Boris Pasternak’s Russian novel, Doctor Zhivago, was adapted for television back in 2002. Hans Matheson played alongside Keira Knightley and Sam Neill in a role that shot him onto an international podium. 300: Rise of an Empire was his latest big-screen role back in 2014 and now, in 2016, he's the lead in a new TV show set in the Yorkshire Dales during the 1870s, Jericho.
We took some time for a quick, cool chat with the man of the hour.
You're starring in a new TV show called Jericho. Can you tell us a bit about the story and your role?
Jericho is a rich and colourful ensemble of characters all brought together by the building of the viaducts in Yorkshire in 1870. Jericho is the name given to one of the shanty towns that were built up alongside the viaducts so people could sleep, eat, trade, drink, visit brothels, etc. As a result of this, small communities were formed. This is a story about the characters in that community and how they work together and have struggled.
My character, Johnny, is someone you can rely on, his heart is true. In times of crisis he acts with courage. He is a good friend to have by your side. But he has a past which he cannot come to terms with. Life is about to unravel and it’ll challenge him. He is going to be forced to face up to things. But ultimately it’s going to be his liberation. Love is at work and there is no stopping it when it moves.
Jericho is somewhere outsiders can belong. There is a freedom of people not knowing who you are and what you might have done and this is appealing to Johnny. He wants to belong somewhere and with someone.
I read that you’re a keen musician and songwriter; what kind of music are you into? What inspires you?
Anything from Beethoven to Lady Gaga to Michael Jackson. MJ is one of my favourite performers of all time. I love to dance to Applause by Lady Gaga. I often listen to that song while skipping. I also love the band Sun, Kill, Moon – they are folky and melancholic. What I listen to always depends on my mood. I’ll play anything on the guitar. Over Christmas me and my pals got together and with a guitar, harmonium and percussion and we played carols: Silent Night, Away In A Manger… all the classics.
You’ve had experience in both TV and large-scale productions like 300: Rise of an Empire. Who have you most enjoyed working with?
One of the people I have most enjoyed working with is Giacomo Campiotti on Doctor Zhivago. We are still friends to this day just because of his passion for the work and he is just wonderful at getting performances out of the actors. He plays games during takes which will force something out of you that you’re not expecting. He brings the best out of the performance and he believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself. Like a football manager when things are not necessarily going well, you don’t give up, he is – one hundred percent – on your side and has your back. It honestly just brings out the best in you and everyone else. I just really love him as a person.
Also, all of the directors on Jericho are fantastic; they all have very different energies and are really enjoyable to work with. The scripts were good and there is a great energy and chemistry between the cast. Everyone really felt that there was a kind of spirit in Jericho and that something was happening, but no one really knew what it was. It was really exciting and made it a lot easier for all of us.
What did you get up to around Christmas? Do you retreat to the Scottish countryside?
Christmas was a very simple gathering with friends and family, singing carols and lighting fires. Fires are one of my favourite things in the world. I love wood. I love collecting and kindling wood. My fondest memories are of great conversations with great company looking through the flames of a fire.
Do you have any resolutions (or plans) for 2016?
Yes – my buddies and I want to learn and try to sing Billy Jean. I need to find a new house. And go to dance lessons, I want to learn how to tango – I love dancing.