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Andrew Scott on his role in 'Pride' and the perks of being Moriarty

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Andrew Scott
Mike Marsland/WireImage

When Andrew Scott came upon a role in the upcoming film Pride, about gay and lesbian activists who lend support to striking miners in the mid-1980s, he was looking to do something more “low-key,” he told EW.

That certainly doesn’t describe the role that Sherlock fans associate with the Irish actor; Scott is perhaps most recognizable as Sherlock’s arch-nemesis Jim Moriarty, which he plays in sublimely outlandish and creepy fashion. His character in Pride, however, is miles away from Moriarty, the role that has gotten him complimentary desserts in restaurants and shocked reactions in elevators. 

Scott gives a quiet performance as Gethin, a Welshman who runs a gay specialty bookstore in London. When his work with Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners brings him back in connection with Wales, he begins a reconciliation with his past. Scott talked to EW in New York about learning about the history behind the film, bonding with his cast mates, and, yes, Sherlock.

EW: I loved the film. I sobbed.

ANDREW SCOTT: Yeah, it has that effect on people. We’re finding out these extraordinary reactions that are happening over the weekend, that people are standing up and clapping at the end of the screening, which just does not happen in England.

How did you first get involved with the film?

I went into meet Matthew Warchus, our director. Bill [Nighy] and Imelda [Staunton] were already attached to it, and I thought the script was extraordinary. I was looking to play a character on a more low-key kind of note, after the stuff that I’ve been doing recently. Because Gethin, my character, is very low-key, my main concern really was I wanted him to make is mark in a group of very flamboyant characters. That actually was why the character seemed to be to be very distinctive, because those characters are no less present just because they are a little less talkative. I loved the character. I thought he was very cinematic, and I loved the idea that there was a sort of sadness and a melancholy about him. I live in London, but I’m actually from Dublin, so the idea of being away from home and being estranged from my own family I found very moving. It’s something that I think a lot of people relate to.

Did you have any knowledge of the story behind it?

Not at all. None of us had in fact. It’s not a story that’s known or has been known.

Gay’s the Word, the bookstore your character runs in the movie, is still around. Did you visit?

I did. I went to see them and it was extraordinary. I’d never been there before but I went in. The bookshop has been so lovingly, incredibly restored on camera, it’s almost exactly the same. It’s beautiful. The whole production design is extraordinary.

Can you tell me about your research process?

I’m not a huge research guy. For me it’s very important to serve the script and the script is extraordinarily well researched. The thing that I did do was to look at the way gay people and miners were represented in the press at the time, which was incredibly helpful because there was just a huge amount of hatred and prejudice that was absolutely unapologetic and that was very frightening and very shocking to read, and certainly if it was for me it was even more shocking for the young 20-year-olds in the cast. They called gay people the slime of society with absolutely no admonishment or anything. That was very good to get a sense of what going on a march might be like. Both communities were bullied by the press and that’s really why their alliance was so strong because they had so much in common.

I was looking at your interview with Attitude and I saw the cover line said that Pride is “greatest gay film of all time“, and I also saw another interview with you where you said it’s not just a gay film. Can you talk a little bit about seeing that cover line and what you think of that interpretation of the film?

It’s an interesting one. I think the thing that I feel very strongly about is that everybody that I’ve spoken to is really moved by the film, and for that reason I say it’s not just a gay film. I think it’s been embraced by the gay community because I think people are very celebratory about the fact that gay people are not just seen in story lines that are related to sex or sexuality, that their attributes of kindness and bravery and compassion  are the things that are celebrated in the movie and I think that’s incredibly important.

But I do remember very strongly in our read-through the enormous passion and the enormous ownership of the story from the whole cast and it was a big cast. People were very passionate and hugely moved by it. In our cast, we have men and women, we have people in their 70s and people in their teens, we have posh people and working class people, we have different nationalities, and we have gay and straight people. … You don’t have be a miner to know about union politics or be a gay person to really embrace it.

