Roger Fed­erer sort of looks like a vam­pire in a weird way

Downton Abbey’s Matthew Goode, 40, tells GEMMA DUNN how he used a tennis leg­end as in­spi­ra­tion for his new role as a vam­pire in TV drama A Dis­cov­ery of Witches

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Why did you want to be a part of this project which is adapted from Deb­o­rah Hark­ness’s best­selling book?

I MET (pro­ducer) Jane Tran­ter, who is a force of na­ture. I’ve never known any­one to do a bet­ter take on a book that is 750 pages in ab­so­lute de­tail. By the end of that meet­ing I wanted to be a part of it be­cause it sounded like an in­cred­i­ble world to in­habit.

I’d never played a vam­pire be­fore and there’s a kind of a dark mythol­ogy to it. The whole point of A Dis­cov­ery Of Witches was that it was go­ing to turn that on its head; it’s more about my char­ac­ter’s in­volve­ment with this hu­man woman. So it has a love story and no­tions about equal­ity. It has a lot to say about the pol­i­tics of our time.

Tell us about your char­ac­ter and what at­tracted you to him. MATTHEW Clair­mont is a pro­fes­sor of bio­chem­istry and an ex­pert in ge­neal­ogy. At the start, he is search­ing for the an­cient man­u­script, Ash­mole 782. It talks about how vam­pires, dae­mons and witches came to be, and he’s been look­ing for it for hun­dreds of years.

Matthew is so many dif­fer­ent things: a chemist, a poet and he is also lethal. He is multi-faceted, but he is with­out love. He doesn’t have all the answers yet and he is an in­trigu­ing fig­ure – that’s what at­tracted me to him.

He’s mys­te­ri­ous and charm­ing but at the same time he’s deadly. It’s a lot to play.

Can you tell us more about that man­u­script?

THERE is a board, ef­fec­tively, which looks af­ter the reg­u­la­tions. There are three of each of the crea­tures – dae­mons, witches and vam­pires – on this thing called The Con­gre­ga­tion, and there are sets of rules to keep them sep­a­rate.

So you can’t have in­ter­re­la­tion­ships, but all of their pow­ers are dwin­dling; vam­pires are fail­ing to sire. So Matthew wants to find the Book of Life in which there’s the se­crets of why they are how they are and how they were cre­ated, and he wants them all to be able to live peace­fully.

That’s his main thrust in the story. But un­for­tu­nately he falls for some­body he’s not al­lowed to be with.

That char­ac­ter is a witch, Diana Bishop, played by Teresa Palmer. How does he feel about her? WHEN he meets her his only con­sid­er­a­tion is that he wants to find the Book of Life. Then, ob­vi­ously, his opin­ion of witches is not great be­cause of the wars that have been fought over many cen­turies.

So he first finds her quite in­trigu­ing. I think given the chance he would like to eat her be­cause they are ob­sessed with witch blood, as witch blood sings to them.

That’s how he talks about it: “I can hear your witch’s blood singing in your veins”. He has been train­ing him­self not to fall in love again, but there is just some­thing about her.

These are char­ac­ters that are beloved by fans. Were you aware of that be­fore­hand?

I LIKE the book. I ac­tu­ally don’t read that many books any­more be­cause you’re al­ways pil­ing through scripts or, you know, I’ve got three kids! But there are a lot of fan­tasy books out there and I don’t know what my opin­ions of them had been, but it was re­ally pleas­antly sur­pris­ing.

I thought the re­ally strong el­e­ment of the book was the love story and so it was pleas­ing to have Teresa to go on the jour­ney with.

Who has in­spired your por­trayal of Matthew Clair­mont?

WHEN I did think about who could be a vam­pire like Matthew Clair­mont, I was like ‘Roger Fed­erer’! Roger Fed­erer, to me, sort of looks like a vam­pire in a weird way. I’m meant to be the most for­mi­da­ble as­sas­sin of all time, from the vam­pire world, and I thought he was quite a good per­son to base the per­for­mance on, phys­i­cally, as he’s an as­sas­sin on the court.

Why do you think fan­tasy books are so pop­u­lar at the mo­ment?

I THINK it re­minds you of your child­hood a bit, books about magic and stuff. It seemed so hugely im­por­tant when you are de­vel­op­ing your own imag­i­na­tion when you’re a kid – and we’re com­ing off the back of lots of Harry Pot­ter, which was one of the first books to ap­peal, mas­sively, to chil­dren and to adults.

Al­though this re­ally isn’t for chil­dren, al­though I think they’ve tamed it down a lit­tle bit for a younger au­di­ence too, which is great.

When peo­ple think of vam­pires and witches they think of Ham­mer Hor­ror and Twi­light. What’s dif­fer­ent about this se­ries?

THERE have been many de­grees of how peo­ple wanted to por­tray this ex­tra­or­di­nary fig­ure. Some of it is like Gary Old­man; the Count Drac­ula thing, which is great, but that is very Machi­avel­lian and seems a lot darker.

What I think is great about Deb­o­rah Hark­ness’s work is that it takes the nu­ances of that to a greater de­gree and sees them liv­ing in a mod­ern so­ci­ety.

■ A Dis­cov­ery of Witches will be avail­able on Sky One and

Ev­ery witch way but truce: Matthew Clair­mont (Matthew Goode), falls for Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) – and that’s against the rules

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