Although Hiddleston has had big-screen success in the U.S. playing the villain Loki in director Kenneth Branagh's (“Much Ado About Nothing,” “Hamlet,” “Henry V”) 2011 film version of the “Thor” comic book — and which he reprises with even more screen time in the sequel, “Thor: The Dark World,” coming out this fall — stepping onto the stage and into the skin of a hero and defender of Rome is like returning to an old love.

"We’re lucky we have this tradition [of doing the classics]," Hiddleston tells Zap2it over tea and cookies in Beverly Hills in early August. “The thing is, if you want to be an actor, it’s not easy. It’s not easy anywhere in the world, but in England, if you want to be an actor, your ambition is rightly challenged and tested at different points, if you’re beginning.

"You realize that the people who are held up as great examples are people who have usually committed to a long career of really humble, dedicated exploration of the classics. It’s no accident that in the last James Bond film, there were actors who played in ‘Hamlet.’

Judi DenchRory KinnearBen Whishaw and Ralph Fiennes — I’m sure Dan [Craig] did it when he was at drama school.”

Hiddleston may not be right about that, but he has lots of other examples to look at, including one of his “Hollow Crown” co-stars.

"My heroes," he says, "are those actors — they are John Hurt and Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart and Jeremy Irons and Kenneth Branagh and Anthony Hopkins — who’ve cut their teeth on the classics.

"The truth is, there’s nothing after that more challenging, in a way. After you’ve done 
Shakespeare, it feels like everything else is an iteration of the same thing.”

While doing Shakespeare can certainly improve an actor’s memorization skills, Hiddleston asserts that it offers so much more.

"It demands everything," he says. "Your body and your mind and your heart have to be working in tandem all the time. Your brain has to be completely engaged; you have to wrap your head around the complexity of the language, the meaning of it, and the speed of the change of thoughts.

"At the same time, as [you’re] speaking those incredibly complex and beautiful thoughts, clearly, you have to be feeling the emotions with absolutely naturalistic intensity, as well as performing the physical action.

"So, that’s what I find so extraordinary about doing [Shakespeare]."

ASSIGNMENT X: Did you and Sam Mendes have conversations about doing Shakespeare together before this project materialized?

TOM HIDDLESTON: It wasn’t Sam, it was Richard [Eyre, who directed HENRY IV, PARTS I & II]. I got wind from Maggie Lunn, the casting director, that this was going ahead, and Prince Hal’s been a character I’ve wanted to play my whole life, and the idea of doing it on film was mouth-watering. And I tried to get to meet Richard, but he was busy running a West End production, I think, of BETTY BLUE EYES, and also opening MARY POPPINS all over the world, and I was doing press for THOR – this is spring 2011. In the end, I ended up meeting [Eyre] on a layover in Singapore on the way to Sydney. He was going to open MARY POPPINS in Sydney, and I was going to the world premiere of THOR, which was being held in Chris Hemsworth’s home country. And we’d been trying to meet all week, but our diaries hadn’t managed to meet, to coordinate. And we got off the plane and I said, “Richard!” at two o’clock in the morning in Singapore. He said, “Tom, what are you doing on the plane?” and I said, “I’m going to open THOR in Sydney.” He said, “I’m going to do MARY POPPINS.”

And then I simply told him how much I’ve always respected him and his work, because he was running the National Theatre when I used to go down there as a teenager, and I guess we had a chance to look each other up and down, and then, about two weeks later, I was packing to come to L.A. from the American premiere of THOR, and it was the day of the royal wedding, so Prince William was marrying his bride. And in the middle of the ceremony – I was packing and watching telly at the same time – I got a call from Richard Eyre saying, “I’d like to offer you Prince Hal.” And I was over the moon and jumped on a plane and knew I was shooting AVENGERS that summer, but also knew that’s what I was coming back to.

AX: So you shot AVENGERS and then THE HOLLOW CROWN?

HIDDLESTON: Yeah. THOR opened, we shot AVENGERS in the summer of 2011, and then I started work on THE HOLLOW CROWN in the winter.

AX: Had you done any of the plays encompassed in THE HOLLOW CROWN before?

HIDDLESTON: When I was at RADA [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] as a student, I played Henry V.

AX: So you’d done it at drama school …

HIDDLESTON: Yes. I mean, we’d done a very contemporary production, where we were all wearing kind of modern camouflage, army surplus stuff. And we rotated the major parts, so that if you were playing Henry V, you had a red armband on. But also, when I was at RADA – I was there from 2002-2005 – there was a lot of activity in Afghanistan around then. 2003, I think, was the war of the United States and the United Kingdom in alliance fighting Afghanistan. There was a lot of military – the righteousness of military invasion was very much part of public debate. So that particular production of HENRY V had a very contemporary inflection.

AX: Was there anything you took from that production into this production, or did you just decide, “I’m giving it over to the HOLLOW CROWN director”?

HIDDLESTON: Thea Sharrer, I should say – Richard Eyre directed HENRY IV PART I AND II and Thea Sharrer directed HENRY V. They were the three films. The one thing I really wanted to communicate was, I really wanted to do [the speech regarding] Crispin’s Day in an intimate way. I didn’t want to do a big, bombastic rabble-rousing rhetorical oration. I really wanted to speak intimately to my men, which is how I’d done it at RADA, but much less well, because I think you listen to the poetry, and I wanted to sort of break the mold of there being a set way that these speeches are performed.

AX: On film, you can do a speech in close-up, which is something you can’t really do …

HIDDLESTON: You can’t do on stage Yes. It was very intimate and touching. So that was an opportunity to be intimate with the camera in a way that you can’t be on stage. I’ve always seen HENRY V as really interesting – the thing is, people have inherited [Laurence] Olivier’s film as the definitive version, but the play itself is much more ambiguous, and the character of Henry V is not a hero without flaws, and he’s full of doubt and insecurity, and I wanted to bring that doubt and insecurity up and honor the text and make sure it was a complex reading of a young man who was discovering himself and thinking about the nature of warfare as he goes through it.

AX: Is Henry V also discovering the nature of leadership at the same time?

