Richard Coyle has shown himself equally at ease in comedy
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
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
"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
"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
Richard Coyle was born and bred in Sheffield, where he
grew up with his four brothers, and remains the only sibling to become
As a career path it only occurred to him when he was a
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