The DirecTV 10-episode drama series Full Circle marks the television debut of award-winning screenwriter and playwright Neil LaBute, with two half-hour episodes airing every Wednesday. Examining the human condition and relationships through a series of conversations between 11 people whose lives are intertwined, each episode takes place in a restaurant and features a conversation between two characters, with one of the character’s storylines then carrying over into the next episode.
The first episode of the series features Tim (Tom Felton), an exchange student from England, and his love interest, the unhappily married Bridgette (Minka Kelly), who Tim pleads with to run away with him. While at the show’s press day, actor Tom Felton spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what attracted him to this project, how intimidating it was to take on so much dialogue in such a short amount of time, establishing an entire relationship in a half-hour episode, and working with Minka Kelly. He also talked about his new TNT drama series Murder in the First, as well as what’s it like to forever be a part of the Harry Potter franchise. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
TOM FELTON: Pretty much! I was working in Mexico, not far from Tijuana, doing a film down there, and they called up to say, “There’s a 10-episode thing with Neil LaBute. It’s two episodes for each character. And they want you to be in the first and the last one.” I was already pretty signed up, before I’d even read a page. Obviously, when I read Neil’s writing and saw the cast that was being attached to it, it was a no-brainer for me. Even though I was pretty nervous about it and slightly anxious about this kind of project, because it’s worlds away from anything I had done previously, I was excited to give it a go.
Was it intimidating to take on the words of Neil LaBute and have so much dialogue?
FELTON: Unquestionably! In 10 years of Harry Potter, I didn’t say half of what I said in this one day. That’s how different it really was. At best, I’d maybe learned three or four pages for a day, but never 25. That was my first concern. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to not only remember the lines, but deliver them how they should be delivered. In my head, if we’d had a week to film it, it would have been a lot easier. Actually, in truth, it was really a great way of doing it, in one day. It was very intense. There were a lot of emotions flying around without even really trying to bring them to the table. There were multiple cameras, so we didn’t have to keep turning the camera out to go back and forth. There was one camera on me and one camera on [the other person]. So, it was terrifying, but at the same time, it was rewarding. Very quickly, we knew that it was going okay. We did all right. We didn’t embarrass ourselves. And I know that Minka [Kelly] won’t mind me saying that she was pretty anxious about it before, as well. We hadn’t met each other, and we were supposed to be lovers.
This is an unusual project, in that you have half an hour to establish an entire relationship history.
FELTON: Yeah, and I had met her two days before that. There was no ground to really work on. We had done Skype sessions to try to familiarize ourselves with each other, but you know what it’s like on Skype. It’s not easy to get to know someone. I just think we lucked out. We had a great director and a great crew, but Minka is the loveliest girl. She’s so down-to-earth and so easy to talk to, and has no ego, at all. For a project like this to work, with the limited time, you need to be able to take direction from whoever and to feel open enough to ask the other person how the scene felt. I think Minka and I got along really well. I know she certainly helped bring my performance to life, and I hope I did the same for her.
Did the fact that you really had to look each other directly in the eye through pretty much the entire scene really help to stay connected, in the moment?
FELTON: Massively, yeah. It was awkward. When you meet someone, you try to be polite. You don’t try to hold their hand and stare at them lovingly in the eye. I was like, “I don’t know if this is cool or not.” But, Minka was so very friendly. And Nick [Hamm], the director we had, was so very sure about what he wanted and what he didn’t want that it made it quite clear, early on, where we were going to go with it. It was nice. If there were any intimate moments with Minka and I, you felt the ones that were good. It’s hard to cheat those things. If it feels bad, it usually is. But, it can be the other way around on dialogue. For me, some of the things I think sounded great, they were like, “No, that was terrible. The one that you messed up is the one we’re gonna use.” It’s hard to get a gauge on it. But, when it’s one-on-one with a girl, you can quite quickly see if it’s gonna work or not.
And it’s so important to establish that connection in the first episode.
FELTON: Yeah, the whole point was to get the ball rolling. If we didn’t even get it rolling, then the rest of the series doesn’t have the same gravitas. A lot of TV shows, pilot wise, try to cram as many goodies into the pilot as they can, so that people don’t just turn it off. That has a bit more sophistication to it, where the first episode really just opens the window. It’s the second, third and fourth episodes that really start to suck you in. And when we come to the ninth and tenth episodes, hopefully people will be heavily engrossed, as I was. When I went to read it, I thought, “I’ll just flick through the second, third and fourth,” but six hours of my life went to reading the scripts.
It makes me really happy that not only did DirecTV produce it, but they’re the ones distributing it in that new age fashion where it is available online, all at once, for people who want that. I’m definitely from that generation where I can’t sit there for a week and twiddle my thumbs and wait for the next episode. I want to see it, right away. So, I’m glad they’re doing that. They’re also airing two episodes a week on DirecTV, that you can watch over the five weeks that they’re airing it. Some people like to pace themselves. There is that horrible feeling that, if you do watch a whole season in one night, then you’re like, “Oh, my god, I’ve done it!” I remember someone reading the early Harry Potter books was like, “I can only do a chapter a week.” It’s like a drug. You don’t want to take it all at once. You’ve got to pace yourself. It just goes to show how gripping modern TV and modern entertainment is.
You also have a new TNT series, Murder in the First. Had you been actively looking to do television?
FELTON: Oh, yeah, definitely! I feel like the prestige of film over television is long gone. If anything, it’s the other way around now. I’ve been in awe of Damian Lewis, for a long time. Now, look at where his career path is going. It’s fantastic! And I’m a huge fan of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. For a film star, back in the day, it would take three different films or three different characters to show, “Wow, this guy is a great actor!” Now, if you get one good character in one of these TV series – and Aaron Paul is a great example – you’re set and people love you forever. You are a figure of modern pop culture, which is very cool. I think the quality of writing and the production scale has just gone through the roof for TV. I think with Full Circle, especially, it’s going to be the first of many, many more series of this ilk, to come. I feel like this is a very modern way to present entertainment, and I think people are really going to like it.
As an actor, what’s it like to have been a part of something like the Harry Potter franchise, and know that it will always be remembered and loved by people?
FELTON: It’s definitely not even remotely a negative. People have referred to it as a burden or as something you have to shake, and it’s never been that for me. I’ve always been very proud of what we did, as kids, and I feel very lucky because we’ve grown up since then. I look very different from the guy that I played. I’m not always the easiest person to spot, which is nice. And I feel very lucky that the character that I got to play couldn’t have really been further from me. A lot of people expect to meet Draco when they meet me, and they usually are pleasantly surprised when they see that I’m not a complete asshole. It’s been fun to see people’s reactions, over the years. They have these preconceptions of what I’m like, and then I turn that on its head. So, I’m very proud of the past, and also very excited for the future. I feel like, since then, I’ve taken on a whole range of different characters, none that are even remotely similar to young Draco.
Full Circle airs on Wednesday nights on DirecTV, or online through their website.