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Andrew Scott: ‘His Dark Materials is not saccharine!’

(Image credit: BBC/Bad Wolf)

Andrew Scott on playing enigmatic John Parry

Mysterious John Parry has been much talked about in His Dark Materials and Sherlock's Andrew Scott has now finally made his long-awaited appearance as the intrepid explorer in the BBC1 fantasy drama.

The father of troubled teenager Will (Amir Wilson), had been presumed dead for years after disappearing during an expedition. But while Will and his friend Lyra (Dafne Keen) came into danger as they tried to locate the elusive subtle knife, aeronaut Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), on his own mission to find the weapon, finally tracked down John..

Here, Andrew Scott tells us more about His Dark Materials…

What appealed to you about being part of His Dark Materials?

Andrew Scott: “It’s one of the great literary works of the past century. I like the brutality of it. It’s not saccharine and it shows children life is tough. I love the fact that children are the heroes and the adults are flawed. It’s psychologically sophisticated and that’s why adults enjoy it too.”

How do you see John Parry in His Dark Materials?

AS: “He’s a scholar, a soldier and a shaman. But he’s mysterious. He has different names and looks. The challenge was how you play a shaman without making him weirdly mystical. You have to find the human beneath that. So I tried to bring humour. But also I love that his dæmon is an osprey [voiced by Andrew’s Fleabag co-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge] who’s female and beautiful. It’s incredible exploring your feminine and masculine side.”

Is it tricky playing a character who some viewers know already from Philip Pullman’s books?

AS: “It’s a challenge. I’ve done it a few times, playing Moriarty, Hamlet [in the West End] and I’m about to play Tom Ripley [in Ripley, the TV series based on Patricia Highsmith’s books]. You have to be respectful but not too reverent and put your own stamp on it. The audience wants your personal take.”

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How do you see John and Will’s relationship?

AS: "John’s motivated by his love for his family. The people he trusts are his wife and son, but he hasn’t seen them in a long time. He’s made this great mistake in leaving them. One of the most extraordinary experiences on His Dark Materials has been working with Amir. In one scene together, he delivers the most extraordinarily beautiful, vulnerable performance. When you see young actors do that, it makes me excited about the future and to see what he does next.”

Andrew Scott His Dark Materials

Andrew Scott as John Parry, aka Jopari, in His Dark Materials (Image credit: BBC/© Bad Wolf/HBO)

What have been your most memorable moments of filming?

AS: “I loved working with Lin. He’s incredibly talented and we had such fun. He’s brought such charm to his character. We’re both theatre geeks and it’s everything you might dream of with him singing show tunes through the day. Our storyline is about friendship and I hope this is the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship.”

His Dark Materials continues on BBC1