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Sunday 21 July 2019

After Shades of Grey, Jamie Dornan takes on new worlds

The impossibly handsome actor on being scarily good on TV and his film future.

Jamie Dornan
Jamie Dornan
Jamie Dornan with wife Amelia Warner

Some people are born with it. That innate, breathy smoulder that makes legs wibble and hearts wobble. One wonders can Jamie Dornan turn it on at will?

"I'm trying to smoulder now," chuckles the actor, biting his inside lip. "Hold on ... "

He raises his head and offers a traffic-stopping gaze, a matinee idol with deep blues. It's particularly effective till his nerves tighten their coil. He laughs sheepishly.

A playful character who hasn't quite found his feet when it comes to the promotional interview, intuition suggests the former male model is going to have a severe case of verbal diarrhoea by the end of the year.

That's when the Fifty Shades promotional juggernaut finally kicks off for the Valentine's Day 2015 release and the really, really, ridiculously good-looking 31 year-old can shirk off the invisible forces that chain him from speaking in detail about the obscenely anticipated sex saga adaptation.

It's clear he wants to talk about Christian Grey and Ana Steele. With one mention, his eyes dance and glimmer.

He smiles broadly, brandishing a dazzling set of teeth, marginally kinked at the left incisor. His lips open, the moulded chin rises.

And then it clicks. He can't give anything away, isn't permitted to discuss the film. I wonder what he forfeits should be blab? His first born?

"I'm not here to talk about that," he sterns, the smirk ebbing away.

Dornan shifts uncomfortably in his seat, glancing over at the blonde Channel 4 publicist who nods in appreciation.

The restriction seems to sit uneasy with the Belfast boy done good.

Burrowed in a subterranean chamber at Channel 4's headquarters in London, the one-time supermodel is here today to talk about his last pre-Grey outing, before cable ties, masking tape and over-enthusiastic petting foist their supernova effect on the father of one.

New Worlds is a richly shot, starkly sumptuous epic, charting Great Britain's Restoration period on both sides of the Atlantic.

Created by Peter Flannery and Martine Brant, it follows on 20 years after mini-series, The Devil's Whore left off. That charted a rather loose account of the English Civil War, which split the country between the crown and parliament in the 17th century, seen through the eyes of fictitious anti-monarchist heroine Angelica Fanshawe.

Now a sexy new generation finds themselves caught up in the chaos of a broken society.

Dornan is Abe Goff, a rugged woodland outlaw and idealist who invades the privileged existence of Fanshawe's daughter, Beth (Freya Mavor), introducing her to the harsh realities of civil unrest, creating a libertarian fighter from within.

It's a tortuous, pitiless period in British history told with fervent gloss and soapy sheen as our caste-crossed lovers discover their passions while battling the good fight.

Jamie however, is under the belief that the four-part series is an accurate reflection of civil turbulence in modern society.

"Political unrest and civil discontent is a constant in any society," he sagely offers, trundling over his words with a gruff mumble.

"Obviously we handle it differently now. We don't run around shooting people we disagree with.

"In some very basic sense I don't think it's anything more than that. We have things that don't make us happy about the way the country is run. Everyone in this room would have a grievance about how the country is run. This was the same in the 17th century, so on a very obvious level that's what we're talking about."

"But obviously this part of history wasn't on the curriculum in school in Northern Ireland," he adds. "So I wasn't aware of any of it really."

Best known for doubly perspiring in all the right places as Eva Mendes gripped the band of his briefs in a sizzling Calvin Klein underwear campaign, it's a previously unheard cerebral admission from the clothes horse, who tied the knot with singer Amelia Warner (Colin Farrell's ex missus, don't ya know) last year before the birth of their daughter in November.

And the actor also showcases a likable, wilting humour seen on Graham Norton recently while waxing lyrical about his endearing re-education in walking, something he is admittedly not very good at.

It re-emerges again today when questioned about his costume and thatchy red mullet he sports in New Worlds. Surely a wig, no?

"Well, that was actually my real hair for the most part," sniggers Dornan. "It was my own curly mop on top and then we added a sort of Eighties rock thing around the back and side to give that 17th century feel. I was happy enough though some say it gave me a Russell Brand look.

"And I'm actually slightly more camp than Russell Brand."

Did he feel the need to pilfer his on-screen duds, mostly a leather and sheepskin ensemble? Could have come in handy for some of the riskier scenes between Christian and Ana?

"Of course I didn't steal any of that. I did want to take a crossbow but the armourer was very fussy about it so I didn't get to take that," he confesses with an unsettling stare.

It's unfathomably similar to his chilling portrait of a serial killer in The Fall, with shooting on the second series scheduled to begin this month.

The former face of Banana Republic and Hugo Boss astounded audiences with his terrifying presence in the BBC drama and the IFTA jury seemed to agree, awarding Jamie with his first nomination for Lead Television Actor.

The nod consumes the star with pride though he naturally offers a comic spin on his performance at the ceremony last April.

"It's nice to be recognised in that way. I presented an IFTA last year and I was terrified. I capitulated [under the pressure] on stage and had a shocker. I said I wouldn't go back unless I was nominated so I'm especially pleased about that."

Two weeks since production wrapped on Fifty Shades in Vancouver, a series of paparazzi snaps from the set have filled the ether with images of Dornan, impossibly handsome in a tailored blue, grey suit, staring wistfully at a casual and slightly dumpy Dakota Johnson, cast as virginal Ana Steele.

Their sexual tension looked believable and Jamie appears thankful for the successful dynamic, unlike – from what it sounds – previous relationships with on-screen co-stars.

"Sometimes you don't luck out with cast, without naming names," he quietly explains. "You just end up with people who aren't really on your wavelength and don't approach the game the same way, then you're stuck with those people for three or four months."

And while the hurricane of lust surrounding EL James' sexual franchise has orbited around the notorious carnal acts, the actor maintains that Fifty Shades is most importantly, constructed around intimacy and love. Which is a novel way of looking at it.

"It's essential to tell a story. Love is very important to everyone and everyone relates to it. It's a truly global thing. It's something that usually we've all been involved in. So I just think it's always an essential part of any story.

"It highlights even more the difference between the character's worlds. It's that classic star-crossed lover situation. It's very necessary to tell the story."

The blonde publicist calls time and glances in his direction, while Jamie stares at his feet, shuffling out of the airy, cold room in the Channel 4 basement. He pauses for a beat, perhaps seeking reassurance that too much wasn't said and too many of the Shades secrets weren't revealed.

Given his cryptic performance today, there should be little concern of that.

New Worlds begins on Channel 4 at the end of this month.

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