The dark crime thriller Rellik, a six-part limited series told in reverse and airing on Cinemax, follows U.K. police detective Gabriel Markham (Richard Dormer), a man determined to track down the serial killer who left him physically and emotionally scarred after a horrific acid attack. Beginning with the apprehension and death of the presumed killer and then working backwards to how it all started, Gabriel and his team – which includes Elaine (Jodi Balfour), the new transfer who’s a bit too close with her partner, and the police chief (Ray Stevenson), who has his own secrets – keep trying to put the pieces together, leading them to the ultimate horrific discovery.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Richard Dormer talked about why he initially turned down this role several times, what ultimately made him decide to sign on, how this was the toughest shoot he’s ever had, playing a character that’s so tough to get to know, the process of applying the make-up and prosthetics, and why he would never want to play this character again. He also talked about what it’s meant to him to be a part of HBO’s Game of Thrones and how proud he is of the series.
Collider: I love dark crime shows, but Rellik is very dark and very intense!
RICHARD DORMER: God, yeah!
When this came your way, what was it about the story and character that made you want to sign on, and did you realize just how dark and intense it was going to be?
DORMER: When they approached me for it, I’d already been working doing Fortitude and I was exhausted. I read it and, at first, I said, “I can’t do this.” Physically, I just didn’t think I could do it, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there emotionally, either. It was a little close to home for me, with the relationship stuff in it. I turned it down about four times. It was director Sam Miller who persuaded me. He said, “Look, if you don’t do it, I won’t do it.” So, I reluctantly came on board. I loved the idea of starting with a disfigured man, who’s a man that’s beyond repair, on the inside and out, and then it turns into a revenge story. This man wants revenge on the person who did this to him, who’s this serial killer that uses acid on his victims.
When you read these scripts and you say that they written in a way that tells the story in reverse, did you ever pull the script apart and put it together, to read it in order, or did you just try to sort it out the way that it’s written?
DORMER: I just basically did what the viewer would do. You just have to see it in your head. And it was well-written. So, I just tried to concentrate, in the moment and on the present, which is the only thing I could do. I did my homework and made sure I knew what the story was, every day.
What was it like to tell a story like this, and tell it so unconventionally?
DORMER: It was a really tough shoot. It’s the toughest shoot I’ve ever had, in my life, especially after 17 months of non-stop work. You’ve gotta just take each day as it comes, and hope that you’re gonna get to the top.
Because this is a guy that we get to know as he is now, before we get to know who he was prior to this horrible acid attack, how do you think that affects the viewer’s perception of and feelings toward him?
DORMER: He’s a very hard guy to get to know. At first, people will go, “Well, this guy is an asshole!” He’s screwing around behind his wife’s back, with his partner and with other women. He’s addicted to painkillers, he’s addicted to cocaine, he’s a heavy drinker, he’s a womanizer, and he’s a narcissist. That was before. At the beginning, that’s who he is. By the end, I think he’s a much better person. I think people will discover that there’s a human being underneath that anger. There is a human being that does love other people and who’s aware that he’s hurting other people, and it kills him deeply to do it. He’s a very, very damaged man. We discover, as it goes on, the reason for why he is that way. There is a reason. The viewers will walk away with answers. Monsters don’t just happen. Something makes them. Monsters are real and they’re on our streets.
You’ve talked about how difficult this shoot was, but what did you like about this character?
DORMER: I didn’t like that much about him. Honestly, it was an emotional roller coaster for me. It was very tough. I found the things with his relationship very difficult to do because they were close, in some ways, to my own life. I was going through a bad time. I was going through a very life-changing thing. In a way, it was cathartic, playing the character, but in other ways, it was not good for my soul.