Tim Roth on Tin Star, complex characters, stage fright and Star Wars jealousy
“I’ve not seen any of it. I know what I look like,” laughs Tim Roth, as his Tin Star co-stars Genevieve O’Reilly and Abigail Lawrie discuss watching the series back. “I don’t want to see that over and over again.”
The actor hasn’t watched himself on screen, save for the odd clips that inevitably pop up in TV interviews, for years now. That’s how he likes to keep it, he says, but is keen to hear his co-stars’ stories about other people’s reactions. “People were laughing, were they? That’s good.”
A contemporary western-style show set against the dramatic backdrop of the Canadian Rockies, Tin Star is a tale of murder, revenge and secrets that is searingly bleak but peppered with dark humour at the same time.
One of the big binge watches of 2017, it is now back for a much-anticipated second series, and after an early start for the breakfast TV sofas, Roth, O’Reilly and Lawrie are sitting together in a Sky New dressing room to discuss.
Not that they are giving much away.
“Everything would be a spoiler alert,” says Roth, apologetically, adding only that “the reason these people [their characters] are the way they are gets unravelled, up to a point”. And also that it was “freezing, filming in Calgary; 30C below at times”.
The first series ended on the ultimate cliffhanger: is Roth’s character, Jim Worth/Jack Devlin, still alive after seemingly being shot by his teenage daughter?
It won’t be too much of a spoiler to say that yes, given that he’s here to talk about the new episodes, which, as the trailer shows, pick up exactly where they left off: in the blood-soaked snow.
We also know that Jim is fighting to make things right with his family, while Anna seeks refuge from her parents and their dysfunctional relationship, turning to new characters, the deeply religious Nickel family, for guidance.
Any more than that, and the stars of the show are remaining tight-lipped.
A recap then, for those who may not remember all the twists and turns (and there were quite a few).
Roth is former undercover UK police detective turned small-town Canada police chief Jim Worth, an alcoholic who loves his family but whose alias Jack Devlin has a dark past and a serious capacity for violence. A man who “goes about his business in a slightly unorthodox way,” as Roth puts it.
O’Reilly plays Angela; a loving wife and mother who is strong and determined despite facing unimaginable tragedy, but has a seemingly inescapable infatuation with her husband which stops her cutting ties, even as the behaviour becomes more extreme and the lies start to unravel.
Lawrie plays their daughter, Anna, who finds herself caught up in the chaos of her father’s past, and falls in love unwittingly with her younger brother’s killer.
The young actress says she learned a lot from working her co-stars.
Dysfunctional characters are Roth’s speciality, and he is best known for his work with Quentin Tarantino, having starred in Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight and the upcoming Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, with an all-star cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Al Pacino, Margot Robbie and Kurt Russell.
O’Reilly is a Star Wars alumni, having played Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel Alliance, in Revenge Of The Sith and Rogue One, and also has an impressive stage CV, having just finished a stint on Broadway.
“It was good just to watch them,” says Lawrie. “There’s an episode that takes place in one room and I spent a lot of time watching how they work.”
There was lots of improvisation on set and seeing the three chatting away in the flesh shows the chemistry between the characters isn’t faked.
“The story takes you into some very dark situations… and there is a freedom to move around within that and maybe drop what was originally prescribed, and deliver a scene in a different way,” says Roth. “We as a group got to improvise and play around and invent.
“It’s just what developed on this [series] really. Sometimes it comes out of necessity and sometimes it comes from the trust that the people have who write the cheque, that they have in the actors involved. It’s the way we do this show now.”
“Also, the three of us in particular have a close relationship, we’ve done a lot of hours together now,” says O’Reilly. “It’s 20 hours of content we’ve done now. We know each other really well both personally but also as actors, so that’s a great platform to play about… we like each other, so we like to play about with each other.”
“We have a laugh,” says Lawrie.
Roth recently flew to New York to watch O’Reilly in the award-winning The Ferryman, by Jez Butterworth and directed by Sam Mendes, on Broadway. “Which was very cool, very generous,” she says.
“It was so good,” he says. “I brought one of my sons with me, and he’d never seen a proper play – and it was a proper play. So good. And we sat there and were like, okay, this is great… and then he proceeded to fall in love with Gen. You know, as you do. And then we went for a beer after, it was great.
“Broadway… it’s that one thing, isn’t it. You put your feet on Broadway and…”
O’Reilly says she hopes to return the favour. “Next time I’ll come to see Tim Roth on Broadway, right?”
But Broadway is not an option for Roth.
“I have petrifying stage fright so I don’t do that… I don’t know how you do it,” he says to his co-star. “I could not have done that.
“It absolutely petrifies me, it really, really does. I can get through it… it takes me about a month, two months to get to the point where I can focus on what I’m supposed to be doing. The fear of it is just too distracting from what the job of acting is supposed to be. I have done it but that was a long time ago.”
What Roth really would like to do, he says, is nab a part in Star Wars. He is officially jealous of O’Reilly.
“This is hilarious,” she says. “Tim Roth is jealous of me. That’s funny.”
“I am, I’m jealous. I think it would be brilliant,” he says. “God, I’d love to do that. Well, I’m always looking for a job.
“But I reckon I could end up in a teddy bear suit in the jungle. What were they called? Ewoks? Ewoks. I’ll probably be the leader of the Ewoks.”
:: Tin Star returns to Sky Atlantic on 24 January.