Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pink Carnation Spotlight - Toby Stephens (Jack Reid)

Ah, Jack Reid. The British Harrison Ford. There is one man and one man alone I could ever see playing you, no matter what his age. He IS Jack Reid.

Name: Toby Stephens

"Dream" Character Casting for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Jack Reid, aka The Moonflower

First Impression: The Great Gatsby. OK, it wasn't so much the ill-advised 2000 adaptation with Paul Rudd of all people that was my first impression, it was an article in People Magazine about the adaptation that got my attention. The article was about Toby and his breaking into America with The Great Gatsby. The real reason I found this so fascinating is that Toby is Maggie Smith's son! Even if you aren't a British dilettante you know who Maggie Smith is! Toby Stephens was quite literally born to be a great actor, though not in The Great Gatsby.

Why they'd be the perfect actor for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Um, because he just is Jack? OK, you probably need more convincing as I'm casting a forty-six year old in the role of a man twenty years his junior. He has the gruffness down pat. Between playing Mr. Rochester and Captain Flint he's got gruff covered. With Flint he's got that ruggedness that is necessary to survive in the wilds of Portugal. But more then that, think of how Jack creates these characters and lives their lives, there's a survival attitude, but also a mischievous imp in there too... one who might dress up as a gypsy woman to mess with people perhaps? Also, really, I often say how all British actors have an American counterpart and vice versa, he really is the British Harrison Ford. He can call me Princess any day.

Lasting Impression: OK, this is a really close call between Cambridge Spies and Jane Eyre, it's a dead heat tie in fact. In Cambridge Spies I really got a sense of the range of his acting skills, I mean he's such a wicked good actor that you are actually rooting for him to outwit the British. But it was in Jane Eyre that I fell in love with him. He IS my Rochester. Before I had read Jane Eyre and in all the adaptations I have watched I just couldn't get why anyone thought Rochester was so broody and wonderful. Orson Welles, nope. George C. Scott, Timothy Dalton, William Hurt, and even Michael Fassbender didn't work for me. As for Ciarán Hinds? Spare me. No no and no. It's Toby Stephens and only Toby!

What else you've seen them in: Toby is everywhere, never wanting to be typecast or pigeonholed. From several Bronte adaptations, to Shakespeare, great period pieces like Cousin Bette to actually being the villain in a Bond movie, his range and where he will show up next will surprise you. Yes, that's him on Law and Order: UK and Inspector Lewis. That new star-studded production of Agatha Christie's And Then There Where None, yes please! And if you want some comedy with your mystery, check out Vexed, but ONLY the first season. Why yes, why not star in the revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives with his wife! But one of my all time favorite random appearances is Toby's three episodes on Robin Hood as Prince John. He is the ONLY one who understood the camp nature of this show and made you realize how awesome it could have been all along if only he had been there. He was a light in a dark and depressing show, which I did completely watch for Richard Armitage, who now owes me one.

Can't believe it's them: Space Cowboys! Really!?! He played a young Clint Eastwood!?! This is too hilarious to have not known. This is now forever in my mind as the funniest fact about Toby. Might actually have to watch the movie now...

Wish they hadn't: The Chamomile "Cousin Fucking" Lawn. And yes, that is my version of the title, though most people just call Toby's first acting role as The Chamomile Lawn. I remember it so well, the one and only time I watched this miniseries. It wasn't available in the US and I was visiting my friend Sara in Canada and we went to the video store and there it was. I was so excited. But this is such a weird miniseries. All about Tara Fitzgerald having a love affair with twins. Jennifer Ehle has a great line about DANCING! But overall I remember that it was about two cousins who were in love, hence, "cousin fucking." Avoid this, it's not worth your time. Though I do wish my friend Sara had kept a running log of all the random exclamations I made while watching this, it would be quite entertaining, especially as she was in the other room and I would literally yell out random things.

Bio: Toby Stephens was literally born into acting royalty, his mother being Maggie Smith, his father was no less a great actor, being Robert Stephens. After his parents divorced he followed his mother around the world for her various acting jobs. Therefore it is not at all surprising that both him and his brother became actors. While offered so many television and film roles he has almost always shunned Hollywood, turning instead to his first love, theater. When he first started out he quickly garnered many awards, winning the Sir John Gielgud Prize for Best Actor and the Ian Charleson Award for his performance in the title role of Coriolanus at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1994 when he was only twenty-five! He is also a prolific narrator of books, which I didn't know and must now hunt up, oh, looks like he does Flashman, makes total sense for Jack Reid, as well as performing in broadcast radio dramas, yadda yadda, Flashman! He is married to the actress Anna-Louise Plowman, whom he has stared with several times and with whom he has three children. He is also totally and completely awesome. He can be good or evil and whatever he is you will root for him. Doubt me? Watch Black Sails STAT, especially if you want to see him get "reacquainted" with his Cambridge Spies co-star Rupert Penry-Jones.


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