Interview Extra: Rufus Sewell, Zen
After a five-year absence, Rufus Sewell returns to BBC1 in a new Rome-based detective drama called 'Zen'.

TV Choice Magazine, 24 December 2010
By By Mary Comerford

What grabbed you about the role?
What’s interesting about the books Zen is based on is that they vary in tone. A lot of it is funny and a lot is dark and a lot of the main character is Italy itself. For me it had the right outlook, my character Aurelio Zen is not on top of the world, he’s not a corridor-striding winner and that made it something I knew I’d have fun playing.

Does he have any of the traditional police vices – drinking, smoking and gambling?
Traditional human vices! I think he smokes like a trooper, he drinks, he loves his food, but they’re not particularly vices.

He might not be a big success but he gets the beautiful girl after falling for his colleague Tania (Caterina Murino).
Who knows what will happen? It’s not all a happy ending. He might get the girl but the next morning they’ll have a horrible argument and he’ll get something wrong. That’s what makes it interesting to me. The other day we drove past a really nice car and someone said, 'Wouldn’t it be nice if Zen got a car like that?' I said, 'Yes, but it would have to end up in the River Tiber after a night.'

Was it fun living and working in Rome?
It was wonderful but in terms of the Italian-ness of the drama, I made the decision not to try to act that too much, it could become an affectation. You see typical Italians with the hand gestures and you see others who are not typical, I decided to play one who’s not. He has his hands in his pockets or a mobile phone in one hand and an ice cream in the other.

Had you worked in Rome before?
One of the best times I’ve ever had was in Rome making a film called The Honest Courtesan. I spent four months in the city and it was the best experience of my life. Cheesy though it sounds, I do feel very lucky to get the chance to do it again.

You did some guerilla filming near Roman landmarks including the station. How was that?
I took out an old lady who wasn’t one of our extras! We had loads of people who were trained to bump into me as I was running through the station being chased by the police and I’d push them out of the way. But they couldn’t stop a poor bemused old lady wandering into the middle of it. Luckily I didn’t knock her over, I grabbed her and ran with her in this bizarre way for about 15ft with her looking at me like, ‘You freak, what are you doing?’

What did bystanders make of it?
I think they thought I was a raging pervert!

Episode one includes an impressive cave scene where you’re under water. Are you a good swimmer?
No, I’m useless but I didn’t have to do much, I was just bobbing up and down. I was also surrounded by hundreds of grown ups looking after me and handing me little sandwiches and cups of tea, it was hardly dangerous.

Have you done many stunts in the past?
My line on that is the opposite of Tom Cruise’s. I think it’s important that the audience sees it’s someone else doing it and that I’m safely off having a cup of tea somewhere else. I have a vision that if you get killed doing a stunt, they’ll have a minute’s silence while someone calls casting! I don’t think it’s worth the risk.

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