Striking The Fear

By Nick Grant

The acting is thrilling in new UK hit drama, says Nick Grant

Harry Lloyd as Matty Beckett in 'The Fear'.
Harry Lloyd as Matty Beckett in 'The Fear'.

In his latest TV role Harry Lloyd could hardly look more different from Viserys Targaryen, the character that brought him to global attention in 2011 during the first season of Game of Thrones. Gone are the platinum blonde wig and the disconcerting violet contact lenses; instead, in family crime drama The Fear, Lloyd's hair is close cropped and jet black and his eyes are their natural green.

Thankfully he's a world away from Game of Thrones' perpetually petulant prince in conversation, too: whereas Viserys was given to shouting things like, "You don't want to wake the dragon" as a prelude to his frequent temper tantrums, Lloyd is a charming and thoughtful interviewee given to laughing easily and often. Not that being more pleasant than Viserys is a particularly high hurdle to clear; even Lloyd's character in The Fear is less loathsome, despite being involved in sex slave trafficking.

Not that Lloyd necessarily sees it that way. To him Viserys wasn't mad and bad, just misunderstood. Looking at it from Viserys' point of view, which was of course Lloyd's job, "he's the hero who should be king and his sister Daenerys is a bit of a nightmare, a very sullen little girl who doesn't do what she's told".

Lloyd isn't sure whether appearing in the HBO's swords and sauciness epic has been a big boost for his career or not. "You always like to think you get a job because you're just a brilliant actor," he laughs, "but obviously things are very political and if you're in some international HBO series, maybe you do get moved into a different bracket, casting-wise.

I dunno, though I'd love to know the answer. I'm sure it didn't do any harm."

He is, however, definitely very pleased to be known for the show, even if he happily admits to having no inkling of the phenomenon it'd become when he was making it.

"I do remember thinking, 'This is special.' But I had no idea it'd be quite so huge. I actually thought there was a good chance people wouldn't get it because it was really complicated with lots of characters ...

"I am really proud to be associated with it. Often the thing you're most famous for is something embarrassing where you're dressed up in a leotard, so it's lovely it's a big hit and is actually something I think is brilliant."

Lloyd's equally enthusiastic about the experience of making The Fear, which he succinctly sums up as "the marriage of two genres - a domestic drama about Alzheimer's and an organised crime thriller with lots of violence - which is a combination I thought was just great".

What also attracted Lloyd to the four-part series was the chance to act with Top of the Lake's Peter Mullan.

As he did in Jane Campion's Queenstown-set series, Mullan plays a criminal patriarch prone to volcanic outbursts of violence in The Fear. The twist in the latter series is the character's also suffering from an aggressive form of early onset dementia, which proves increasingly inconvenient when a rival gang starts muscling in on his family's Brighton Beach turf.

Mullan delivers a performance that's incredibly intense, though Lloyd says he was anything but on set.

"Peter's actually wonderfully relaxed and affable and full of fascinating anecdotes," say Lloyd, who plays one of Mullan's sons. "He'd often be mid-story when they'd go 'action' and when they went 'cut' he'd be right back onto the story. Watching his performances he seems like he'd be some deeply committed Method actor, but he's like the opposite of that, although it weirdly has the same kind of effect because it's very raw and very alive."

The Fear begins Monday, 9.30pm, on UKTV.

- Herald on Sunday

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