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David Morrissey Talks 'Thorne,' TV vs Film and Turning Villain on 'The Walking Dead'

Photo of Alison Willmore By Alison Willmore | Indiewire June 12, 2012 at 2:27PM

Versatile Liverpool-born actor David Morrissey has taken roles ranging from prime minister-to-be Gordon Brown in Stephen Frears' "The Deal" to the Duke of Norfolk in "The Other Boleyn Girl" to the object/victim of Sharon Stone's affections in "Basic Instinct 2." But it's policemen for which he seems to have a particular affinity, playing cops good, bad and guilt-ridden in multiple British television series and the "Red Riding" film trilogy. The character of Tom Thorne, whom he plays in a pair of three-part miniseries, "Thorne: Sleepyhead" June 12 and "Thorne: Scaredy Cat" June 13 (both Encore, starting at 9 pm), is something unique, a detective who often seems in danger of getting pulled into his cases.
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In an interview you did with the Telegraph, you mentioned that you wanted "Thorne" to be more like a U.S. series -- what does that mean to you?

The American TV I like, even though it's on TV it has a cinematic quality to it, a real pace. One needs a budget to be able to do that, and sometimes in Britain we don't get those budgets. We do a lot of our exposition and storytelling in a room [laughs] or on a bus or something.

I also knew that I needed London to be one of the major characters in the piece, and that we had to be able to go out and shoot London in a way that people possibly hadn't seen before. You're used to the tourist idea of London, of red buses going across bridges. I wanted to show people what London was like. It's an amazing and contradictory city, and I think Stephen got that. I see that in shows that are in New York, they use the city in a way I wanted to do with London.

What sets Thorne apart from other detectives you've played?

We've seen maverick cops a lot, but Thorne has an idea of himself and his work. He has this hole inside himself that he's desperate to have filled, and it's only filled by the work. He's desperate for personal relationships but he can't reach out and he can't form them, because he's been damaged by the work he does. The things he sees in his everyday life he can't share with anybody and doesn't want to share -- he doesn't want to taint anything good. And that's a terrible place to be. It's also, if you're not careful, a massively egotistical place to be.

A first look at David Morrissey in 'The Walking Dead'
AMC A first look at David Morrissey in 'The Walking Dead'
You've talked about a third series of "Thorne" in the works -- does it still seem a possiblity?

We were ready to go and then something happened, then other people got their calendars filled. We're hoping that next year there will be time and space so that we can all be together. We have a script. We just need everybody to get obsessed with their work enough to say no to their families and make another one. [laughs]

You're about to take on the role of a significant and already infamous character on "The Walking Dead" -- were you a fan of the show before?

I came to it as a fan -- I've known Andrew Lincoln [who plays Rick Grimes] for a long time. He's a good friend of mine. I love the show, and I'm so excited to be joining it -- when I met with them for it, I couldn't believe I was even in the room with those guys. There's lots for me to find out -- I haven't started shooting yet. That's when all the creative stuff will start and we'll work on getting this guy out of the page and onto the screen. Like all the characters I've played, I've got this sort of Jackson Pollock-like idea at the moment which is all over the place, and I need to formulate it in some way. I'm really looking forward to it.

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Having worked in both television and film, and having directed a feature of your own, 2009's "Don't Worry About Me," do you have a preference for one medium over the other?

The big movies now seem less and less interested in story. They seem to be interested in franchise, really. In the last five, six, seven years, television has become where great writing and great characters are. Audiences have started to fall in love with the box set and get involved in long stories. I applaud that -- I think that's wonderful. It shows that audiences are welcoming to long-term projects, that they want to be with characters and worlds for a long time. So it's changed, but I enjoy working in television at the moment -- and also theater. For any actor, I think the answer is that they like to do different mediums. The common denominator is that they want to tell great stories with good characters.

This article is related to: Television, TV Interviews, Interviews, David Morrissey, Encore, The Walking Dead






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