Benedict Cumberbatch picks up his pace as ‘Patrick Melrose’

Showtime series dramatizes five novels in five hours

Benedict Cumberbatch of ‘Patrick Melrose’ Saturday on Showtime

Q: Since “Patrick Melrose” spans a very wide arc for the title character, what would you cite as a particularly challenging portion of it to play?

A: This is when he’s in the throes of drug addiction, having gone to New York to pick up his father’s ashes, and there’s a very traumatic night where he’s lost to various forms of intravenous abuse. And these voices don’t emulate just from inside him, as they have been partly through a dialogue-like voiceover … but also, they’ve come out in manifestations and characterizations in a conversation with himself in his hotel room. That’s the very definition of externalizing your emotions, I imagine, literally role-playing these different people in a hotel room on your own and high on drugs.

Patrick is someone who has a great deal of tenderness, (but) who is a very damaged human being. He’s built this armory of humor and wit and irony, which is the one thing (that) in the end he really has to pull free of the gravity of, with the most amount of effort – which is his father’s true inheritance, in a sense. He doesn’t complete the cycle of abuse by becoming an abuser. He’s a very tender, gentle, loving father and husband, if an unfaithful one. And an inattentive father at times.

Q: Each hour of “Patrick Melrose” covers one of the five novels about him. Did that mean many acting variations for you within the same role?

A: You visit these as five very different films, very different eras, very different looks and feels that the central theme holds. The style can really shift for each episode. They really have achieved that.

Lennie James

Q: Do you think five hours is enough to dramatize these five books?

A: (With) the amount of material, the quality of it, the performances, the way it’s been shot and the way it’s been edited and scored, and the primary source material itself … it deserves more time. Having said that, I think there’s a pacing to it and a vitality to it. An hour will really hold an audience by the scruff of the neck.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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