A new interview with Tom for the Western Morning News has been shared online. We get more details about Pushing Dead (but sadly still know nothing about Tom's character), why he wanted to get involved in Kill Your Friends, and the bittersweet ending of Da Vinci's Demons. Read it in full on the site.
The Londoner and star of historical romp Da Vinci's Demons has bleach-blond locks from his latest role in black comedy film Pushing Dead – and he hates it. "Boy band hair is not a good look on me at all," says the 34-year-old, "so I'm desperately looking for somebody to dye it back to my normal colour. Immediately!"
It sounds like the job was worth it though – co-starring Danny Glover, it focuses on the San Francisco HIV community and is the first feature-length film from Sundance Screenwriters Lab film-maker Tom E. Brown.
"He's HIV positive and wanted to write a film about the HIV community in San Francisco, and the hierarchy that exists within it now," explains the actor. "It [HIV] has kind of been forgotten about, people don't talk about it any more, now there are drugs to treat it. It's a strange black comedy, which is sad and funny and gentle. I really enjoyed it."
Riley's peroxide look is certainly a change from the long, scraggly locks he sported as artist Leonardo Da Vinci in season two of Fox's Da Vinci's Demons, or the scrubbed up, clean-cut anaesthetist Dr Lawrence Shepherd in Monroe. While he was still filming the latter show, he slimmed down, losing a stone and a half (with the help of Daniel Craig's trainer) in preparation for portraying lean vegetarian Da Vinci.
"I missed pasta so much for three years, and that's pretty much all I've eaten since it got cancelled," he says, joking that he's done nothing but "eat foie gras" and "lie on my back in the sun" since he finished filming the third – and final – season.
The brainchild of Batman screenwriter David S. Goyer, it was developed in collaboration with BBC Worldwide, filmed in Wales and based on the true story of the young genius Da Vinci. Riley admits the show's ending is "bittersweet".
"It'll be a shame not to see all those people and play that part any more, because it was such a wild and spontaneous part. But we've managed to do something here which is a rarity – it has closure. We wrap up the show in a way that will not leave fans feeling like they've been short-changed. I'm sad, but happy that we've been able to end it on our own terms."
Fans should be prepared for the hero to get in some pretty hot water this season. "It's a season about consequences," reveals Riley. "Everything that's happened over the first two years, with all the characters, but especially Leonardo and Lucrezia, who have left behind a trail of death and destruction – it's all going to come back to haunt them. They're going to pay for it at great personal cost and we're going to see everyone unravel."
There was also more fighting for the LAMDA-trained actor, in complicated sequences put together by Star Wars' stunt coordinator Nick Gillard. "Oh, there's a lot of fighting!" says Kent-born Riley. "They're big on stage fighting at LAMDA, and thank God they were, because I had to do such complex fights. It's a real step up from last season, it's a lot more balletic and choreographed and impressive."
With stunts comes the risk of injuries – one even made it into the final cut. "In the first episode, there's an explosion and I get caught in the face; that actually happened by accident on set," explains the star. "They pressed a button too early and you can see me get hit in the face and go down. We then downed tools and didn't film for the rest of the day because my face was bleeding, but it looked good on camera!"
Filming in Wales was handy for commuting home to London at weekends, but Riley admits it was "hard to fake the heat" of Italy. "You're having to hide that you're shivering when you're only wearing a light shirt, stripped down to your belly button."
Not that stripping on screen bothers him too much... "It's fine – as long as it's necessary, then it's OK. When you've done all that work for it, then you may as well!"
The show – and Riley – have such an ardent following, there was even an online petition to save it at tom-riley.com, and he's seen some bizarre fan behaviour. In a Swansea supermarket, two Japanese girls took photos of the food in his trolley, and he's also had fan mail from a dog and been mobbed in Portugal.
"It engenders a giant passion in people. I was in a pharmacy in San Francisco just yesterday and this guy started crying because he was such a big fan of the show. "We were in Portugal and people went bonkers, tearing at our clothes and pulling our shoes off. It's madness!" Despite that, sometimes "you can walk around and no one has any idea who you are", he adds.
He may have to get used to the attention though, because he's in demand now Da Vinci's done. "There's a lot of really interesting stuff come my way," he says, but what he takes on will depend on "whether it's worth it, or whether I just need to recharge my batteries".
Next month, he'll be on the big screen in Brit flick Kill Your Friends, based on the book by John Niven and starring Nicholas Hoult as a music talent scout in the Nineties, going to extreme lengths to find the next big hit. "It's just savage. It was such a dark, nasty book and the cast that was in place was so interesting. I fell in love with music in the Nineties, that entire Britpop period meant a lot to me, so I wanted to get involved."
Hoult's a friend of Riley's, and he hasn't a bad word to say about any of the cast, including Ed Skrein, Craig Roberts and James Corden. "It was a really nice bunch of people. You must get sick of hearing that, but it's true. 'Everyone's so nice, we all love each other so much!'" he says, laughing.
The film biz, like the music industry, can be pretty cut-throat though. And an awful lot of British actors are vying for Hollywood roles these days – it must get competitive? "Not really," says Riley. "It's a lot more like that in your early twenties, when you're ambitious and hungry, but by the time you get to your early thirties, you realise that things come and go and you can have a quiet year and then you have a better year; someone will be doing well and then they'll be doing less well. "It goes like that forever. You lose that desire of, 'I have to get this job, it means everything to me'. I take DVDs off the shelf of stuff I've done before and think, 'God, that mattered so much to me when I was auditioning for it and now it's just a DVD I can't quite remember doing'. You get a different perspective."
For now, he's earned a well-deserved break after laying Da Vinci to rest. "I didn't know how much this kind of job could take it out of you, but it completely wipes you out. You need to recharge and find a love for [acting] again afterwards – and I'm kind of in that place. "I'm not in a huge rush to take anything or sign up for another show or even do a long stage run," Riley concludes. "It's nice to be free."