• Alt
  • Alt

A fantastic interview with Tom Riley has been shared here by ITV to promote new series Dark Heart. Tom chats about the series stunts, filming challenges, and being a low key hoarder. For those interested in the filming locations for Dark Heart, this site has shared an article and a couple of brilliant action photos from the series. One in particular for Da Vinci's Demons fans. 

Don't forget to watch Sunday Brunch on Channel 4 tomorrow morning to catch Tom's appearance. Also, listen out for an interview with Tom on Gaby Roslin's BBC Radio London show tomorrow afternoon. A busy day for Tom, but a great day for us! And there's even more to come next week!!


Can you explain to us who Will Wagstaffe is?

The reason I wanted to do Dark Heart was because it came from a place of character first. Will ‘Staffe’ Wagstaffe is such an interesting messed up guy. He is fundamentally flawed and unable to maintain solid relationships anywhere in his life. But the one thing he is good at is police work, that is if he’s not letting his own emotions cloud his judgement. He lost his parents when he was a kid in an unsolved murder. That has driven him for the whole of his adult life to try and find justice for them.

If he can’t find justice for them, then to put that desire to right wrongs into his work. It feels like his choice of career is because of what happened to his parents. If he is unable to solve that crime then he will try and solve others. Wagstaffe is unable to let go of the fact his parents were shot as innocent bystanders caught up in someone else’s crime. His whole life has been influenced by that. He is stuck in this suspended state from when his parents died.

How else has his parents’ murder impacted on him?

His parents were taken from him when he was young and so he has a real problem with emotionally investing in people and having empathy with them. He keeps everyone at arm’s length. The only thing he recognises are the people who won’t leave him. His sister Juliette (Charlotte Riley) and nephew Harry (Joseph Teague). He puts them first in front of everyone else.

Will gets uncomfortable with other people being emotional around him. Whether it’s victims or families of victims. He’s not 100 per cent comfortable with anyone getting upset and hands that over to another member of the team. But when it comes to Harry, where the love is unconditional, he suddenly finds another part of himself that is able to open up to his nephew and be there for him. Even more so than for his sister.

What themes are explored in Dark Heart?

The theme of justice and how we define it, is what this series is about. It’s also caught up inherently in the character of ‘Staffe’. In that there are these shades of grey to morality. What is right and what is wrong and those that are seeking a particular form of justice – are they right or wrong?

There was an interesting quote I read by Nietzsche: ‘He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.’ That’s very much what happens to Will. He deals with the darker underbelly of London. The most unpleasant parts of the criminal underworld. And he has to be careful the monster doesn’t become him.

What makes Dark Heart different to other ‘police’ dramas?

There are a lot of procedural dramas already so you want to stand out. But not just for the show. We wanted to stand out for ourselves. We wanted to make something that excited us. That felt vital, fresh and new. We’ve all been fighting and working hard to make it very character driven, very unexpected endings, not necessarily the most satisfying conclusion. It’s messier, like real life is.

In the age of prestige TV it’s also very important to make yourself look and feel as expensive, classy and different than the average run of the mill dramas. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort into interesting locations and shots, shooting guerilla-style in London.

You put your make up and costume on in the morning and then you cannot return to base because you’re a 25-minute drive away and there’s no time. You’re literally changing in a pub toilet and rushing to another location. We shot on the sly in places you normally wouldn’t see without the general public waving at the camera.

It does make for great locations on TV but it’s hard on the crew. We also filmed a lot at night but it does all come together and hopefully we’ve made something original, new and fresh.

How would you describe Will’s relationship with his sister Juliette?

For me, so much of the show hangs around that relationship between Will and his sister Jules. I also adore working with Charlotte Riley. She is brilliant, makes unexpected choices and pushes my buttons. They are very tight because they had that shared trauma of the murder of their parents when they were younger. But at the same time, they are very different people with very different outlooks on life. They can really annoy each other like any siblings would. They are not too good at hugging or looking after each other. But there is a fundamental deep primal love between them that keeps them together.

Can you tell us who are the other important people in his life?

Miranda Raison plays Sylvie, who is Will’s girlfriend. Although it’s an on, off relationship. Again, it’s a case of him pushing the people away who could potentially be closest to him and not being very comfortable with any intimacy that comes from a deeper relationship. Sylvie is probably the closest thing he has to that. And the closest thing he has to a confidante or someone who isn’t related to him who actually wants to hang out with him. He doesn’t necessarily treat Sylvie in the best way and doesn’t give her the credit she deserves as a successful woman in her own right. He can take people for granted. But it’s just something he does.

Then there’s DC Josie Chancellor, played by Anjli Mohindra. He never gives her any thanks. Josie begins the series looking at Will as the cop she wants to be. The detective she looks up to and the person she aspires to become in her own profession. But as the series progresses she’s going to get a different view of him after watching his methods and how he treats other people. He should listen to her rather than making her listen to him.

