PHOTO: Tchéky Karyo (Image: Two Brothers Pictures/Matt Squire)
Interview with Tchéky Karyo who plays The Tailor in BBC One’s Boat Story
Tchéky Karyo’s early career started on stage, playing roles in both classical and contemporary works. He later transitioned to a career in Film and TV where he has featured in numerous award-winning French and Hollywood films.
Notable film credits include La Femme Nikita, Vincent and Me, Nostradamus, Crying Freeman, Bad Boys, GoldenEye, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, The Patriot and Kiss of the Dragon. His television roles include Dr. Willy Rozenbaum in the HBO film And the Band Played On, Georges Méliès in the HBO miniseries From the Earth to the Moon, and French detective Julien Baptiste in the BBC crime drama The Missing and its spin-off series Baptiste. His performance in La Balance saw him nominated for a César Award for Most Promising Actor and was awarded the Jean Gabin Prize in recognition of his acting performances. Tchéky is also the recipient of the Crystal Nymphe Award from the International Television Festival, Monaco.
You’ve worked with Two Brothers Pictures on numerous projects such as The Missing and Baptiste, but we see you as a very different character in Boat Story. How was it to embody a nastier character?
I’ve been working with The Brothers now since 2012, we did two series of The Missing and two series of Baptiste and suddenly they came to me and said they had something special for me and I accepted without reading anything. I did this because I know their talent and I know how creative and surprising they are. All they told me was my character was called ‘The Tailor’ and that he is a powerful figure who was raised on the ashes of a family and when we meet him in Boat Story, he is a mob boss and the head of a big cartel, but he has a passion for clothes.
That’s why he’s not the Tailor but THE Tailor and in the back of his tailoring shop, weird things happen that are quite surprising. In Boat Story, The Tailor gets angry because a horde of his drugs disappear, and he starts to try and find out where it went. He has no emotion with the way he operates, it’s just business and it’s not personal. Nothing’s personal, even when somebody gets erased from the earth, it’s just business.
Can you tell audiences a bit about The Tailor and where we find him at the start of the series?
To play this character, if there is one word for me, I suddenly had the vision of something fractal. That’s how this character is, because there are many moments where you get surprised by him and there are different levels of depths to his personality. You are in the matrix, because it’s told from different galaxies, perspectives and spaces. That’s why you enter this story and suddenly your head is being turned in different directions and spun on its axis due to the different roads it goes down.
What drew you to the role of The Tailor? What excited you about this project?
I was constantly wondering how I should react to some of the crazy situations and scenes The Tailor is in. Which I loved, because sometimes in real life, you are ridiculous, even if you are an intimidating figure like he is. It was very exciting for me and challenging as an actor to embrace those situations and play them against some amazing and very skilled British actors – it was inspiring.
How does The Tailor fit into the story?
All the characters are trapped in their own tragic comedy, with their own destinies in their own abyss – eventually they meet and its electric. My character’s perspective comes from the show itself; it’s called Boat Story – meaning there are tales and stories. Each character will have a different angle and a different perspective of the story. There are many layers to my character and as the series progresses you start to understand why The Tailor is the way he is, and it’s not what you expect! All of these characters are trapped in different ways and are fighting to find the light, whether that’s with addiction or to be with their child.
How do you think audiences will react to The Tailor?
They will be discombobulated because there is something fractal in it, there is something that you think is one thing and then it’s another. That’s why the writing is so special and challenges you and lets yourself and your imagination spread into what’s offered on the page.
What is it about Harry and Jack Williams’ writing that brings you back?
There is a virtuosity in the way they write because it opens all the possibilities you can get into, it’s very generous writing. It’s not linear, it’s a real trip and it’s a rollercoaster. A rollercoaster is what The Tailor actually goes through. As a viewer, I would be sitting there and saying thank you for taking me on this ride.
There’s more humour and off-beat comedy in this series, tell us what that was like to bring to life?
I have so much confidence in the writing that when you start working on situations, when you start working on the words and you prepare the scenes before you go on stage to shoot. The moment you start shooting you realise the different levels, and you let go and enjoy the ride and journey.
How do you think audiences will react to Boat Story?
It’s like going to a theme park and you are on a rollercoaster ride and suddenly you are together with the angels above and then you take a twist and a turn, and your head is upside down.
When two strangers discover a haul of illegal drugs on a washed-up boat, luck soon turns to misfortune as they become the targets of a vengeful mob boss, his hitman and the police.
At its heart, Boat Story is an action-thriller about two ordinary people whom the world has turned its back on, and whether they’re willing – or desperate enough – to do something crazy to get what they want in life. Pushed to the very edge, can they trust each other and get away with their lives and the money?
Boat Story embodies twists and turns with character-driven, surprising storytelling. Off-beat humour contrasts with high-octane action sequences against the spectacular backdrop of the beautiful, windswept Yorkshire coastline.
Boat Story comes to BBC One and BBC iPlayer from Sunday 19 November at 9pm