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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Outcasts – Liam Cunningham

Liam Cunningham

Liam plays President Richard Tate in Outcasts – leading the Pioneers responsible for building a better future.

Tell us about your character in Outcasts
By profession, Richard Tate is a geneticist but he finds himself in charge of 50,000 people on the planet of Carpathia. It is quite some challenge for him to be the president. He's being asked to play a key role in the rebirth of humanity so the responsibility on his shoulders is enormous.

What are the biggest challenges facing your character?
He's a politician who is trying to maintain the peace and keep the human species alive. In the first episode, Tate spends much of his time in contact with CT9, the transporter that is en route to Carpathia from Earth and is within hours of trying to land on the planet. He has conversations with Invictus, the captain of CT9, as the latter tries to effect a safe landing, helping him as much as he can and trying to re-assure the thousands of people who are on board the transporter and worried about their fate. Tate knows that trying to land on Carpathia is fraught with difficulties and dangers.

Has playing Tate given you an insight into being a politician?
People always think they can do a better job than those who are being real politicians on TV and there are undoubtedly people on Carpathia who reckon they can do a better job than Tate is doing! Being a politician is difficult - to some extent it's a balancing act.

Do we learn much about Tate's private life?
Sadly, we learn quite quickly in the first episode that his two children died from a disease called C23. It was a terrible illness – you knew you'd got it because a halo would form around your head and death would follow soon after. Tate was devastated by his loss and his life was made even more tragic by his wife's inability to cope with the deaths of their children. To some degree, Tate has thrown himself into his work, in order to forget about the tragedies in his life.

Is he an heroic figure?
I think anyone who takes on the kind of responsibilities that Tate does deserves to be congratulated. His is a pretty thankless task, made more so by his personal grief. There's a poignant line in the first episode, after he concludes a conversation with CT9 captain Invictus. Invictus wants to be reassured about talking to Tate again and Tate tells him they will. He then says quietly to himself: 'I'm not going anywhere.' This is Tate's lot, now, this is his life and he has made the best of it.

What can we expect to see happen in future episodes?
Outcasts is about pioneering humans trying to forge a new life for themselves – it's akin to dramas and literature about pioneers in the Australian Outback or in America's Wild West. So we'll see Tate, and others, confronting whatever lies beyond the boundaries of Forthaven, the town in Outcasts. And don't imagine that C23 has been wiped out. That manifests itself in another strange, bizarre form, later in the series.

What was it like filming in South Africa?
It was great, it's an amazing country with fantastic scenery and fascinating people. I first went out to act in a film called Black Butterflies and Outcasts carried on from that. The fact that the World Cup was taking place in South Africa, at the same time we were filming, was a bonus although of course I missed my family back in Dublin.

Does Tate have enemies on Carpathia?
Well, somebody tries to kill him in the first episode, so you could say that! He's not alone in being anxious about the arrival of a guy called Julius Berger, on the transporter. Tate and Berger had previous dealings back on Earth, and he's not exactly looking forward to seeing him.

How would you get on if you found yourself in a similar position to Tate?
I'd try and make the best of it, although on a planet like Carpathia a lot of what I'd do would be damage limitation, I think; dealing with the difficult conditions, these terrifying whiteouts, these dust and sandstorms, which afflict Carpathia every so often. My fear, if I were a politician in Tate's position, is that I wouldn't be able to get much done. I might start out with lots of idealistic, liberal ideas but I think there would be a lot of compromise along the way, just to make sure that people's lives ran reasonably smoothly. Tate is a practical man, he's doing his best and he has the respect of at least some of those around him. But I wouldn't want to swap places with him.

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