Hayley Atwell, Rufus Sewell, Michelle Dockery, Michael Gambon and Charlotte Rampling star in William Boyd's Restless for BBC One
Rufus Sewell plays Lucas Romer
"Before Pearl Harbour, when the US refused to join the war, Europe was in a lot of trouble. England put up a brave fight but MI5 and MI6 considered it imperative that the Americans joined the war. Restless looks at a branch of espionage involved in trying to create reasons for the American public to sanction their country going to war with Germany.”
In Restless Lucas Romer, a senior figure in British Intelligence, runs the espionage ring in charge of influencing America’s positioning in the war.
“It’s fascinating because it’s a period we know very well but it’s an element of that war that we know very little about. We don’t often think about Britain vs America and on top of the complex espionage story, there is a romance between Romer and Eva Delectorskaya, the beautiful Russian girl that Romer trains up to be a spy. He gives her a new British identity and she works within the exciting world of espionage.”
Polite, educated and well-bred, Romer can disappear as quickly as he appears leaving no trace behind. As the story unfolds the audience are left wondering whether or not to trust him.
“He is a complex character and it’s very rare for me to like, not only the script, but also the part I am being offered and on this occasion I loved both! What I liked most about him is the fact that he has many different sides. I get offered bad guy parts quite a lot, but whether they are baddies or goodies is beside the point; I’d rather play a multi-faceted character rather than a one-dimensional role and Romer is an example of a real person - a complex being that I relish the opportunity to play.”
Prior to Restless Sewell had worked with both Hayley Atwell and Michael Gambon previously and was familiar with William Boyd’s work.
“Michael Gambon is a hero of mine, not to mention an amazing actor and after working on Pillars Of The Earth with Hayley Atwell I was enormously peeved that she went off to be in Any Human Heart without me. I was very jealous of her being involved in a William Boyd adaptation, as it sounded very classy! So, when the (Restless) script arrived with an offer attached to it and lots of other talented names I was immediately very excited. I read it and loved it instantly, plus I was really pleased with the idea of working with Hayley again.”
Playing the younger Romer meant that Sewell joined Hayley on the South African leg of the shoot.
“The South African weather in winter-time is a very good match for a lot of different countries plus it has a colonial past so you’ve got all of these very British style buildings from all sorts of periods. There are incredible mixtures of landscapes; hills that look like Scotland and streets that look like New York as well as vast expanses of land that double as deserts. There are these incredible 1930’s and 1940’s streets, with municipal buildings for when we were filming outside for the New York scenes. All it needed was a couple of American cars and a hot dog stand and suddenly it was Manhattan.”
“There is a place in Cape Town where we filmed quite a romantic scene and the crew built a little archway and stuck it in the middle of a street and filming from the side made it look exactly like Savile Row – just add a couple of black cabs and it was a perfect match for London.”
When Romer meets Eva to explain why he wants her to go to Washington it’s a turning point in their relationship.
“He wants her to go to on a secret mission to befriend a politician who may be able to help with their US mission. Romer supplies her with money and everything she will need but it is quite a sticky situation, because both Eva and Romer have become romantically involved at this stage. It is not clear to what extent Romer wants her to get to know this man; probably just in terms of him finding her attractive so she can manipulate him. It is a tough ask for Eva and a complicated situation for the both of them, as Romer is ultimately her boss. Romer’s way of dealing with such problems is to just breeze past and not acknowledge them; otherwise he cannot do his job properly.”
Neither a villain nor a hero, Sewell refuses to pigeon-hole Romer. Circumstances have dictated his character’s path and if Sewell can’t find something to like in a role he sees little point in accepting it.
“I don’t see anyone in real life as either of those things, people do both heroic and cowardly things, but people are very rarely just black and white, one or the other. In the past when I’ve talked about ‘baddies’, I think the idea of ‘goodies’ is just as impossible and ridiculous and Romer is no exception. I believe that people are one thing at a time, you might be many things and these things might be incredibly contradictory, but people inhabit the moment. When Romer is with Eva there is a very strong part of him that adores her but at the same time there is a very strong part of him that wants to free himself from that trap.”
“There is certainly a genuine connection, and there is certainly a lot of manipulation between the two of them, it goes both ways, that’s why this is so well written. She’s a cool, canny, distanced character, and she’s equally as capable of dissemination. They both have a very reptilian side; they have hearts that are quite vulnerable and lots of different schemes and ways of protecting themselves. This makes people quite dangerous, Eva is dangerous, that is one of the things he recognises in her.”
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