HIDDLESTON: Entirely. I mean, that’s what these plays are about. The crown, the hollow crown, is the symbol of power, and its hollowness is emblematic of how it feeds upon the soul of the man underneath it. There’s an amazing speech in HENRY IV PART II where I try the crown on by my father’s bedside, and later he says, “Wherefore did you take away the crown?” And I say, “I spake unto this crown as having sense, and thus upbraided it – ‘The care on thee depending hath fed upon the body of my father; therefore, thou best of gold art worst of gold. Other, less fine in carat, is more precious, preserving life in medicine potable; but thou, most fine, most honored, most renowned, hast eat thy bearer up.’” This idea of power crippling and feeding on the soul of the person who wields it is a really fascinating aspect of these plays.

AX: So is Henry V conscious of that fear when he goes into it?

HIDDLESTONHENRY V? Yeah, he has a whole speech about it. “We must bear all. O hard condition, twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath of every fool whose sense can no more feel but his own wringing.” It’s obviously a subject that really fascinated Shakespeare.

AX: To ask a perhaps silly question about some of the physical aspects of performing in HENRY V, you’re galloping and getting on and off a horse in full royal battle gear – is it difficult to get off a horse in all of that armor and not just fall flat on your face?

HIDDLESTON: [laughs] Yeah. It really is. My first day was very technical. I had to ride – I had to gallop at full tilt along the moat of a castle with a cannon going off in the background. And the horse was quite skittish – it was a genuine, bona fide explosion and I had to stop on a certain mark and then jump off and say the most famous line in Shakespeare that’s probably ever been written. But I’ve done horse challenges before in WAR HORSE, so I’m okay with that stuff now.

AX: So you learned all of your tough horse stuff playing the World War I officer in WAR HORSE and were able to apply it to your riding in HENRY V?

HIDDLESTON: Yeah, absolutely.

AX: Were there any other big physical challenges in THE HOLLOW CROWN?

HIDDLESTON: For certain. I mean, the stamina of it. I started shooting on November 28 [2012]. I finished on March 14, I think. So I was shooting outside in the dead of winter and doing a lot of sword fighting or horse riding in chain mail in minus-five and also speaking three pages of Shakespearean poetry. You just have to be able to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and come back and do it again the next day. It was a big, big undertaking.

AX: Do you feel differently now about physical combat now than you did before doing this? I mean, just in terms of, it sounds like in Henry V’s time, whoever could avoiding just keeling over the longest was the one who won the war.

HIDDLESTON: Yes, certainly. Although what was interesting is, I kept discussing with the other guys – in HENRY IV PART I, we were shooting a battle in the snow for two weeks, and we were doing fight choreography in the mud and the wet and the frost and minus-three degrees and I did say, “At least if you were actually at the Battle of Shrewsbury, it was all over in an afternoon.” You know what I mean? You didn’t have to come back the next day and do it again. But yes, it’s without question physically one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

AX: Given that you got to play the evolution of Hal to King Henry, was having to do it somewhat out of order in any way disappointing?

HIDDLESTON: No, because that’s how you shoot things. You never shoot anything in order, you shoot according to locations. If you’re shooting in one location, you shoot that location out, then you move on. But it’s so rich that, if life was longer, I would love to have another crack at it.

AX: Could you do it on stage now?

HIDDLESTON: I probably could, yeah. I could have a try. [laughs] I have to stop making superhero films in order to make the space for it.

AX: Did AVENGERS in particular do anything for your ability to say, “I’d like to do this project” and have people say, “Oh, good, you’re bankable”?

HIDDLESTON: It must have done. No actor is ever told, I think, quite how the picture changes. Of course it must have helped. The only real hard evidence I have is when directors who I respect have seen the film and admired my work in it. That’s really what I know. Whether people who run studios or people who are clocking up figures and numbers – I don’t know whether it makes a difference, really.

AX: Well, you’re a big part of this movie that made more money than anyone knew existed …

HIDDLESTON: [laughs] Yeah, it helps. If there’s ever an element of doubt that I’m not a good investment for a feature project, my agents always say, “Well, you know, he was in one of the most successful films of all time …”

AX: Online, there’s a clip of you in character as Loki in full costume, minus the helmet, addressing the audience in Hall H at Comic-Con, where you’re about to introduce the trailer for THOR: THE DARK WORLD. You get the audience to chant Loki’s name and swear fealty. Did they have to persuade you to do that, or did you think, “Oh, this sounds like fun”?

HIDDLESTON: Oh, it sounded like a hoot. I didn’t need – it didn’t take any persuading. [Marvel Studios president of production] Kevin Feige had a good idea. He said, “I think you should turn up in character and do something.” And I was like was like a dog with a bone, you know, I just ran with it and thought, “This will be a laugh.”

AX: You end by saying, “It seems I have an army,” and those people looked like they were ready to follow you anywhere. Were you tempted to go and conquer San Diego afterwards?

HIDDLESTON: No. The adrenaline of standing up in front of seven thousand people, all of whom are like, the faithful in terms of where the affection for this character’s been born – I walked into a wall of sound and fury, and the adrenaline coursing through my body must have been – people say when you perform like that, doctors have been known to say, the adrenaline going through your body’s a bit like the adrenaline in the middle of a car crash. And I walked offstage and I just started sweating, and so I was very glad to get the costume off as soon as I possibly could, and San Diego was safe from my autocratic, fascistic clutches [laughs].

AX: Are you happy with the way THE DARK WORLD turned out?

HIDDLESTON: I’ve seen bits of it – I haven’t seen all of it. I’m very, very excited to see it. I think it’s going to be utterly beautiful and really spectacular.

AX: Back to THE HOLLOW CROWN – does this experience or any other experience give you any desire to direct Shakespeare?

HIDDLESTON: I’d love to one day.

AX: What do you think needs to happen before you can?

HIDDLESTON: I probably need to make the time and be brave enough to conjure up a dream of what play to do and why I want to do it, and be very rigorous with myself about what I can bring to a new interpretation of a very big play.

AX: Is there anything else you’d like to say about THE HOLLOW CROWN?

