For almost two decades, Andrew Scott was a highly accomplished but relatively unknown actor, doing award-winning theatre work while enjoying supporting roles on screen. But his Bafta-winning performance as Jim Moriarty – the Sherlock psychopath with the Stayin’ Alive ringtone – changed that. ShortList caught up with Dublin-born Scott, 36, to talk Sherlock, his role in ITV’s new drama The Town and why he won’t allow Fanta in his dressing room…
Jim Moriarty was such a memorable character. What reaction do you receive from Sherlock fans?
The extraordinary thing is the fan mail. I get some very dark, weird fan mail. They write books about the characters, putting them in graphic sexual scenarios, which you are given by very shy, shaking hands. Recently, I was sent a brilliant – very frightening – video, which was a love scene with a soundtrack, brilliantly cut together, between Benedict [Cumberbatch] and I. Frighteningly real but incredibly creative.
We saw Moriarty blow his brains out in the last episode of Sherlock, but surely there’s a twist...
They start filming [Series 3] in January, but no, I’m not in it.
Did you lobby the writers for a flashback scene?
I’d know better than to do that. There are two very benign dictators at the head of the show [creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss] and they don’t tell me much. But no, Moriarty is now dead.
Was it awkward winning the Bafta for Best Supporting Actor when Martin Freeman (Dr Watson) was nominated in the same category?
Yeah, he came over and said, “The standard really dropped this year. It all went to sh*t!” No, he didn’t. But I was really sad that he wasn’t able to be there... [Briefly tries, and fails, to keep a straight face].
No, honestly! [Rocks back in his chair, laughing] Seriously!
You must have been inundated with offers after Sherlock. What attracted you to The Town?
I was looking to do something more human. Something that wasn’t the embodiment of evil. Moriarty was a big character. I wanted to deflect from that [and get out of the character’s shadow]. My character in The Town is an architect who has worked in London for 10 years, but is forced to return to his hometown after a family incident, and finds it difficult to re-connect with his old friends.
You’re originally from Dublin – how do people react when you go back?
I’ve been home recently for lots of Irish weddings. They last, like, two weeks. But once you have the first Guinness, you fall back into it.
Why do you think there’s such a gulf between British and US TV in terms of quality?
US TV is in the midst of a golden age, and British audiences have been influenced by that. They don’t want to be patronised; the audience can really smell that now. Audiences want to do a bit of work. That was the ambition with The Town, and why we took a lot of the ‘reminders’ out.
You had a small role in Longitude alongside Sir Michael Gambon – did you hang out with him?
All right, it wasn’t that f*cking small! No, I’m joking. He was a great person to learn from because he’s such a laugh – a mischievous, brilliant actor. He’s got the right attitude. He’s the best actor in England.
What did you learn from him?
He has a very good attitude towards the press, which is to be, erm, ‘laissez-faire’ with the truth because it’s all bullsh*t. Like when someone asks what it was like working with so and so, and they were a nightmare, but you can’t tell the truth. He taught me to remain fluid in terms of your profile. Do the unexpected.
When you were a jobbing actor, was it a bit like being in Extras when you turned up on a big set?
I’m really aware now that it’s difficult to come on to a set when everyone’s backslapping and telling in-jokes and you’ve only got two days. On Band Of Brothers [Scott played Private John ‘Cowboy’ Hall] there was an awful atmosphere. I try to get everyone involved.
Is it true that you don’t read reviews?
It is true. I’m not, like, fiercely, “I will never read a review”. I’d read them after I’d done the job, but I wouldn’t read them immediately because you remember the nasty things.
What’s the worst review you’ve ever received?
Sometimes, when you’re damned with faint praise after working your arse off – that’s the worst. “The suitably winsome Andrew Scott”, as I was once described. Or else they just include your name: “Hamlet (Andrew Scott)”. You’ve busted your balls for weeks on that part! Some critics have horrendous taste.
Benedict Cumberbatch has landed some big Hollywood roles. Is there an expectation you’ll do the same?
Yeah, but it totally depends on what the job is. My next thing is an Irish comedy called The Stag. For a lot of guys, the idea of having a stag do is horrific, so it’s a kind of ‘anti-stag’ film. And I’d also love to work with Benedict again, but on something really different. Then I’m going to go out to the US – I’ve just signed with a new agent.
Is he like Ari Gold from Entourage?
God, I hope not. But yeah, I’ll go out and do all that stuff. I don’t want to go there and end up in a terrible TV series for seven years. There’s no value in that. I just want to do good work, that’s all.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
When I was a kid I worked with Mickey Mouse on a Fanta advert. Me, Mickey, Goofy and Donald Duck. It was 1989 and I was so excited. I had to drink 21 cans of Fanta.
Do you like the taste of Fanta?
I’ve not had an enjoyable Fanta since that day.
The Town is on ITV1 on Wednesdays at 9pm; catch up on ITV.com/itvplayer