Little Dorrit, a major BBC One Dickens adaptation
Andy Serkis plays Rigaud
Andy Serkis has relished his time playing Rigaud, the bad-to-the-bone Frenchman determined to wreak havoc on all and sundry in Little Dorrit.
What he most enjoyed was finding hidden depths to the character: Andy's Rigaud is no black and white, cardboard-cutout villain.
"He's full of contradictory qualities," declares the actor, who wowed audiences around the world as Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
"He's a very dark character, but he has so many other traits, too. He is also immensely charming, humorous, theatrical, pretentious, pompous and very fond of himself.
"Yes, he's a murderer, a blackmailer and a thoroughly nasty piece of work. At the same time, he is also very attractive and has a thing for the ladies. He's an upwardly mobile underdog.
"There is something about his vulnerability that you can't help but feel sorry for. Of course, he's a slimeball, but he possesses an undeniable veneer of charm that stems from his belief that he is in fact a gentleman."
Andy, who was reunited with the Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson to portray King Kong, goes on to describe Rigaud as "a lone Horseman of the Apocalypse. He's very intuitive and is always seeking the next thrill. That's what he's doing when he inveigles his way into Amy's life."
The actor, who has also starred in Longford, Stormbreaker and The Prestige, says it is no coincidence that Dickens made this venal character French.
"So soon after the Napoleonic War, the author must have been making a point about the French. The British perception of the French at that time was not favourable - and Dickens has not shied away from that negative view.
"In playing him with a thick French accent, you could veer dangerously close to Clouseau or Monty Python. But I hope I've managed to keep Rigaud real. He's a very big character, and I have not been afraid to show that."
Rigaud's duplicity coheres with the overarching theme of Little Dorrit: the futility of being obsessed with status.
"The piece is all about social standing," comments Andy, who is about to play Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's eagerly awaited "motion-capture" rendering of Herge's Adventures Of Tintin.
"It's about how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you," continues the actor, who will also be seen this autumn as Albert Einstein in BBC Two's Einstein And Eddington.
"The people who come from a moneyed background are steeped in all that. Rigaud is a dark thread that runs through this story, but at the same time he serves to expose the hypocrisy of so many of the other characters. He helps to demolish the pack of lies that are keeping the Dorrits from knowing the full story."
Finally, Andy emphasises how much he has enjoyed the team spirit on this production.
"What I have loved most about this job is being part of such a tremendous ensemble. It's like being back in a theatre company. Everyone comes in on different days, so you never know who's going to be in the trailer next to you - 'great to see you. How are the kids?' It's been an absolute joy!"