Ed Speleers on His Alter-Ego Rhys Montrose
Feb 9, 2023
Editor’s note: This interview contains spoilers for You Season 4.Netflix’s psychological thriller You has had audiences in a chokehold since 2018, and the highly anticipated fourth season is bound to send everyone down the same rabbit hole of intrigue, as the twisted Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) makes the jump across the pond to start a new life as Jonathan Moore in London. As Professor Moore, Joe finds himself swept up into the social climbing schemes of a group of social elite friends—including Rhys Montrose (Ed Speleers). In Rhys, Joe finds an unexpected friendship and even, perhaps, an ally and twin flame.
Ahead of the premiere of You Season 4 Part 1, Collider caught up with Speleers to discuss what it’s like to explore the duplicitous nature of Rhys Montrose, some of the complex dialogue he got to tackle, and what the most difficult scenes were to film. He also spoke about his first on-screen role as Eragon in the film adaptation of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon, and also discussed his method for getting into character, which he described as a bit of a “magpie” method. Stay tuned for the second half of this lengthy conversation with Speleers, which will dive into his upcoming role in the final season of Picard.
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Image via Netflix
Collider: There is so much duplicity built into your character of Rhys that I just love to watch. We’ve seen you play ruthless bastards before, like Stephen Bonnet in Outlander. But what was it like getting into that mindset of that side of Rhys?
SPELEERS: I feel that playing these people that we don’t really know where they sit, you have to find a justification. You’ve got to understand them because he’s obviously operating on a different platform. What he’s doing, what he’s encouraging Joe is not normal, and he is pushing the darker sides through. As an actor, I relish that. Whether it ends up being like that, I don’t know, but you set out to try and make this as well-rounded as possible. But in order to do that, you have to understand their mindset, and you have to get on board with the idea that they’re making decisions because they think this is the best thing.
I feel that Rhys is like, “Well, these people that we are talking about here are not good people to be having around, and they’re getting in your way of being the best version of yourself. So let’s eradicate them.” I love the fact that he does some very broad, bold, bold suggestions. He does that in order to bring out a side to Joe that Joe’s probably trying to push away. And that’s what I love. He’s the devil on the shoulder, isn’t he?
SPELEERS: Which is why it was such a joy to play. And it’s so different from what I had been doing with this. And again, another character that was sort of just built and built and built. I was given such wonderful dialogue to play with. That’s what I love so much about the writing for Rhys, [it] was so on point with what he got to say.
I actually have in my notes that you have a couple of really fantastic lines, particularly towards the second half of the season, that I would’ve been tongue-tied if I was trying to say them. Perfect delivery of those. I’m not sure if we’ll get any bloopers, but were there blooper moments that you think should end up in a reel?
SPELEERS: I mean, Penn [Badgley] might say to you there were. Because I have a tendency to berate myself if it’s not working out. You’re right, some of the dialogue he has to rattle off his tongue, and he has to be sharp and quick and edgy. I felt that [there are] times when that doesn’t happen, where I end up swearing at myself and go, “God, you’re such a dick.” I’m basically shouting to myself as though I’m talking to another human, and people sometimes wonder if everything’s okay. Penn used to find it quite amusing, I think. It’s never in rage or aggression to anyone else, it’s just me having a go at myself, which is always interesting.
But yeah, I don’t know about bloopers. I think Penn and I had a lot of fun. He’s had some very intense relationships in these seasons. I feel that although the dynamic between Rhys and Joe is incredibly intense in some respects, it’s also full of lightness and touch. I mean, he always described it as a kind of buddy movie in a way, the second half. I feel that there is that. We had a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun playing those scenes out.
Image via Netflix
Well, it comes across on-screen. What was the most complex scene to film? And if it was the scene with Joe and the zip ties and the garage, I do not want to know.
SPELEERS: That was complicated in its own right. I feel there [were] a lot of tough scenes because we’re having to tread the line so very carefully to what’s going on and what’s not going on throughout the whole season. I suppose that was one of the biggest challenges is to try and make this character very, very, very visceral, very real. I feel that some scenes were tricky. Sometimes you’re having to explain things, and you’re having to explain exactly what’s been happening to Joe, and exactly the reason why I was there. But you need to find a way of doing that that doesn’t just sound like you are just spouting information. I felt there was some challenge in that.
