Black Earth Rising

New thriller for BBC Two from Bafta-winner Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman)

Interview with John Goodman

Do actors with a comedic background bring a different energy? Yeah sure, I think it fights against audience expectations. It casts against type and brings a tension to the piece.John Goodman
Date: 05.09.2018     Last updated: 06.09.2018 at 09.00

Can you tell us about your character Michael Ennis and the journey he goes on over the series?
He seems to be a very lonely man. Disconnected and disheartened. And I think he’s trying to fight his way back into a life. It appears that he’s a bit lost. He has cancer, his daughter is in a coma, and out of guilt and duty he feels he has to find to find the passion that drove him in the first place. Which came from Eve, I think. He quite fancied the passion that Eve had and that’s what got him started in the first place.

What drew you to this project and to playing Michael?
The script and the script and the script. And Hugo - his energy and his great humour, I just loved working with him. I’d never played anybody quite like this and I thought it would be a bit of a challenge. So I hope I didn’t bite off more than I can chew! And I was also drawn to prospect of working in London.

So you really enjoyed filming in London?
I always enjoy working in London. I get into neighbourhoods I never go to ordinarily. You know, off my beaten path of Piccadilly, Green Park and St James. It just got me into places I’ve never seen. I LOVE it. And my wife would take day trips every day and she adored it.

I’d just come off a long year and quite frankly, I was tired and burnt out when I took this project and I must say, it rejuvenated me. It was lovely to be doing something where I look forward to going to work every day.

I trust Hugo and he has impeccable taste and god, he is just a lovely man to work with. And so were the producers; everyone was just so lovely to work with and it’s a top rank organisation. Everything was just wonderful.

And Michaela is just brilliant. She’s just a ball of fire and an amazing person.

How did you research and prepare for the role?
I’m ashamed to say that I made it all up! I just used my imagination and whatever was in the script. It’s all on the page.

What can you tell us about the difficulties Michael is undergoing with his ill daughter and the impact that has on him?
I think that it’s the guilt that any parent would feel about a marriage going bad. Perhaps his own selfishness and careerism.

I don't think it's just guilt. He’s desperately just trying to keep a connection with her and keep her alive. And a lot of that is keeping him alive as well. And I suspect that’s a lot to do with his relationship Kate, because they’re both lost and he wants to have her as a daughter-figure as well. He reckons that he can help Kate. She does need a lot of help but there is a lot in her that is absolutely brilliant. I think he feels very protective of her.

What is his relationship with Kate and Eve Ashby?
Eve and Michael met in Africa and I think perhaps there’s a bit of an attraction on both their parts. He’s got guilt from seeing what European mischief resulted in, in Africa. It’s not just guilt, it's a passion for righting wrongs. He’s trying to do what he can do to help. It’s important to him that justice is done.

He does what he can and I think that also rejuvenates him. And I think that this brings him back into the world. I think he’s a very lonely man. He self-medicates at night and he’s trying to carry on despite despair and depression. But he needs to connect.

He also has a charming American accent that he puts on!

Hugo Blick says that he likes to cast actors with a comedic background because they bring a different energy. Do you agree?
It’s the energy of desperately trying to fit in! Yeah, sure I think it fights against audience expectations. It casts against type and brings a tension to the piece. I don’t particularly think of myself as very funny but I guess some people do. Michael Ennis is desperately sad and he overcompensates for this, and perhaps that’s where the humour comes from.

Will you be back to work here in London again soon?
Geez, I hope so. Maybe 12 months out of the year I’d like to work in London! The talent there is matchless - I don’t want to get myself into trouble for saying that - but everybody is just so willing to pitch in. They’re so well-prepared and crafted. I have a great respect for them.

What is your favourite thing to do in London when you’re not working?
Walking. My very favourite thing is St James Park and the peace that it gives within that bustling city. I love travelling to areas of London that I’ve never been before and the restaurants are out of this world. I just adore it. One of the highlights of my life was doing the West End a few years back. I could just do that and retire.