Sean Bean reveals his secret to playing well-known fictional and historical characters

Virgin Radio

29 Apr 2024, 11:28

Sean Bean smiling, and posing as Thomas Cromwell and as Ned Stark

Credit: Getty/Disney+/HBO

Sean Bean has opened up about how he “doesn’t feel any pressure” about playing well-known fictional and historical characters.

The much-loved Game of Thrones actor - who will next be on our screens as Thomas Cromwell in Disney+’s historical mystery drama Shardlake - also said he doesn’t feel there’s “much difference” between playing fictional characters and characters who once existed in the past.

In Shardlake, lawyer Matthew Shardlake (Arthur Hughes)’s sheltered life is turned upside down when Henry VIII’s right-hand man, Thomas Cromwell, sends him to investigate the death of a commissioner at a remote English monastery. The series is adapted from the popular historical fiction books by CJ Sansom - whose death was announced by his publishers today (29th April).

Speaking exclusively with about Shardlake during a press event earlier this month, Bean said: “I don’t feel any pressure really,” when taking on characters that are well-known by audiences, whether fictional or historical.

“With a fictional character, you can obviously bring more of yourself to the part, or you can discover other aspects of the character,” the Ned Stark actor said. “But you know, I think some people are overwrought when they’re playing real historical figures, which I don’t think they need to be.”

The actor continued by criticising how overthinking an historical role can “[set] a general tone that [those characters] are separate from the audience and that they’re somehow more untouchable.

“I think so long as you bring your humanity to a historical role as well as a fictional role - but especially a historical role - then you know, an audience can relate to you… and it’s more believable,” he added.

Speaking about taking on his role as the series’ fictional lead, Matthew Shardlake, Hughes added: “I think it’s always good to find as many things you can that you relate to with a character,” but he also shared how he likes working out what he “doesn’t have in common” with his characters too.

“I wanted this Shardlake on screen to be maybe a bit more of a physical presence, a bit stronger and less kind of afraid [than Shadlake in the books],” he added.

Shardlake will be released on Disney+ on Wednesday, 1st May.