Photography: Simon Lipman
Tom Hughes is looking at me in utter bewilderment. “I genuinely don’t know what you’re talking about,” the 30-year-old actor says. The morning of ShortList’s interview, news breaks that he is (potentially) tipped to replace Daniel Craig as 007. Yet, here we are and… silence. Either this guy deserves an Oscar, or he genuinely has no idea. Hasn’t anyone said anything to him?
“Honestly, I got up this morning, made a cup of tea, ate a boiled egg, jumped in a cab, did a photoshoot and now I’m having another cup of tea while talking to you. That’s been my day.”
The actor doesn’t use social media – no Twitter, “definitely no” Instagram – which might explain his blank face. It also explains why he has no idea his latest show, ITV’s Victoria, is currently embroiled in a bitter Sunday night TV battle with the BBC’s Poldark – and it’s winning (5.2 million to Aiden Turner’s measly 5.1 million viewers). All black leather boots, facial hair and stolen glances with a pithy 18-year-old Victoria (played by Jenna Coleman), Hughes’ young Prince Albert is the perfect amount of posh to fill TV’s gaping Downton Abbey hole.
A Cheshire native, the actor’s first big career break was in Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s Cemetery Junction – when he was a mere seven months out of drama school.
Roles in About Time, Derek and the BBC’s Cold War drama The Game swiftly followed – the latter being the source of the Bond buzz. Next up is Realive, in which Hughes plays the first man to be brought back to life after being cryogenically frozen.
“It was a hell of a job for me,” he says. “I lost two stone in six weeks. I had to shave my entire body. I mean, everything. And when it grows back, the itching is… something else. The image of me in a Barcelona bathroom shaving my head, on my own, at quarter to five in the morning, isn’t pretty.’”
He’s being dramatic, of course. Filming finished last year, his hair has grown back and his daggered cheekbones are glowing once again. Just in time for a certain agile, gun-wielding spy, perhaps? “To be considered for any role is very flattering,” he says. “But still, genuine blankness.”
Victoria is on ITV, Sundays at 9pm