At the start of The Current War I knew very little about Thomas Edison – what drew me into it was the script and the story. People obviously know him for his inventions and ideas, [but they don’t know that] he started life in a very humble way with his bad hearing. I wanted to get to the heart of this private man, [such as] the fact that his obsession brought about failures in his family.
When you take on a character, [whether] historical or fictional, you need to understand that there are fans out there who are seriously invested in that person. You need to respect that, but you can’t let it overwhelm you. So much of it is going to be down to interpretation and from the research you have done.
Be it film, stage or television, I give them equal importance. Yes, perhaps you are going to get very different audiences going to see Hamlet than those going to see The Avengers, but there’s a common denominator – it’s that people want to be entertained, and that’s my job.
I always want my work to be good – that’s the ambition. I don’t get defensive. There is very little point, and I am still very much at the stage where I want my work to do the talking. I am lucky enough where I am offered some great roles – long may it continue.
Things are changing especially in regard to equal pay, but there is always more work to do. It’s up to [men] to start refusing projects where the pay scale isn’t fair. Then we will see even greater change.
There are so many actors I respect – but I think Eddie Redmayne and James McAvoy are two fantastic actors who have made some great films.
London theatre is among the best in the world. So many of the old theatres are such beautiful buildings full of history. The big musicals have so much draw, but I would encourage anybody visiting to go and see the plays as well.
I have been fortunate enough to do some great extreme [activities] around the world, but one of the most memorable was skydiving in New Zealand. We were there filming The Hobbit and I managed to get away for the day. The scenery was just breathtaking on the way down, and it’s one of those things that as soon as you are on the ground you want to go and do it all again.
[Before university] I did a gap year at a Tibetan monastery in India, teaching English to the monks. They taught me so much about humanity and the sense of humour you need to live a full life. I have had the travel bug since then. I am not sure it’s changed – sometimes I am looking for adventure and sometimes I want to lie on a beach and be well looked after.
It’s the simple things [that make me feel like I’ve had a good flight]. It’s listening to that album you have just downloaded; it’s reading that book you have been meaning to catch up on; it’s going through your research for the latest role you are playing.
[An essential carry-on travel item is] face cream. It’s for men as well and is great at hiding jet lag!
Follow in the footsteps of Cumberbatch’s most notable roles with these adventurous activities
Paragliding in Nepal
Channel your inner Dr Strange with this tour in Pokhara, where you soar in a free-flying craft over picturesque mountains and valleys.
Canyoning in Switzerland
Jump from cliff s and slide down waterfalls in the beautiful valleys and gorges around Interlaken, made famous in the original Sherlock Holmes.
Luging in New Zealand
Fly downhill like the dragon Smaug with Skyline Rotorua Luge. Tracks up to 2km long offer amazing views of the landscape and lakes.
This article was originally published in the October 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine