Rufus Sewell on his new series, The Pale Horse
Tell us about your new series, The Pale Horse…
It’s quite remarkable and quite surprising – that’s what attracted me to it. My character’s name, Mark Easterbrook, is found on a list in the shoe of the body of a dead woman. He seems to be a suspect and when other people on that list start to drop, he is afraid for his own life and is trying to clear his name.
Was it great to do an Agatha Christie story?
I’ve always wanted to be in an Agatha Christie or a Charles Dickens – I’ve not done a Dickens yet. And it’s a different type of Christie: it was written in the 60s, and so is set in a milieu that we don’t always associate with her; pre-swinging London. My character is an antiques dealer and moves among the chattering classes of the day. And then it goes into a Wicker Man- ish rural setting, so that was exciting.
The Man In The High Castle, which posited what would happen had Germany won the Second World War, was such a hit. I heard someone did a ‘Hitler salute’ at you…?
It happened quite often. People thought they were doing it ironically, but still… Three guys ‘sieg- heiled’ me at the airport. I think they thought it was funny. There was one weird moment in a gym changing room in LA; a guy had been looking at me. As he left he said, “See you around, you Nazi b*stard.” It was how everyone looked at me afterwards: “Did he know him from a rally?” I had to explain.
Given how long your career has been, are you able to smell the roses?
Actually, yes. And the fact is, I’m 52, and right now I really like the way it is. I was worried that I was more useful than people realised as an actor. That’s dangerous because it can trick you into not being grateful for the stuff you are doing.
Do you feel when you’re desperate for something it doesn’t happen, but then the moment you let go is when the magic comes?
Yes, but there is a danger that you’re treating the universe like some girl you fancy. “You know, I’m just going to walk past – I don’t even care!” The universe, like her, can smell that. You’ve got to be on the lookout for hidden desired outcomes. Do you secretly think the universe will hear that and think, “Now you’ve earned that”? I’ve caught myself doing that: “I don’t need any more than I have right now!” While secretly hoping that some celestial casting director will go, “OK! He’s ready!” You can’t fake it with work or love.
You’re never the same guy twice.
It is so gratifying to hear that… Usually, if I get offered a US role, it’s been upper- class, olden days, at least rakish, possibly evil. I’ve played two different villains who’ve died by their cravat being tied to a train. Two! That still happens now, but I can laugh.
The Pale Horse is airing now on BBC One