Theo James on His Very Naked ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’ Performances

Theo James has an infectious, self-deprecating humorousness, the sort that’s welcome and even perhaps required when a large share of an interview is spent speaking about himself being bare and oiled up in order that his biceps and buttocks glisten and sparkle on digicam.

In The Time Traveler’s Wife, which premiered Sunday on HBO, James is extraordinarily bare.

He is extraordinarily bare whereas working down the road. He is extraordinarily bare on prepare tracks as a subway barrels towards him. He is as uncovered because the day he was born whereas falling onto a automotive. He is in his birthday swimsuit whereas preventing a stranger in an alley. His backside is on show when he crash-lands in a clearing within the woods. His derriere is in full view when he seems in a fountain in a park. The excellent tushy is there for all to see when he’s, far more usually, getting away from bed.

The British actor, who beforehand appeared in the Divergent movies, not too long ago made Jane Austen followers blush together with his equally unclothed look in Sanditon, and performed the notorious and scandalizing Pamuk within the first season of Downton Abbey, does the precise factor an actor ought to do when he is aware of that everybody is about to be speaking about how very bare he’s within the factor we simply watched.

He flashes a sheepish smile—you already know the one, the place the jawline and dimples create a topography that might be photographed by satellite tv for pc. He glances bashfully on the ground and heaves a playful sigh. But then, he talks about it! As he ought to, however as many actors don’t. Theo James is aware of he’s bare lots in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and he is aware of he ought to discuss it.

Because it’s not simply the nudity, in spite of everything. It’s, at occasions, violent nudity. The premise of The Time Traveler’s Wife finds his character, Henry, all of the sudden showing in public fully bare, and having to get superb at “running, stealing, and fighting” as a way to survive. It is nude scenes, and it’s stunt work.

“Running through streets in bare feet at 2 a.m. in the Bronx, or getting thrown onto the roof of a car,” he tells The Daily Beast, recounting taking pictures the sequence over Zoom. He grins and his eyes morph into virtually a wink. “You have to be careful of your nuts.”

The Time Traveler’s Wife is, at this level, an indelible piece of pop-culture iconography. The 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger mixed science fiction and romance right into a love story a couple of man with a genetic dysfunction that causes him to spontaneously disappear after which apparate in one other place and time, and the spouse whose life he pops out and in of. Blending the 2 genres, it basically bottled two bolts of lightning and have become a monster hit within the publishing world. A movie model got here out in 2009 starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. Now, it’s a splashy HBO sequence created by Sherlock and Doctor Who author Steven Moffat.

“I read the book years ago,” James says. He estimates he was round 19 and at college. His good friend even acquired a signed copy of it. “He was like, ‘I’ve read this great book, and I’m going to option it and make it a movie.’ I joke that this guy was Steven Moffat, but it wasn’t. It was my friend Gav.”

James grew up on a goose farm northwest of London. He was the youngest of 5 children, and liked music whereas he was rising up. (Google “Theo James” and “Shere Khan” for YouTube movies of him singing together with his band.) He studied philosophy on the University of Nottingham earlier than agreeing to audition for drama faculty to help his aspiring-actress girlfriend. (She didn’t get in.)

A run as Stanley in a manufacturing of A Streetcar Named Desire was a turning level. A job within the 2010 movie You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was a breakout second. Twenty minutes of display time because the doomed Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk in Downton Abbey made him a sensation. “I was in it for fleeting milliseconds,” he laughs when the sequence is, because it all the time is when he does interviews, introduced up. His Time Traveler’s Wife co-star Rose Leslie, who performed housemaid Gwen within the first season, is the one who “was properly in it,” he protests.

Stints in the Divergent sequence and a Jane Austen adaptation—plus his latest casting within the subsequent season of The White Lotus—have familiarized him with what it means to star in a challenge that already has a built-in, passionate (learn: opinionated) fanbase. That’s been the case, too, with The Time Traveler’s Wife. But what’s been sudden is how the fabric has risen above these sorts of issues and paranoia and—particularly in relation to concepts about getting old and love, and, effectively, life—turn out to be surprisingly profound.

Though, like he does in regards to the reality we’ve all now seen his bare bum, he has a humorousness about that, too. “I need to stop,” he says at one level, whereas speaking about his appearing course of. “I sound so pretentious right now.”

Theo James is 37. While there are a lot of (possibly a dozen?) Theo Jameses in The Time Traveler’s Wife—or, somewhat, James as his time-jumping character Henry—the 2 key ages he performs are a troubled, boastful “kid” in his late twenties and an older, wiser, introspective man in his early forties.

It’s kismet that he’s virtually precisely in the midst of these two durations of life.

