On Season 2 of the drama series Bedlam, currently airing on BBC America, actor Jack Roth plays resident bartender and amateur ghost-hunting blogger Max, one of the individuals living in the intensely haunted former asylum, Bedlam Heights. As the restless spirits continue to wreak havoc on unsuspecting new inhabitants, Ellie (Lacey Turner) is something of a medium for the unimaginable horrors buried under the luxury apartments.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Jack Roth talked about why he wanted to be a part of the supernatural series, getting to play a character who is just a really nice guy, the benefits of working on a tight budget, and whether he could ever live in such a place. He also talked about growing up in the business (his father is actor Tim Roth), how he’s establishing a name for himself, that he’d love to work in American television and film, and that he’ll find out about a possible third season of Bedlam around Christmas. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: How did you come to be a part of Bedlam? Was it something that you auditioned for?
JACK ROTH: Well, I’d come off the back of doing two completely different things. For me, I was looking at a few things and I had a few things lined up, but it was also having the chance to work with Lacey [Turner], who’s also in it. That was a great opportunity. We worked together on it and did a few meets, and it just seemed like a really good option to do. And when I saw where they wanted to go with it, it just sounded like a lot of fun and something I could really delve into and take into odd places. I walked in [to the audition] and did something completely different from how they expected the character to be played as. They went, “Okay, we like that.” That was fun because it gave me a lot of freedom to really play with it and talk with the director and see how Lacey would react to things and try things out. Matt could have been done a much simpler way, and it was quite nice to make him have flaws that are quite lovable and nice to see.
Was it challenging to play such a nice, straight-up guy?
ROTH: It was really nice. He fits really nicely between the everyday folk, and then Ellie and the supernatural. He has to play in the middle of that. So, he’s not very good with everyday society, but with her, he seems to really have a connection, which frees up his personality. He and Ellie really bring something out with each other that’s nice to see. Max is just honest. He’s one of the most honest characters that I’ve had to play. I opened up my heart, pretended that I was a couple of years younger, and just enjoyed the situations I was put into. I think he’s been there and waited his whole life for some sort of confirmation of the things that he believes. Suddenly, this person comes into his life and they both confirm each other. That’s what they don’t have, at the moment, without each other. They’re very important to each other, which is beautiful to see, but you only get so long to see it. It can only last so long, in a series, but you try to fit it all in. It’s the little character things and the looks that really matter, when it comes down to that.
Had you been familiar with the first season, or did you watch it once you had been cast?
ROTH: I watched half of it. Because it was completely recast, I wanted to come in fresh and unknowing, especially with the controversy of the ending of the last one. We were going to reference it, but it was almost like a clean slate. I think they wanted to just up the scares and up everything, and make character interaction a big focal point of it. Over here, especially with the financial situation, we really have to base it on character and have people talking to each other. You can’t do the special effects, but that’s almost what’s nice about it. It’s British ghost stories, hauntings and terror, and it’s nice to see characters interacting.
Do you think working on a tight budget like that his beneficial because it forces the writers and directors to get really creative with how to make things scary?
ROTH: Definitely! It’s all the old school elements, and that’s really nice. It also makes you work harder, especially for me. Max never knows anything. He’s constantly going, “What do you see? What do you feel? What should we do?” It’s quite nice because I would have to not see things while she’s seeing things. There were constant elements like that. It was almost like theater, in a way. You’re trying to make believe, and then make that real, in a scary situation. That’s the fun thing. You set it up so it is scary. And the building was horrible, cold and damp. You would walk around and there would be parts that were empty and dark and damp. You could let yourself be scared, in a situation like that, and that’s quite nice.
Could you ever see yourself getting an apartment in a place that had that kind of history?
ROTH: If it was cheap enough! I’m not someone who’s really afraid of spirits, in the real world, but then there were pictures and things that happened on set. If you’re put in a situation like that, you’re prone to fright. That’s the cool thing. Things would move. There would be noises when there shouldn’t be, and you don’t know what’s making them. In that situation, we would all freak out. Lacey didn’t like being in the dark, ever. She needed someone to walk her around.
Matt and Ellie have a great dynamic together. Do you think that because their friendship comes so easy, that’s why she doesn’t seem him as anything more than a friend?
ROTH: It’s almost nicer wanting something to happen, more than it happening. But then, the fact is that they need the friendship. They both need each other, in a certain way. One of the problems that could have been was if she had no one to talk to. But, she has someone who goes, “Okay, I believe you. You’re not mad. You’re not crazy.” That means that she can open up, and that makes it a lot more interesting. You have two people fighting it. I always think, “Why aren’t we arrested and brought in for questioning? We’re surrounded by these events. They’re not going to believe us!” It needs to be about us two having a communication, and being able to talk about the most ridiculous things and feeling silly, but the other one going, “Okay, I believe that.” In some cases, it turns out to be right, but in some cases, we lose. In Episode 2, it doesn’t go right. That was the intrinsic thing that we all needed. Max and Ellie had to be a unit. That was very important. But, the great thing was that her style and my style are very conversational, anyway. I thought that was really nice. When we were acting together, it did feel like we were just talking to each other, rather than coming in and saying, “Plot, plot, plot.” There was a certain amount of empathy and we care a lot about each other.
Having grown up, seeing what the business can be like and seeing the ups and downs of it, do you feel like you were better prepared for what to expect?
