What drew you to The Town?
After Moriarty I was looking to do something a bit more human – to play a character that was a little less extreme and closer to myself.
Were you worried about being typecast as a villain?
The choice is yours. No one is forcing you at gunpoint to take the parts. What you must do – if you don’t want to be typecast as a villain – is don’t play more villains. So I didn’t, although there were a lot of offers.
How does Mark – your character in The Town – compare to Moriarty?
Sometimes the showier parts are more fun for an actor. It’s more difficult to play the protagonist because you have to be the audience’s touchstone. But I didn’t want to be an everyman; I wanted this guy to be the hero of the piece but to be surprising and not necessarily reliable. You’ve got to empathise with him but you’ve also got to suspect him a little and suspect his mental health. I think I was able to bring more of myself to this than to other parts.
Is there any romance?
There is an element of romance in it, yes…
I do get my kit off.
No, I don’t think the audience need to see that! I don’t think they’d want to see that. Stripping off is nerve-wracking. It just seems ridiculous: here I am not wearing any clothes in a room full of clothed people. I had a Double Decker Duo and a packet of Giant Buttons after it. Charlotte [Riley] had a packet of Monster Munch.
As a reward!
In the first episode, Mark bumps into old friends in awe of his glamorous life in London. Can you empathise?
Absolutely. I related to that sense of longing and not fitting in somewhere where you’re from. I’m about to go back to Ireland to film there for the first time in five years and I’m really, really looking forward to it because I miss it enormously.
Can you tell us about the film?
It’s a comedy about male friendship called The Stag. For a lot of guys the idea of a stag do is horrendous and that’s what this is about. It’s written by a friend of mine, Peter McDonald, and very funny.
Are you as famous in Ireland as you are over here?
I have no idea. There’s no rhyme, nor reason to the fame game. You can be recognised ten times in one day and then not at all for two weeks. It’s probably not good to think about it because that’s where madness lies.
Benedict Cumberbatch has had offers flooding in from Hollywood. Have you found the same?
As a matter of fact, I signed with a new American agent this week. So yes, there’s been interest but I’ll go where the good part is.
After you won the Bafta for Best Actor, we asked if we might see more of Moriarty in the next series of Sherlock.
Did I? I shouldn’t have said that. It is impossible. Moriarty is dead, dead, dead…
Not even in a dream sequence or a flashback?
They don’t tell me anything and I’m so glad because it means I can say “no, he’s dead.” I feel so grateful to [the Sherlock team] for what they’ve given me. I’ll miss them enormously. Sherlock has changed all our lives so much for the better.
Would you work with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman again?
Definitely, I’d love to. It would be really good to do something really, really different with Benedict – like comedy.
The Town continues on Wednesdays on ITV1, 9.00pm