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Blake Ritson on greed, Riario's demons and the future

Hattie and you have worked together on several short films. What was it like?

Terrific! We actually met at Cambridge University where we worked on plays together. We did a few by my brother, strangely.

In fact, Hattie met my brother before she met me. And then we did a play up in Edinburgh. It wasn’t the first time that we worked together but it was the first time I directed Hattie. It’s lovely, I think, to work with people who you have very close sensibility with; creative affinity is always exciting.

And would you like to work together again as co-stars or as director and actor?

I’d love to. We worked on some radio plays together. And we almost worked together on a play once. And we almost worked on a film together once. Yeah, it’d be lovely.

Do you plan to direct or write more?

Well, I’ve got a few writing commissions at the moment. I write and direct with my brother Dylan. There’s a feature film which at the moment we hope to direct next year. But it’s tricky; one never knows with acting: I thought I would direct this year but a very lovely job called Indian Summers came up, so I’ve been in Malaysia filming that for five months. So one can never really predict what’s round the corner.

And which do you prefer, acting or directing?

I enjoy them both. They are such different disciplines… And writing as well. Writing, directing and acting – all fulfill very different parts of your creative imagination. I’d love to juggle all three. Greedy, I know.

Oh, it’s wonderful, I think. Recently you played in several big period dramas.


Was it a coincidence or do you like parts like this?

Interesting. I’ve been asked that a few times. I think it’s not that I gravitate towards period dramas, I gravitate towards interesting parts, and it just so happened that they have been in period films. I think quite often a period drama by definition has a certain scale to it, and because of that process, maybe, there’s ambition behind the characterization which you want to fulfill. No, it wasn’t intentional, just the way it played out.

Do you like playing bad guys?

I do! I did this American TV show called Da Vinci Demons for the past three years. People say I’m playing a villain in this but I always think of him- he  thinks he’s a hero. I think it’s strange and very difficult to play the part thinking he’s a villain. The part I play in Da Vinci Demons, Riario, he is not a very religious man but he thinks almost like a Crusader, that he is fighting to save humanity. Any part has their demons, their complexities. I enjoy playing complex characters. I don’t mind if it’s a hero who has the demons or a darker character who has some heroic traits. They almost meet in the middle sometimes.

Thank you. What is your approach to playing historical characters, like the Duke of Kent in Upstairs Downstairs?

Well, I always think that whoever you are playing, you have a kind of duty to research it: you read a little about the socio-historical climate, you read about  who that character is, who they were, you do as much of research as you can. But invariably what you do in a TV show is a very separate entity, so you try to reflect history as close as you can but then the writer or the showrunner create its own coherent universe that you have to honour, so  in a way the script becomes the new blueprint that you have to honour. But sometimes you can incorporate little bits of historical texture which will add something to it.

Okay, and what parts would you like to play in the future?

In the future? Oh my gosh, that’s a good question. I don’t know, anything that’s kind of- I like to play something that’s very different every tome, so I went from playing Edward III who is kind of this war-like king, to the Duke of Kent who’s a bisexual, partying playboy prince to Riario who was an incredibly dark, brooding, broken creature, and then I’ve just been playing a character called Charlie Havistock in Indian Summers who’s incredibly- He’s fun to play but he is in some ways a very light character but also a broken creature. I don’t know, I just like variety. I’d like to do a comedy next. I think. I started out doing comedy, but I haven’t done comedy for a while. I did a short film a couple of years ago which was great fun.  I might do something comic, to give myself a break. 

Authors: Elina Bogdanova, Anna Kiseleva, Ekaterina Pruss
Photo: Pavel Poboruev

Special thanks to art-group CoolConnections and British Council in Russia.

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