CHRISTIAN BRASSINGTON spends his working life being odious and evil – and he couldn’t be happier.
The Shropshire-born actor is back on screen tonight as Poldark makes a welcome return, playing one of telly’s most hissable villains, Reverend Osborne Whitworth.
The clergyman joined the hit BBC1 show last series, repulsing and horrifying millions with his lecherous, bullying ways.
“He is one of the most revolting characters in literature,” Christian, charming, fun and a world away from his screen alter ego, cheerfully admits as iN10 catches up with him ahead of Poldark’s fourth series.
“There are characters who do awful things, but the extra maliciousness in him is his own ego. He loves himself so much he doesn’t realise just how awful he really is.
“It’s good fun to play someone who is completely self-obsessed and vain. It’s difficult to find a redeeming feature.”
Christian’s mum is such a fan of the original 1970s series starring Robin Ellis, Angharad Rees and Jill Townsend that she still has all the episodes on VHS.
But Christian had never seen them and still decided not to after landing the part of the randy Rev last series. He was also steered away from reading the Winston Graham books by screenwriter Debbie Horsfield, but he was aware that he had a fair deal to live up to as Christopher Biggins had memorably made the character his own.
“I don’t think it’s a great idea to watch someone else play your part but I obviously knew about Christopher having done it,” confides Christian, whose wife Jennie is an assistant director.
“I’d heard he was very sweet and lovely when he was asked about my performance and then I met him a couple of months ago. He was very complimentary and larger than life, exactly how you’d want him to be.”
Christian in Poldark (Mammoth Screen / Mike Hogan)
Larger than life sums up Whitworth, who’s a real heavyweight of an individual.
Rather than wear a fat suit, Christian bulked up by eating like a horse and piled on the pounds.
It was, he admits, a fast food feast of ice cream, burgers and beer, tasty but far from healthy.
This time, though, he took a more scientific and happily healthier approach to adding the extra two-and-a-half stone.
He had a husband and wife team as a nutritionist and personal trainer to monitor his daily intake and strength work.
“I had to eat 4000 calories a day, but wholesome stuff. So, I might have a breakfast of porridge with Greek yogurt, fruit and nuts but before that I’d have had a protein shake fortified with peanut butter and more yogurt.
“And by the time you had those you had to start thinking about your third meal of the day. You were just constantly eating.
“It was similar to the lifestyle of a modern professional rugby player in terms of the amount of calories and weights but with none of the cardio work. While rugby players get enormous and in great shape, I just got enormous.”
Much has been made recently of the super-toned look of Aidan Turner, who plays dashing Ross Poldark.
And Christian says that, strangely, seeing all the various buff bodies on set helped him transform into the rotund clergyman.
“When I saw those guys it gave me the impetus to go the other way,” he admits. “They looked so good it made me want to make him as hideous as possible.”
Christian, who was in Edinburgh for the Rolling Stones gig yesterday, cut his hair, grew his beard and shed the pounds once filming of the previous series finished.
That limited recognition, but he was still heavier and beardless for a recent film, also shot in Cornwall.
“I was getting people coming up and saying ‘You’re that horrible man off the television’ which was a bit alarming after no one spotting me.
“No one has shouted any abuse at me in the street as yet. And it might sound perverse, but when people say Ossie is vile and disgusting it makes you think you’ve done your job well.”
Poldark, BBC1, tonight, 9pm.
Via The Sunday Post.