Were you involved in any stunts during filming?

I’ve done a lot of stunts on other jobs and also on Dark Heart. There was one high level scene in this that was easily the tensest I’ve ever felt on a set. There was a lot of anxiety in the room - including the entire crew - before that stunt happened. It’s terrifying. Watching the stunt person and realising how high up we were. But then it went off without a hitch.

Was there a particular celebration during filming?

I celebrated my birthday during filming. It’s weird to work on your birthday on a set. Most people who go to work on their birthday get to go home and have dinner with their partner or family. In this case you’re filming on your birthday and you’re here until midnight so there were no drinks involved. I don’t know how people found out because I didn’t tell anyone but it was lovely. They gave me a cake and a little celebration.

When you are filming a big drama like this you have to miss other people’s birthdays and weddings. Although I’m getting better at saying, ‘Look, I’ve got to go to this wedding.’ Because you do look back and think, ‘I missed my best friend’s wedding. All I saw was a DVD they sent.’ So I’m trying to be a better friend in that respect.

Wagstaffe keeps case files in his attic. Are you good at getting rid of clutter?

I would say I’m not a hoarder at all. But then again, maybe I’m a low key hoarder. I’ll find my bedside cabinets have ended up filled with stuff. Just a tiny small area of the house becomes my place where I shove stuff and forget about it. But generally, I’m pretty good. I’ve moved house a couple of times in the last two years so I’ve got very good at getting rid of the excess stuff.

Is there an extra responsibility on you as the ‘leading’ man in a TV drama?

There’s an onus on you to talk to everyone. Be kind and welcome people. I love that. I love hearing their stories. The only thing is once you do that and you work as well for 14 hours each day, by the time you go home you haven’t got much juice left in the tank. I do think it’s an important responsibility. I’ve been on enough sets myself as a guest actor to know what it’s like to feel lost and that you might not be doing a good job. You get the best work out of people by encouraging them, supporting them and being interested in them. You put yourself to one side for the course of the shoot.

There are some excellent guest actors in this series. Our casting director Andy Morgan did a phenomenal job. And I told him that myself. That’s what really elevates a show like this. Every day you’ve got new people coming in. It’s always tricky to say, ‘Welcome to the set. This is what we’re doing. This is how it’s going to be.’ And they might not be there for very long. The guest actors cast in Dark Heart were all superb. Across the board. They just came in and nailed in. Often in very difficult emotional scenes as well. Andy has been brilliant and we were very lucky to have both him and those guest actors.

What approach did the director Colin Teague take?

Colin has incredible visual flair. He’s the one that makes the show stand out. He’s always one for grabbing an interesting shot, doing the thing that feels really difficult but it’s worth doing, he really goes above and beyond. He’s also just pure energy. I talk about me having to do 14 hours days and keep up but Colin has to do that too. He never complains, doesn’t get frustrated. We have an easy shorthand with one another about what we both feel does and doesn’t work. And we can say it to each other without offending.

What has your choice of profession as an actor given you?

It’s a double-edged sword. The positive aspects of it are you have more access to empathy. You’re so used to having to work out why a character does a certain thing and why they behave in a certain way, I think it makes you open to understanding other people’s points of view as you go through life. You are also more comfortable in social situations. You’re good at stepping in to somewhere and having to meet new people because you do it all the time all around the world. You’re constantly having to meet a whole new bunch of people during filming and then having to be confident in front of a camera.

The con side of it is, depending on how successful you get, you have to be very careful not to become self-absorbed. People will tell you that you are the greatest thing in a room and you have to be very careful not to listen to the hype or believe it. Just accept that could evaporate in the wind as early as tomorrow. You should stay as grounded as you possibly can. Even when it’s people who are working with you, the faster you get things the ruder you can become. You’ve got to resist all of those urges. Wash your own underwear in the sink and remember who you really are.

Do you have an off-screen talent we might not know about?

I’m pretty good at cooking. I like to cook. I like the whole ritual of it. I don’t have any favourite meals to cook in particular, there’s just too many to choose from.

What do you have lined up after Dark Heart?

I’ve directed a film called The Toll Road which will take up all my time so I’m actively not looking for work right now. I’m sure within a month I’ll be panicking. But I’m working on the edit and directing, which is a whole different world. I’d like to do more directing. I got a real kick out of it. I’ve loved every minute. I was completely burned out from doing a play and squeezed it in before I did 10 weeks on Dark Heart. But I was surprised by just how energised I felt at the end of every night. I’m very used to feeling like I need to just flop into bed. But that made me feel very alive.

Leave a Comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Fill in the blank.