When they first receive a script, actors often scan its pages to count how many lines they’ve got—or, if it’s a TV series, to see if their character gets killed off. Rupert Penry-Jones is no different, but he’s got an extra reason for having a thumb through—he wants to find out if he has any naked scenes. And he utters an almost audible sigh of relief when he discovers he doesn’t.
“I’m not about to turn down roles because they involve nudity,” he says. “But, given the choice, I’d rather keep my clothes on. You want to be doing something because you’re a good actor, rather than because you look a certain way. You only get such parts for a while anyway, and I’ll get less and less as I get older and my belly gets bigger.”
While his career as a dashing TV lead continues to go from strength to strength. He has a key role, as DI Joseph Chandler, in ITV1’s ongoing detective series Whitechapel and, this month, he stars in a second run of BBC1 legal drama Silk. But the fear of unemployment weighs heavily on his mind.
“All actors want to achieve longevity; to discover some means by which they can go on and on getting work. If I knew what that was, I could relax a bit, but I don’t. When I don’t know what my next job is going to be, the worry has kept me awake at night. You think your time might be up.
“My mum (To the Manor Born actress Angela Thorne) was recently talking about all these big names from her era and I’d never even heard of them. They were massive stars who just disappeared. I don’t want that happening to me.”
And while Rupert’s major roles have been TV lawyers, policemen and other figures of authority, so far movie stardom has alluded him. “It just hasn’t happened,” he shrugs. “I’ve either had small parts in great movies or big parts in films that haven’t been particularly good or very well received.“The truth is that, at the moment, I’m not so concerned about going to Hollywood as I once was. I want to see my two children grow up, and spend as much time with Dervla [Kirwan, his actress wife] as possible. She ‘gets’ me; she’s my soulmate. I don’t like being apart from her for very long at all.”
But he does harbours ambitions to play the ultimate hero of the British establishment: James Bond. “I’m not chasing it down,” he cautions. “But, if they asked me, I’d be delighted. I’m hardly going to say no to that one, am I?!”
The full interview with Rupert appears in the April issue of Reader’s Digest, out now.
[picture credit: ITV]