John Hannah Talks Damages: Exclusive Interview Part 2

September 6, 2012

Here are a few interesting things you didn’t know about John Hannah: he’s a big fan of Phineas and Ferb; loves working with American actors; and prefers Brooklyn to Manhattan. Want to know more? Read on.

If you missed our first interview with John, you can read it here.

JOSH PAYNE: How did playing Batiatus on Spartacus prepare you for this?

JOHN HANNAH: Funnily enough, in a sense the Spartacus scripts worked in a similar way. A lot of the actors asked, “Where’s my character going and what’s he doing?” And they were always on the phone with the writers. When I went in I was only expecting to be in two or three scenes per episode, so I didn’t have any huge expectations about a big part. But as it developed I realized what I liked about not knowing what was happening next was that in life you have plans about what’s going to happen next, but it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes things that happen surprise you. And I decided to take a step back from it and let the next episode take care of itself. That character was always scheming. And as soon as a plan died, he was always onto the next thing, like, “Right, okay, this is what we’ll do now.” And I love that kind of energy of having it be spontaneous rather than having it all planned. I like just taking it as it comes and being surprised by it. So that sort of prepared me for this. And I get to keep all my clothes on in this, which is nice—for the audience and for me [laughs].


JP: Part of the reason the characters aren’t as fleshed out in advance is that the Damages writers want to get a feel for the actors first and write to their strength. Was that helpful?

JH: Absolutely. It’s like with [film directors] Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. The way Ken Loach sets up a scene—he’ll work with the actors individually and tell them what their goal is in the scene and then shoots with long lenses. You’re never really aware the cameras are around. It’s very observational. And the actor comes into the scene with their goal and they encounter all these other actors they not have known were coming. Although it’s quite improvised, it’s also managed. So I had a reference for being out in the kind of back-story desert [laughs]. And I’ve really liked it.


JP: What were you looking forward to in Season 5?

JH: I love working with American actors. I find them very easy, very free, relaxed and confident. I think that’s always quite nice. Being British—not that I had an upbringing in theater or anything like that—I was attracted to this business because of films, American films, mostly. I’ve always really liked what American actors do. You know, it’s kind of a kick for me to be involved in something that I’m a fan of.


JP: What shows have you been watching recently?

JH: The last couple years I’ve been watching a lot of children’s television with my kids. I’m a big fan of Phineas and Ferb. For myself, it’s been interesting. I’ve been watching the younger shows on British TV. Misfits and The Inbetweeners—things like that, which are fairly puerile and juvenile but it sort of makes you laugh at the end of an exhausting day.


JP: How was working in New York? Did you get to spend much time here?

JH: Yes. It’s been a brilliant new discovery for me, working down here in Brooklyn and staying down here in Brooklyn as well. I find Manhattan can sometimes be a little intimidating. It’s lovely to come when you’re with your wife and you’re in for the weekend. Then it’s great. But when you’re working and just staying at some hotel in midtown and you go out to get something to eat it can just be a little intimidating. But I’ve loved being in Brooklyn. I can’t recommend it highly enough.


JP: Are you based in the States now?

JH: No, I live in London.

Related Content:
Damages Season 5, Episode 9 Recap: I Like Your Chair