NEW YORK, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Actor James Nesbitt says he isolated himself for months to prepare to play a desperate dad who will stop at nothing to find his young son who vanishes on a family holiday in the critically acclaimed, eight-part drama The Missing.
Written by Harry and Jack Williams, the Starz series follows a British couple -- played by Nesbitt and Frances O'Connor -- whose only child disappears while they are on vacation in France.
Initially united in their grief, the parents ultimately react to the nightmare differently with O'Connor's Emily working to accept the tragedy and move on with her life, while Nesbitt's Tony becomes obsessed with bringing home their beloved Oliver, who was standing right next to Tony one moment, then disappeared into a boisterous crowd watching the World Cup on television.
"I tried to immerse myself in Tony completely," the real-life father of two daughters told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"I tried to live a life quite similar to his. It helped me enormously that we were filming in Brussels for five months, so I was disconnected from my own girls during the week. I came back and got to see them at the weekends. But I didn't stay in a hotel with the rest of the cast. I lived in an apartment and I had all of the stuff at my disposal that Tony would have had. I had the police records, the newspaper articles about Oliver disappearing were all pinned up all over my apartment, so I was really constantly living with him and as him, in a sense."
The 49-year-old native of Ballymena, Northern Ireland, said he was immediately drawn to the series because it offered him a challenging role at the center of a gripping story.
"The writing was so truthful," he emphasized. "I felt that it was completely non-exploitative."
"I felt, clearly, it is a great thriller anyway, but from my point of view, it was something that I thought was kind of challenging, which is sort of -- when you get to my age -- you sort of still hope you can get work playing. I thought that being a parent myself would actually be helpful. That I would be able to kind of locate Tony's sort of pain through that, but, actually, I couldn't really do that because if you try to imagine that happening to your own girls -- I've got two girls -- there's sort of a self-defense mechanism, which disallows you from doing that because you just cannot imagine that happening to them."
Nesbitt's credits include the films Waking Ned Devine, Bloody Sunday and The Hobbit trilogy, and the TV series Cold Feet, Ballykissangel and Murphy's Law. The Missing airs on Starz Saturday nights.