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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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The Shadow Line – Stephen Rea plays Gatehouse

What were your first reactions when you read the scripts?

Of course I was drawn in, it was very complex. I could see that there was this thin line in the story which was my character, Gatehouse, and I was very intrigued by it. Although I have played some villains, never anything as really interesting as this.

What makes Hugo's scripts so different?

For the penny to really drop you have to fast forward to actually working with Hugo. His incredible grasp of the piece and his flair and ability with the script, as both the writer and director. Everyone agreed which is truly remarkable. I'm not just spoofing you, Tony Sher and Rafe Spall: we would just be standing around saying, "this is just unbelievable." Hugo had this incredible eye for detail and complexity – and it's also very funny. That's what I found about my guy, he was incredibly witty and extremely unpleasant: there was something about the fixation of this guy which was terribly funny.

Tell us how the costume came about?

Well Hugo always wanted the hat and the glasses, so the costume department found the trilby. Hugo used to come up before every take and minimally adjust the hat, and nobody could possibly have seen the difference but it was different for him you know – wonderful! Gatehouse never takes his gloves off, it's to do with signalling a kind of antiseptic quality. I know in the days of modern forensic exploration that you probably wouldn't get away with it, but it signals a kind of obsessiveness.

How would you describe the drama?

Well I suppose it could be called a political thriller. I've never seen anything so complex. You're just interested in the world and what Hugo has done, like all great writers he has created a world that you inhabit with the characters. The great writers do that and you just long to be in that world – I mean it's a ghastly world really.

Hugo writes very finely drawn characters, as with Gatehouse.

What we really talked about was how Gatehouse sounded. Obviously because I've got an Irish accent that could have become an issue, as he would have had to have some Irish background. So it was the tone and the tambour of the voice that interests me: the music of it rather than character. It's a feeling for the poise of the guy, the style and the stillness of him.

What did you like about playing Gatehouse?

Well it's nice to be frightening – he's a frightening guy. To inhabit that stillness

It's an incredible cast – have you worked with any of the other actors before?

All the actors are wonderful in this piece, they are absolutely wonderful to play scenes with. Tony (Sher) and oh god the beautiful women... I had a great scene with Eve Best – I've never worked with her but she is a wonderful actress, and Sharon (D Clark) is the most amazing actor she is a truly wonderful.

Hugo says that he cast against type – do you feel this was the case for you?

I was just so amazed that anybody would offer me this and I thought that's what was fascinating about it to me, because it could have been any other heavy actor and it was fantastic that Hugo had seen Gatehouse as me, and that was also a huge incentive.

What was your favourite scene when filming?

My first day's work was really demanding because you were finding the character for the first time in front of the camera, so it was a huge day. Tony (Sher) and I had a fantastic rapport as actors, rather than characters and that was thrilling to do. Then Sharon (D Clark) wooed me unbelievably, and I had this incredible wrestle with Eve Best. The thing is it is magnificently cast. Then the boys Freddie Fox, Rafe Spall they're absolutely astounding actors, and I don't want to sound like I'm gushing but truly they were wonderful.

Can you explain what it's been like working with Hugo?

Hugo had a unique command of the material and he's smelling the world that he's created the whole time, and smelling it for anything that looks a little wrong. He gives a line like, "I'll get back to you" and he said, "say it as you leave"; and I know that sounds tiny but it made a world of difference.

Can you compare The Shadow Line to anything else?

No, I think it's blacker than the usual fare and it's also hilarious.

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