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TV Interview

Robert Sheehan 'The Borrowers' interview: 'Spiller is a rebel'

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Robert Sheehan
The Borrowers

© BBC Pictures

Robert Sheehan won a legion of fans as the mischievous Nathan in E4's hit drama Misfits and achieved success on the big-screen with films such as Cherrybomb and Killing Bono. Now the charismatic young star has joined an all-star cast for BBC One's new adaptation of classic children's novel The Borrowers.

Digital Spy and a few other journos caught up with Robbie to chat about his role as the cocky Spiller, his recent success and how it feels to be part of people's family Christmas...

What kind of character is Spiller?
"He's kind of a man who's adopted a big mouth, along with a red leather jacket that he probably stole from a James Dean doll some time in his pubescence - and [he] adopted the attitude that went along with it!

"I think the general reference that we shot for - the director Tom Harper and myself - was kind of a James Dean / Danny Zuko [from Grease] rockabilly type character who apes this 'rebel without a cause' style and attitude. But in Borrower town, which makes it stick out like a sore thumb!"

What's he rebelling against?
"Just life. Life in general. The man, yeah?! Or the borrower, I should say!"

What is his relationship like with Arrietty (Aisling Loftus)?
"The funny thing about the way Arrietty and Spiller get thrown together in this adventure is that both of their demeanours - her naïvety and her innocence, and his loud-mouth arrogance - are both very much expressions of youth.

"All teenagers, be they loud or be they introverted, are always expressions of the raging insecurities and hormones that are swirling about within! So I think in that sense, they're very similar and then when they come through this life-threatening adventure together, they've met somewhere in the middle. And they're probably two more mature characters for it."

Robert Sheehan
The Borrowers

© BBC Pictures



Had you read the original Borrowers novel before signing up?
"I've been trying to figure out all day whether or not, when I was a child, I read the book! I feel like I've read the book, but I haven't read it recently. And as with all TV and film projects, they tend to take the essence of a story and then massage and manipulate it into something completely different. And therefore, reading the book can be almost like a diversion."

Did you enjoy playing a character from a book?
"There's something quite immortal about a book. I've done a couple of characters from books before, like the Red Riding trilogy of films, and then [2011 film] Killing Bono was a memoir - which was even scarier, because that was a real man who still exists! But I think books, novels and autobiographies have a power to touch people far more personally than films do, so there's a bit more of a responsibility when you then dramatise it."

How does it feel to be part of such a fantastic cast?
"It's great! When the project came through, I knew that Stephen Fry was on board. With a project like this, because the script was so brilliant, and it's a classic story, and it's going to be on at Christmas on the BBC, you knew that they were going to rope in a fantastic collection of names. So I was delighted to get this part."

How has your recent success affected your career?
"I suppose my attitude towards work at the moment is to do loads of it! Not necessarily to make money or anything, but just because I get restless and bored quite easily. What's lovely about what I do for a living is the vast chasm of variety that constantly just comes at you from all angles. So I get to mix it up - that's generally my philosophy at the moment.

Robert Sheehan
The Borrowers

© BBC Pictures



"As always, it's a mixed bag. There's stuff that you want and you have to audition for and audition for and then a lot of the time, you won't get [the job]. And then there's stuff that will be offered to you, which is nice. Thankfully over the last couple of years, I've had a little bit more choice in where I can go and what I can do."

Would you like to continue working in film, theatre and television?
"Yeah. I don't contrive to be exclusive to any one particular format or anything. As regards projects, if I think something's really good, I'll do it down the back of a pub! But it's been lovely - I think I've been quite lucky with the projects I've managed to get. Because not everything's choice - I'm not De Niro!"

How does it feel to be part of people's family Christmas?
"That's really weird. It's kind of surreal. I don't know what regular family time-spending is like in any other house [at Christmas], but in my home it was usually just everybody sitting in. It's a very indoor affair. And everybody just ends up in front of the television! Quality time! 'Get us another mini Mars Bar there, will ya? I've got some room after me Viennetta!'

"So it's lovely. When I was a kid, I used to love Christmas films like The Santa Clause and weirdly enough, Hook - Hook is great, and it's a Christmas film! It happens around Christmas… and that was one of my favourites. It's nice to think that we're bringing the adventure back for kids around Christmas."

The Borrowers airs on Boxing Day at 7.30pm on BBC One.

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