HIDDLESTON: Gosh. You know, I suppose what I hoped in the [earlier question-and-answer] panel I managed to communicate is my enormous and undying passion for Shakespeare and that he should be passed on like this Olympic torch from generation to generation and is open to reinvention and reinterpretation and re-vision [said like “new vision,” not “revision”] in so many respects. And I just hope that audiences can be entertained and thrilled by the drama and spectacle of this playwright who understood human nature more deeply than anyone I can think of. And that they take as much pleasure in watching it as I took in making it.

The A.V. Club: Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play you haven’t been in?

Tom Hiddleston: Immediately the one that comes to my head is Much Ado About Nothing. I think it’s the most beautiful, warm, redemptive, compassionate play that he ever wrote. I suppose the reason I say that is because it’s full of such deft, fine, subtle, brilliant comedy. I mean, really amazing bravura moments of setpiece, laugh-out-loud moments. When you get actors who have digested and studied and thought about and understood the verse and the characterizations, it feels as though it was written yesterday, or it sounds like it’s being made up on the spot. I’ve seen so many adaptations of it. I saw Joss Whedon’s film most recently. I grew up on Kenneth Branagh’s film. I’ve seen amazing productions on stage in London. I saw Simon Russell Beale play Benedick and it was hilarious, at the National Theatre with Zoë Wanamaker. David Tennant did it with Catherine Tate playing Beatrice. I’ve seen it set in ’30s Italy. I’ve seen it set in contemporary Los Angeles. I’ve seen it set 400 years ago. It never fails to delight. It just leaves people with a very, very happy feeling in their heart, I think. 

And I think the reason is that it’s about love. It’s about your last chance. You might have sworn off finding the right person and think, “Love’s not for me. Marriage isn’t for me. I will die a bachelor, or I will die a maid. None of your romance, none of your love poems.” It’s about these two old cynics who are like, “Nah, it’s not going to happen for me.” And it does. I think that’s just very redemptive and sweet. And there’s one extraordinary aspect of the play, which is that when Hero’s chastity is in doubt—it’s called into question because of the plot of Don John—an extraordinary thing happens, which is almost unique in all of Shakespeare, which is the man, Benedick, takes the side of the women in blind faith. So he says to Claudio and Don Pedro, I think, “What you’ve done is appalling. This is an act of brutality.” He doesn’t explicitly say that, but it’s an amazing thing where the leading male character takes the side of the women, and I think it’s, yet again, evidence of Shakespeare’s extraordinary compassion and understanding of human nature.

AVC: It’s interesting, especially for that time, because it’s a play that’s seems almost as if it could end tragically and then it doesn’t.

TH: Yeah.Cymbeline is quite like that, which I was in about six years ago. It’s one of his very last plays and it’s quite busy. It’s almost like a greatest hits: There are star-crossed lovers and the girl dresses up as a man and there’s long lost brothers… [Laughs.] and a very Iago-like villain and kings and queens and princes and a song and mistaken identity. It feels like he’s put all of his greatest plot devices in the same thing. You’ve got Romeo And Juliet, you’ve got As You Like ItOthello and sexual jealousy, and war in it. He’s kind of pulling all his strands into one big cake of a play. It looks—toward the end of the play, kind of act-five area—it’s going to end badly, then on a dime it turns, there are all these amazing revelations, and you realize the characters you thought were dead are still alive. Fathers and sons who were separated and forgotten are suddenly reunited, and it’s something that’s narratively very neat. But also, I think, as an audience, following a story, being swept along by the sweep, the arc of a narrative, it’s always delightful when there’s a twist. It could be a kind of twist that makes you punch the air. It could be a twist that melts your heart. I think we’re still delighted by that. Like in The Bourne Ultimatum, you think it’s the end of Jason Bourne, and then he swims away and you think “Oh! You’re still alive!” We love a good narrative twist.

AVC: In Much Ado there are three parts for men of different ages. Of those parts, which would you most like to play?

TH: I would love to play Benedick. Absolutely. It’s very much on my wish list. He’s so funny. He’s such an old dog. And there’s such fine wit in the way he speaks. And he’s a warrior, too. I think if you embrace the idea of a classical career, in the old sense of the word “career,” you have a good stab at all the big ones, at the moment I’m playing a lot of soldiers. I’ve played Posthumus in Cymbeline, Cassio in Othello, Prince Hal, Henry V, I’m about to play Coriolanus. They’re all soldiers. They’re all warriors. And what’s nice about Benedick is he is a warrior, but he’s a warrior who falls in love. So I feel it’s sort of a logical progression. There are some other princes I haven’t played yet, too. 

AVC: Do you have favorite moments from the play that you think of as particularly humorous or really funny scenes?

TH: I love the scene when the three guys trick Benedick into thinking that Beatrice is in love with him. It’s just like pure gold. I’ve never seen that scene not be funny. When they are staging a conversation, which they know Benedick will overhear, and it just hits him like a train. He has that beautiful line, “Love me? [Beat.] Why?” [Laughs.] Because the story’s been set up that they hate each other until that point. I love that scene.

AVC: So much of Shakespeare is about analyzing the verse, about understanding the subtleties of the language. When you sit down as an actor and start looking at one of his plays, how do you approach that question?

TH: I think it’s really about trying to communicate the power of the writing to the audience in the most vivid and accessible way. Like most rhetoric, if you own the images, if you own the language, if you own what you’re saying, it will always be expressed. It will always be understood by your audience. So it’s really just enjoying the relationship that you instinctively have with the verse. I feel it’s a very instinctive approach, and images always pop up in my head. I suppose the unconscious thing that’s happening is when I’m speaking the verse I’m seeing the image myself. I’m working on Coriolanus at the moment, and there are some moments in that where he refers to the enemy, Aufidius, he says, “He is a lion that I am proud to hunt.” It’s a very easy thing to see, but whenever I say the word I see the lion. And what an extraordinary thing to say about your opposite number. Or he’s before the gates of battle, he says, “Now put your shields before your hearts, and fight with hearts more proof than shields.” You’re like, [Exhales.] “I’d follow you into battle.” 

I think the writing is just so visceral. In the Henry plays, for example, I find it very inspiring. Henry V is presented with an army who are outnumbered 10-to-1 to the French and they’re dispirited, tired, and dying of dysentery. They are unquestionably going to lose. They are the underdogs. And he appeals to something ancient called honor. And he says,

“By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honor,
I am the most offending soul alive.”

