ARTS AND FEATURES — 23 September 2013

Tom’s research for Copper led him to discover that being in the NYPD is something of a tradition for some families

By David Hennessy

Copper, the US television hit that stars Tom Weston-Jones as Detective Kevin “Corky” Corcoran, is now available to watch on Lovefilm. Following the lead of hit historical drama Vikings, Copper is the latest series to bypass the traditional television networks in the UK. With more and more people downloading their favourite shows and going for box sets, a modern audience can find Copper in a modern way, with the whole of season one available to watch any time they want.

“That method of TV is brilliant because I think that’s what people want a
lot of the time,” Tom begins. “I definitely do it as well – I binge on TV series, films and box sets of films all the time. That’s what I love about TV- you get so much more time to play someone that you hopefully get to see a whole variety of sides to this person.”

In BBC America’s first original scripted drama, Irish immigrant Corcoran tries to keep the peace in the historical Five Points area of 1860s New York. Copper broke audience records when it premiered in the US last year and series two has already been well received across the Atlantic. London based Tom is delighted that people at ‘home’ can now see him in his most high profile role to date: “It’s nice to be finally have this coming out here. I think the Irish will really enjoy it for just its sense of identity. There’s so many people in New York who identify themselves with their Irish roots. It’s such an interesting story that not many people know about: The melting pot that was Five Points. So yeah, I’m looking forward to people really getting their mitts on it and really having a look at it.”

Although the actor adds: “I am worried about certain family members of mine watching it though just because it’s more violent and sexual than they would probably enjoy watching me really.”

Very adult in nature, Copper’s first episodes see Kevin Corcoran battling to keep a young orphan who has been repeatedly abused out of the clutches of a predator. “Corky” also spends a lot of time around a brothel as he is in a relationship with a madame called Eva who is played by Franka Potente, the well known actress of Run Lola Run, The Bourne Identity and Blow. The cast also includes Kyle Schmid of Being Human, London raised Anastasia Griffith and Kevin Ryan from Dublin. Racial tensions are ever present in the series with African-Americans Ato Essendoah and Tessa Thompson playing Doctor Freeman and his wife.

“I think the diverse cast helps the notion that Five Points was a mixing pot of different cultures with everyone pushed and forced to get on in this really small space and a lot of the time it doesn’t happen because you realise they were all so very different and desperate to make a life for themselves. I really like that element to it, the international element.”

Fans of CSI should also like the more primitive but just as fascinating methods with which Freeman determines cause of death and likely murder weapons.

The story begins in the aftermath of the American Civil War and although he has returned home, Corky’s war is far from over. With his daughter dead and his wife missing, Corcoran can’t rest until he finds out what has happened to his family. It is her similar age to his deceased daughter that compels Kevin to protect the young Annie Reilly at the series’ outset.

A former boxer, Corcoran is not reluctant to use violence even if outnumbered so his moral compass is not of the average crime show antagonist: “I’ve seen certain people say that they enjoy the show but they struggle relating to Corcoran because of the things he does. I personally kind of like that, I like that it splits people and also I think if people aren’t really willing to watch something that has a particular level of violence to it, they’re not really grasping what this show is about.

“It’s about portraying a period of time where violence was real and rife and we need to portray it so this character has to have certain violent elements to him and I love that about him. I think there’s certain moments where he is incredible gentle and fatherly and loving and caring and there’s other times when he’s like a rabid dog. That’s a great character contradiction.

“I like to think his instinct comes from his gut, his boxing gut, which is a great thing. He’s very instinctual but there’s certain moments in the first and second series where he can’t help himself, he has to do certain things because of the ghosts that he’s haunted by. That’s when he doesn’t do so much thinking, he just sort of throws his instincts away and just goes hell for leather and either kills someone, hurts someone and realises the errors of his ways but that’s always good: When someone realises they’re wrong. I like that, when you see a character realise that they’ve made a mistake or not, or just make a mistake. I enjoy that.”

The cast of Copper

Born in Burton-Upon-Trent, Tom did much of his growing up in Dubai where his parents were teachers. After graduating from the University of London with a degree in drama and theatre, Weston-Jones trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. His break came when he was cast in the role of Adam in director Ed Hallʼs theatre production of Enlightenment. His other screen credits include playing a Russian spy in BBC’s Spooks and the role of Merthin in the Channel 4’s miniseries, World Without End. The Weston is actually his middle name and he has said in a previous interview: “I hyphenated it because I really wasn’t willing to go out in the acting world as ‘Tom Jones’.”

His character has been in America from a very young age but Tom looked into Irish history for his research in order to portray the proud Irish lawman: “The Irish are fantastic at creating communities in communities and that’s obviously true in Five Points because they really did build their own society in Manhattan. I definitely did a huge amount of research about the famine although, Corcoran would have been quite young when he went over to the states, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t know anything specific because it would have all been word of mouth, it all would have been stories of the old country and all these sorts of things.

“Also, I did a play while I was at drama school called Translations by Brian Friel which is an absolutely beautiful play about the famine, the beginning of the famine and also the English coming in and sort of stealing their language. It’s one of my favourite plays so I already had quite a lot of knowledge about that time period.

“I think historical research is paramount to doing these kind of things, you have to do it and it’s just one thing I love about the job: You get to throw yourself into something that you probably wouldn’t if you became a lawyer or like a banker.”

Although Tom quickly rethinks his examples of alternative jobs: “I would have never been those things by the way. I would probably have ended up working at Tesco.”

Doctor Freeman helps Corcoran with his investigations

What has the reaction of Irish-Americans and particularly New Yorkers been to the show and Tom’s character? “Really positive, a lot of New York police have got in contact and I’ve met a few of them and they were all very intrigued by the show. There’s a huge amount of New York police where it stays in the family and generation after generation after generation have been in the police force and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s lovely when people come up to you and a) enjoy the show and b) relate to the struggles of the person you’re portraying because it sort of makes me realise we’re doing a realistic job, we’re doing a good job. I enjoy when people come up to me and tell me how they feel about it. I’ve yet to have someone come up to me and say they hate it.”

For the full interview, pick up the September 28 print edition of The Irish World.

You can see Copper at www.lovefilm.com. Trailer below…

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