And actually, as you say, I feel that Rhys, he at times has these long passages of dialogue where he has to spout things very quickly, and he’s very quick-witted. You just have to be on your toes because sometimes you’d be condensing that to shooting all of that all in one day, and that’s pages and pages of dialogue, but that’s what we’re here to do. I think the overall challenge with Rhys was piecing him together and trying to understand how he operated. Once that happened, a lot of it was great fun, and I actually found I was able to relax into it and mainly, in the large, enjoy myself.
It was very fun to watch, and I cannot wait for audiences to see it. I went straight from my screeners of You into re-watching Eragon for this interview because it had been a while since I had seen it. Complete change of pace there. But your big break was Eragon. I think I was 14 when that movie came out. I loved it, I loved the book series, and I love the movie. I still fight people about how much I loved the movie and will defend it until my dying day. But looking back, what was it like having that as your first big introduction to the industry?
SPELEERS: I mean, it was a huge opportunity. It was a massive moment. I wanted to act since I was very young, and to start professionally in that way was completely abnormal to most UK actors. I know that kind of thing happened more in the States, but it felt very different. Of course, I hold it very dear to my heart, but I actually feel we could have done more there. I feel that there was more that we shot that I’d loved to have seen in the film because I became a big lover of the books, as well. But yeah, it was a great way to start. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into at that point because it was such an eye-opener, and it was on such a big scale. I just didn’t understand anything about how the industry worked.
Also, understanding the craft of acting, I didn’t really understand it. I feel that many actors at that age, they get the chance to try themselves out on smaller things and dip their toe in and get a bit of experience under their belt, allowing themselves to learn and make mistakes, but I feel that mine was very big and very exposed. So that took a bit of time to get my head around and that took some time later on in life to get my head around.
And look at you now, you’re in Picard!
SPELEERS: Yeah. So, what I’ve learned now is filtering through into what’s going on today. So it’s all part of it.
Image via Paramount+
Before I got into this gig, I did acting. So I’m always curious to know how other people’s processes work. I’m a playlist person. I love making playlists for my characters. So how do you get into the headspace of your characters? Are you somebody who does journals, playlists, you just walk onto set, and you find yourself in their headspace?
SPELEERS: I’m a bit of a magpie, I think. I beg, steal and borrow ideas from all over the place. I do like using music, but that’s not the foundation. That comes later on, or it comes whilst I’m either, as you suggest, journaling, or I look at other people. I try and find inspiration from my own life. I literally try every which way possible.
I don’t have a specific method that I’ll go back to time and time and time again. I work with a coach that I love working with, but I will try every which way possible. And actually, from job to job, I’ll use different elements of those things. And for different scenes, I’ll use different variations of ideas and methods.
I think because of what I learned early on, I’d like it to be as thorough as possible because I’m fascinated in trying to understand the human I’m playing. I want to get inside that human no matter who they are and what they are. I feel like if I’ve done all the research I possibly can, and I’ve gone to town on the homework, then I feel like… You feel like you’ve grafted, right? You feel like you’ve worked, and you feel like you’ve absorbed as much as you possibly can to give yourself the best opportunity.
What I find interesting about doing it when you’re doing long seasons is it kind of evolves as you go along, and new ideas pop up, and new things pop up, and they shape, and they mold. As long as you’ve got your main core points of who the person is, you can then bounce off from there. It’s almost like you can play on the baseline tennis and just defend the ball and attack and strike and defend, and all that kind of thing. I feel that comes from, you just need a little bit of a core understanding to start with.
Well, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. This was absolutely fantastic.
SPELEERS: My pleasure. Thank you for being so effusive towards the work as well. It means a lot when someone is genuinely very encouraging, so I really appreciate you taking the time to do that.
Well, I’ve been rooting for your success since I watched Eragon, so 14-year-old Maggie is very happy right now.
SPELEERS: Oh wow. Thank you. Well, I mean, I’m really looking forward to seeing what you write and Collider is such a great outlet as well. So thank you. Thank you for being so passionate. Genuinely, Maggie, I really, really appreciate it.
Stay tuned for our in-depth interview with Ed Speleers to discuss his role in Picard. Watch the trailer for You below:
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