With a number of roles under his belt, Iain De Caestecker is undoubtedly one of the finest young actors of today. Although best known for playing Leopold Fitz on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Scottish actor, has notched up several high-profile roles in series, The Fades and Young James Herriot, which were produced by the BBC.
Caestecker has also appeared extensively in film, starring in diverse productions such as In Fear, Filth and Not Another Happy Ending. In 2014, he scored the lead role in Ryan Gosling’s feature directorial debut Lost River and in 2018, he co-starred in the J.J. Abrams produced sci-fi war film, Overlord.
This year, Caestecker continues expanding his repertoire lending his talents to BBC First drama series, Roadkill, which premieres in July. The four-part miniseries featuring an ensemble cast is led by Hugh Laurie who plays Peter Laurence, an embattled Conservative politician whose life has been ladened with scandals, impacting his personal life and political agendas. The highly anticipated show also stars the late Helen McCrory as Prime Minister Dawn Ellison in her final television performance.
In the series, Caestecker portrays Duncan Knock, a trusted political advisor to Laurie’s character in the show. In this exclusive interview, Caestecker reveals more about acting, his approach to political dramas, and what audiences can expect from Roadkill….
As an actor, what served as the biggest hook for you to star in this production?
I would say there wouldn’t just be one thing. The first thing I was made aware of was that David Hare (The Hours, The Reader) was writing the story and that Hugh Laurie (House) was going to be in it. Michael Keillor (Line of Duty, C.B. Strike) was attached to direct as well. The project itself was a really enticing prospect, both the script and the subject matter also piqued by interest.
David, I felt, wrote the script in a very objective way which I thought was quite a unique and interesting for a political drama. And then finally, I would say the character itself was a shoo in. It was quite far removed from characters I played more recently. I believe as an actor, anytime you have the opportunity to do something new and different is exciting.
Touching on your character Duncan– he is a political advisor. What was the preparation process like to play him
Well, this was a world that I wasn’t familiar with and didn’t know much about. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of research material readily available in government and how it all works. We did this show before COVID, and one of the things that really impacted me was that I was able to do a tour in Westminster, the House of Commons, which was really enlightening.
I got to see that world up close and there’s a real sense of history in that place. That gave me a feeling of government, the magnitude of it and the responsibility that it entails. We also had short rehearsal process of sorts where we got together and had a lot of conversations. Often when you got a great writer, a lot of that preparation process and work is done for you, which is nice.
But what aspect of Duncan did you want to flesh out specifically for this show?
What interested me initially was exploring the inner workings and mechanisms of a government party, which in this case is a conservative government. Watching the power dynamics and struggles that goes on within that sphere was interesting. Duncan is smart, ambitious, and quite happy to indulge in all these chess games to move up the political ladder.
He’s got no shame in being in the business or stabbing someone in the back. He’s not a very moralistic person and I think it’s his arrogance that takes him out of his depth. What I liked most about playing the character was portraying the idea of someone who believes they are something that they are not. That was the element that I focused on.
You spend a lot of screen time with Hugh Laurie. How was it like working alongside him?
He’s just brilliant. He’s a very nuanced person and was very kind to me, constantly coming up with brilliant ideas. We were always extremely well prepared. I believe when you work with someone like Hugh, who is such a great actor, it raises the level of everyone else, because he just sets a very high bar.
Hugh Laurie aside, the cast for this is incredible as well…
Yes, it was an amazing production to be in, with so many great talents. But the cast was quite split-up, so I didn’t get to work with a lot of them. I think I only had one small scene with Helen McCrory, sadly. But even in that short time frame, she was someone that you immediately recognise for having a really amazing presence. That’s something I will never forget. But a lot of my scenes were with Hugh and that is something I am extremely grateful and thankful for.
Most people recognise you for your role in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., how was it like shifting gears going from something in the superhero sphere into something a bit more grounded and real world?
Yeah, the setting is vastly different and the characters themselves are quite polar opposites. Especially in the way they think and approach situations. But in terms of my approach, it wasn’t all that different. As an actor, you do your homework and prepare as much as you can within the time that you have. Once the production starts, you kind of set a goal for yourself; like here’s a standard of work that I hope to maintain throughout the production.
As an actor, is it easier or harder working on series format versus a miniseries format like Roadkill?
That’s a really good question. Immediately, I would say yes, it’s easier to film in less episodes. That’s because you can concentrate on the role and different things related to that role. Having said that, I really enjoyed being surprised on S.H.I.E.L.D. and what they had in store for the character. I guess you lose a sense of trying to overthink and overplay things, especially when you have less knowledge about where the characters are going. But with the controlling side of my personality, I would rather know the beginning and the end.
Roadkill is heavily centred on British politics; do you feel the show can resonate well with an international audience?
I think that whilst different countries have their own political systems and ways of doing things, I think some of them are very comparable. Even at the opposite ends of the worlds, people and governments are still connected by similar issues and problems – they just have different ways of working. But at the same time, what interested me about this story is less about certain ideologies, specific to Britain and our political opinions.
Like I said before it’s about that the inner workings and mechanisms of a governing party and being able to pull back the curtain and allowing the audience to be that fly on the wall, so to speak. By bringing the audience into that world where they are privy to conversations that happen in the Prime Minister’s office and revealing how it all functions is an exciting prospect, no matter where you’re from.
In your own words how would you define this show to audiences.
Oh gosh, in a sentence I would say, it’s a political drama with objective, and unique perspective.
Roadkill premieres Friday, 9 July 2021 exclusively on BBC Player.
(Images: All3Media/ BBC First)