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2003 - Charles II: The Power And The Passion.

Author: BBC Press Office.
Publication: BBC Worldwide.


At the age of 16, actor Rupert Graves was clowning around in the sawdust of a travelling circus; now, more than two decades on, he enjoys more serious acclaim as one of Britain ’s most hard working and respected actors.

He’s about to be seen on the small screen as George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham in BBC One’s powerful and passionate new drama Charles II, about the reign of the man who became known as the “Merry Monarch” for the colour and fun he brought back to England after decades ofpuritanical repression.

Buckingham, Charles’s oldest and closest friend, is one of the most colourful characters in the Court of King Charles II [played by Rufus Sewell].

His life of debauchery included bedding his own cousin, who was also the Sovereign’s seductive mistress, Barbara Villiers [played by Helen McCrory], despite being one of Charles’s most trusted inner circle of ministers.

Rupert thought carefully, however, before he slid under the skin of the self-seeking Buckingham. He’d recently brought his dark-eyed charisma to the role of Young Jolyon in John Galsworthy’s epic The Forsyte Saga and he explains: “After doing Forsyte, I didn’t know if I wanted to do another big period drama. But when I read Adrian Hodges’s scripts for Charles II, I thought they were wonderful. I loved the story and the power struggle between Buckingham and Charles.”

The future King and the young Buckingham shared the tragedy of the murder of their fathers.The 1st Duke was assassinated and his son was brought up with the Royal children of Charles I. After Charles I was executed by Cromwell, their bond of brotherhood became even stronger. Ultimately, however, Buckingham’s loyalty to his friend proved to be frail.

After a decade in exile with Charles, George returned to England to marry the daughter of the Parliamentarian Fairfax and to make peace with Cromwell’s Government.

Despite Buckingham’s abandonment of the King, he was fond of Charles. “Their fathers were actually lovers,” he reveals.“They were brought up almost as brothers and they were in exile together. I think it all went a bit belly up for Buckingham when Charles became King. He was jealous – I think he was motivated a lot by jealousy – and thought he could have done an awful lot better.”

Graves, who has starred in BBC TV’s Take A Girl Like You and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, adds:“Charles forgave Buckingham for abandoning him because there was such love between them.And Charles was, by all accounts, a decent, forgiving man.”
Decent, though, is far from how Graves sees his character.“He’s a terrible man,” he asserts.“He’s a monster. He’s an ambitious, double-crossing scumbag, really. But he has a lot of flair,” he adds with a laugh.

During filming for Charles II in Prague, Graves was able to use his fencing skills. “It was good – I like all that stuff.”

Charles’s huge sexual appetite saw him feasting on a banquet of beautiful women and Rupert, married to Susie and the father of five-month-old Josef born during the Charles II shoot, laughs when asked if he thinks there’s an age when men should settle down.

“You can’t legislate for things like that,” he grins. “Do what feels right.”
And he doesn’t believe he would have liked to live in a different century.“No, I’m quite happy being here,” he says firmly.

Graves, whose theatrical pedigree includes starring roles in Sean Mathias’s The Elephant Man, Patrick Marber’s revival of The Caretaker, with Michael Gambon, Howard Davies’s The Iceman Cometh, with Kevin Spacey and Simon Callow’s Les Enfants du Paradis, isn’t sure when he first set his sights on a career in the spotlight, although he recalls being in a school play when he was about four. He still remembers the fascination of his “little green stockings” in his role as an elf.

It’s early days, but if his baby son wants to take centre stage when he grows up, Rupert thinks he’ll be content. “I’d like to think that I’d let him do what he wants to do and try and encourage him to do whatever he wants to do. I’ll have to wait and see how I feel.”

©2003 BBC Worldwide.


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