Back for Season 2 on BBC America, Copper – set in 1865 New York City, on the brink of President Lincoln’s assassination – tells the story of Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), as he struggles to tame a chaotic city while wrestling with personal demons, including the betrayal of his wife (Alex Paxton-Beesley) and best friend (Kevin Ryan). With Tammany Hall’s outspoken General Brendan Donovan (Donal Logue) back from the Civil War to restore law and order in the Sixth Ward, everyone must fight to find their places in an unforgiving city.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Tom Weston-Jones talked about what he did to get himself back in the headspace for Season 2, how their new showrunner has really streamlined things this season, how different Corcoran is now, having his character become smarter and exercise more restraint, the moments he prefers to keep to himself or stay distanced for a scene, the shift in dynamics between Corcoran and Francis Maguire (Ryan), what the new actors add to the show this season, and just how different things turn out, now that they’re finishing up filming on Season 2. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: This show gets a lot of promotion, with billboards on Sunset Blvd. and posters all over the subways of New York City. What’s the strangest place you’ve ever come across an advertisement for the show?
TOM WESTON-JONES: Kyle Bradstreet, one of the writers, showed me a tag that someone had put up. It was just a small little tiny poster that someone had put somewhere in Brooklyn. I actually haven’t come across any because I literally haven’t left Canada since we’ve been filming. I’ve been a bit of a hermit. But, my friends have been sending me photos, which is always nice. That’s always good. It’s a little strange when you can’t see them in the flesh. You just hope that they do you justice.
Because you had some time off, between Season 1 and Season 2, did you feel like you needed to re-immerse yourself in the world again, before you started shooting?
WESTON-JONES: Yeah. Because there is so much historical content and context with the show, when we started up, I definitely felt that I need to dust myself off a bit and really plunge myself into some reading, which I did. I tend to do as much as I can, so I can throw it out the window when it comes to filming and just focus on being present, every day. So, I definitely felt it was important to realize that this was a different time period. Things have happened and things are due to happen that really do shift things in American history, and also for every single character in the show. So, I donned my reading glasses again.
Were there any major differences in Season 2, compared to Season 1? Did having a new showrunner (Thomas Kelly) affect things?
WESTON-JONES: I think a lot of people who have a first season under their belt and start another season, with most shows, they’re likely to say that things have improved, and I can definitely say that’s the case with this show. On my end, just watching it, I think you can see that the show has changed, visually. We also have a new D.P. this year, Pierre Gill, who I think is amazing and who has shot the show really beautifully. And Tom Kelly has really streamlined a lot of the things, like a good showrunner should do in the second season, and really trimmed it, a little bit. It flows a lot better, and the story itself has been fine-tuned. It’s all character-motivated and character-driven now, rather than being an episodic thing that someone can tune into to see a detective story of the week, and then tune out again. Now, it’s all about the overall arc. That’s what we’re interested in watching television for now. So, there has been some shifts, and I think they’re all for the better. People will enjoy the show more this year because of the changes that have been made. The story unfolds so quickly this year, with everybody. As the story progresses, people will be surprised by just how much happens, in a short space of time.
WESTON-JONES: I think 1865 is an even harder year, if I’m honest with you. Things go from bad to worse. In terms of him personally, I think he has a huge amount of trust issues, as you could imagine from what happened to him, the year before. He’s more wary, as well. But at the same time, I always like to show two sides to people. Everyone has a sense of humor, and people use humor to get through terrible times. So, although he is very wary and guarded and protected with certain people, he still has the particular people that he holds very, very close to him, and he’s willing to have a laugh and be a man and go and have a drink, and do all of the things you would normally do with said friends. I like coloring him in those different colors, and giving him a sense of humor.
Corcoran seems to always have a simmering anger and violence just under the surface that can go off, at any time. Do you find that he unleashes that a bit more, in Season 2, or does he get to a point where he has a better handle on that?
WESTON-JONES: I think there are certain lessons to be learned from Donovan, Donal Logue’s character. As the season goes on, I think Corcoran gets a much wider perspective on what potential his people and he has in New York. So, I think you’re right. There are certain moments where he uses his anger, and he knows it’s necessary to use his aggression and his violence. Then again, there are some times where he’s actually becoming smarter and exercising restraint. That happens throughout the later parts of the season. I find that he becomes more in control of himself, actually.