It makes me want to pick up a sword and fight for him. 

“God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honor
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have.”

And I don’t really know how I process the lines, which apart from the fact that it lifts me up and into it in a way.

“Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.”

It’s like, “You’re either in it to win it, or you’re out. I’m giving you a chance to leave, now.” In terms of my relationship with the verse, it’s very hard to articulate quite how I work with it apart from that I get very excited about it and it draws me toward it. The rhythm of it, the language of it, and I think he’s such an instinctively compassionate and intelligent writer that quite often the language of the character tells you everything you need to know about what that character is thinking and feeling at that moment. 

In Henry V, I think the things that he says in certain moments surprise Henry V himself. There, sieging the French castle of Harfleur, he sees his entire army running away. They’ve made a breach in the wall. They’re running away, and he says, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Because it’s such a famous line, it’s become quoted out of context, but when you think of it, it’s actually him saying, “No, one more time. Let’s try and make a break through this castle wall one more time.” “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Or close the wall up with our English dead.” It’s like we either go through, or we’ll close the wall back up with dead bodies. And then makes this extraordinary thing, 

“In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;”

Those images are just like, “It’s all well and good in peacetime [to] be humble, be still, be gentle, but when it’s wartime unleash the beast.” I mean, Survivor wrote a rock song about it, “Eye Of The Tiger.” It’s the same image. It’s the same stuff. 

“Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage

Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On!”

Al Pacino tried to do it better in Any Given Sunday, but it’s the best locker-room speech in the history of dramatic literature. So yeah, that’s how I approach the verses. I find it amazingly inspiring and contemporary.

AVC: Prince Hal is one of the most famous roles in Shakespeare. What were you surprised by when you sat down to pull apart this role and start thinking about it?

TH: I knew I had to make decisions, I knew I had to make personal decisions about how accidental or premeditated his transformation is, because he’s the heir to the throne; he stands to inherit the kingdom. He’s the son of the top dog and will be top dog himself one day, and he, at the beginning of the play, is undergoing a wild and indulgent rebellion, hanging out with all the people he shouldn’t be. He’s in the pub, roaring drunk, with thieves and whores and lowlifes when he should be taking responsibility and behaving like a future king. And there are versions, there are academic theories, people will bandy these theories about until kingdom come, but as an actor you have to make a choice as to what extent Hal consciously plotted his transformation. He has this amazing speech at the beginning,

“Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.”

So he’s saying, “I am like a radiant sun and I’m going to let myself, my reputation, be veiled by these lowlifes, these thieves, but one day I will throw them off and people will be even more amazed.” Some people have treated that as an enormous act of almost Machiavellian malice, like it makes it almost psychopathic, but I think it’s just him saying, “The music is going to stop someday and the party is going to end and I will have to be king, so I’m going to enjoy myself now.” 

I couldn’t get inside a sort of disingenuous Hal, in a way. Some of it is there. There’s a sort of bookend in the pub scene where Hal and Falstaff are playing a game, playing dress-up, and they’re staging a scene between Henry IV and Hal, and at the very end Falstaff gets very sentimental and says, “When you’re king, don’t get rid of me. Keep me close, even though I am an old, fat drunk, because I’m your friend and I love you and don’t banish me.” I think when Hal says, “I do, I will,” I think there’s a sort of admission of inevitability and regret that takes them both by surprise. 

But, of course, like life, best-laid plans are often refuted. Hal couldn’t possibly predict that at the end of [Henry IVPart 2 Falstaff would personally interrupt his coronation and make him look like an idiot. I think Hal knows that he’s going to have to grow up one day, but he doesn’t know that he’s going to have to be so ruthless. 

I think it’s a really classical arc of a young man, a young man in any time, in any country, in any place. Essentially testing his limits, pushing the envelope, stretching his boundaries, trying different things on for size and then eventually deciding to take responsibility and become an adult. And the adult he decides to become is King Henry V.

ETonline: While you were on stage, I was struck by the passion with which you speak about this project. Would you struggle to promote a project you couldn’t speak about that passionately?
Tom Hiddleston: Yes. I would. And that’s why I make all my decisions based entirely on passion. On gut instinct. I tell my team that I have to be running off the diving board and jumping head first into the water because I want to swim so badly. I can never make a strategic career decision. I’ve found what I love to do and it’s my great privilege to do this job, which I love more than anything else in the world. I knew quite early on, but it took me a while to get there. I think everyone should do what they love because it will never feel like work that way. Also, with this kind of project, you have to be passionate about it because it’s too challenging otherwise. Bringing Shakespeare to life is an enormous task, you have to do so much digesting in understanding the plot and the verse and the character and the language so an audience can sit back and cleanly listen to it. And shooting was tough — long, long days of six pages a day, which is fast for Shakespeare. The degree of precision and stamina required is massive. It 14 weeks to do all three plays. I saw the sun rise and set every day because I was getting up that early and staying up that late. It wasn’t easy but it was the best kind of challenge because you know if you do it right, you’ve contributed something of immense value.

VIDEO - Tom Hiddleston Talks Thor 2

ETonline: Thanks to Loki you’ve amassed a very passionate fanbase that might not necessarily watch a four-part Shakespeare miniseries airing Friday nights on PBS. But because of you, they will. What does that mean to you?
Hiddleston: If they see it for that reason, I’m flattered and honored. If fans come because they know who Loki is but stay because they’ve fallen in love with Shakespeare, my job is done. I was that guy. I was interested in Superman and Terminator and Rambo as a kid, but was taken to the theater to see great Shakespearean actors performing these plays with such rigor and muscle and sheer vivid energy. They seem so alive and, as a result, the action felt more spectacular than any movie I’d ever seen. Kenneth Branagh and Vanessa Redgrave and Ian McKellan and Zoe Wanamaker and Juliet Stevenson and Emily Watson gave me Shakespeare and if I can pass it on, then it’s my great gift.

