Rufus Sewell on How Prince Andrew's Truth Lies in His Silences

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Rufus Sewell on Playing Prince Andrew in 'Scoop'Peter Mountain/Netflix

Rufus Sewell wants to prove the skeptics wrong.

When Netflix announced the actor would be playing Prince Andrew in Scoop, the new film about the royal's infamous 2019 Newsnight interview wherein he discussed his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the criticism was loud and immediate. "Rufus Sewell cannot play Prince Andrew. This cannot happen," one person tweeted after seeing the casting news. "Sewell's not an obvious choice for Andrew," another wrote. "I thought I would never live to see miscasting so royally grievously misplaced as Dominic West playing Charles in #theCrown," yet another shared in a nod to the suggestion that Dominic West was "too handsome" to play Prince Charles in The Crown—before adding, "I was wrong but nowhere near as wrong as Rufus Sewell playing #PrinceAndrew."

Sewell's IMDb page is filled with characters who are charismatic and swoon-worthy (think: his recent turn in Netflix's The Diplomat as Hal Wyler, or Jasper in The Holiday), so he delighted in the feedback that people thought he couldn't play Andrew. "That just really made me glow," he says. "When people think that I'm good for a role, I think, 'Fuck you! You don't know what I [can] be.' I'm contrarian in that way. So the one thing that gave me solace was people saying that I was badly suited for the role. I thought, well, I can't disappoint now. Just freedom."

Playing the disgraced Duke of York, he says, "was a chance to do something that I felt I could do that I didn't get the chance to do very often." But, he continues, "having said that, when I said yes to the part I thought, 'Jesus Christ, what have I said yes to?' It's one thing to feel like it's instinct that I can do it, but that doesn't mean it's done."

Still, Sewell knew from the moment he read Peter Moffatt and Geoff Bussetil's script that he was the man for the role. He had a "flash" of his version of Andrew, he says, but declines to share that initial creative inspiration for his performance. "I'm very wary of making any statement that could be—even unintentionally—create the impression of a black-and-whiteness that I don't feel," he says, perhaps referencing the question of whether Prince Andrew is guilty of all he has been accused of. Sewell adds, "I have my feelings about what went on, but this is something I wouldn't like to make a bold statement about. I like to think that whatever shows in my performance is there."

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Sewell says playing Andrew reminded him of the roles he used to do when he was just starting out as an actor.James Gilliam

Over a lengthy conversation on Zoom ahead of the premiere of Scoop, however, the actor does share a number of thoughts on Prince Andrew. First, Sewell didn't grow up in a royalist household. His mom liked Queen Elizabeth; he was sad when she died; but he is not "particularly big on the royals." That said, he adds, "I have empathy towards humans. I can't help seeing people as people." He didn't watch Prince Andrew's 2019 appears on Newsnight live, only coming to it through clips after, but he remembers, "I found it unbelievably mesmerizing for all sorts of reasons."

In particular, Sewell thinks Prince Andrew approached the interview with the mindset that he had been wronged. "My instinct was not just about him, but about humans: That guilt, such as it may be, and culpability, such as it may be, can sit alongside feelings of victimhood, and jostle for position. That exists, to a certain extent, in all of us. watching him—there's a feeling that he feels he's been set up, pushed into a situation, and hijacked by his own sense of loyalty. I'm not saying he views his situation with a great deal of imagination, but there is a great sense of unfairness about it."

Also key to understanding Sewell's performance in Scoop is his perspective that during those 49 minutes and 26 seconds, Andrew is telling what he (Prince Andrew, not Sewell) believes is the truth "a surprising amount of the time." To prepare for filming, Sewell watched a series of body language experts analyze Andrew. "What's very interesting is not when they point out that he's uncomfortable or he is self-soothing or his heartbeat is racing, but when he's telling the truth," he says, quickly clarifying, "I'm not arguing that what he's saying is all true, but he uses a version of that classic—a modern classic—his truth, in order to get his story across. And he has rehearsed thoughts that he attempts to [pretend are new] on camera, and he has things that he thinks that will play well, and this is why I found it fascinating."

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Gillian Anderson as Emily Maitlis, left, and Sewell as Andrew, right, in a scene from Scoop.Peter Mountain/Netflix

Sewell studied the interview obsessively, specifically noting when Prince Andrew would pause, or hesitate, or hedge, as he spoke to Emily Maitlis. "It's not so much working out where [those pauses] were, but why they were—my own version of why they were, because no one can know," he says. "When the final version of the interview appeared in the script, a lot of the little caveats and hesitations had been removed, and I begged to have them put back, because that's where the truth of him was."

He continues, "The point of what he was trying to attempt was often in the little caveats, or pauses, or words that he deems important, and obsessing about, 'Was it Monday? Oh, no, what was it, a Tuesday?'" What struck Sewell most about the conversation, he says, was Andrew's performance of being a stickler for the details. The actor was fascinated with the prince's "apparent obsession with the accuracy of what he's saying, which is nothing to do necessarily with truthfulness."

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The interview scene in the filmNetflix

Sewell is keenly aware of how Scoop may be received—especially the Andrew of it all—and the potential impact on his career. "Are they going to come for me, either for vilifying him or glorifying him or being shy of either?" he questions. Yet, as quickly as he brought up the possible critics up, Sewell shrugged off their concerns, confident that his performance speaks for itself.

Scoop premieres on Netflix tomorrow, April 5. Watch here

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