Aidan Turner stars in "The Suspect." Photo courtesy of Sundance Now
NEW YORK, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The Hobbit and Poldark actor Aidan Turner said one of the reasons he wanted to star in the British thriller The Suspect is because it gives him the chance to tell a modern story.
"It's contemporary. It's been a while since I've had a car and a phone," Turner told UPI in a recent phone interview. "I wear jeans and have trainers. No sword or horse."
All five episodes of The Suspect are streaming on Sundance Now.
The adaptation of Michael Robotham's novel casts Turner as Joe O'Loughlin, a married clinical psychologist whose life is turned upside-down by a Parkinson's disease diagnosis and the discovery that a former patient with whom he'd had a romantic affair has been brutally murdered.
"I thought this was a really interesting character. That ambiguity is something you don't always see. With a lot of these kinds of shows, we are very quick to go: 'Who is the bad guy? Who is the good guy? Why are they good? Why are they bad? What have they done?'" Turner said.
"With Joe, it wasn't that. It's muddied and complicated. It's not what you expect."
The 39-year-old actor acknowledged some of Joe's actions will puzzle viewers, but he said that is part of the design.
"He makes some decisions that make you think: 'Are you lying? What are you covering up?'" Turner said.
"It was such a quick page turner for me," he added. "I wanted to figure out this guy and then he is just as much fun to play and then you are trying to figure out his intentions in these scenes. He just seemed complicated and flawed and real."
Minutes into the first episode, Joe is summoned to talk suicidal Malcolm out of jumping off a window ledge. The plan is for Joe to put a rappelling harness on the distraught man and lower him to the ground, seven stories below.
It is then that a doctor reveals Joe has Parkinson's and probably isn't the man for the job since his hands tremble.
The doctor is proven right when Joe drops Malcolm's harness. He heroically takes off his own and puts it on the other man, but the two fall off the ledge, suspended by a wire and clinging to each other until the fire department pulls them into a window.
"Swinging from a crane into a building, that got my heart racing straight away," Turner laughed.
Before filming began, the actor met with a man in his 30s who is living with Parkinson's to get a sense of how the disease might impact Joe physically and mentally.
"It's such a broad spectrum. Everyone has different symptoms and they appear at different times," he said.
"Many people who suffer from Parkinson's have impulsive decision-making and that was a very interesting trait. I thought this could maybe feed into Joe's whole disposition and we could make sense of it," he added.
"That is something the audience has to play with, too, to go: 'Is this the trauma of being diagnosed? Is this the person he is?'"
Joe's fear of losing his wife and daughter is also top of mind when he is dealing with the police detectives investigating the show's central murder.
"He tries to cover up this affair with one of his patients and he knows that would absolutely destroy his marriage and ruin this perfect, idyllic home he has," Turner said.
"That's part of the reason this thing snowballs. He is trying to cover up different things. A lot of us recognize that these things, sometimes, in all sorts of ways, not sinister ways, necessarily, can get out of hand and we lose the grip of the reality of the situation."
Directed by James Strong and Camilla Strøm Henriksen, The Suspect is visually stunning, with characters filmed from unexpected angles to signal to viewers that this world is a bit askew.
"It didn't seem like it had $150 million behind it to make it happen. It had this feeling of this old Hitchcockian way," Turner said.
"You're not nursing the audience into going, 'This is exactly how you should feel about this thing.' It's a thing a lot of good British television does. A lot of time we don't have the budget, but we don't need it. You can have something done quite simply."
Turner appreciated the way the directors used high drone shots to film London traffic patterns on the ground in a way that made them look like human veins. The show's score sets the mood for the piece.
"It's not too dark and dreary," he said. "It's just the feeling of the city, this pulse that is under us all the time. It's subtle, but I think it helps a lot with this kind of genre show."
Camilla Beeput, Adam James, Shaun Parkes, Anjili Mohindra, Sian Clifford and Bobby Schofield co-star in The Suspect.