Henry Lloyd-Hughes has played a range of sup- portingrolesinfilmslike
Harry Potter And The Goblet of
Fire, Anna Karenina, and
But last year the 30-year-old
British actor got a role of his lifetime — the lead character in the
Masterpiece series Indian
Summers. The fictional account
of the last years of the British in
India, features him as Ralph
Whelan, a British officer, a close
associate of the Viceroy, but one
who lives with many secrets,
some of which will unravel in the
first season that will be broadcast
on PBS starting September 27.
It is a complex role, especially
given that the character was born
in India and looks at Indians
from a different lens than other
Britishers who arrived in India as
adults. Unlike many who feel the
journey and the job has been
forced upon them, Ralph
Whelan is quite happy living in
Lloyd-Hughes spoke to India Abroad over
It is such a good show and hard to stop
Thank you. You can recognize, as most
people do, that it is an interesting mix of flavors. Graphically, tonally, there’s a political
narrative and a romantic narrative. There is
sex, a bit of danger and intrigue.
There is a murder and a courtroom drama
Exactly and all of this is within the series
and it gets unraveled. We disappear down
different paths. It’s a complicated thing to
summarize. I don’t envy you writers trying to
explain how it feels to watch the show. It’s
very different than a lot of things that are out
I know when shows are broadcast on
American television, sometimes the actors
do not have the script for the entire season.
Did you know the whole story?
Yes, I knew the story, but I didn’t have the
full script. I had a specific brief about where
the character was going, but at the same
time I didn’t know how it was going to happen.
Is that more of a challenge? You have done
films and you have the whole script with you.
Yes, this was by far the most challenging
role I’ve ever done.
And it is a complex role. We see a very dif-
ferent Ralph Whelan at the start as com-
pared to at the end of the series. You charac-
ter has so many nuances.
Yes… the character exists within different
worlds itself. That’s a challenge.
Also I am playing someone who has a five-series arc. That narrative of the structure is
geared towards a very long unravel, so you
have to be quite strategic over how you play
I know the second part is being shot. But I
didn’t know it is a five-part series.
Oh yes, it is supposed to take us to the han-dover (of India by the British to the Indians)
You recreated India in Malaysia. Did you
know India at all otherwise?
I’ve been to India a few times. Just as coincidence, I’ve only been to the Himalayas
when I was a teenager. Not to Shimla specifically but to Manali, which was kind of a
sketchy, backpackerish place. I’ve trekked
quite high up, once to one of the highest permanently inhabited villages in the world.
Another time when I was 18, I went from
west to east across the country. I am not
familiar with the south at all. But I have
ticked off enough of the other cities.
One of the most engaging and enigmatic
things about India is its unknowableness.
But at the same time it is not completely
alien culture to me. I am grateful for having
some understanding from having been
How do you work on a character like Ralph
Whelan? As Paul Rutman said to me — your
character is Indian, except you cannot
It is. That’s the fascinating thing at the
How do you work through that as an actor?
heart of it. I play someone who embodies the
establishment, but is also completely con-
flicted. He is represented as the bastion of
something, but in his heart he is the opposite
It’s very challenging to try and show the
moments of the character’s private side. And
he’s a politician. You are playing someone
who is acting himself, putting on a performance.
You didn’t have the script, but did you have
a sense that your character would be engaged
with the deaths?
I knew about it. Paul was very good in
terms of being thorough, by shining a light
ahead very clearly.
Did you like your character Ralph
Absolutely. I feel for him. He’s incredibly
intelligent and smart. It’s liberating when
you are an actor and you are given the freedom to play someone who is so smart.
But he has dark sides. How do you, as an
individual, balance that out?
We have all got dark sides, come on
(laughs). I think it is very English.
Haha! I need another half hour with you to
go into all those details then! You have fin-
ished the second series?
We’re still doing it. I just got on the plane
and come straight from Malaysia. We are
mid-way through… It’s full on.
Do you have time to do other films?
Do you mean in between shooting the
series? I’m not sure. It depends how much I
want to give of myself. It is very creatively
exhausting. It takes away all my acting juice.
Straight after the show I am not dying to get
on another film set.
You are at the height of your career, so you
need to cash in on that as well, right?
Yeah I suppose so. I am going to do whatever I can to have a long career. I don’t think
like this is it, this is my year. n
‘One of the most engaging things about India is its unknowableness’
But for Henry Lloyd-Hughes, who plays the
central character in Indian Summers, it is not
completely alien. The British actor speaks with
Aseem Chhabra/India Abroad about his tryst
with India as a teenager and now as an actor.
COUR TESY: NE W PICTURES/CHANNEL 4 FOR MAS TERPIECE IN ASSOCIATION WI TH ALL3MEDIA INTERNATIONAL
Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Ralph Whelan.
BRITISH DRAMA, INDIAN HEART
India Abroad September 25, 2015
THE MAGAZINE M15