Press · The Paradise

The Paradise: Interview with Ben Daniels

Date: 03.10.2013 – BBC Media Centre

Tell us about your character…

I’m playing a man called Tom Weston.  He is ex-military and is married to Katherine Glendenning, who was jilted by Moray at the end of the last series. This series is a year further on.  He’s not particularly friendly. Fifteen years ago, an event happened that has marked him for the rest of his life. He’s in constant fear of that event being discovered, it’s a big secret so he wears a mask as much as he can to protect himself from the world. This starts to break as the series goes on.

What is his relationship with Moray?

He hates Moray. He is jealous of him and, if he was honest with himself, slightly in awe of him as well. Now that he’s married Katherine, Tom Weston, of course, ownes The Paradise, but he doesn’t fire Moray because he can see his value.

What is his marriage to Katherine like?

He’s never met a woman like Katherine; they are a match for each other. They are both deeply manipulative but there is a lot of passion there as well. They are strange creatures and you never quite know what is going to happen with them. They are very volatile and they play games with each other but then they are also very honest, so it’s a constant ebb and flow. It’s great fun to play, I love it. I absolutely adore working with Elaine, she’s brilliant.

How do you think the audience with react to Tom Weston?

I think they’ll hate him and then there may be a point later on when they think they might have got the wrong end of the stick about him. What is great about Bill Gallahher’s writing, is that he pushes and pushes a character and then an event will happen that lets you see a chink in the armour, and then you start to think completely differently about them. But the predominant emotion that the viewer will have is hate!

Do you think the story of The Paradise is reflective of what is happening on the High Street today?

What’s fascinating about the original novel, as well as the series, is there are a few themes that are way ahead of their time. The seduction of people with shopping and material goods and also the taking over of an area and lots of little shops closing as a result of that is reflective of what’s going on today. That’s less touched upon in this series than it was in the last series. The birth of those big department stores is the birth of those big money making machines that give people what they want and seduce them and I think Moray as a character is brilliant at that.

What attracted you to the role?

I got an amazing email from Bill Gallagher saying he was writing a new character and that before he’d even written a word he wanted me to play it and then went on to describe Tom Weston. Also in conjunction they sent me the box-set of series one. I read the description, which endlessly fascinated me, especially because of the secret that he is hiding and because I always tend to veer towards the extremities of characters, because that’s where I think the drama lies. The extreme thing that happened to him and the extreme secret that he’s hiding means that every action and every meeting with every character is informed by that event. Everything is a potential battle for him, so he’s wary of everyone and has to conquer them. He’s a narcissist as well. Watching the box-set of series one and knowing this character was going to enter that world and the ramifications it would have, I just had to do it! It was a no-brainer!

Did you watch series one?

I missed it when it went out on television, but I really enjoyed the box-set when I watched it. I’m a massive Emile Zola fan and when I heard they were making it I really wanted to be involved, so it’s great that I can be now. So I didn’t watch it when it went out but I did watch the box-set all in one go, with Tom Weston in mind.

How does it compare to other roles that you’ve played?

He’s the sort of character that I like playing.  Tom Weston, Finn Bevan from Cutting It and Valmont in Liaisons Dangereuses,  they are all these characters that have a strong thrust in life and yet at the same time there’s something else going on with them. They don’t always make the right choices and they dig themselves into deep holes that they have to get out of. Those are the characters that I love playing the most. I like playing bad guys, but not one dimensionally bad. It’s great fun to play them because it is fun coming into a world and seeing how you can turn it on its head.

Do you enjoy being involved in costume dramas?

I do, although I’ve not done many. This period is fantastic for men and women, it’s so elegant and nipped in and everyone looks fantastic in their costumes. I do enjoy it and there’s an etiquette that goes along with it all which is fun to play and also fun to break out of.

What was it like joining the cast?

They were just fantastic.  I know the make-up designer Marella Shearer, who worked on the first series of The Paradise and a few episodes at the start of this series, from working with her years ago, so I got in touch with her and asked what it was like and she told me I would have a fantastic time and that they were just the most gorgeous bunch of people. They’ve been fantastic, all of them are great actors, which is a huge plus when you’re coming to work. We have a lot of fun. As sickly as it sounds, we have a really nice time. I was slightly nervous, especially when you’re playing a character that is going to come in and stomp on everyone, but may be that actually helped.

Have you enjoyed working with Elaine Cassidy?

I love Elaine Cassidy; she has always been one of my favourite actors. I saw her in a production of The Crucible about six years ago and she was playing Abigail Williams, who is normally this vindictive evil teenager who you can never forgive, and suddenly, watching Elaine play her, I found myself rooting for her. Elaine has this amazing ability to let you understand why a character is being cruel or vindictive, which works brilliantly for Lady Katherine. I’d love to see her play Lady Macbeth and as soon as she does I’m going to be in the front row, unless I’m doing it with her! She’s just phenomenal and I love working with her.

Edie, who plays our daughter Flora, is an 11-year-old superstar. We film in a different location to The Paradise, which is called Belville Hall in the script and is ten minutes from The Paradise. It’s beautiful and we have our own housekeeper who makes us tea. We love it when we film there as we’re the only ones there. Occasionally someone gets invited for dinner; Moray and Denise were invited for one episode. It was the dinner party from hell, ring-mastered by Tom and Moray.


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