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