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Andrew knows all about going back to a home town

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 01, 2012

Andrew Scott as Mark in new ITV series, The Town

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There's a big shock in the first episode of new drama series The Town.

It would ruin things to reveal it but, suffice to say, it's not what you expect from a prime-time drama – particularly, one could argue, one on ITV.

But it was this fresh, new writing which attracted Andrew Scott – the Bafta-winning actor who played Moriarty in the recent BBC hit Sherlock – to the series.

"That's the work that you want to do as an actor, you want people to be surprised," says the 36-year-old Irishman.

"You feel like it's a surprise for the viewers and it's a new thing for ITV. While we were filming, we talked a lot about the audience and what people expect now from a drama and we realised it was important we didn't patronise the audience any more."

The drama is from the pen of Mike Bartlett, a 32-year-old playwright who recently adapted Chariots Of Fire for the stage and who Andrew has worked with before, on a play with a name far too rude to be written down here. He blushes slightly and laughs, saying: "Actually the play, typically of Mike, was less out-there than the title suggests. Maybe certain people wouldn't go and watch a play with that title, but they missed out."

Indeed the play, which was on at the Royal Court, won Bartlett a Laurence Olivier Award for outstanding achievement, and was something which Andrew was incredibly proud to be part of. His casting in The Town comes as a result of their continued association.

"I love his dialogue," says Andrew, "It's very imaginative, he's got an unusual turn of phrase, and he's got an idea of how people actually speak rather than television speak. He likes a bit of pace and so do I, so it's a good fit."

The drama, which also counts Martin Clunes, Phil Davies and Miss Marple's Julia McKenzie among it's all-star cast, sees his character Mark return to his home town from London and try to settle back in.

But it's not quite as straightforward as it sounds. Andrew, clearly passionate about the project, says: "It's more avant garde, whatever that means, and I think that's what people crave. Think of the really imaginative American TV series like Six Feet Under or Breaking Bad, those are the things that people watch. TV doesn't have to be formulaic. And Mike's big thing is that popular [TV] doesn't need to be dumbed down."

He points out Julia's role in the drama as an example. She plays Mark's grandmother – but she's not your average slippers-and-knitting type.

"Julia McKenzie was really brilliant about how 'grannies' are perceived. She said that generation don't require cosy, safe drama, they want to be entertained as much as anyone else. These are modern grandparents, and her character's wearing jeans and is very clued in," he explains.

His character, Mark, is also someone who – much like Moriarty – "keeps the audience guessing", according to Andrew. But he could sympathise with the character too, especially when it came to the scenes in which he readjusts to life back home.

It's a scenario which Andrew is familiar with, having left his native Dublin for London ten years ago.

"Well, Dublin is a big city as well, but one misses Dublin. My family are there and lots of my friends, and I go back there a lot. There's still that feeling of belonging somewhere but not having lived there for ten years. You know the place like the back of your hand," he says.

Growing up in Dublin, Andrew knew from a young age that he wanted to be an actor. "It's a very funny thing," he recalls, "I remember when I was eight years old, I wanted to act. I didn't think about acting professionally but I did drama classes. I was a shy kid and it helped me. If you're eight and you can get up and read a poem in front of other people, it really sets something up for you for the rest of your life, not just for showbiz but if you ever have to give a speech."

Andrew was only 17 when he was cast in acclaimed Irish film Korea. It set him on a path to stardom, which took in roles in Saving Private Ryan, John Adams and Lennon Naked, all the way to the Baftas, where he picked up the best supporting actor award for Sherlock.

He was praised for his unpredictable and terrifying characterisation of Arthur Conan Doyle's best villain. But he admits that his drama training couldn't prepare him for having to get up and make an acceptance speech.

"That was terrifying," he says, running his fingers through his hair.

The Town begins on ITV1 on Wednesday at 9pm.

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