ETonline: Through the four plays you go on a massive, life-spanning journey with this character. How do you describe the man?
Hiddleston: You meet him and he behaves like an irresponsible teenager: drunk and rebellious and wild and mischievous and almost deliberately antagonistic with his dad. It seems like a truthful shape of the contemporary adolescent. And then he goes all the way to being the Head of State and extraordinary and exemplary and one of the most inspirational Heads of State England has ever seen. And I think there’s something in Henry the Fifth that appeals to contemporary leaders. I think they would love to be him; they would love to be held in that high esteem, to have their courage and mettle tested in the way his was and to pass with flying colors. The arc of the character is massive, the journey of the character is massive, but the journey is about so many things: his own nature as a man, as a son, as a leader, as a warrior and because the writing is so good, the levels of subtlety are so rich.

ETonline: Do you have a favorite scene or line?

Hiddleston: There’s one night when, before The Battle of Agincourt, he’s disguised as a beggar and he’s moving among his army in the middle of the night under the cover of a hood. He’s listening and taking the temperature of his men, who are all disillusioned — many of them are dying of terrible, medieval dysentery, and he gets into a debate with a soldier who doesn’t recognize him as the king. They have a bit of chinwag about the nature of leadership. And this hot-headed solder basically says — and this is a direct quote — “When all those arms, and all those legs and heads chopped off in battle say they died at such a place, it’ll be a black matter for the King who led them to it.” And Henry’s response is, “Every subject’s duty is the King’s, but every subject’s soul is his own.” I want that on my mantelpiece. It’s his way of saying, “Fair enough, you’re right to pin the duty and the reason we’re all here on me, but your soul is your own and make sure it’s clean before you fight tomorrow.”

ETonline: How much time do you like to spend with text this rich before filming begins?
Hiddleston: There’s a lot more text and it’s so formal. You can’t riff around. With contemporary screen dialogue, sometimes you can make the words your own. For example, if the lines are, “Could you give me a cup of coffee?” On the day you could say, “Can I get a cup of coffee?” You can’t do that with Shakespeare. You can’t say, “Here we go again lads” if “Once more unto the breach dear friends” is what’s written [laughs]. There’s a degree of rigor and preparation required, and I usually give myself a clear month to start learning it and thinking it and digesting it. The learning is the heavy lifting. You need to get the words into your brain. Like a very complicated piece of music. One you know it, you can really play it — and that’s just application. Jeremy Irons used to say he’d just pace around his living room with his wife, and I have to learn on the move. I have to be physically in motion, so I tend to take myself to the parks of London. I’m the mad guy walking around in a loop as if I’m on the phone, but actually I’m going over the lines.

ETonline: Do you remain in character between takes, or can you segue in and out?
Hiddleston: I can go in and out of it. To be honest, the way we live now, it would stress me out more to not. That would involve such a length disengagement from my own life that my own life would end up in ruins. When I was shooting The Hollow Crown, I did two rounds of press for War Horse. So there was a whole load of other things going on at the same time, which was a strange disconnect. There’s always a little shadow, a residue or a hangover from a dream you get from playing a character, and sometimes you take on the elements of that character in your own life. But only for the best; particularly when it’s Shakespeare.

Hiddleston tackles one of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters, the powers that be on Asgard as Loki, and cautions us not to believe everything we see about the Marvel character.

Tom Hiddleston Talks THE HOLLOW CROWN, His Passion for Shakespeare, Parallels to Loki, Appearing in Character at Comic-Con, and More
by Christina Radish
Airing on PBS’ Great Performances, The Hollow Crownis a lavish series of filmed adaptations of four of Shakespeare’s most gripping history plays – Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V – which tell the rise and fall of three kings and how their destiny shaped English history.  Filmed on location in England between summer 2011 and spring 2012, Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston are supported by a phenomenal cast including Rory Kinnear, Patrick Stewart,David Suchet, David Morrissey in Richard II, Simon Russell Beale, Michelle Dockery, Julie Walters and Maxine Peake in Henry IV and John Hurt, Anton Lesser and Paterson Joseph in Henry V.
Collider recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Hiddleston to chat about all things Shakespeare, and I was immediately struck by how passionate the actor is on the subject and impressed by how he can recall speeches, seemingly at will.  During the interview, he talked about how he got involved with the epic project, why it appealed to him, working with such a fantastic cast, his love of the theater, and why hearing the language of Shakespeare is like listening to great music.  He also talked about the parallels between Shakespeare and Loki (the character he plays in the Marvel universe films), and how humbled and proud he is of the reaction the character has gotten, as well as how excited he is to get back on stage to play the title role in Shakespeare’s searing tragedy of political manipulation and revenge, Coriolanus, running at the Donmar Warehouse in London from December 6th through February 8, 2014.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

Collider:  How did this come about?
TOM HIDDLESTON:  I was back in London, and this is the god’s honest truth, I was about to get on the plane to come to the L.A. premiere of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor in May 2011.  At the time that I was packing, Prince William was marrying his bride, Kate Middleton, and they were becoming the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  In the middle of the ceremony, Sir Richard Eyre called me and said, “Would you like to play Prince Hal in Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2, which I’m directing for the BBC?”  And I’d dreamed of playing Prince Hal.  Prince Hal is just one of those amazing roles in all dramatic literature, for a young man.  He undergoes the great classical arc of the wild and indulgent rebel who is testing his limits and stretching his boundaries, and then eventually taking responsibility and becoming the man that he becomes, which is one of the great warrior kings of England.  As a story arc, it’s basically perfect.  I’d always dreamt of playing it.  And he told me that Jeremy Irons was playing Henry IV and Simon Russell Beale was playing Falstaff, and Richard Eyre is someone that I’ve respected all my life.
He was running the National Theatre when I was in my teens, and the National Theatre is an incredible institution of creativity and courage and community in London.  It really binds a lot of actors together in the most extraordinary way.  I saw Judi Dench at the National.  I saw Ian McKellan in Ibsen.  I saw Vanessa Redgrave doing a play with Paul Scofield, called John Gabriel Borkman.  I saw Michael Gambon play Falstaff.  I saw Simon Russell Beale play Hamlet and Iago.  It’s where I really discovered drama.  It’s where my passion for acting came from.  There’s another strand to that passion, which is of course that I love movies.  I was inspired by Indiana Jones, Superman, The Godfather, Saving Private Ryan and Taxi Driver.  I loved movies, but movies were made in America, in my mind.  So, my great passion for acting was born out of a lot of theater going, as a teenager, and under the aegis of Richard Eyre.  So, to have him call me up and say, “Would you like to come and join my company, and play the great young man’s part?,” was amazing.  I don’t know if he did it intentionally, but there was this extraordinary symbolic moment of the young prince getting married and becoming the future king, and then him calling me and saying, “Off we go.”  That’s how it came about, really. 

