Downton Abbey’s Brendan Coyle Shows His Darker Side in New Esquire Show

Plus, how he’s using Kickstarter to support up-and-coming artists


Specs
Age 51
Claim to fame Stars as Nelson Clay on the new Esquire drama series Spotless (premieres Nov. 14 at 10 p.m.) and as Mr. Bates on Downton Abbey (final season begins Jan. 3 on PBS)
Base London
Twitter @brendancoyle99

Adweek: What's the first information you consume in the morning?
Brendan Coyle: I wake up in the morning, put on BBC Radio 4, and get the news. If I'm at home during the day, I put on Radio 6, which is hosted by people like Guy Garvey, the lead singer of Elbow. They have great music. I'm a news junkie, but it sort of makes me unhappy given the state of the world, so I'm trying to just let that go a bit.

Tell us about your social media habits.
I am on Facebook, but I keep that very close. I'm on Twitter as BrendanCoyle99 because my great uncle was Matt Busby who was the manager of Manchester United's football club, and 1999 was the year that we won the treble, which no one has ever done before. A lot of people are really resistant [to Twitter], but I love it. I have some amazing followers who point me in directions that they think that I'll like, and it's mad but it's lovely. But what I mostly use it for—and I've probably lost a lot of followers because of this—is my production company, Anderson Shelter Productions. It's nonprofit, and what we do is try to bring through young working-class artists that we believe in, and we invest in Kickstarter campaigns to develop theater productions and short films.

What's on your reading list?
I'm reading Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, which is set in New York. I'm also reading an American novel called The Art of Fielding [by Chad Harbach]. I'm about three chapters in, and I'm completely in love with it. I just finished a memoir called Orangutan by Colin Broderick, who is from County Tyrone where my father is from. The book is about the final wave of the diaspora of Irish builders in New York in the '80s. It's pretty brutal, but brilliant. Otherwise, it's all scripts at the moment.

What TV shows do you watch?
I'm absolutely obsessed, at the moment, with Netflix and the American television revolution that started with the Sopranos years ago. I can't commit to drama series [on television], so what I do I'll just sit down with my flatmates and invest in four episodes of Breaking Bad, for example. I've also just watched Bloodline. I'm a huge Sam Shepard fan—I've done three of his plays—and I heard he was the dad in this thing, but I didn't know what the show was about. And boom, two days later, I've seen the whole series. It's an extraordinary thing. And Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, my god! All of this extraordinary talent is moving into American television.

On your new show, Spotless, you play a mob boss. Do you think that'll be a shock for your Downton Abbey fans?
Well, I hope so! I mean, my character is very subtly psychotic, and I love that. Between every season of Downton Abbey, I went straight into something very different. I did two series of a program called Starlings, which seemed, on the surface, very gentle, but it was written by Steve Edge and Matt King, who are geniuses. I went on stage in the West End for a show called Mojo, which was all about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. And now I'm doing Spotless where I play this character who doesn't get his hands dirty but is monstrous beyond belief. It's really extraordinary.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 9 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.