Since finding fame in The History Boys,Gavin & Stacey and Doctor Who, Russell Tovey has gone on to star in Being Human,Him & Her, Banished, the US drama Lookingand recent film The Pass. Now, the 35-year-old Essex-born star has landed a regular role in the second series of Quantico. TVChoicecaught up with him on the New York set of the fast-paced thriller where he told us about his character, Harry Doyle, and revealed the reason why he’ll never sleep naked!
How did this job come about?
It’s always been a dream of mine to do something mainstream in America, and the show’s creator, Josh Safran, had seen me in Looking, View From The Bridgeand The History Boys. He’s also a big Broadway fan and you see a lot of actors from the stage who he casts with guest roles in this, who might not have done a lot of TV. He really gives them great opportunities.
Had you watched the show before?
No, because it’s on alibi in the UK which wasn’t a channel I was really plugged into. I am now, though, and you can quote me on that! It’s great. I think Priyanka [Chopra] as a lead is doing amazing things and the diversity on this show – I mean there is no way this could ever be a hashtag of not giving diversity a chance. It’s an exciting show and I’m told that aside from Grey’s Anatomy, it’s one of ABC’s biggest exports around the world. Priyanka was telling me it’s the biggest show in France and she gets mobbed there.
As a newcomer to the set, how’s the camaraderie?
It’s great. Everyone’s fitted in straight away. I love Pearl Thusi [who plays Dayana]. She’s my girl. She’s hilarious. Priyanka’s just amazing and Jake McLaughlin [who plays Ryan], I love. Everyone’s great.
What’s your character, Harry Doyle, like?
You don’t really know what’s going on with him. He was described to me as an artful dodger and that is completely what he is. In his first scene, he’s in a bathroom making out with someone while stealing their money. They wanted me to remain British. He’s cheeky and charming, but there’s a mystery underneath. You don’t really know why he’s there, and it all gets unravelled as the show goes on. It feels like he going to sleep with anyone to get information and you feel automatically this guy is a spy. He’s the Brit, and they’re always the baddies in American movies.
It must be fun to play someone who’s so confident?
It’s great to come in as an alpha, who’s totally aware of what he can offer. Having the opportunity to be a character who’s trying to play emotion but not show it to everyone is a great thing to do as an actor.
In the first episode, Harry states that he sleeps naked. Do you?
No, I can’t sleep naked, I’m worried about twisting my testicles. I don’t know why, but I remember hearing a story when I was a kid. A mate of mine twisted his testicle in his sleep and he had to go to the doctors and he nearly lost it because it was going black. I just wear a pair of shorts.
Speaking of pants, the other thing about Harry is that we see him in his pants. And in a towel. A lot.
Yes, yes, we’re in our pants a lot! We’ll be in our classroom and then suddenly everyone’s in their towels. I’m like, ‘Why are we in our towels in this scene?’ Oh just because. Oh right, fine. So we’re in our towels. I think they like that!
Are you all competing to look buff?
We all are so different and we all like each other so there’s no big jealousy. But there are days when I look at some of the people they have in the background who are ridiculous. I’ll just stand there and go, ‘You are just ridiculous! You can’t stand next to me. Go and stand over there.’ [laughs] There are insane bodies. We all do vanity pumps when they are turning over. Everyone does press ups and then breathe in and do the scene. We’re pulling out all the tricks.
You look like you’ve really been working out…
Thanks, but you have to. I like going to the gym anyway. I find it really good for me, especially working away from home. But they have craft service here [on-set hospitality], and that’s just dangerous. I don’t know why this show would allow them to just put out constant supplies of doughnuts and cookies. They want us to get naked. What’s their thinking? They do have fruit platters but it’s a lot easier to go for the peanut M&Ms rather than a slice of mango.
Is there a difference between working on a UK drama and a US one?
Yes, the hours. They just don’t have a cut off here. In the UK you have an hour overtime max, and they have to go round and ask the crew if they mind going over by an hour? Then they pull the plug. That’s it, and you’ve got to pick up another time in the schedule. Here, because it’s being shown in America a few weeks after we’ve filmed, there’s no time in the schedule. So they just keep shooting. The first week I was like, ‘We’re finishing at 4am and that’s acceptable? OK I can’t get my head around this.’ Then the next day you wouldn’t start till 4pm and it would just carry on and roll over so by the end of the week you’re like, ‘What!?’ But luckily, it’s all calmed down now and the hours are great. Also, in the UK, you have playback, so when you film a scene you can watch it back and see what it looks like. But they don’t do that here.
What do you miss about the UK when you’re in New York?
I miss my friends and family. I went back Labor Day weekend [September 2016] because we had four days off. I got off the plane and it’s like, ‘Ah London!’ It’s my home, and I go back to my house, I get back to my stuff and my comfort just realigns and I realise that’s my home.
And what do you love about living in New York?
If you’re not going to live in London and you’re going to work somewhere I can’t think of anywhere else better than New York, I’ve got my dog [Rocky]. I like the eating culture – so does Rocky. I like the dog runs, I love Central Park and dogs are allowed off leash early in the morning and he just bombs around with loads of different dogs. I’ve got work, I’ve got friends here, I’ve got the gym – but it’s not my home.