Bleak House - press pack phase two
Starts Thursday 27 October on BBC ONE
Burn Gorman plays Mr Guppy
Mr William Guppy has many admirable qualities – he's always looking to better himself, he'd do anything to help a friend and, as the song goes, when he falls in love, it will be forever.
Or will it?
The object of Guppy's affections, Bleak House heroine Esther Summerson, doesn't feel the same way, and the thought of spending forever with the young legal clerk leaves her cold.
Burn Gorman, who plays the hapless clerk, reveals that he has a soft spot for Guppy but admits that he has some shortcomings.
"I think Mr Guppy is a good soul but he's a rough diamond. If I could describe him as an animal he'd be a bit like a ferret. He's in everything. He's constantly watching and collecting information but, actually, in his heart, he's a good sort."
Guppy appears to be besotted with Esther from the moment he sets eyes on her and, before long, he proposes marriage – some might say inappropriately – but Burn isn't so sure that Guppy is the true romantic he would like everyone to believe.
"He's not a social climber but he wants to get out of the situation he's in and he sees opportunities to do that, one of which is Miss Esther Summerson.
"He's the first person to greet Esther when she comes to London – she opens the coach door and Guppy is there: he's come to collect her. The debate for me was whether he does actually like Esther, whether he really does fall for her or thinks, 'She's a good match, I'm a bit of a catch, she'll do.'
"She does also have the advantage that she is involved in Jarndyce and Jarndyce [the protracted court case at the heart of Charles Dickens' Bleak House and one that should see the beneficiary – or beneficiaries – make a fortune] and there is that sort of winning lottery ticket feeling about it and Guppy thinks that, actually, Esther might have a big claim in it.
"It might not turn out that way, but Guppy wants to get her onside and find out more.
"I'd like to think that he really does fall for his angel though," he continues. "They have their ups and downs – it's quite excruciating for Guppy!"
Guppy is keen to climb the career ladder as fast as he can, and when he finds out that there are some letters in existence that might prove useful to him – in more ways than one – he's desperate to get his hands on them.
"The wheeler-dealer in Guppy sees that there's a lot to gain in either the possession or the passing on of these letters to different people. But he hasn't really thought it through properly.
"He's doing it with the idea that he'll be able to help out Esther, or at least find some information out for her, which will help him as well."
Guppy, for whom nothing ever seems to go right, soon finds himself out of his depth as he starts meddling in other people's affairs.
"He also risks the wrath of Tulkinghorn (played by Charles Dance), the lawyer who works for the Dedlocks, and who also has a vested interested in the letters - which hold the key to Lady Dedlock's secret past.
"Tulkinghorn threatens Guppy – he says, 'Shall I let your boss know that you're here, taking on your own work?' Tulkinghorn is really scary!" he laughs.
"However upwardly mobile Guppy is, he is, I feel, completely stricken when meeting people. When Tulkinghorn comes along, Guppy's really scared.
"He knows socially how to talk, for example, rather than saying, 'I was outside your house,' he would say, 'I was perambulating in the vicinity of your abode,' so he's sort of taught himself the language.
"But when he speaks to Tulkinghorn he's very respectful and very eloquent and is very much put in his place, tipping his cap."
Burn has clearly enjoyed every moment playing Guppy and admits that it was a "baptism of fire".
Before Bleak House, his only experience of period drama was in a radio adaptation of The Pickwick Papers, in which he played Sam Weller.
"I loved the top hat and dodgy wigs that Guppy wears," he laughs.
"I was brought up on Dickens. I remember reading Bleak House but, coming back to it, I didn't remember much about it apart from a few characters.
"I certainly didn't remember the ins and outs, because the story is quite convoluted.
"Andrew Davies has been praised enough but it is an amazing script. The pace of it: even when you're reading the script, you can completely visualise what he's doing.
"It really zooms along in the half-hour format – it's just a shame we can't borrow the EastEnders music for the cliff-hangers at the end of each episode," he laughs.
Further cast interviews will be released over the following weeks.