SEAN’S BEEN TO HELL (AND HE LOVED IT)
Playing an investigator who’s been brought back to life in The Frankenstein Chronicles has been dead good fun, says Sean Bean
Sean Bean, the Hollywood sex symbol? At the moment, he looks anything but. Chatting at Myra Castle, an imposing house close to Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland where he’s filming series two of ITV’s gothic horror The Frankenstein Chronicles, the Yorkshireman looks like Worzel Gummidge after ten rounds with Mike Tyson. ‘My character John Marlott, a private investigator, has gone through Hell,’ explains the 58year-old, gesturing to his unkempt hair, week-long stubble and blood-stained shirt. ‘He was brought back to life after being hanged at the end of series one, and has just escaped from the mental asylum Bedlam, where he’d been chained to a wall on the grounds he was criminally insane. Now he’s taken refuge in one of the poorest areas of Georgian London. He’s far more concerned with survival than how he looks.’
The five-times married former star of 90s Napoleonic War series Sharpe, who still cuts quite a dash in a suit, is clearly enjoying filming this new series of the highly-rated period thriller. ‘I’ve spent the last week covered in fake blood, and that tells you all you need to know about it. The first series was more cerebral, but this time round there’s violence, passion and heartbreak. It does what it says on the tin and it gives you horror by the bucketload.
‘It’s brilliant to act in,’ says Sean. ‘There’s no “What’s my motivation for this scene?” – you just do it! It’s daunting when you just launch into the scene, it’s like jumping off a springboard.’
Series one of The Frankenstein Chronicles, inspired by Mary Shelley’s novel, began with former soldier John Marlott working as a policeman patrolling the River Thames. The discovery of a horrific patchwork creature made up of stitched-together body parts in the shallows of the river set him on a mission to track down its creator.
By the series finale, Marlott was closing in on the villain, only to be framed for murder and hanged. But in scenes straight out of a Hollywood horror movie, dangerous scientist Lord Daniel Hervey (Ed Stoppard) shockingly brought Marlott back from the dead – Frankenstein-style.
‘The story has moved on three years to 1830 and Marlott is still on a mission to right the wrongs of the past but he’s a fugitive now, operating outside of the law,’ explains Sean. And there’s a supernatural element, too. ‘He’s not alive but nor is he dead – he’s somewhere between Heaven and Hell.’
Entering this dangerous world for series two is former Lewis star Laurence Fox, as Frederick Dipple, a German aristocrat with a keen eye for fashion and a passion for robots. ‘He’s incredibly wealthy. I don’t think I get vaguely dirty, even when I’m fighting,’ says Laurence. ‘I think the entire costume budget went on Dipple, and that is fine by me.’
Both Marlott and Dipple are drawn towards another new character, Esther Rose, a brilliant seamstress played by Maeve Dermody, who provides Marlott with lodgings in her home in run-down Pye Street, and in whom Dipple is romantically interested. Marlott meanwhile can see ghosts, among them Esther’s late son. Sean says the supernatural thread was part of the appeal of the show and why he was keen to sign up for another series. ‘The supernatural does interest me and I like ghost stories. I wouldn’t say I like horror, seeing gratuitous violence and blood everywhere, but I do like stories of ghostly hauntings.
‘Although I’ve yet to see a ghost,’ he adds. ‘Frustratingly, there are supposed to be several at Myra Castle. One even apparently turned up during filming, when I wasn’t around, in a very dark tunnel which runs for half a mile from the main building and dates back to 1844. We used it for filming and apparently a shadowy figure emerged that was there one minute, gone the next. I wish I’d been there to witness it!’
Sean says he often receives scripts for spooky shows where things go bump in the night, but most of them aren’t in the same league as The Frankenstein Chronicles. ‘With some scripts, I barely get past the first page. So many are just predictable and dull, and I get fed up reading mediocre stuff. Thankfully, this show is much better written.’
A downside of filming is being away from his beautiful home in Somerset, which he shares with wife Ashley Moore, a former nanny who is 26 years his junior. But how would Sean feel about being immortal like Marlott? ‘You could carry a lot of sadness and grief from losing loved ones. It sounds good on paper but I don’t know.’
The Frankenstein Chronicles, Wednesday, 10pm, ITV Encore.
‘I wish I’d seen the ghost that emerged on our set!’
L-r: Esther Rose, John Marlott and Frederick Dipple