The Paradise is returning to BBC One, with one new arrival certain to ruffle a few feathers – Ben Daniels (House of Cards, Law & Order: UK) is Tom Weston, Katherine’s “cruel”, “toxic” yet “charming” new husband. Ahead of series two’s debut on Sunday night, Digital Spy spoke to Daniels to find out what drew him to The Paradise department store…
The BBC has a strong reputation for period drama, so was working on The Paradise something you leapt at?
“Not because it was a period drama but because of the role – the description I was given of him. Bill Gallagher wrote to me and said, ‘I’m thinking up a new character and I’d love you to play him – this is who he is’.
“He wrote the most fantastic synopsis of Tom Weston. Before I’d even read the script, he sent me a box-set of the first series so I could watch it imagining Tom Weston going into that world. He’s such a great character, so I knew I wanted to do it – but not because it’s a period drama, just because he’s a fab character.
“I think it’s always about character really. I didn’t think of it as, ‘Oh, it’s a period drama’ – obviously period is so straight-laced, that Victorian world. It’s great to play that, but then break out of that when you’re alone, which I’m sure they all did.”
“Ah, he’s great. I loved playing him. He’s ex-military – was in the Indian Mutiny some 15 years earlier. And series two starts and he’s now married to Lady Katherine (Elaine Cassidy) and has been for five months after she was left standing at the altar by Moray (Emun Elliott).
“Tom isn’t fully aware [of the situation] – he thinks Katherine dumped Moray, rather than the other way round, so he gradually learns the truth.
“But he’s also a man who is harbouring a monumental secret which sort of threatens to pulls him into an emotional abyss when he least expects it – an event happened during the Indian Mutiny which will affect him for the rest of his life, and he’s constantly battling with that secret to bury it.
“He’s egotistical, he’s cruel and stubborn, and Machiavellian… envious. He’s a constant toxic mix. He’s also very charming and lot of it goes off with a smile!”
“I hadn’t seen it at all. I was aware of it being made as I love Émile Zola [who wrote the original novel Au Bonheur des Dames] but I didn’t see it when it was on.
“I think I tend to be more of a box-set person rather than a ‘sit down and watch every week’ person. I think we’ve all sort of become that, so it’s great to sit down and chew it all up in one go.”
You’re also going to be starring in season two of Netflix’s House of Cards – were you pleased with the reaction to the first run of episodes?
“Oh, fantastically pleased and I’m very excited to be a part of it. I finished The Paradise on a Friday and on Saturday I drove from Newcastle to London. By Sunday, I was on the plane to Baltimore, and so I arrived at 10.30pm in the evening – or 7am in the morning – with the most horrendous jetlag!
Finally, give us one big reason why viewers should tune into series two of The Paradise.
“Series two of The Paradise is meaty and thoroughly entertaining… and yeah, you’re in for a good thrill ride!”