1. He’s starred in some of the best BBC productions this year.
Dancing on the Edge, the five-part BBC miniseries that premiered on Starz on Saturday, is set in 1930’s London, and follows an African-American jazz band that becomes entangled in a murder conspiracy. Hughes plays Julian, a smooth-talking and swoon-inducing gentleman, who Hughes sees as “a young, charming aristocrat, who underneath is dark and desperate. I think if he lived today he would be diagnosed as bipolar, but they didn’t accept that as a disorder In the 1930s.”
In The Lady Vanishes, a television remake of the 1938 Hitchcock film, Hughes takes on the male lead, who helps a possibly delusional socialite solve a mystery on a train. “It’s an interesting period,” Hughes said of the 1930s, in which both The Lady Vanishes and Dancing are set. “You’re in between the two world wars, you’ve just had the economic crash, and you know, people socially don’t have much security,” he told BuzzFeed.
Hughes takes on politics and powdered wigs in Silk (which first premiered in the U.K. in 2011 and aired in the U.S. last month on PBS’ Masterpiece) about a team of barristers and the lengths they are willing to go to in order to obtain the rank of Queen’s Counsel, otherwise known as “taking silk.” Playing the pupil to Maxine Peake’s Martha Costello, Hughes lends a boyish charm to the eager but naïve character.
2. He’s a rock star.
Asked if he likes the 1930’s jazz music his character cottons to in Dancing, Hughes doesn’t even think about it. “No, not jazz, rock ‘n roll,” he said. “As you speak to me, I’m on my way to buy a guitar. I’m going to buy an Ephiphone Sheraton. Music is my world. It’s my passion. I can appreciate the jazz, but it ain’t my cup o’ tea. I’ve been playing the guitar since I was five. I played in a band, but I left the band about three years ago to work on my own stuff for a bit. But if anything, guitar is my main passion — it’s the one that’s been with me the longest.”
3. 3. In fact, he has great taste in music.
“My favorite American rock bands? That’s one hell of a question!” he said. “I’m a big I’m a big fan of Springsteen. I think Springsteen is like, just because of what he writes about — I’m from a small town in the north of England called Chester, which is a great place to grow up; the people are wicked and I’m very proud to be from there, but I understand the feeling of coming from a small town. I’m a big fan of Tom Petty, Jimmy Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater — great band. The last American artist I watched was Bruce Springsteen, so I’m gonna have to go with him.”
4. He plays bad boys, on screen but he loves his mum in real life.
In his latest film, About Time (in theatres Nov. 8), which stars Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson (Harry Potter), Hughes transforms into the ultimate brooding bad boy, Jimmy.
“I always get cast as the jerks, but I never know why because I’m a mommy’s boy!” Hughes said. “But you know, that was a really cool part. What I loved about Jimmy is that he lives in his own world, and he brought this whole different energy. Jimmy’s broken. Without getting too deep, he’s the kid that, when he was 18, he had the world at his feet, and, when he’s 23, he hadn’t quite made it. His jerky nature comes from a deep self-loathing. We’re not born evil. You have to look at the little kid inside and think, ‘What happened to him to make him be like this?’”
5. He dreams big.
He’s been acting since he was a kid. “I did a play at school when I was about seven,” said Hughes. “I didn’t really watch films as a kid, that wasn’t really my thing. I spent more time time playing football — or I guess what you guys call soccer — and listening to music. At school I did this play, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I played Mr. Fox. Afterwards, I ran off stage and said to my mum, ‘I want to do this forever!’ And I think she thought, understandably, when you’re seven years old, if you want to be an astronaut it will probably wane, it will disappear and you’ll want to be a policeman the next week.”
“But the fascination to live in another world for an hour or so was addicting,” he continued. “It was something I was desperate to taste again. I used to go to Liverpool, which is an hour away from where I grew up, and I would travel there on Friday nights — all my friends would be out, having a good time, and I’d be out for two or three hours [acting], then travel back to Chester. And we didn’t really speak about it, it was like my own little private escapism, if you like. So that’s how I got into from the start.”
6. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself.
Or, specifically, his mouth. “My dream role would be… I think I’ve got the giant mouth to play Mick Jagger,” said Hughes. “He’s pretty cool. I worked with his son actually, so maybe he should play Mick Jagger, maybe that’s fairer. Mick Jagger or John Lennon, one or the other.”
7. He’s humble.
After a long pause, broken by a hesitant laugh, Hughes answered the age-old question: Why do American women love British men so much?
“You’re in a better position to answer that surely. You tell me. I must be the only British guy who doesn’t get it. You see films like Love Actually, but that doesn’t seem to happen to me. Maybe I’ve got the wrong hairstyle, I don’t know!”
Hughes’ signature locks, a Beatles-esque ‘do with a bit of an unkempt edge, appear styled similarly in almost all of his roles this year. Would he ever shave his head? “You know, I’d love to, I genuinely would,” he said, with a strain in his voice that may have been hinting that it’s not entirely his choice. “I did it once before to a number zero — It’s nearly as bald as if you shaved your face, it’s like rich stubble basically on your head — basically bald, and I really loved it. So hopefully sometime soon.”
8. He loves animals.
“I’ve got a dog, a little dog called Frank. He’s a miniature dachshund and he’s a dude. He drinks White Russians and hangs out in his dressing gown. He’s Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski. He’s back home in London and I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
9. He’s an excellent dancer. (Unless you ask him.)
“Dancer? No, not at all,” he said, clearly forgetting about his killer moves in 2010’s Cemetery Junction. “No, no, I don’t think I’m good at all. Not at all.”