Bad blood

Nice guy Alexan­der Skars­gard keeps up the evil act in new Fox­tel drama se­ries, The Lit­tle Drum­mer Girl

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page -

ALEXAN­DER Skars­gård found out the hard way not to mess with Nicole Kid­man when he played the role of her abu­sive hus­band in Fox­tel’s mega HBO hit, Big Lit­tle Lies.

While his per­for­mance as Perry Wright may have shocked and dis­mayed many of his fans, it saw the Swedish favourite sweep last year’s awards sea­son – win­ning him an Emmy, a Golden Globe and the peer-voted Screen Ac­tors Guild award.

Kid­man says her 42-year- old co- star “was re­ally brave” to de­liver on such a bru­tal role that nec­es­sar­ily pitched him as the vil­lain in their vi­o­lent on- screen re­la­tion­ship.

It would end badly for Wright, but Skars­gård has been re­warded for be­ing such a con­vinc­ing bad guy – land­ing a new lead role in BBC First drama The Lit­tle

Drum­mer Girl (a six-part se­ries based on the famed spy novel by iconic es­pi­onage writer John le Carré).

Cast as yet an­other man driven to do the un­think­able – known to the au­di­ence as Joseph Becker, as well as a string of pseu­do­nyms – Skars­gård is clearly un­afraid of play­ing the un­lik­able.

“I can play th­ese roles be­cause it’s about un­der­stand­ing the frus­tra­tion th­ese men build up within them­selves,” Skars­gård tells TV Guide.

“Even if you play against how you are nat­u­rally, or how you want to be­have morally, or you’re do­ing things you would never do, you can do it by un­der­stand­ing that frus­tra­tion, tap­ping into that.”

Skars­gård’s Becker is a Mos­sad agent who goes about se­duc­ing an am­bi­tious ac­tress named Char­lie, played by ac­claimed English new­comer, Florence Pugh ( The Fall­ing, Lady Macbeth).

Re­cruited to join him un­der­cover, the pair must pre­tend to be lovers as they in­fil­trate a Pales­tinian ter­ror group.

“It’s not a black-and-white story,” Skars­gård ex­plains.

“It’s not the Mos­sad agents as he­roes against the bad-guy Pales­tini­ans. It’s more com­plex than that, oth­er­wise I wouldn’t have been in­ter­ested in telling that kind of story.

“But as far as get­ting Char­lie on the hook and draw­ing her in, Becker is very skilled at that kind of ma­nip­u­la­tion. What in­ter­ested me is that you can’t tell when he’s ma­nip­u­lat­ing her or ac­tu­ally fall­ing in love with her, and he strug­gles with [his feel­ings] as she gets too close to his heart.”

Jok­ing Skars­gård’s only f law was be­ing “an­noy­ingly per­fect,” Pugh says she rev­elled in the chance to work along­side her more ex­pe­ri­enced and charm­ing co- star, who she found to be the com­plete op­po­site of his re­cent TV per­sonas.

“He’s such a kind and gen­tle man and al­ways made sure I was com­fort­able,” she re­calls.

“I’d wake up think­ing, ‘ I’m go­ing to spend the en­tire day with Alexan­der Skars­gård. That’s men­tal!”

But rather than rely sim­ply on the phys­i­cal ap­peal of this duo,

Drum­mer Girl’s in­tel­li­gent script re­quires the viewer to com­mit to keep­ing up with le Carré’s many twists and turns.

Set in the 1970s, in the highly-stylised way of its Korean di­rec­tor Chan-wook Park, it was pro­duced by the au­thor’s sons (who also adapted the award-win­ning se­ries The Night Man­ager).

Skars­gård says the lim­ited se­ries TV for­mat does the nov­el­ist jus­tice, al­low­ing more time to f lesh out his com­plex char­ac­ters.

“It’s an amaz­ing story with so many char­ac­ters, and it’s im­por­tant to spend time with all th­ese char­ac­ters and get to know them – on both sides of the con­flict. And it’s very dif­fi­cult to cram that into two hours.”

Asked how the tall Swede would fare as a spy, he chuck­les: “I think I’d be a pretty de­cent one … I can be ex­tremely ma­nip­u­la­tive.”

Hail­ing from one of the world’s most fa­mous act­ing dy­nas­ties, Alexan­der is the el­dest son of Stel­lan Skars­gård, a pro­lific ac­tor, whose most no­table roles in­clude

Good Will Hunt­ing, Amis­tad and the Mamma Mia movies.

It’s a di­verse reper­toire matched by his son, who has so far played a vam­pire (in an­other HBO hit, True Blood); Tarzan (in the 2016 film, The Leg­end

of Tarzan); and Ben Stiller’s “ridicu­lously good-look­ing” room­mate in Zoolan­der.

So what’s left on Skars­gård’s bucket list?

“Well, I don’t play any in­stru­ment, I am a ter­ri­ble singer, but I am also very en­vi­ous of my fa­ther, who got to do Mamma

Mia!” he says, with a laugh. “That would be my dream job.”

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