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Rufus Sewell: Playing Andrew was a question of sympathy versus empathy

Rufus Sewell: Playing Andrew was a question of sympathy versus empathy

Rufus Sewell has said preparing to play the Duke Of York in a dramatisation of his infamous Newsnight interview was “a question of sympathy versus empathy”.

The Holiday actor stars opposite Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis in the new Netflix film which delves into the story behind the interview about Andrew’s friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Sewell told the PA news agency: “Me and Gillian didn’t work together on it, we just worked separately, which I think was the right way to do it. And I watched the interview obsessively.

“Maybe that’s too big a word but I watched it a lot. And I would just basically try at first to sound like him, to mimic, but more than anything, just to try to understand not just what he was thinking when he was speaking, but all of the hesitations, all of the body language, to find something that might be the root of that.

“I was trying to break it down, so that I could be seeing it in that moment, from his perspective, without judgement.

“I’m not a natural mimic, though I do have quite a good ear, but I’m not somebody who’s been asked to impersonate people, so I didn’t have a way of doing that, that I was familiar with, so I had to kind of invent it as I went along.”

Asked about how he approached the scenes in the film that show Andrew alone, he said: “It’s this question of sympathy versus empathy.

“Empathy is very interesting. Like the way a camera works is a grayscale, it looks at either a bright scene or a black scene, and it sees grey.

“That’s a good way of getting all the detail and you try to do that – to be able to really try to see something from someone’s perspective, what they would be thinking, what the truth they’re telling themselves about that moment, their reasons for being the way they are, so that you can represent them fully.

Scoop on Netflix
Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis in Scoop (Netflix/PA)

“Not make them look good, not make them look bad, but just try to be truthful.

“And it’s very tempting sometimes to slant it one way or another. Because you can be criticised for going too far in either direction, especially playing someone like this.”

The Fall star Anderson is no stranger to playing real life figures, having recently portrayed Margaret Thatcher in The Crown and Eleanor Roosevelt in The First Lady, but said playing a living person was rather “more daunting” than playing someone who has already died.

She told PA: “On the one hand, it’s similar to, any time you take on an historical character, just in terms of the deep dive that you might do.

“And fortunately, with someone like Emily, who’s so much in the public eye, there’s a lot of footage out there that you get to watch, whether or not you have face-to-face time with them, so I was very lucky in that regard.

“It was a lot of listening and watching and observing mannerisms.

“It was a little bit more daunting than playing somebody who is deceased, but I’ve been a big fan (of Maitlis) for a while so it was a joy to step into the shoes.

She added: “I was basically watching and listening on a loop, paying attention to mannerisms, when she looked up.

“It was a drag at one point when I saw the actual film, because of how many times she looks down at her notes, it looks like I might be looking at my lines!

“But no I didn’t! I wasn’t reading my lines!”

Scoop is released on Netflix on April 5.