It speaks that we’re all the same really. And rather than going, “That’s got nothing to do with me because that’s not my personal experience,” my own personal experience, actually, I feel, is kind of irrelevant. It’s about our own humanity.

You’ve come out in the press and you have people asking about this film in relation to your own experience. What has that been like for you?

It’s a difficult thing with coming out publicly. Actually, that’s something that happened a long time ago. It was very low-key, something that I spoke about in a thing. It was not something that I ever kept a secret. But the nature of this film, it obviously a similar subject. I think the thing that is important to me is, depending on the project, I don’t think that’s necessarily something that I need to talk about in every interview that I do. Of course people ask me about that, and that’s absolutely to be expected on this gig, but what I am is an actor and I play lots of different parts, gay, straight, lots of different ones.

Actually, the thing that I think is interesting about my character is not somebody that’s struggling with their sexuality but someone that’s struggling with their national identity. There’s a huge amount of complexities in playing any different human being otherwise we would say that playing Rambo is the same as playing Christy Brown in My Left Foot purely by the fact that they are both straight characters. So it can be reductive in that sense. I suppose I feel it’s important not to speak too much on the subject because there can be sort of an oppression in that.

Can you talk about the filming experience? There are so many people in the film.

Oh, it’s incredibly good fun. It’s highly unusual to be in scenes every day with at least 12 people. So there was so many of us all the time, which meant it was great fun. It really helped with the spirit of the film, because everybody in the cast is so different, different ages and everything and it sort of reflects the audience that we kind of want. It’s so important to me that people reading this feel that it’s a film for them and it’s a film that they will love and they will relate to, because everybody in the cast related to each other so well, and because it’s so witty and so genuinely funny, and that’s the way we were as a cast. It is a film about kindness and compassion and friendship so we couldn’t all be disappearing to our trailers between takes. So we all ate together and hung out together and it was really genuinely beautiful.

You developed outside relationships too—

We started filming in Wales, which is always nice when you’re filming on location. We were away from London. It was very clever scheduling on the producers’s behalf because it meant that we could really experience what it was like to go away and the strangeness of being somewhere else, but also it meant that you could go to dinner with each other rather than going back to our individual lives. So that’s where we were at the very beginning. We all bonded.

I would be remiss if I didn’t—

Here we go!

I know you know.

That’s alright, I understand.

Obviously Sherlock has changed your profile, especially here and on the Internet. I also know you can’t say really anything. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with the final episode of the third season and the revelation that Moriarty is still around. Was that something you always knew was going to come back?

Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat came up with idea for Sherlock whatever it was five or six years ago and a long-term strategy. Not just a couple of seasons. So I did know that. I don’t like to know too much.

Because then you might say—

Quite. I think the show seems to have grown and grown and grown. I was here about a year ago, and walking down the street now is a completely different experience than even a year ago. I think maybe it’s the different way people watch television—they watch it on Netflix. This time around it’s been noticeably, “What the hell is going on here.” New Yorkers are so funny. This girl nearly had a heart attack. I was in an elevator and she was on the phone she was like, “Jesus!” I’ve had a lot of those kind of experiences. People are great in New York I’ve got some really nice complimentary desserts in restaurants for being Moriarty.

They want to butter him up.

Literally butter him up.

Back to Pride: What do you think the film means for the legacy of the miner’s strike?

I think the main legacy is that people talk about history, and it’s sort of told backwards in a way. I think what this film will really help with is the idea that extraordinary acts of bravery and courage and kindness, however small they may be, however unnoticed they may be and however unnoticed they were—and God knows it was unnoticed for years—do make a difference, and they are eventually noticed. I think one of the most moving things to talk about the legacy of it is the real-life heroes of it who are having such a great time with the re-emergence of the story and how much that means for them. And what’s extraordinary about them is that they are all still fighting their fight in whatever different ways.

The idea that actually we have much more in common with each other than we think is something that is very comforting to me, and uplifting for an audience. I absolutely love the idea that this very true story has happened and that it can be entertaining and full of heart and full of love.

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