Paul Blackthorne

Paul Blackthorne was ten years old when he first appeared with the National Youth Music Theatre; he then found himself back on-stage with the same company in Norway when he was sixteen, but it wasn't until he spent a year travelling that he decided to go into acting full time. Blackthorne played doctor Guy Morton in BBC TV's
Holby City and has appeared in Jonathan Creek and Peak Practice. But he is probably best remembered for his role as Captain Andrew Russell in the Oscar-nominated Indian film Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. He has also appeared in US hospital drama
ER, as well as playing the main villain, Stephen Saunders in the latest outing of 24. Darren Rea spoke to him as the third season of 24 was due to be released on DVD...

Darren Rea: Apart from the money, what was it that attracted you to the role of Stephen Saunders in 24?

Paul Blackthorne: [Laugh] Apart from the money? Actually the money is always the last thing I think about. I'd never seen 24 before, but I think the nature and quality of the show and the people you get to work with are important. If someone says: "Do you want to do a show with Kiefer Sutherland?" It's not going to take you too long to answer.

DR: Were you apprehensive about taking on the role of a villain, that this might typecast you for the future? And do people treat you differently now?

PB: I had one guy, when I walked into a restaurant, who completely freaked out. He just looked at me and said: "God! It's Stephen Saunders, man! You freak me out dude!" And he went - he sort of scuttled off. He was very disturbed, but mostly people have been approaching me and saying that they've been enjoying the show. I think most people can tell the difference between reality and fiction.

DR: It's almost a guarantee that if you are playing the main villain in any American show that you will end up coming to a sticky end. As an actor, if you could write your own death scene how would you go out?

PB: I've never actually thought about that, but my favourite death scene is Brando's in the Godfather - remember that, in the garden? That was a hell of a way to go. I've never thought about how I'd like to die to be honest, except maybe in my sleep.

DR: If you could relive any 24 hour period in your life what would it be and why?

PB: Erm... Gosh, I've got to trawl through my mind there to answer that question. Erm... I think any of the days I spent in India, when I was working on Lagaan, would qualify there.

Any of those days... I mean, every day you step out your door in India and something enriching is going to happen to you in some sense or other. Yeah, I'd say any one of those days, to be honest. Amazing place and amazing people.

DR: You've worked in the UK, on shows including Holby City and Jonathan Creek, and the US in ER and now 24. Is there much difference between working in the UK and US? And which do you prefer?

PB: It's quite a universal process really, do you know what I mean? The nature of the people, whether they're Indian, English, American or any other nationality is fairly standard. There's a certain mentality that exists in this kind of business, and it's usually a very professional one with a lot of humour knocking around. The Brits and the Americans come close to one another in that sense. The sense of humour, the tolerance and the patients is very similar.

DR: Do you find that there are any differences with creative input? Is it easier for you to voice suggestions on your character in the UK?

PB: No, I actually found that that is the case more in America. But then, I suppose, it depends whether you are a regular on the show or are guesting on the show. Obviously I had to discuss the history of somebody like Stephen Saunders with the producers of 24 to work out what's going on here? And why this guy is doing this stuff.

DR: Do you find that the stars are as approachable when you are working with them as they are over here?

PB: When everybody is in that environment, apart from the prima donnas that have lost their head and probably their happiness somewhere, most people, that I've worked with, are extremely approachable, pleasant and professional. Because then everybody gets the best out of everybody. Anyone who has half an idea of how this industry works knows that if everybody is happy then you get the best results.

DR: How do you view the emergence of the DVD format? Would you be happy doing a commentary, or once you've finished a project do you just want to leave it behind and get on with the next job?

PB: I'd be very happy to do that. The DVD format, with all the commentaries and deleted scenes, and all that, I think is very informative. If you get a good one it's like attending film class.

DR: If you weren't acting what would your ideal job be?

PB: Er... I've done so many jobs over the years... I'm not sure there's an ideal job, other than one you enjoy - in that case it doesn't matter what it is. I've had some photographic exhibitions in the past. I enjoy photography and that would be a nice way to make a living.

DR: Is that something you do a lot of?

PB: Yeah, just on my travels and whatever. The last exhibition I had was called Bollywood Backpack and it was of my photos of India and the proceeds went to the Gujarat Earthquake Fund - you know, when they had that terrible earthquake? That was where we were shooting and it was nice to be able to put a little bit back into it. I might have one in Los Angeles one day, but it takes up a lot of time doing that stuff [laughs] I tell you. It's very time consuming. But it's a lot of fun too.

DR: What are you working on at the moment? Where can we expect to see you next?

PB: Just the European championships and the cricket. That's all I'm thinking about at the moment. I've got no idea what's happening next. There's a few projects I'm waiting to hear about. But, as far as I'm concerned, it's a trip to the old country to support the boys over in Portugal.

DR: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to David Cox at DSA

Season Three of 24 is out to buy on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment from 09 August 2004

Buy season three of 24 on DVD for £34.99 (RRP: £49.99) by clicking here
Buy season two of 24 on DVD for £32.99 (RRP: £49.99) by clicking here

Buy season one of 24 on DVD for £30.99 (RRP: £44.99) by clicking here

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