What was the appeal for you to do this, at the point in your career that you did it?
HIDDLESTON:  I knew I was going off to shoot The Avengers that summer, and then I would come back and we would shoot these three films in the winter.  It was just one of those things, as a British actor.  It was a privilege to be asked.  Sam Mendes had approached the BBC and had said, “I would like to do as many Shakespeare plays on film as you will allow me to do,” and they said, “No.”  And then, they said, “London is hosting the Olympics.  Why don’t you pick four, and we can make it some kind of cultural Olympiad that’s about national celebration.”  Shakespeare is our finest, most sophisticated, most extraordinary artistic legacy.  So, he chose these history plays, which are about England.  It’s the English language, English kings, the English countryside and our history, and I don’t think anyone said, “No.”  That’s why the cast is to die for, with Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, David Suchet, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, David Morrissey, Julie Walters, Jeremy Irons, and the list goes on and on and on.  Just to work with these people was a great privilege of mine.
How did you then come to also be in Henry V?
HIDDLESTON:  While I was shooting The Avengers, they had an idea to cross cast the second batch of films.  Richard II had been shot in the summer, and Thea Sharrock and Richard Eyre had the idea that I should play Henry V, as well, to complete the journey.  So, that’s how it happened.  It was a no-brainer, to be honest.  I’m so pleased and proud to have done it.
It must have been so cool to really be out on location for this, instead of being limited to what you can do on a stage in a theater.
HIDDLESTON:  Yeah.  You can really be riding a horse, and really riding into battle.  There’s no off stage drums and colors.  You’re in an actual battle. 

Does the Shakespearian language come easy for you, or do you spend a lot of time working on it?
HIDDLESTON:  You have to learn it very, very, very, very well.  But I believe very passionately in Shakespeare, as a contemporary and easily accessible and comprehensible language.  The trouble with Shakespeare is that, on the page, it does seem alienating, really overly constructed, difficult and florid.  But the actor’s job is to digest it, and then just speak it like you’re making it up.  And then, you realize that it is very understandable and it is very easy.  Once you tune your ear to it, you pick everything up and it’s gorgeous.  It’s like listening to great music.  You go, “Wow, what an amazing thing!”  I think the thing is that the thoughts are actually very simple.  In a way, the great enemy to Shakespeare, for me, is people who have over-acted it and made it seem like this big, scary thing that you have to treat with great ceremony. 
A lot of the way that they speak is very off-the-cuff and very easy.  I love it when Prince Hal is taking the piss out of Hotspur in the pub.  He’s drunk and he says, “I am not yet of Percy’s mind, the Hotspur of the north, he that kills me some six or seven dozen Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, ‘Fie upon this quiet life!  I want work.’”  He’s taking the piss out of this salty, sturdy warrior.  It seems very contemporary to me.  Harry Percy, Hotspur, has this amazing reputation as a warrior, and he’s taking the piss out of him saying that he probably gets up and kills Scotsman for breakfast ‘cause that’s what he does.  And that makes me laugh. 
In Henry V, for example, the big speeches are born out of narrative.  The English army, like any army, are besieging a French castle and they make a breach in the wall.  They basically get a battering ram and make a gap in the wall, and then all the French come tearing out of the castle and the English run away, and Henry’s response is, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.  Or close the wall up with our English dead!”  It’s like, “We either go through the wall, or we close the wall up with dead bodies.”  And then, it’s just the most incredibly inspiring speech, “In peace there nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility.  But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger.”  It’s an extraordinary thing to say, “In peace time, be gentle, be kind, be humble.  But when it’s war, unleash the beast.”  That’s what he’s saying.  You couldn’t write it better than that.  I get very passionate about it because it just seems so modern.  It seems like any coach in a locker room, or any group of underdogs who are down on their luck and seem to be facing some insurmountable obstacle.  It fires me up. 

Your appearance as Loki at Comic-Con was absolutely brilliant.  When you started with that character, did you have any idea that it would have the reaction that it’s had, and that people would be petitioning for Loki to get his own movie?
HIDDLESTON:  I had no idea, whatsoever, honestly.  I knew I had a gift of a role, when I signed up to play Loki for Kenneth Branagh.  It’s Hal like, in many respects.  Or maybe Thor and Loki are both sides of Hal, in that they are both born princes who are wrestling with an authoritarian father, and are both finding their own ways of rebelling against him.  And it’s no accident that Kenneth Branagh has played Hal in Henry V.  It’s in his DNA.  But also, Ken and I were borrowing from other Shakespearian tropes, like Cassius in Julius Caesar, who has “a lean and hungry look.”  And there’s Iago’s capacity to turn things to his advantage, in a very spontaneous and quick-thinking way.  Iago is the great Shakespearian tactician and strategist, and Loki definitely borrows from that. 
But in terms of the affection that he’s held in by audiences and by fans, it is incredibly surprising and really, deeply humbling.  I’m so proud.  I never dreamed that I would ever create a character that was so loved, or whatever he is.  I’m not quite sure whether he’s loved, but people are fascinated by him.  They seem to enjoy his existence.  It’s cool.  Comic-Con was very cool.  It was an amazing experience.  It probably seems like some kind of fait accompli, but when I was standing in the wings, I didn’t know the crowd was going to respond like that.  I thought I might get something, but I didn’t know that they were going to start saying my name, before I told them to.  It was really, really fun.  It was more fun than should be allowed.

