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Gunpowder, Treason and Plot - Robert Catesby

Category : About the BBC
Date : 27.02.2004
Printable version

Richard Coyle has shown himself equally at ease in comedy as drama.


On television, his Welsh brogue was so convincing when he first played sex obsessed geek Jeff in BBC TWO's quirky comedy Coupling, that many viewers and fellow professionals took the accent to be his own.


They wondered why off-screen he was known to support Sheffield Wednesday.


His versatility is clear from parts such as John Ridd in BBC ONE's Lorna Doone, and the title role in the eerie series Strange, in which he played a former priest determined to hunt down dark forces.


Now Coyle takes on the mantle of Catholic activist Robert Catesby.


"I'm a history junkie and read about the past voraciously. I'm also a big fan of Jimmy McGovern's work so couldn't wait to see how Jimmy handled the Stuarts.


"The gunpowder story is out there in the popular consciousness - we all grew up with Bonfire Night, it's a symbol, it's a fascinating turning point in our history," says Coyle, for whom McGovern's script was a revelation.


"Jimmy really understands passion and motivation. He made me look at the young men behind the Gunpowder Plot in a completely new way.


"Jimmy points up the harshness of their lives, their youth and their absolute belief in the Catholic faith.


"It's these devout beliefs, and years of persecution, which feed their passion, and fuel their sense of righteousness.


"All this helps them justify the taking of innocent lives. It's an extreme resolve.


"In reality it was an act of terrorism, and has uncomfortable parallels with today, which I hadn't really clocked before.


"I think most historians agree that Catesby was an angry and passionate man," comments Coyle. "What Jimmy develops is his drive - he's an all-or-nothing guy without being turned into a mad and bad zealot."


However, forethought about his role didn't extend to packing for a Romanian shoot.


"Last August was a really busy time for me and when I got the call, I just threw everything into my bags: jumpers, winter woollies, the lot.


"When I arrived the humidity and the baking heat was unbelievable - I literally had to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe.


"Then working all trussed up in doublet and hose demanded mind over matter," laughs Coyle.


So what did the cast do to cool off and unwind? Coyle replies cryptically, "We had a lot of fun, let's just say boys will be boys."


Richard Coyle was born and bred in Sheffield, where he grew up with his four brothers, and remains the only sibling to become an actor.


As a career path it only occurred to him when he was a student.


After reading politics at York University, where he enjoyed amateur dramatics, he left determined to study at the prestigious Old Vic Theatre School.


In an effort to raise funds, "I made a nuisance of myself and gained my first speaking role in Franco Zeffirelli's Jane Eyre, saying to William Hurt, 'Mr Rochester, Mr Rochester your house, Sir!'"


Coyle is currently filming The Libertine, co-starring with Johnny Depp, John Malkovich and Samantha Morton


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