English actor David Morrisey has been a staple in period pieces over the course of his prolific career.
He currently stars on the epic drama “Brittania” (set in the year 43 AD) as Aulus, the general leading the Roman forces in the invasion of Britain. The series returns for its second season Oct. 4 on Epix.
Morrisey, who played the villainous Governor on “The Walking Dead” (2012-2015), also starred as UK prime minister Gordon Brown in “The Deal” (2003), as the Duke of Norfolk in “The Other Boleyn Girl” (2008) and as Colonel Brandon in “Sense & Sensibility.”
He’s also appeared in a host of Shakespeare productions on the stage, including “Macbeth” and “Julius Cesar.”
Morrisey, 56, spoke to The Post about how he researches his roles, filming Season 3 of “Brittania” during the pandemic, and more.
What attracted you to “Brittania?”
It was Jez Butterworth, who writes the series. He’s one of our great theater writers. Once I knew he was involved, I spoke to him quite considerably before taking the role. And the great thing about Jez is [that] he has a respect for that time and he does his work and he also has a healthy irreverence. There’s something very modern about what we do in the show and the language we use.
I feel very connected with Aulus, even though he’s quite out-there and possibly not the nicest man in the world. I love playing him. He’s sort of a governor [like my “Walking Dead” character] but he’s a general in “Britannia.” I’m 6-foot- 3, so I tend to get roles of people in authority quite often, and that’s nice. Although the Governor and Aulus are both dictatorial and vicious characters — probably on the wrong side of good — the Roman world is quite different from the zombie apocalypse.
You’re currently filming Season 3 in England. What’s that like?
It’s very strict. I get tested [for COVID] three times a week, as do our makeup and hair and costume staff. Anybody who comes into close contact with the actors is tested three times a week. Our temperature is taken twice a day, and all our crew have to wear masks and keep a distance from each other while they’re working. We also have a COVID marshall, someone on set who is there to remind us of what our actions have to be for the new restrictions and regulations in the workplace. The main difficulty is that everything takes a little longer to do. For instance, if I’m handling props and another actor has to handle props in the same scene, they have to be wiped down and we need hand sanitizer and stuff like that. We’re all so grateful and thankful to be at work. Everyone is approaching this new world with real professionalism and a real sense of gratitude for being there.
How do you research your roles?
I will read the script maybe two or three times, and I am making notes [about] the dates, [the characters’] profession and things like that. Then with those questions, I will then go and do my research — that might be Googling it or I’ll go to the library or bookshop and order books that are [about] that period. Sometimes if I talk to the writer, they say, “I used this book while I was researching it myself”’ and I’ll look at that. I’ll use YouTube clips. I recently did a show about Singapore in the 1940s and I was able to see some footage of that time. I use music a lot, as well; I’ll have a soundtrack of the music I think my character might have listened to.
I interview actors about one role that they’ve played. I interviewed people like Derek Jacobi about “I, Claudius,” David Harewood for his role in “Homeland,” Eddie Marsan for “Ray Donovan.” When I was growing up, I wanted to be an actor but nobody in my life was in theater or the arts. So there was no one I could ask about how I could go about becoming an actor or how to audition or anything like that. I wanted to do a podcast where people could find out about what the job of being an actor is, because sometimes it’s cloaked in mystery. Of course we need to have talent, but we need to know how to have people see the talent we have. I wanted to slightly demystify the job and the craft of acting for people. I’m really so delighted with [the podcast] and very proud of it. My first [episode] I spoke to Alan Cumming about the Emcee he played in “Cabaret,” which was a great success on Broadway.
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