Whose idea was it to do that?
HIDDLESTON:  It was a combination of myself and Kevin Feige.  He pitched it to me and I said, “Okay, here’s how it should go down.”  And then, we built it from there. 
Are you excited to get back on the stage again with Shakespeare, for Coriolanus in December?
HIDDLESTON:  It was actually doing these films that made me realize that, as soon as I possibly could, I had to find a moment to get back.  The text and the writing is so rich, and the feelings are so big.  It all feels like you are excavating human nature, at its most eternal and ancient.  Human beings haven’t changed.  Shakespeare is basically drawing in the biggest shapes available, as a writer, and with the most breathtaking language that’s ever been written.  As an actor, performing it on film, we had such a short time to make these films.  We shot each film in four and a half weeks, and once it’s in the can, it’s in the can.  You don’t get to do it again.  The beauty of Shakespeare is that it’s so rich that you go to bed at night and you wake yourself up thinking, “Tonight, I’m going to try this.  I’m going to try this idea.  I’m going to try to expand this metaphor or address it to this character or play it bigger and broader.”  And then, maybe the next day, I’ll play it smaller. 
You get to test and stretch and expand the shape of the writing, and you only get to do that by doing it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, in the theater.  And as evidenced by Comic-Con, there is an unrepeatable and unique chemistry between an actor and a live audience. That moment at Comic-Con was as much to do with everybody else in that room as it was to do with me.  So often, in the theater, audiences don’t know that they are complicit in the chemistry of the show that night.  Their quality of listening and their quality of engagement always enhances or diminishes the show itself because we can feel it.  It’s a real relationship.  And I love that.  I will do Coriolanus a hundred times, and it will never be the same because it will depend on who’s in the crowd that night.  There’s nothing like a live gig.
The Hollow Crown airs on Friday nights on PBS, from September 20th through October 11th.
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Tom Hiddleston Talks THE HOLLOW CROWN, His Passion for Shakespeare, Parallels to Loki, Appearing in Character at Comic-Con, and More

by 


Airing on PBS’ Great PerformancesThe Hollow Crownis a lavish series of filmed adaptations of four of Shakespeare’s most gripping history plays – Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry V – which tell the rise and fall of three kings and how their destiny shaped English history.  Filmed on location in England between summer 2011 and spring 2012, Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston are supported by a phenomenal cast including Rory Kinnear, Patrick Stewart,David Suchet, David Morrissey in Richard II, Simon Russell Beale, Michelle Dockery, Julie Walters and Maxine Peake in Henry IV and John Hurt, Anton Lesser and Paterson Joseph in Henry V.

Collider recently had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Hiddleston to chat about all things Shakespeare, and I was immediately struck by how passionate the actor is on the subject and impressed by how he can recall speeches, seemingly at will.  During the interview, he talked about how he got involved with the epic project, why it appealed to him, working with such a fantastic cast, his love of the theater, and why hearing the language of Shakespeare is like listening to great music.  He also talked about the parallels between Shakespeare and Loki (the character he plays in the Marvel universe films), and how humbled and proud he is of the reaction the character has gotten, as well as how excited he is to get back on stage to play the title role in Shakespeare’s searing tragedy of political manipulation and revenge, Coriolanus, running at the Donmar Warehouse in London from December 6th through February 8, 2014.  Check out what he had to say after the jump.

Collider:  How did this come about?

TOM HIDDLESTON:  I was back in London, and this is the god’s honest truth, I was about to get on the plane to come to the L.A. premiere of Kenneth Branagh’s Thor in May 2011.  At the time that I was packing, Prince William was marrying his bride, Kate Middleton, and they were becoming the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  In the middle of the ceremony, Sir Richard Eyre called me and said, “Would you like to play Prince Hal in Henry IV Part 1 and Part 2, which I’m directing for the BBC?”  And I’d dreamed of playing Prince Hal.  Prince Hal is just one of those amazing roles in all dramatic literature, for a young man.  He undergoes the great classical arc of the wild and indulgent rebel who is testing his limits and stretching his boundaries, and then eventually taking responsibility and becoming the man that he becomes, which is one of the great warrior kings of England.  As a story arc, it’s basically perfect.  I’d always dreamt of playing it.  And he told me that Jeremy Irons was playing Henry IV and Simon Russell Beale was playing Falstaff, and Richard Eyre is someone that I’ve respected all my life.

He was running the National Theatre when I was in my teens, and the National Theatre is an incredible institution of creativity and courage and community in London.  It really binds a lot of actors together in the most extraordinary way.  I saw Judi Dench at the National.  I saw Ian McKellan in Ibsen.  I saw Vanessa Redgrave doing a play with Paul Scofield, called John Gabriel Borkman.  I saw Michael Gambon play Falstaff.  I saw Simon Russell Beale play Hamlet and Iago.  It’s where I really discovered drama.  It’s where my passion for acting came from.  There’s another strand to that passion, which is of course that I love movies.  I was inspired by Indiana JonesSupermanThe GodfatherSaving Private Ryan and Taxi Driver.  I loved movies, but movies were made in America, in my mind.  So, my great passion for acting was born out of a lot of theater going, as a teenager, and under the aegis of Richard Eyre.  So, to have him call me up and say, “Would you like to come and join my company, and play the great young man’s part?,” was amazing.  I don’t know if he did it intentionally, but there was this extraordinary symbolic moment of the young prince getting married and becoming the future king, and then him calling me and saying, “Off we go.”  That’s how it came about, really. 

What was the appeal for you to do this, at the point in your career that you did it?

HIDDLESTON:  I knew I was going off to shoot The Avengers that summer, and then I would come back and we would shoot these three films in the winter.  It was just one of those things, as a British actor.  It was a privilege to be asked.  Sam Mendes had approached the BBC and had said, “I would like to do as many Shakespeare plays on film as you will allow me to do,” and they said, “No.”  And then, they said, “London is hosting the Olympics.  Why don’t you pick four, and we can make it some kind of cultural Olympiad that’s about national celebration.”  Shakespeare is our finest, most sophisticated, most extraordinary artistic legacy.  So, he chose these history plays, which are about England.  It’s the English language, English kings, the English countryside and our history, and I don’t think anyone said, “No.”  That’s why the cast is to die for, with Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, David Suchet, Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, David Morrissey, Julie Walters, Jeremy Irons, and the list goes on and on and on.  Just to work with these people was a great privilege of mine.

How did you then come to also be in Henry V?