That unpredictability in Corcoran is what makes him such an interesting character.
WESTON-JONES: That’s nice to hear. It’s something that I really wanted to make sure is there. You don’t know whether or not he’s going to kiss you or punch you in the face, which is an interesting quality to have in a man, especially somebody who’s a law enforcer.
As an actor, you want to keep your set as light as possible, even though you’re often doing pretty dark material. But, when are those moments that you prefer to just keep to yourself or stay distanced?
WESTON-JONES: You’re right, I do like to keep a very positive set. I really don’t feel it’s necessary, as an actor, to make people feel uncomfortable, just because you need to be in a certain headspace. So, I do take myself away and do my own work and hunker down. It’s just scenes that are packed with emotional content, really. It just depends on what’s written. There can be a very light-hearted scene, in which I’ll actually mess around with people on set and make sure everyone is having a good time. And there are other scenes where I know I’ll have to go to a very odd place, so I need to hunker down, stay in my trailer and listen to music, or just get myself in the right headspace. You can come across somewhat bipolar. People don’t know how to gauge you. But, as long as you give people warning, it’s all right. We’re nearly coming to a close on filming the second season, so people know what kind of mood I’m going to be in, depending on what kind of scene we’re preparing, which is good. I don’t like to make people feel uncomfortable, by any means.
When you do an entire season with Corcoran and Francis (Kevin Ryan) being best friends, how weird is it to then shift that dynamic and really have them be enemies this season?
WESTON-JONES: It’s been a nice transition. I think the writers have done a fantastic job, and me and Kevin speak, at great lengths, about it. It actually reminds me, very much so, of the relationship that Corcoran has with Ellen (Alex Paxton-Beesley). There is always an elephant in the room, whenever they’re around each other. It’s important to remember, when you’re playing sworn enemies, that you should never forget the best possible time you’ve had together because that’s something that will pain you. That’s what we’ve always tried to remember. It’s important to remember the fact that these people were incredibly close, and you should never really let go of that. That’s where the turmoil comes from. Francis has betrayed Corcoran, or it feels as though he’s done him wrong. So, I always try to remind myself of the best possible times we could have had when we were friends, before all these things happen. I think me and Kevin have navigated it pretty damn well.
WESTON-JONES: It’s almost like starting a new job, when you have someone coming in, because you have to get to know them from square one, as we all did last season, when we first started. But, we’ve been so lucky that everyone who’s come in has really, really wanted to work incredibly hard. They’re very much cut from the same cloth as the actors here are. We just really enjoy the piece, I suppose. We’ve been very, very lucky with the caliber of people we’ve had. It’s been very, very good. You’ve gotta pinch yourself when you see the cast list of people who have come in. I’ve had a lot of scenes with Donal, and I’ve enjoyed working with him, so much. You always like to learn from people, as a young actor. I think every young actors says that, but it’s true. Donal has been doing the job for years, and he still comes in with the same amount of enjoyment. He still cares so much about the piece that he’s acting in, and that’s so refreshing. I love that.
Now that you’re winding down the shoot from Season 2, how much different do things end up this season, then how you expected when it started?
WESTON-JONES: It’s actually very, very different from what I imagined it to be. There are certain things that have happened on this show that I couldn’t have predicted, at all. Also, things happen incredibly quickly, too. Because we’re not focusing too much on people tuning in each week for a new self-contained story, I think we can get away with making things happen very, very fast for the audience, which is great. I’m amazed at the rate with which we get to the jugular on this series.
Do you find yourself being very conscious about how far you’re pushing things with this character, and how far you can go and still hold the audience on his side?
WESTON-JONES: Yeah! That’s one thing that I remember talking to Larysa Kondracki, the director of a lot of the episodes this year and one of the producers on the show, about how far we can test the audience, in terms of seeing Corcoran as being a very selfish man and a real asshole. The quality of an anti-hero is that they’re selfish and commit selfish acts, but you still can’t help but feel for them and watch them and care for them. Certain things do happen this season, where I think that’s going to be tested quite a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing what the fall-out is. Everyone in the show is morally questionable, so no one is perfect. But to have the person who is leading the charge on morality, doing some of the things he does, I think it’s very interesting to see what we try to get away with. I’ve just gotta wait and see if we do. I think we have. I think it’s been very well constructed.
Copper airs on Sunday nights on BBC America.