The Paradise series two: Ben Daniels – “This show is like 19th century Dallas”

The period drama's newcomer on ruthless Tom Weston, Jeremy Piven's facial hair, the partying days of Cutting It and why he can't stand Lord Sugar


Hi Ben, welcome to The Paradise! How did you get involved? 


Just before Christmas I got a letter from Bill Gallagher, the writer and one of the producers, saying, “I’m writing this new character for The Paradise and before I’ve written a word I want you to play him.” And then he went on to describe this fantastic character called Tom Weston and he also sent me a box set so I watched that in conjunction with the knowledge of this character I was going to play, who would come into this world and create a lot of friction and blow it apart. 

Is he a baddie?

People will hate him… 

Give us some details!

He’s ex-military. He was stationed in India during the mutiny and fifteen years ago an event happened while he was there that has marked him – you’ll understand what I mean by the end of episode one. It’s a secret he’s been carrying with him since then and he’s in constant fear of this secret being revealed so consequently wears this domineering, dominating mask as he goes about his business so know one can get in and find out who he is. 

How does he enter the fray?

The series has moved on a year and he is now married to Moray’s ex-fiancé, Katherine, so he owns everything by marriage. After she was jilted by Moray at the end of the first series, her father takes her on a grand tour of Europe and they meet and marry in Europe. So she’s on the rebound and he is… up for it. 

He sounds pretty unscrupulous… 

They’re all ruthless in this show. I think Moray is ruthless – he’s the hero but he’s a ruthless hero and Katherine is certainly ruthless and Tom, yes. 

We’ve heard he brings his daughter to The Paradise, too?

Yes. Flora who’s eleven from his previous marriage and when she was born, she was sent away to live with his wife’s parents so he doesn’t know this child at all. Katherine brings her into their family.

We know Katherine as a fiery character – what can you tell us about Tom’s relationship with her?

It’s great. It’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. They’re both addicts in their own way and it’s hugely volatile. They find each other very exciting and there’s a huge respect and a huge loathing. It’s two arch manipulators so they try and out-do each other whenever they can and then there are moments where that goes away and they’re just incredibly honest. It’s a great relationship to play.

Does he feel threatened by Moray?

Hugely. He’s hugely threatened by him and jealous of him and, he would never tell Moray, but he holds him in a huge amount of respect. He doesn’t fire him – he could fire him any minute – but he realises he’s making the cash cow work. 

The facial hair you’re sporting is rather impressive – did you grow it just for The Paradise?

Yes, It’s weird having a different look.

Was this a period of history you knew much about?

Well, I’m a massive Zola fan so I’ve read maybe six novels of the Rougon-Macquart series that Au Bonheur des Dames is taken from so I know about the French side of it more than I do the English but interestingly the whole rise of the department store that he talked about in the novel is universal, as we’ve seen with – I know I’m not supposed to mention it, but – Mr Selfridge. It’s very similar – that seduction of people into buying material goods and it’s gone on since that time. 

Did you watch Mr Selfridge?

Yes, I did, which I enjoyed very much.

Controversial… Since joining The Paradise, what do you think it has over Mr Selfridge?

I don’t know. It’s quite hard, isn’t it? Because they are very similar and yet they’re very different at the same time. I don’t want to answer that question. I don’t want “Paradise star Ben Daniels says…” Jeremy Piven has very good facial hair. 

We can’t get enough of period dramas at the moment – why do you think that is?

I don’t know – it sort of feels escapist but also like it’s part of your life somewhere. This is like Dallas – this show is like 19th century Dallas.

You first made a splash on BBC’s Cutting It with Sarah Parish and Amanda Holden – are you still in touch with the cast?

If we see each other we’re back there – thankfully not in quite the same way! That used to get a bit messy of an evening. It was everyone leading everyone astray – it was just non-stop partying. Vile. 

What TV do you tune into?

The Killing, Dexter, Top of the Lake…

And what makes you switch off?

The Apprentice – I can’t stand it. I do quite like reality shows but there’s something about it where I’m like, “Get the f**k off.” It just makes me turn over. Those people sitting around sneering – if it’s on I have an allergic reaction to it and I switch over to anything else. It’s Lord Sugar and the cronies that I object to more. There’s just something about it that I have a reaction to.

Series two of The Paradise begins on Sunday at 8:00pm on BBC2