Are you obsessed with The Nevers yet? I can't speak for everyone, but one of my faves is definitely Tom Riley — aka Augustus "Augie" Bidlow. So I hopped on Zoom with Tom to chat about what it was like filming The Nevers, his favorite Easter eggs, and why my mom likes James Norton so much.
Warning: Some "The Nevers" spoilers ahead.
Five reasons why Tom Riley thinks you should watch The Nevers.
1. It's nothing like you might have heard [about] and nothing like you might expect.
2. It is telling a wildly ambitious story — far beyond the expectations that the first episode might imply.
3. The cast is filled with brilliant actors, who also happen to be really nice people who deserve for people to tune in to their work.
4. You're going to want to go in on the ground floor of something that's going to have another six episodes, in however long anyway — and you're gonna want to say you were there at the beginning when it becomes the biggest show on the planet [laughs]. That's just going to make me sound terrible, please say he said that with a sarcastic face.
5. It has the most talented behind-the-scenes crew: Costume design, production design, composer — everyone is working at the highest level. That comes from being lucky enough to be on an HBO show, which can attract that level of talent behind the camera. We're just surrounded by people whose work blows our mind every day.
BuzzFeed: My mother told me very breathily how much she loves James Norton.
Tom: He can make the lungs of the middle-aged woman rise and fall. I don't blame them! He's a very handsome man. He makes me forget my lines, looking at those beautiful eyes.
Four things Tom did to prepare for his role as Augustus “Augie” Bidlow:
1. I bought a book of birds. I didn't say I read it! But I bought it and I had it on my shelf. I got it from a vintage store and it was from 1910 or something, so it’s the driest book.
2. I tried to find performances that skewed comedic, but at the same time were grounded in truth. In the first half of the season, without giving anything away, Auggie’s presence will provide some light relief — but that's not the journey he's going to go on.
3. I really tried not to stray from the script too hard — a lot of the stumbling and the stuttering was already on the page. It took some discerning [to see] exactly what the line meant. I’d sort of have to go, “Okay, he’s saying this and this, and this, and then stopping a sentence halfway through and starting another one, but what’s he trying to say?" I tried to play as close to the scripts that I could, and the great thing about the process is that once I’d done that, then I got the chance to do one [take] where I just messed around with it. It led to some of the strange bits that made it to the show, which I'm really proud of.
4. The costume, which I think you can probably tell by now, is crow-like. I tried to make his movements a little bird-y and emphasize his movements to be quite jerky. He's very upright, which helped with the high collar and all-black. When you discover that he's got a thing for crows, then hopefully you look into costume and go, "yeah, that's part of it!" So, working on that with our costume designer.
Three of Tom's favorite behind-the-scenes memories from shooting The Nevers:
1. In the first episode where we have that sequence with Pip [Torrens], Olivia [Williams], and James [Norton] — [who play Lord Gilbert Massen, Lavinia Bidlow, and Hugo Swann respectively] — and we first meet the girls in the opera — which was at a royal building, just near Buckingham Palace. It was a week after we wrapped filming Episode 1 because it was such a hallowed location, so we couldn't get into it any time except for the Saturday. The unit base was on the mall just outside Buckingham Palace, and we went into the building and there were hundreds of extras. We did that scene, where the dialogue is so smart and beautiful. Olivia's got the absolute lion's share of them and she's obviously just an incredible actor. I remember that day being like, “This is huge. This feels huge.”
2. The first day in the Ferryman’s club, which was full of circus performers and all manner of extras who were all very game for whatever they were being asked to do. The character’s able to walk around and go [puts on Augustus voice], “Oh sorry, oops” — I could actually say how I was feeling inside, whereas James had to be a little more loose about the whole thing. That's a very happy memory, being sat on a stool in this underground cave down in Kent between someone in a leopard print leotard — it was wild.
3. The first day back for all of us after we shut down for the pandemic was the tea house scene in Episode 5 with me and Olivia, and we’re talking about Maladie’s hanging. No one had seen each other for six months and we all came back into this brand-new world where everyone's faces were covered, and there were half the number of extras that we needed, and every set had a fan extractor to change the air, and we were all in different zones.
When we shut down initially, we shut down for six weeks, to eight weeks to eventually six months. Coming back to that, there was a feeling of...is this what filming is now? Both Olivia and I were like, “Are we rusty? Do we remember how to do this or play these characters?” But the dialogue in that scene was so good that it just felt like it was all coming back, like we’d never been away.
BuzzFeed: That must have been quite stressful.
Tom: I think the most frustrating thing generally was that for Episode 5, the hanging sequence was due to be this giant scene shot on location in Greenwich and we’d literally shut down the day before they went to shoot that. So they had to rethink everything — which is why it became built on the set and we had [fewer] extras. What's so great about this job, the industry generally, is that everyone is so good at rolling with the punches.
Two small details Tom thinks you might have missed in The Nevers:
1. Dominique, who is the French girl that Hugo is auditioning whose turn is that she can only tell the time — at the end of Episode 3, if you look in the background, she is one of the touched who has come to the orphanage who has heard Mary’s song. Then in Episode 4, if you check the background, Dominique is going around setting the clocks.
2. My favorite little [seemingly] throwaway line is when the Beggar King says about his henchmen in the first episode that you can't get that man in a bath. It’s a little bit of color to say he’s a smelly henchman — and then you see in Episode 3, you literally cannot get him in a bath because he walks on water.
One power Tom would want if he were "touched" IRL:
1. The power of dance.
BuzzFeed: Who says the power of dance is not yours already?
Tom: Everyone who’s seen me dance.