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Death and Nightingales star Jamie Dornan: I couldn't play the same part for 30 years

jamie dornan in death and nightingales
(Image credit: BBC/Night Flight Pictures Ltd 20)

Hollywood star Jamie Dornan talks about his exciting new role in three-part drama Death and Nightingales, a tale of love, deceit and revenge and how he wouldn't want to be in the same show for three decades as he enjoys doing lots of different things

Villain of The Fall, Jamie Dornan is starring in Death And Nightingales, a BBC2 drama set in Northern Ireland in 1885.

The story focuses on Beth Winters (Ann Skelly) who plans to escape her troubled life with her Protestant stepfather by running away with Catholic merchant Liam Ward (Jamie).

Here Jamie Dornan tells What's On TV  how he felt returning to work in his homeland of Northern Ireland, his friendship with co-star Matthew Rhys, who plays Beth's controlling stepfather, Billy and why he likes doing lots of different roles

What's On TV: Tell us about Liam…

Jamie Dornan: "He comes in and turns Beth’s world around so he’s the catalyst for every major turning point and dramatic event within the story. He’s very vital to it all but it’s not all deceit and danger, there are other aspects that are nicer aspects about his character, so it’s fun to play those as well. I hope viewers will warm to him."

Jamie Dornan as Liam Ward

Jamie Dornan as Liam Ward (Image credit: BBC/Night Flight Pictures Ltd 20)

WOTV: There’s a love story at the heart of this, but are there raunchy scenes? 

JD: "There’s a romance to it and there’s definitely love. I don’t think this is raunchy though. I guess I’ve done pretty raunchy films like Fifty Shades but I’m not seeking any of that. Sometimes you watch a random film scene and think why is he cooking naked? Nobody cooks naked, it’s such a risk!"

WOTV: Did you learn more about Ulster history? 

JD: "Yeah, because I wasn’t a great listener at school. So I learnt a lot about the origins of division and rule and all those fascinating parts of this country. The more you can learn about that and delve into the reasons for people’s anger, it’s always fascinating. I’m certainly not a religious person and I wouldn’t be an overly political person but this part of the world has a very particular history and it’s had a massive impact on every single person who’s lived here. It would be wrong to run away from it."

Jamie Dornan and Ann Skelly

Beth Winters (Ann Skelly) and Liam Ward (Jamie Dornan) (Image credit: BBC/Night Flight Pictures Ltd 20)

WOTV: Was it fun to film in Northern Ireland again? 

JD: "It’s my home country so I’ll always want to work here. It’s bad in a way that it takes me getting a job here to bring me back. I’ve been back a bit since we finished the third series of The Fall but not enough really. That’s mainly because my dad comes over to England all the time, most of my mates I grew up with live in London anyway so it’s left me with less reason to be here as often as I’d like. Working here is brilliant, even just finishing work early and going out and playing nine holes of golf by myself, it’s good for your soul!"

Jamie Dornan, Ann Skelly, Matthew Rhys

Death and Nightingales promises to be a gripping watch (Image credit: BBC/Night Flight Pictures Ltd 20)

WOTV: How was working with your co-star Matthew Rhys?

JD: "I’ve known Matthew socially for about 15 years and we’ve met up to watch rugby over the years. I’ve always been a big admirer of his work - he’s a real class act and just nails every scene. He called me about Death and Nightingales, because he was panicking about his accent, but it’s unbelievably good. I have some actor friends who I’d never want to work with because I have a fear that it wouldn’t be a good experience and a different side of them would come out at work, but with Matthew it’s been lovely."

WOTV: The drama was written by The Fall creator Allan Cubitt. Was it good to be reunited with him?

JD: "I love working with him because everything he writes is brilliant. I want to do more television. I love television, I love the idea of a balance in your career from studio movies, to independent film to American TV to Brit TV and theatre hopefully one day. I would not be a satisfied person in my career just going from studio film to studio film."

WOTV: You’ve played some dark roles, are you looking for something more light-hearted next? 

JD: "Yeah, 100 per cent. My favourite thing about being an actor is the diversity of it. I knew from a very early age that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk, and I feel like if you do the same sort of job again and again that would be the closest thing to a desk job to me, or your man who has been in Casualty for 30 years. Hats off to him but I couldn’t do that every day doing the same character, pretty much the same lines."

Death and Nightingales starts on BBC2, Wed 28 Nov, 9pm