James Purefoy: Being self on 'Wine Show' 'slightly daunting prospect'

James Purefoy (L) and Dominic West can now be seen in Season 3 of "The Wine Show." Photo courtesy of Sundance Now/Acorn TV
James Purefoy (L) and Dominic West can now be seen in Season 3 of "The Wine Show." Photo courtesy of Sundance Now/Acorn TV

NEW YORK, July 29 (UPI) -- The Following and Hap & Leonard actor James Purefoy said he and his co-stars initially weren't comfortable just being themselves on Sundance Now's unscripted docu-series, The Wine Show.

"We're built to play other people, allowing the cameras to see ourselves is a slightly daunting prospect," Purefoy, 57, told UPI in a recent phone interview. "There is nothing to hide behind. You are entirely vulnerable."


Season 3 debuts Thursday and follows Purefoy and fellow British actors Matthew Goode, Matthew Rhys and Dominic West as they sample the delights and learn about the histories of vineyards and winemakers around the world.

"It's a show that puts its arms around you and holds you tight and cuddles you while you drink," Purefoy laughed, acknowledging it is a warm-hearted, frequently funny series that simply aims to make viewers happy.

"Despite the fact that there are a lot of men in it, it's not a macho show," he added. "I've never heard anything bad said about The Wine Show."


Purefoy joined for Season 2, right after he finished work on Altered Carbon in Canada and made a brief pit stop at home in England to meet his newborn twins for the first time.

"Season 3 was much easier timing wise," Purefoy said. "It was also a lot easier on my liver. I was greedy in the first season [I did.] I couldn't believe I was being given all this free wine!

"I overdid it a little bit in the second season. By the third season, I was a little bit more hard-boiled about it, and was able to just take the odd little sip of things. I was a bit more disciplined about my wine-drinking, and I think that made me clearer about what we were doing."

It isn't always easy maintaining one's professionalism and sharing information with the audience at home while imbibing.

"We didn't think it was aesthetically pleasing to see people spit, so we drank, and there was the odd occasion -- if you look on YouTube there are bloopers -- when your mouth was not doing what you wanted it to do or you couldn't pronounce words," he recalled.

The actors tried until they got their lines right, instead of letting their slurred speech make it on the air.


Fortunately, he said, the producers were very understanding about such things.

"When we do our tasting weeks, it is 16 wines in the morning and 16 wines every afternoon for a few days. It is quite a lot of wine to be drunk," Purefoy said.

"The producers always give us two hours off for lunch, which is nice. So, you have an hour to sleep, to sober up, and then you can start again. It's really having the big wines first thing in the morning that is the tricky one."

One Season 3 episode shows Purefoy and Goode surrender at midday, place their hats on their faces and take naps on camera.

"Sometimes we just go: 'That's enough. Can we just take a snooze now?'" Purefoy confessed.

The actor points to the Socratic dilemma when explaining what this experience has taught him.

"The more knowledge there is about something, the less you realize you know. I started off thinking I knew about wine and I ended up realizing I know nothing! Really, nothing!" Purefoy said, insisting he is not the one to recommend wines at dinner, even when prompted by guests. "There's just so much to know."

When choosing wine for himself, Purefoy embraces the show's principle of not allowing himself to be seduced by a bottle's price, label or marketing. Instead, he focuses on the taste and how it makes him feel.


"We just go, 'Does it give you pleasure?' That's all that matters. And you can get as much pleasure out of an 8-pound bottle of wine as you can out of a 200-pound bottle of wine," he said.

Context is also important when assessing wine, the actor added, noting wines taste completely different depending on where and when -- and who you are with -- when you drink it.

"I have sat in restaurants in Tuscany and been blown away by a glass of wine, and then ordered a case of it online, and then I've been sitting at home on a wet September evening in Somerset and it is 5 degrees outside," Purefoy said.

"That wine tastes nothing like it did with warm tomatoes and olive oil and thyme and basil and mozzarella."

Having met many winemakers, some who are carrying on traditions begun centuries ago by their ancestors, Purefoy now appreciates the care, work and innovations that goes into creating wine and evolving to satisfy 21st-century consumer tastes.

He no longer takes any glass for granted.

"I now pay attention to wine," he said.

"I smell it. I swirl it around the glass. I have a taste. I come back to it a half an hour later to see what's changed because that is a breathtaking thing, that realization," Purefoy said.


"Those are the two things that I have learned more than anything else: Does it give you pleasure? And pay some respect to those winemakers."

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