“The main thing is I do start with the script and breaking it down into tiny, tiny, tiny fragments and asking myself with each line, each thing they do, ‘Why? Why, why, why?’” – Hugh Grant
BAFTA Award-winning actor Hugh Grant became so associated with portraying a romantic lead that the term “Hugh Grant movie” conjures up a certain late 1990s, early 2000s romantic comedy movie. However, over the last decade Grant has focused on less romantic roles, which has culminated in his critically-acclaimed role as oncologists Jonathan Fraser a philanderer and suspected murderer, in HBO’s miniseries The Undoing.
Though Grant admits he couldn’t very well do much research into playing such a scoundrel outside of reading the script, noting, “I don’t think I could have done it any other way,” he does detail how he found the character while focusing on how Jonathan was written:
“It was clear to me where the character was going and then it was just about going back and creating the backstory. The main thing is I do start with the script and breaking it down into tiny, tiny, tiny fragments and asking myself with each line, each thing they do, ‘Why? Why, why, why?’ And very often that triggers a whole succession of thoughts which enable me to fill in the blanks of the guy’s history. And so I create this enormous history on a computer, tens of pages long — a biography, really, from birth right through to the story as it appears at the beginning of the [project]. So I know all of his secrets. What’s interesting in a project like this is that process is not always identical to what a film needs in a given moment, especially when you’re dealing with whodunnits and mysteries, so sometimes there’s a clash between what the film requires and what you require as an actor, and the trick is to try and find a balance.”
The main outside research Grant did was meeting with oncologists, in order to “get a sense of what made them tick and to just get the vibe off them because sometimes with doctors you think, ‘This guy’s a hero, he’s amazing, he saves lives,’ but he’s just a fraction too good to be true, and I was looking for that kind of doctor.”