“Downton Abbey’s” Mr Bates has Irish charm - exclusive interview
Brendan Coyle plays Mr. Bates in 'Downton Abbey'
Brendan Coyle plays the stoic but thoroughly decent Mister Bates in the international phenomenon Downton Abbey. This week he’s in New York to promote Origin Theatre’s annual First Irish theatre festival.
Fans of the hit TV show have been scouring the Internet for months for the first hints about what's to come in season three and now for the first time Coyle’s speaking exclusively to Cahir O’Doherty about the hit show and his beloved character.
Mister Bates. He's the heart and soul of Downton Abbey, the international hit TV show. He's a man who tackles every challenge he meets with his head held high. Sad to say he's exactly the kind of man you don't see much of in this gutless age.
For a new generation of TV viewers in their teens and twenties (who make up a high percentage of Downton Abbey's fans) Mister Bates has been a revelation.
For the generation raised watching that bloodless Colosseum that is American Idol, the idea that some people will put others before themselves, or put their own needs on hold for the greater good, means that Mister Bates is the now most surprising character on television.
What they don't know is that in creating the character, actor Brendan Coyle drew on characteristics of his own grandfather, who hailed from the little town of Ramelton in Co. Donegal.
That means that the man who has become the embodiment of the stiff upper-lipped Englishman has in fact been part been inspired by an Irishman.
In person Coyle, 48, is much more charismatic than the stoic and visibly wounded character he plays on television, but you can sense pretty quickly that he's every bit as passionate and genuine beneath the surface.
He's in town this week at the invitation of George Heslin, the Irish director behind the 1st Irish Theatre Festival (the annual festival of new Irish plays) and Origin Theatre, the group that Heslin co-founded to stage European plays here, usually for the first time.
Coyle trained as an actor in Dublin, setting out on touring shows all over the recession hit country, before he made his fortune. Since this is Coyle's first trip to New York in a number of years he's only beginning to grasp how big Downton Abbey actually is here.
His first clue was when he started to get mobbed last weekend. He's only been in New York for 24 hours when I meet him in the foyer of a hotel in Manhattan, but already complete strangers have stalked him, invited him to join them for dinner or just chased after him when they saw him on the street.
The real life Coyle is a lot more youthful looking than Mister Bates, I discover. He's also a very sharp dresser, so there's daylight between him and his famous role, but New Yorkers intuitively know how to pick celebrities out of the crowd because they live in a city that's lousy with them.
"It's my first time in the states since Downton Abbey has been broadcast here and it's really a bit overwhelming," Coyle tells the Irish Voice. "I've been struck by how many people in their twenties and thirties really love this show and this character.
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