Robert Carlyle has had an extremely diverse career during his many years as an actor. First rising to international prominence in films like Trainspotting and The Full Monty, Carlyle went on to play many more memorable roles including the villain Renard in The World is Not Enough and Don in 28 Weeks Later. His latest role of Dr. Nicholas Rush on Stargate Universe puts him on a runaway spaceship where his character, along with the others stranded on the ship, must do what it takes to survive and get back home to earth — even if that means some people may have to be sacrificed in the process.
I caught up with Robert during press for Stargate Universe at the San Diego Comic-Con to talk about his new show. Among the topics covered was if he prefers movies or TV, the show itself, his interactions with the writers and his feelings about his characters motivations and morality.
QUESTION: You’re a movie star, and now you’re doing television. What’s the impetus to take on this particular role on this particular show?
ROBERT CARLYLE: Genuinely I’ve never really made deliberate differences between the genres like that. I think that particularly nowadays the difference between television and film is getting increasingly blurred and that’s just been the case in the past eight, ten years or so. American television has been superb absolutely superb, it seemed to me that at one point the shows were just better than the last one and better than the last one.
And actors respond to that, respond to the rating. So through cable and the advent of cable and I think an awful lot of the writers who want to be film feature writers believing that we’re in the television industry now, I think you’re seeing the quality, the quality speaks for itself. So life’s a bit how you choose which path and whatever.
My wife said “this is an excellent piece of work” and of course I’ve done quite a few television pieces, I played Hitler for CBS a few years ago I did Human Trafficking again for American TV and I’ve done a few television shows obviously back home as well particularly in the early part of my career.
And again, it’s myself and some of my friends Tim Roth, Kevin McKidd that are all working, all doing different shows.
Q: It seems like your character doesn’t necessarily have other peoples best interests at heart. It’s more about the adventure and exploration. Can you talk a little about that?
RC: Because this was obviously Rush because he’s so well written, this character’s well, well written on the one hand what you hear Rush talk about a lot is the greater good, he talks about the greater act therefore this person here could be sacrificed and the other one would say that decadence.
Well do you want to go home or not? And that’s the way he is, so he’s very practical. He doesn’t have any time for sentiment. He would quite happily be up there on his own if he could run it all on his own.
Q: Is there any personal aspects that you brought to the character that maybe weren’t written into it and you just thought you would add in to the character or any research you put into it?
RC: Not particularly to be honest with you no. What was interesting was for me when we came to episode five, because episode five was the first one that hadn’t been written. I was enjoying it but there was something not…it was different.
I went to Brad and he said I knew you were coming and he said what do you think and I said I think it’s Rush, I think it’s Rush, I don’t think it’s the same guy suddenly and he could see that I was correct. Suddenly he’d become quite arch, quite villainous.
I want to keep him in the middle grounds, so you’re not sure so he keeps all these other characters on their toes. You don’t know whether Rush even likes them or not. That will keep the audience interested in this guy I think.