on all the things we didn't know about him: from falling in love with "Lord M," to Twitter's reaction to his relationship with the young Victoria, and his thoughts on the parallels between The Man in the High Castle and the United States's current political climate.
Yes, he's been typecast as a "bad guy" throughout his 26-year career—but it's starting to work out in his favor.
"When I was at drama school, my fear was that I would get stuck in the one thing that came naturally to me, which was comedy. I remember the first time I got offered to play a bad guy, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to break away from the kind of brooding period drama characters that I always felt pigeonholed in. So I did it as an experiment and low and behold, I was trapped in a new typecast.
Over the past few years, I was being offered three or four really shit scripts to play bad guys in a row. Eventually you get offered one that's good and you think, "Well, okay, I can work with this," whilst always keeping an eye open for anyone imaginative enough to send something different. In the meantime, I certainly made the best of what I get. I never see characters I play in the same way, and often if I'm offered a character that is dark, if it's well written enough, I don't really have a problem with it. The only thing that is limiting is bad writing. Really, the one thing you're butting against is what was once described as the 'DVD liner notes.' How the character is described superficially.
But I think it's suddenly coming to light now that I'm ending up being seen. In fact, coinciding with me not giving a f*ck how I'm seen, funnily enough, I think it's probably coming to pass that it's working out anyway. Now, I think people realize that what I've actually been doing all this time is acting, rather than just representing some 'type' that I am. And my career is panning out to be the one I kind of always wanted."
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He's very flattered by Twitter's attraction to Lord Melbourne—and loved playing the "brooding" Victorian.
"As a 49-year-old man, I am absolutely delighted and I have no qualms about it—excuse me, I'm just a piece of meat, thank you very much [laughs]. Part of me is very lucky to be having that kind of attention at all! And when I looked up Melbourne, he was actually a very attractive man and women really loved him. He aged very quickly toward the end, but about the time that Victoria met him, he was still quite an attractive man. He had an air of mystery about him. It's certainly not the way I regard myself, by the way—I don't think of myself the way that they describe me. But I am certainly not going to turn down any part on that account. If I'm offered a good part, I am going to bloody do it!
"As a 49-year-old man...I'm just a piece of meat."