HIDDLESTON:  While I was shooting The Avengers, they had an idea to cross cast the second batch of films.  Richard II had been shot in the summer, and Thea Sharrock and Richard Eyre had the idea that I should play Henry V, as well, to complete the journey.  So, that’s how it happened.  It was a no-brainer, to be honest.  I’m so pleased and proud to have done it.

It must have been so cool to really be out on location for this, instead of being limited to what you can do on a stage in a theater.

HIDDLESTON:  Yeah.  You can really be riding a horse, and really riding into battle.  There’s no off stage drums and colors.  You’re in an actual battle. 

Does the Shakespearian language come easy for you, or do you spend a lot of time working on it?

HIDDLESTON:  You have to learn it very, very, very, very well.  But I believe very passionately in Shakespeare, as a contemporary and easily accessible and comprehensible language.  The trouble with Shakespeare is that, on the page, it does seem alienating, really overly constructed, difficult and florid.  But the actor’s job is to digest it, and then just speak it like you’re making it up.  And then, you realize that it is very understandable and it is very easy.  Once you tune your ear to it, you pick everything up and it’s gorgeous.  It’s like listening to great music.  You go, “Wow, what an amazing thing!”  I think the thing is that the thoughts are actually very simple.  In a way, the great enemy to Shakespeare, for me, is people who have over-acted it and made it seem like this big, scary thing that you have to treat with great ceremony. 

A lot of the way that they speak is very off-the-cuff and very easy.  I love it when Prince Hal is taking the piss out of Hotspur in the pub.  He’s drunk and he says, “I am not yet of Percy’s mind, the Hotspur of the north, he that kills me some six or seven dozen Scots at a breakfast, washes his hands, and says to his wife, ‘Fie upon this quiet life!  I want work.’”  He’s taking the piss out of this salty, sturdy warrior.  It seems very contemporary to me.  Harry Percy, Hotspur, has this amazing reputation as a warrior, and he’s taking the piss out of him saying that he probably gets up and kills Scotsman for breakfast ‘cause that’s what he does.  And that makes me laugh. 

In Henry V, for example, the big speeches are born out of narrative.  The English army, like any army, are besieging a French castle and they make a breach in the wall.  They basically get a battering ram and make a gap in the wall, and then all the French come tearing out of the castle and the English run away, and Henry’s response is, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.  Or close the wall up with our English dead!”  It’s like, “We either go through the wall, or we close the wall up with dead bodies.”  And then, it’s just the most incredibly inspiring speech, “In peace there nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility.  But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger.”  It’s an extraordinary thing to say, “In peace time, be gentle, be kind, be humble.  But when it’s war, unleash the beast.”  That’s what he’s saying.  You couldn’t write it better than that.  I get very passionate about it because it just seems so modern.  It seems like any coach in a locker room, or any group of underdogs who are down on their luck and seem to be facing some insurmountable obstacle.  It fires me up. 

Your appearance as Loki at Comic-Con was absolutely brilliant.  When you started with that character, did you have any idea that it would have the reaction that it’s had, and that people would be petitioning for Loki to get his own movie?

HIDDLESTON:  I had no idea, whatsoever, honestly.  I knew I had a gift of a role, when I signed up to play Loki for Kenneth Branagh.  It’s Hal like, in many respects.  Or maybe Thor and Loki are both sides of Hal, in that they are both born princes who are wrestling with an authoritarian father, and are both finding their own ways of rebelling against him.  And it’s no accident that Kenneth Branagh has played Hal in Henry V.  It’s in his DNA.  But also, Ken and I were borrowing from other Shakespearian tropes, like Cassius in Julius Caesar, who has “a lean and hungry look.”  And there’s Iago’s capacity to turn things to his advantage, in a very spontaneous and quick-thinking way.  Iago is the great Shakespearian tactician and strategist, and Loki definitely borrows from that. 

But in terms of the affection that he’s held in by audiences and by fans, it is incredibly surprising and really, deeply humbling.  I’m so proud.  I never dreamed that I would ever create a character that was so loved, or whatever he is.  I’m not quite sure whether he’s loved, but people are fascinated by him.  They seem to enjoy his existence.  It’s cool.  Comic-Con was very cool.  It was an amazing experience.  It probably seems like some kind of fait accompli, but when I was standing in the wings, I didn’t know the crowd was going to respond like that.  I thought I might get something, but I didn’t know that they were going to start saying my name, before I told them to.  It was really, really fun.  It was more fun than should be allowed.

Whose idea was it to do that?

HIDDLESTON:  It was a combination of myself and Kevin Feige.  He pitched it to me and I said, “Okay, here’s how it should go down.”  And then, we built it from there. 

Are you excited to get back on the stage again with Shakespeare, for Coriolanus in December?

HIDDLESTON:  It was actually doing these films that made me realize that, as soon as I possibly could, I had to find a moment to get back.  The text and the writing is so rich, and the feelings are so big.  It all feels like you are excavating human nature, at its most eternal and ancient.  Human beings haven’t changed.  Shakespeare is basically drawing in the biggest shapes available, as a writer, and with the most breathtaking language that’s ever been written.  As an actor, performing it on film, we had such a short time to make these films.  We shot each film in four and a half weeks, and once it’s in the can, it’s in the can.  You don’t get to do it again.  The beauty of Shakespeare is that it’s so rich that you go to bed at night and you wake yourself up thinking, “Tonight, I’m going to try this.  I’m going to try this idea.  I’m going to try to expand this metaphor or address it to this character or play it bigger and broader.”  And then, maybe the next day, I’ll play it smaller. 

You get to test and stretch and expand the shape of the writing, and you only get to do that by doing it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, in the theater.  And as evidenced by Comic-Con, there is an unrepeatable and unique chemistry between an actor and a live audience. That moment at Comic-Con was as much to do with everybody else in that room as it was to do with me.  So often, in the theater, audiences don’t know that they are complicit in the chemistry of the show that night.  Their quality of listening and their quality of engagement always enhances or diminishes the show itself because we can feel it.  It’s a real relationship.  And I love that.  I will do Coriolanus a hundred times, and it will never be the same because it will depend on who’s in the crowd that night.  There’s nothing like a live gig.

The Hollow Crown airs on Friday nights on PBS, from September 20th through October 11th.

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