Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch is hot, hot, hot property right now – given he’s the thinking woman’s pin up – so his fans will doubtless be pleased to hear that he’s starring in a new made-for-TV drama, which is an adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s classic, Parade’s End.
In it, Benedict plays the role of “accidental hero” Christopher Tietjens, of whom Benedict told TV Biz, “He’s not just another toff in a period drama.”
Branding the character of Tietjens a “fat blockhead” Benedict added, “I have such a huge affection for Christopher — more so than almost any other character I’ve played.
“I sympathise with his care, his sense of duty and virtue, his intelligence in the face of hypocritical, self-serving mediocrity and his love for his country.
“That is what leads me to love this fat, baggy bolster of a blockhead…
“It’s what distinguishes him from being yet another toff to being quietly but truly heroic.
“But playing him was really hard to begin with. I couldn’t get past certain things. He is a big Yorkshireman and I was really distracted by that.
“I didn’t understand who he was. I knew coming straight from Sherlock I couldn’t just eat myself into the role — not within the space of a week.
“I really was at sea. But in a way the role is a blank canvas. It isn’t like playing other well-known leads because it is one of the great book series most people haven’t read.”
The drama – which will air on BBC2 in the autumn – focuses on a love triangle between Tietjens, his wife Sylvia (Rebecca Hall) and suffragette Valentine (Adelaide Clemens).
Of how he landed the role, Benedict said, “I had never worked with Sir Tom Stoppard, who adapted Parade’s End for TV, but I met him on the set of War Horse.
“He kept on looking at me sideways and he said to me, ‘You’ve had such a wonderful, extraordinary year, Benedict’. It was lovely, but odd.
“He confessed later that all he could see was Tietjens and he wanted to give me the role there and then — and he’d thought of me two years before that.”
He added, “Rebecca is extraordinary as Sylvia. I have never worked opposite an actress who has such an extraordinary command of her character.
“She is mesmerising to watch. And we have been friends for ten years. Having her on set was another reason to pinch myself that I’m paid to do this.”
Benedict went on to say that while filming the drama on location in Ypres and the Western Front in Belgium, he was deeply affected by the history of the area.
He said, “When I got into the trench created for Parade’s End with one of those tin hats on, I realised you’re standing basically in a grave.
“Everything above you is exploding and anything over the edge is death. With the tin trench helmet on you hardly see any sky.
“The practicality of just moving around was hard enough and you’re supposed to be a fighting machine.
“Going up a ladder knowing you are walking into gunfire goes against every instinct of what it is to be a human being.”
But when asked if he thinks the drama is relevant to modern day audiences, Benedict said, “We’re living through a time where we are fighting wars with equally tragic realities for our soldiers and their families.
“We are living in time of political hypocrisy and there aren’t that many really good people.
“And Christopher is just that — a good man.”
We’ll keep you posted as to when the drama will air.