‘MY CA­REER HAD STALLED’

Ioan Gruf­fudd shed his shirt to rebuild his ca­reer

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE - FOR­EVER WED­NES­DAY, 8.45PM, NINE

HE has the fop­pish good looks of Hugh Grant, the man­nered in­tel­lect of Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch and just a lit­tle of Jude Law’s smoul­der­ing sex ap­peal thrown in for good mea­sure.

So why has it taken this long for the US net­works to dis­cover the lead­ing-man de­lights of Welsh heart-throb, Ioan Gruf­fudd – the hot lead in Nine’s mur­der mys­tery se­ries, For­ever?

The man made fa­mous to UK and Aus­tralian au­di­ences as the swash­buck­ling hero Ho­ra­tio in the long-run­ning his­tor­i­cal epic Horn­blower is the first to ad­mit his ca­reer seemed to sink a lit­tle af­ter the high-seas se­ries ended in 2003 – only to be thrown a de­cent life­line some 10 years later, with a guest role on Seven’s US who­dunit Cas­tle.

Gruf­fudd (Welsh for Grif­fith, whose first name is pro­nounced Jo­hann) is quite can­did about his pro­fes­sional re­birth on the small screen – play­ing med­i­cal ex­am­iner Henry Mor­gan, “who stud­ies the dead in crim­i­nal cases in or­der to work out the se­cret to his own im­mor­tal­ity”.

“It was just one of those things …[my ca­reer] had stut­tered and stalled a lit­tle bit and I needed to change things up. The pro­duc­ers of [ Cas­tle] wrote me a let­ter and said, ‘Lis­ten, we’re a great fan of yours and we’d love you to come in and play this part’,” he tells TV Guide.

That role, as mag­netic mil­lion­aire Erik Vaughn, was writ­ten as a ro­man­tic dis­trac­tion for the show’s cen­tral love­birds, Kate Beck­ett (played by Stana Katic) and Richard Cas­tle (Nathan Fil­lion).

But what it did, he says, was help stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives see Gruf­fudd as “strong lead­ing man ma­te­rial … to be seen in a sex­ual light”. Modestly, Mis­ter Fan­tas­tic from the Fan­tas­tic

Four films, says: “The char­ac­ters I have played in the past have been prob­a­bly more earnest and lik­able but never re­ally this lust­ful in his essence.”

Fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar tem­plate to Cas­tle, the 41-year-old stars in For­ever op­po­site Alana de la Garza’s ( Law & Or­der) at­trac­tive but com­pli­cated de­tec­tive Jo Martinez.

While their chem­istry is the key to one of the crit­i­cal re­la­tion­ships at the heart of the se­ries, it’s their char­ac­ters’ shared pain rather than just sex­ual ten­sion which should lure view­ers.

She’s a tough-talk­ing New York cop who drinks away the grief of los­ing her hus­band, while he’s mourn­ing his wife Abi­gal (MacKenzie Mauzy) who left him some­time af­ter 1965 (whether she is alive or dead re­mains a mys­tery).

This in­trigue adds lay­ers to the typ­i­cal po­lice pro­ce­dural, Gruf­fudd says, and makes the drama more in­ter­est­ing to play for the ac­tors.

There was just one twist Gruf­fudd baulked at when film­ing be­gan – the quirk that when his char­ac­ter dies in the course of cer­tain mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tions he must be re­born in wa­ter and in the buff.

On the page it sounded like an in­ter­est­ing idea, but the re­al­ity of get­ting naked in the months af­ter one of NY’s worst win­ters on record last year, the ac­tor said, was a leap too far.

“We shot the pi­lot here in March or April and it was still bloody freez­ing and they had this idea of putting me in the East River and I said, ‘Well, there’s no way I’m do­ing that be­cause a) it’s filthy but also b) I’ll die! You’ll find I’m not so im­mor­tal and we’re only on the pi­lot’.”

They used green-screen tech­nol­ogy to make the scene, but he still had to look like he was emerg­ing from the murky depths – all in -4C weather.

His choice of Pamela An­der­son-style ugg boots on set earned him some rib­bing from the cheeky crew, Gruf­fudd con­fessed.

“Every­body just gave me crap about that when I walked on set wear­ing those. They’d go, ‘Do they do those in men’s sizes as well?’ But I guess there comes a point where van­ity goes out the win­dow and there’s just a ne­ces­sity to keep warm.”

Bare essen­tials: Ioan Gruf­fudd’s For­ever char­ac­ter is reg­u­larly re­born in

the buff.

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