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
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...
Rea: Apart from the money, what was it that attracted you
to the role of Stephen Saunders in 24?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
If you could relive any 24 hour period in your life what would
it be and why?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Do you find that the stars are as approachable when you are
working with them as they are over here?
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.
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
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
If you weren't acting what would your ideal job be?
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.
Is that something you do a lot of?
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
What are you working on at the moment? Where can we expect
to see you next?
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.
Thank you for your time.
thanks to David Cox at DSA
Three of 24 is out to buy on DVD
from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment from 09 August 2004
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