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Up To His Old Tricks: Interview With Dominic West

We talk to actor Dominic West about his fawning fan-base, London after Brexit and Disney's Finding Dory

Eton-educated actor Dominic West can claim a host of Hollywood hits and a slew of small screen successes to his name. He talks to London Calling about his fawning female fan-base, London’s post-Brexit lamentation, and bombing as a bush baby in front of John Cleese…

Alcoholic cop Jimmy McNulty, charismatic adulterer Noah Solloway, and the murderous Fred West: why is it that the vast majority of Dominic West’s on-screen alter egos err on the side of animosity and infamy? 

"Someone told me it's because of my eyebrows, apparently they have an evil arch,” he confesses with a hint of a twinkle in his dark eye. “So I guess that's been my defining physical trait."

To be fair to the Sheffield-born star, the quality bestowed upon him by the arch of his evil eyebrow – when combined with a formidable acting talent in its own right – has made West a sure-fire star on both sides of the Atlantic, thanks largely to the part of McNulty in The Wire, considered by some critics to be one of the greatest television shows in the history of the medium.

Now West is gearing up for a third season of his second stateside smash-hit, The Affair, having eschewed the expectations of typecasting to lend his voice to a sea-lion, opposite former Wire co-star Idris Elba, in Disney’s Finding Dory – a role he described as “a no-brainer.”

Sea-dwelling mammals aside, West has always felt far more at home in the gritty roles that made him a household name. The controversy stirred up by his portrayal of The Affair’s philandering protagonist Noah, especially, hints at the side of the former Etonian, known in media circles, that loves to provoke seemingly for the sake of it.

“Americans have a much more conservative attitude towards infidelity, even though I don't think people behave much differently in the U.S. compared to people in Europe,” he surmises of the show’s cult status, “I am sure that French audiences wouldn't find anything very controversial or shocking in the show.”

The surprise success of West’s latest role has also spilled over into the star’s private life. Having once joked that his wife, Catherine, would never watch The Affair, West has begun to notice a slew of sideways glance from female admirers when out and about in his home city of London. His reaction to these surreptitious signals? 

“It means they’re watching,” he laughs. “Stare away.”

The general feeling of unresolved sexual tension is not the only thing West has noticed in the capital of late. An outspoken advocate of staying in the EU, West’s perception of post-Brexit London from his family abode in Shepherd’s Bush is that of a city suffering from “the blues.”

“It feels like there’s a change in the air, in London, where only I can experience it,” he sighs, “It’s strange – but we have to simply make do and carry on. It’s not the end of the world…but it is pretty f**cking terrible.”

Perhaps the perfect remedy for our global woes would be a return to the mean streets of Baltimore, and a sixth season of The Wire? Unfortunately for the myriad fans still hoping for that dream to become a reality, West – who describes McNulty as “one of the most important roles in my career” – is adamant that the show is unlikely to undergo a revival any time soon, be it on the small or silver screen.

“There were plans for a while to do a movie. The Sex and the City movies had done well, and we thought ‘if they can do it, why can’t we?’” admits West. “There were big plans, but they sort of stalled.”

Could it be that the powers-that-be were worried the transition from TV to cinema would be unsuccessful – possibly tainting the currently untarnished brilliance of the original series (no disrespect to Sex and the City, of course)? The answer, according to West, is less concerned with legacy, and more to do with his distinctively lined facial features.

“I’d be delighted to do it if it made me money,” he grins wolfishly. “I still see most of my former cast-mates regularly, but there were a lot of issues to consider; the writers wanted to make it a prequel to The Wire, but I’d need plastic surgery to look ten, fifteen years younger.”

In light of West’s reluctance to go under the knife, what’s next for him and his evil eyebrows? Aside from his on-screen extramarital antics in new episodes of The Affair, the star’s schedule is currently quite clear, but could Finding Dory’s triumph mark a career shift from dashing yet dastardly to the world of child-friendly animated animals?

“Hopefully not!” he exclaims. “I once auditioned in front of John Cleese and I said I can do an impression of a Senegalese bush baby. He says ‘Oh go on, show it to us,” and I did, and he didn’t really laugh. I think he thought that I was perhaps insane. Suffice to say, I didn’t get the job.”

It seems the only monkey-business West will be getting up to in the near future on-screen, will be strictly between the sheets.
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