ROTH: I don’t know. It’s changed a lot, since then. I was lucky to be involved in anything, just seeing how it was. My mum was an editor and my grandmother was an artist, so there was no way I was going to work in an office, but they tried to put me there. The great thing was that I could really see how everything works. It’s a team effort. That’s what I learned. Make-up, lighting, writing and directing are so important, and they all coming together to make something. Everyone has got their own idea of how it works, and you all come together and make it better than anyone ever thought. I’m definitely very proud of what [my father] has done and the avenue he’s gone down and what he’s seen, but I feel like there are a lot of things that we do differently. It’s great to have such a good mentor and someone to talk to, but he’s done very well at setting me adrift and just going, “See what you can do.”
Was there anything you found yourself specifically doing to set yourself apart and establish a name for yourself, or has it just been a natural departure for you?
ROTH: I think the thing that we do well is that we play characters. We can’t do the pretty roles. We occasionally get them and everyone goes, “What?!” I started very theater-based. I didn’t do drama school, and neither did he. It’s learning in front of people who are paying, so you’ve got to get it right quick. So, what I’ve tried to do is just try everything, and then the things that I’m most afraid of, I pursue. I’ve done musicals. I did Quadrophenia, which is a rock opera, and The Café, which is a comedy. You just try to push yourself and try to do everything, really. I’d like not to be pigeonholed and just pursue anything that’s an interesting character, whatever medium it may be.
Do you feel as though it works to your advantage that you didn’t go to drama school because it forces you to have to trust your instincts?
ROTH: I don’t know. The older I get, the more I realize that there are little things that I missed out on that they do well in preparation. I missed it half by choice and half because I just missed it. I would have had to wait a year, and by the time the year had come, I had already done work and got an agent. It’s so weird. A bunch of my friends went to drama school and they’re fucking great actors, but I like to think there are a lot of rough diamonds out there who may never get seen, just because they’re not a certain thing. I think it’s important that you’re given a chance. I don’t know how it works.
Have you thought about branching out and doing American television or doing films in the States?
ROTH: Totally, yeah! I’ve done quite a few auditions and have missed out on some great things. What I love about over there is that you’re coming out with stuff like Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire, and that’s exciting to the whole, right now. As an actor, the problem, at the moment, is that you guys have got all the money in the world for feature films, or you’ve got no money at all. Television has now created somewhere in between, and it also gives you a lot longer, over a series, to show these characters. That’s what people are really enjoying, at the moment. Everyone likes to watch three episodes of a series, back-to-back, and really fall in love with the characters. America has done great things with that. Breaking Bad, to me, is one of the best things I’ve seen in ages. I want more of that. It’s just really well done television. Maybe we’ve missed out on that for awhile, especially over here, and I think that’s coming back. Because of the financial situation, TV is the best way to go. It’s got to be high-paced and dynamic, and it can’t get stagnant. If it’s something so good, it sticks around for ages ‘cause we just don’t want to let it go. There are so many great shows out there that I think it’s where we’re all going to go, eventually. TV films used to be such a big thing, over here in the ‘80s, when my dad started. It was all about TV film, and that doesn’t really exist anymore. Because it’s all about funding, we’re missing out on a lot of independent film, which Europe, parts of Southern American and Asia is doing so well with right now. There are all these weird independent movies, like City of God, that really show you what we’re missing out on.
As an actor, do you enjoy the luxury of getting to explore a character over a longer period of time on a TV show, or do you prefer the full story of film?
ROTH: I try to go in as prepared as possible. With theater, you’re so lucky to get a rehearsal period. You’ve got a month or six weeks, if you’re lucky, to really delve and think about all the questions and you know how you’d react to situations. You don’t get that with television. But, I try to make sure that I learn my lines, as early as I can, so that’s not a thing. By the end of it, you’re just reacting. Hopefully, you put on the costume and you get on set where it looks real, and you just react. That’s the best way to be. That’s what I try to do.
Do you know what you’ll be doing next, now that you’ve finished shooting Season 2 of Bedlam?
ROTH: There are some good things that are happening, but I’m always waiting for more. I’ve got a few good things coming, but I can’t see. We should find out about what’s going on with [Season] 3 of Bedlam around Christmas. Hopefully, we’ll do it. At the end of [Season] 2, you’ll be like, “Oh, my god!,” but there could be a [Season] 3. There definitely are new horizons to explore, that [the fans will] be excited about. What’s great about this [season] of Bedlam is that it really crescendos. It’s about Max and Ellie, and the conversations that we have and the characters, and the connections between Dan (Nikesh Patel) and all of the characters. I feel that they really flourished. You meet them as a caricature, and then they all flourished and these relationships really worked, and it does crescendo. Each one gets scarier and scarier, and they get darker, which is great. That’s what’s fun about it. You don’t know what’s coming. Some of the ghosts are really creepy. Even when you’re sitting around on set, you’re like, “Get away!” It was horrible! I feel like they did a really good job.
Do you have a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
ROTH: I’ll never be Rob Pattinson, but I’ll play his best mate. I’ll be the guy where you go, “I love that guy!” The careers of Gary Oldman and my dad have just been amazing. I’d like to follow that, if anything. It’s the weird, edgy roles that you delve into. I think Heath Ledger had it set to play my kind of roles, for the rest of his life, and what a shame ‘cause he was fantastic. Those are the dream roles – the ones that are really weird and scary to play, but if you pull them off, they’re fantastic. Those are the kinds of characters that are memorable, and that we remember for ages. They’re also so much fun to play.
Bedlam airs on Saturday nights on BBC America.