“I don’t know if I could have done this when I was 30,” he says. “I remember the young one. I remember me being that age. I still am that age in so many ways. I still make impulsive decisions, make stupid decisions, but hopefully a little bit wiser. I’m married. I have a child. But then looking forward to when you’re in your forties, I can also understand that you’re a bit more settled. You’ve got a little bit less to prove. Hopefully, you’ve got less chips on your shoulder.”

I still make impulsive decisions, make stupid decisions, but hopefully a little bit wiser.

That youthful model of James, each the social one and the one attempting to construct a profession within the leisure business, was continuously attempting to show himself. He was naive and cocky sufficient to suppose he understood the world. He didn’t. He nonetheless doesn’t, however is sufficiently old now to know that. “I think you grow a bit and realize it’s OK not to know everything,” he says. “That’s one thing about youth,” he continues, earlier than stopping himself and laughing. “I’m talking like I’m a fucking old man.”

If there’s one factor that starring in The Time Traveler’s Wife instilled in him, it’s to be current. It’s to cease worrying in regards to the previous and cease being anxious in regards to the future. To cease stressing about what you didn’t do, a mistake you made, or how you bought screwed over. To cease having nervousness about what would possibly come subsequent, what individuals could consider you, or how it is best to plan for issues.

“As Henry says in the show, life is very, very short, and we should appreciate every minute we’ve got because it ends fairly quickly.” He pauses for a bit and raises his personal eyebrow at what he simply stated earlier than bursting out laughing. “That sounds so depressing. But I actually meant it!”

There’s a phrase he loves that, he stresses, he’s paraphrasing, principally as a result of he can’t bear in mind who really stated it so he can’t give me clues to trace down the supply: Every love story is a tragedy as a result of somebody dies. We all die.

“There’s something poignant and sad, but also celebratory about that. Like, it doesn’t last forever, so be wary of that.” The pause-raised-eyebrow-laughter sequence returns. “I’m being so depressing. At least I sound deep.”

This is all to say that there are vital issues, particularly issues about himself, that James discovered whereas taking pictures The Time Traveler’s Wife. Another: He ought to by no means develop out his hair.

The youthful model of Henry within the sequence, the one who’s in his late twenties, has the type of lengthy, shoulder-length hair that, when pulled off, is scientifically confirmed to spark an prompt crush in any one who sees it. Henry undoubtedly pulls it off. (You’ll perceive why Claire, Leslie’s character, wastes little time earlier than inviting herself to his house.) James, it seems, doesn’t.

Rose Leslie and Theo James in The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Macall Polay/HBO

It’s a wig.

“I have terrible bushy hair,” he explains. He was forged within the present proper earlier than Christmas and spent the vacation season rising out his personal hair to be like Henry’s. He grew out a beard, too. “I looked like a tramp, genuinely. I had this thick, bushy, repulsive-looking hair and a kind of a beard, which then I trimmed into a strange mustache.”

He proudly arrived for the primary day of taking pictures and bragged about his lengthy hair that he, a dedicated actor, grew for the position. “They were like, ‘We’re not going to use that. Let’s cut it off right away. You look terrible.’”

Did he no less than like how he appeared within the wig?

“I mean, it’s hard to look at yourself. It’s hard to not think you look like a twat. I thought I looked like a mix between a horse and someone from the ’70s. But, no, I didn’t mind it.”

The dialog, in fact, strikes from the hair to the physique, because it inevitably would. Specifically, the bare physique.

First, there’s dialogue in regards to the legal guidelines of time journey as they seem within the sequence, which James admits he’s nonetheless wrapping his head round. One factor he understood and needed to ensure was telegraphed was how carnal it’s for Henry. How bodily and upsetting: “I really wanted the time travel to be as kind of painful as possible.”

When Henry time-jumps, he’s coated in sweat. He’s ravenous. He’s exhausted. He’s, as has been well-established by this level, very bare. “On one hand, you can use it for comedy, and it’s like, ‘Oh, Jesus he’s naked in the middle of Chicago!’ Or it can be, ‘Holy shit. He’s naked in the middle of a highway.’ Or, ‘He’s naked and he falls into a barrel of wrestlers who want to use him for meat.’ I wanted to make it kind of as visceral as possible.”

He squints suspiciously into his Zoom digicam. “That was a lot of bullshit I was saying there, but some of it works…”

The reality of the matter is that the nudity was all the time going to be part of the challenge, so it was by no means one thing he “massively wrestled” with. It was within the character description. It was part of the conversations throughout auditions. It was within the DNA of the story.

“It was daunting in the beginning, because you know, you won’t walk onto a set with 150 people who you don’t know and you’re like, OK, I’m gonna be naked and covered in oil,” he says. “But by the end of it, you just had to kind of own it because, you know, it happens a lot.”

And we are able to all be thankful for that.

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