‘Copper’ Newcomer Tom Weston-Jones Previews BBC America’s Period Drama

Tom Weston-Jones as Det. Kevin Corcoran in "Copper" (© BBC AMERICA/Cineflix Inc.)

Keep your eye on Tom Weston-Jones. The blue-eyed twenty-five-year-old newcomer is poised to break out with his leading role as Detective Kevin Corcoran, a tough but fair Irish immigrant cop with a checkered past in BBC America’s new original series set in 1864 New York, “Copper.”

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For Weston-Jones, it was a dream come true to work under Academy Award-winning series executive producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana. After sending in an audition tape from the set of another project he was working on in Budapest, Weston-Jones received a call-back. He flew to New York to audition in person and was convinced he botched it. “I’m quite self deprecating,” the English-born actor admits. “So I just kind of went, ‘Eh, Tom, be realistic. You didn’t get it. F–k off.'” He did get it, of course. “I was overwhelmed when I got the part” he says, noting he immediately  phoned his parents back home to share the news.

Joining Weston-Jones on the cast are Franka Potente (“Run Lola Run“) as Eva Heissen, a businesswoman and Madame of Eva’s Paradise; Kyle Schmid (“Being Human“) as Robert Morehouse, a hot-shot bon vivant with severe daddy issues; Anastasia Griffith (“Once Upon a Time“) as the sophisticated women’s lib advocate Elizabeth Haverford; Ato Essandoh (“Damages“) as Five Points resident doctor, Matthew Freeman; Kevin Ryan (“Tripping Tommy“) as Detective Francis Maguire, Corcoran’s partner and closest ally; Dylan Taylor (“Covert Affairs“) as Andrew O’Brien, Corcoran’s colleague;  Kiara Glasco (“Angel Duty“) as Annie Reilly, a young runaway who Corcoran takes under his wing; and Tessa Thompson (“Heroes“) as Sara Freeman, Dr. Freeman’s fearful wife.

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Below, Weston-Jones talks to XfinityTV.com about what preparations went into playing Corcoran, a Civil War vet and retired boxer, and shares what viewers can look forward to when the series premieres this Sunday, August 19 at 10/9c on BBC America.

Corcoran is a pretty major badass.  What kind of preparations did you have to undertake for this role?
I attacked it physically first.  I wanted to put on some weight so I started eating everything and working out a lot.

What was part of that diet?
Everything. I kind of did it in the naughty way. I ate everything I could. Like 4,000 or 5,000 calories a day. I wanted to attack it physically because I knew that the character had a history of boxing. But I don’t like when you see an actor doing historical posing, so I tried to not really take that into account. So I started going to boxing classes and simultaneously I was doing a lot of reading – trying to read up on the period. And the tabloid papers at the time to deal with the police.  And it’s all sensationalistic like it is now, so you have to take a lot of it with a pinch of salt.

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There’s a lot of physicality and coordination involved in this role.
It was scrappier back then. The fighting style wasn’t as well rehearsed with the blocking and stuff. There was definitely a methodology to it. I saw Corcoran as more of a brawler. He kind of had a natural talent for just kicking the sh-t out of someone.

It doesn’t hurt to have brass knuckles, either.
Yeah, exactly. That’s a bit benefit. It definitely helps when you’re doing that kind of thing.

Are we going to see him in the world of boxing?
Well there is a scene where you see him refereeing. I kind of wanted to convey that he’s sort of past it, that was his old life. Now he’s in a new one. For him to take a step back is definitely a step back. There’s plans, if we go again, touch wood, for that to potentially be in there. But I don’t know.

A big part of Corcoran’s motivation is that he’s trying to fight corruption within the police force. But he’s also searching for his missing wife and trying to find closure from the death of his daughter. How will we see all of these aspects play out?
It’s a big mish mosh of different motivations that he has. He’s not only trying to keep a cap on the powder keg that is New York, but there’s also the racial problems that are going on, and he’s also trying to wheedle into Uptown to make sure he can manipulate people there and whether or not they’re actually doing the right thing. And equally the police force. He’s trying to  work out who’s on his side and who’s actually doing the right thing. There’s so much corruption in every level of society at that point. I think what he’s mainly trying to do is find the nuggets of truth in people in all parts of society – through Robert Morehouse and through Matthew Freeman. And equally through Captain Sullivan and Burns as well. At the same time he always has this reminder, his Achilles heel that his wife and his daughter [are gone]. He obsesses over it. It kind of tears him to pieces as well. What I love is the kind of level of torture he puts himself through to get any information he can get. I didn’t want to make him a tragic soul. Constantly I think he’s searching and trying to find anything he can. I wanted him to be quite active in that respect rather than having him just sit and think.

He seems to have a friend in Eva. What’s going to develop between the two of them?
It’s funny because I think it’s quite a complicated relationship. At the same time it’s a very adult relationship. It’s kind of a friendship – Franka describes it as being f–k buddies. And it’s true, that’s what it is. But they also know how to use each other because Eva is kind of a pillar of Five Points. So many people flock into her building and there’s secrets whispered here and there about who’s doing what, where, and when.

I want to know when the Syphilis episode is.
That would be pretty dire, wouldn’t it? [Announcer voice] “There’s been an outbreak of Syphilis, everyone’s going crazy!” So anyway, that relationship becomes more convoluted as time goes by because there’s certain things that happen where they kind of don’t know who the other person is at a certain point. They depend on each other a lot and that gets tested a lot through the show.

She also propositions him early on – not sexually, that’s already taken care of — to go into business with her. Will he give in?
Yeah. You see Eva kind of wanting things to happen and seeing the potential. But because he’s driven by so many other things that’s the last thing he wants to think about. But at the same time he wants to make her happy and keep the relationship there. But he’s incapable of doing that because he has so many other obsessions. So at some point he kind of has to…He feels like he’s being pulled this way and that way. And you never at any point realize which way they’re going to go. Because he kind of gets sick of playing games, you get a sense as well. It becomes more complicated.

Corcoran’s costumes could hardly be described as chic. Was it a dream to go to work dirty?
I loved it. All of the work that was put into the costumes, makeup, hair, and the sets was so amazingly in depth. So much to the point where we’d walk on set and be like, “Sh-t, half of the work is already done for us.” The costume affects the way I actually move. I think it was only three weeks after I left that my  fingernails were actually clean because they’d scrubbed everything in. So there was like subconscious dirt which I loved. I loved every aspect of getting ready for it. 

“Copper” premieres with 10 episodes on Sunday, August 19, 10/9c on BBC America.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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