A Chat with Paterson Joseph (“Survivors”)

Paterson Joseph is the sort of actor whose face tends to be familiar more to the Anglophiles who frequent BBC America than to the average Stateside viewer, a fate owed to the fact that the majority of his projects – such as “Casualty,” “William and Mary,” “Peepshow,” and “Hyperdrive,” to name a few – have had highly limited screenings on our shores. They’ll soon see him, however, as one of the stars of BBC America’s latest import, “Survivors,” which premieres on Saturday, Feb. 13th. I was able to catch up with Joseph a few hours after he’d done the TCA panel for the series, but the start of our conversation was delayed momentarily by the fact that he popped into the bar just at the moment that I was saying good night to my daughter on the phone. Thankfully, however, he was quite tolerant of my family matters, and we soon settled in to talk about “Survivors,” though not until after I let him know why I recognized him.

Bullz-Eye: When I first started watching “Survivors,” I saw you and I kept thinking, “I know this guy. I know I know this guy.”

Paterson Joseph: Oh, really? (Laughs)

BE: And then I suddenly realized, “It’s the Marquis!”

PJ: Ah, yes: the Marquis De Carabas! (Smiles) I loved “Neverwhere.” Absolutely loved it. And I wish…see, if the “Doctor Who” we have now had happened that same year, before we did “Neverwhere,” then “Neverwhere” would’ve worked like a dream, because it would’ve had all the money that it needed. Unfortunately, at that point, the only proper sci-fi that we had was “Blake’s 7,” which had not gone down well at all…and I suspect you know exactly what I mean by your expression.

BE: I don’t know what you’re talking about. (Laughs)

PJ: (Laughs) And, so, sci-fi was persona non grata until “Doctor Who,” but then “Doctor Who” happened, and…well, you know all this, but now fantasy drama, sci-fi, has got lots of money. It’s a damned shame. But Neil Gaiman, I think, is still trying to get a movie done here. He’s working on it.

BE: I’m ready for it. I’m ready for “Neverwhere,” “American Gods,” and anything else of his that they want to adapt.

PJ: Yeah, he’s great, man. Great.

BE: So what was your familiarity with the original version of “Survivors”?

PJ: I probably saw the opening sequence when I was about 10…and then was told to go to bed. (Laughs) So I had never really seen it, but I did remember the opening sequence when I saw it on YouTube. It’s quite striking. And then I watched the first three episodes when I got this job, and…I might as well have done in some ways, because it’s so vastly different.

BE: Yeah, Adrian (Hodges) was just saying about how he made a point of changing a key moment in the first episode, just to keep people on their toes.

PJ: That’s right!

BE: So how developed was the character of Greg Preston when you first came aboard? Did he evolve at all once you got into the role?

PJ: He was always…I mean, I described it in my interview when I read it as…he seems a bit like a guy who’s basically walking on water. Everything seems fine, he’s walking away, everything’s very serene. But underneath is a sea of shit. That’s how I described it to them in the interview, and I think that’s right. I think Adrian always had that in mind, that there was a world of pain under Greg’s easygoing persona. Even in his sort of dismissive “I don’t need people” persona, there was a world of pain and desperation, and you see that in…well, for you guys, it’s in Episode 7. It all comes out. Literally. You see everything.

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