Here’s a new series that starts this week, which has a strong period feel and a story we all know – Frankenstein. Inspector John Marlott, played by multi-award winning leading actor Sean Bean, finds the body of a young girl half submerged in the mud of the Thames. There’s something strange about this girl’s cadavar – she seems to have been stitched together in a hideous manner. This lead Marlott into a fairly terrifying and tasty investigation. Look out for Anna Maxwell Martin as Mary Shelley. We got hold of an interview with Sean Bean, which is after the jump.
The Killing Times: Can you introduce us to your character?
Sean Bean: I play a character called John Marlott, who at the beginning of the series, is a River Policeman. He’s been that for some time, before that he was in the Peninsula Wars and fought at the battle of Waterloo. He’d gone from job to job, a soldier in the wars. Then he’s gone on to the River Police and that’s where he does what he does until this creature; a body made of different corpses, turns up on the beach. He discovers it and that brings him into contact with Sir Robert Peel, who was Home Secretary at the time and that was quite a big deal for Marlott. I wouldn’t say he was an overly ambitious man, but it’s certainly a turning point for him because he’s offered a role as a detective in the Metropolitan Police as it was forming, by Robert Peel. He goes on to investigate and try to get to the bottom of this very dark, shady story.
TKT: He seems quite a versatile character; more than a detective in many ways?
SB: I guess because of his past and his vocations in life, being a soldier and working with people, ordinary working class people, he’s very familiar and at home with them. Which is a feather in his cap in terms of people trusting him or accepting him as one of them. But he’s also able to relate to the upper classes, the Lords and Ladies, the surgeons and doctors. Sir William Chester and Lord Hervey. He’s got a very clever way of getting himself in there. I think most of them think he doesn’t know a great deal, he’s just chipping in with little bits here and there and he’s not going to get anywhere. But he’s actually quite an intelligent guy and he knows where people’s weak spots are.
TKT: It is quite a cerebral character for you. He’s a thinker isn’t he?
SB: Yes, he’s a very cerebral kind of chap. He thinks and tries to find logic and reason as he’s going along. It is a journey where he’s thrown straight into this kind of mayhem with this corpse and this outrage. He’s really on his own because nobody’s really helping him; whether they’ve got things to hide or not. Marlott suspects in time that there is a lot more behind this than just a couple of individuals; that it goes much higher in the establishment, which is quite topical considering it’s happening now to some extent in the Establishment and the House of Lords. He is a thinker. He’s very much a loner. He lost his wife and his child when she was very young, through his own fault really, which is something that always weighs him down and saddens him. He’s trying to redeem himself in some way, by trying to get to the boMom of why these children have been mutilated and dismembered and put back together again.
TKT: He seems to be operating in quite a lawless society, there was no police force at that particular time. Is there an underlying element to the series in that it feels a bit like a Western?
SB: Yes. He’s like a Sheriff. I think that is to do with Ben [Ross] a lot – the director. I know he’s a fan of good Westerns, like Billy The Kid; we ofen talk about it and we really like that. He has brought that quality. It was like that at the time, you can draw a lot of parallels to the Wild West; the hats, the guns. The guns aren’t as widespread as they were in America, but it’s certainly something that has that feel of a Wild Western. People are out of control. There’s so much going on, really. People are starting to ask questions about religion and there’s this new passionate interest in science and what science can bring. There are so many things happening culturally and politically, and with the philosophies of different groups of people, that it’s a big cauldron of emoticons and conflicts. He’s thrown into that, and he is a kind of lone rider as it were.
TKT: Benjamin Ross wrote and directed the series. What is it like having a writer director to work with onset? Does it help?
SB: Yes it makes a big difference having Ben around. That’s not always a good combination. I’ve worked with directors who wrote the things themselves and it’s not really turned out that well because sometimes a director can get very protective, it’s his baby. It can tend to become very insular, in their approach to whatever the project is. But Ben is very outgoing and very focused and passionate about what he’s doing. He knows it inside out. He’s also very talented and has really got a vision and an eye for different lenses and different camera moves, to create this incredibly suspenseful atmosphere. They look like pictures, like Caravaggio paintings, they’re so beautiful. I can totally trust. I can see where he’s trying to go and he knows it inside out, so it’s a very enjoyable job to do for me.
TKT: The London in this series is so different to that which we know today; it’s almost rural. Was that strange for you?
SB: It was. The really good thing about this is that I’ve never shot anything where we’ve been in so many locations, so many fantastic panoramic sets that are real. No studio work, it’s just been travelling every day to a castle or an abbey or cellars underground, cobbled streets. It’s quite astounding and it’s very ambitious to try and do that but it worked really well and it really gives you that expanse of London and things going on above ground and under ground and in back streets, everywhere. You feel it’s a really thriving hotch-potch of different people, different nationalities and different religions. It was such a volatile time and I think Ben has captured that beautifully.
The Frankenstein Chronicles: Wednesday 11th November, 10pm, ITV Encore