Clarke Peters is an actor known for taking roles that are rich in complexity. He embodies people who might be doing terrible things for the right reasons or vice versa.
Audiences fell in love with his role as Lester Freamon on The Wire, as well as Harry in the first John Wick film. Now he plays Dr Carne - The Master on HBO's His Dark Materials. The show is based on the novel series of the same name by Philip Pullman and is now streaming on Showmax.
Cape Town - Channel24 called Clarke Peters in London and spoke about his love for South Africa, his latest complex role and his rich body of work.
As the line crackles to life and Clarke and I exchange pleasantries, he says abruptly: "At least, I'm dry... Welcome to London."
After we both laughed for a little while about the horribly fantastic British weather, the veteran actor told me about his love for Cape Town and its much warmer climate. He said: "I was out there when I shot something called The Game last year. It's about the last few days of Mandela's life."
While the Harriet actor didn't manage to go on safari while he was here, he did manage to do some horseback riding in the Cape Winelands. He said about the experience: "I don't drink, but just getting to experience that rich history was incredible."
Moving on to his mysterious character in His Dark Materials, Clarke said: "His function in this piece is basically to set things in motion, to set Lyra, our heroine on her journey. So, there isn't a lot for him after that, but from what I hear, I hope it's not a spoiler. He will come back. I think somewhere in the third season.
About the character's actions, which might divide audience opinion, Clarke said: "I think that the way you will be entertained will also make you want to start a conversation about topics that you might not have thought about when you read the books as a child. I think that there are newcomers into the world [of His Dark Materials] who would want to discuss, you know, church versus state, for example, or science versus spirituality. Issues like that. Academia being censored, you know, education versus indoctrination. All those themes seem to run through the book. I think James touches on those nuances in the film. But it's hard to take this excellent, beautiful piece of literature, that fills up a reader's mind, and just put that on film. I think that's a really, really difficult task."
About the details of his iconic look in the show, the talented thespian said: "Well, what you're wearing paints the picture of who you are in a lot of ways. The Master wears heavy tweeds and corduroys. The weight of them sort of helps you move in a certain way. In that way the costumes certainly do help. And as well, when I'm looking at Mrs Coulter, as my catcher, her dress, the way that she presents herself, the way it shapes her body, in an academic and sort of cold kind of way has an impact on us as actors as well as for the viewers. I think that there's something that is being told that is in the text, and that is what Lyra is really taken with this woman and this woman uses all of that to her advantage. She has enticed this young child. The costumes really do have another function in the piece as you see, when Lyra ceases to be the tomboy, and she's put into a dress.
About the actress who plays Mrs Coulter, Ruth Wilson, Clarke said: "Ruth, as an actress, she knows. She pulls all her talents and her insights to this gadget in the most beautiful way. It's a confluence of all of that in the proper sense.
About what inspired his role, Clarke said: "I guess two things. One, professionally this is my first time in England, that I'm doing a British role. Number two, there are not very many black masters of colleges, you know, so I certainly want to break that barrier down. Also not just break it down in a dry sense, but also to make sure that his sensibilities and what was essential to him as a man, as a scholar, was portrayed accurately, the depth of feeling he has for, for his position and also for the child. Those are things that I really wanted to hit.
Here's what the actor wants the audience, especially young people, to take away from the show: "When we see the scope of her journey, we are seeing a child take control and you people should know of that journey, you should know that you have this same thing inside of you. You, as a young person have the same journey in front of you. I did. You know, your heart knows exactly what's right, and if you spend time listening to that things will turn out how they're supposed to.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
His Dark Materials is showing on Showmax, with new episodes every Tuesday.
(Photo: Getty Images)