Rupert Grint and Toby Kebbell follow their award-winning performances as Julian and Sean in the return of Servant, M. Night Shyamalan’s psychological thriller. With insight, sensitivity and a thin veil of wickedly dark comedic intention, the two play the odd couple pulled together through grief and tragic circumstance.
Screen Times: It’s been a blast spending time with Sean and Julian over the last two suspenseful seasons. What surprised you about your characters this season?
Toby Kebbell: I had a tricky transition to superstitious beliefs and believing in all these things and bartering with Nell's character Leanne and doing all of that. There was an element of it being the right thing to do, because Sean’s trying to be a better person and decent, and he starts feeding the homeless kids in the park and doing more and going out of the house and looking after the kid a bit more and doing all these things he should have been doing but he’s just missed that step of what he should have actually done, which is confronting his wife about the huge rubber doll we have in the house, pretending to be our son.
Rupert Grint: Julian was sober this time. So that in itself was a very kind of new thing for me. I had really lent on that in the creation of Julian and I didn't really know exactly who he was without that. Of course its such a fundamental part of his character because he uses it to deflect from everything and distract from grieving and facing the guilt that he carries from the tragedy. It was an interesting thing, trying to work out exactly who he was without those vices. It was a fun process to find a dimension to him. He’s a very new person who's trying to keep fit, and like Toby was saying about Sean, he's trying to be a better person. It was quite an adjustment, but it was fun.
Screen Times: Given the collaborative nature of special guests directors becoming tradition with this production, if there's one thing you've learned about your craft as actors going forward during this whole process, what would that be? And from whom?
Toby Kebbell: That's a really good question. I think your goal is to always be a student of the thing you've decided to do with your self and with new people coming in, we got very lucky in season one. It was such a solid group of guest directors and M. Night heading up the whole thing. He set the tone and everyone followed that tone. We even had some differences with the director of photography changing. I feel very cradled by Night and his kind of vision of the whole thing.
I think I'm still learning the best way to sort of get my point across to someone who puts significant importance to things like wearing white shoes and I'm like, yeah, I don't know. Does that matter about his dead child? I don't know. So there's those kinds of conversations as well as just the fantastic people who were around. Nimrod who has an excellent name and was a director from seasons one and two gave me a great insight into a guest person, and how they feel coming in to work with people who are established.
Rupert Grint: I'm pretty much the same. I think Servant is such a unique show and the way we make it by having all the action condensed into this one location is really interesting in the fact that we film it chronology which gives it a very organic feel. I mean, it feels like a play and it's very immersive in that way. The set is this incredible building that really is like being in a brownstone in Philadelphia. It's a very unique show in that way I think.
I've learned so much from Night. I’ve always been a big fan of his, and he knows so much about this genre and is just a great storyteller who’s put together a really fun show.
Screen Times: Given Julian and Sean’s love for food and wine and the amount of time you've had to spend together on set, if you were to describe each other as a dish, glass of wine or favourite tipple, how would you describe the other?
Toby Kebbell: As people or as their character?
Screen Times: As people.
Toby Kebbell: Oh, Rupert’s spaghetti bolognese one hundred percent. [Laughs] You take him anywhere and everyone is pleased to have spaghetti bolognese, even babies.
Rupert Grint: Yeah, what would you be? definitely some sort of acquired taste [Laughs]
Interview edited for clarity.
'Servant' returns for its third season on Apple TV+ Friday January 21st.