Tom Bateman Answers All Your Burning 'Behind Her Eyes' Questions

Neha Prakash
·10 min read
Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

From Marie Claire

Warning: This post contains several spoilers about Behind Her Eyes. Loved it, hated it, or were confused by it, Behind Her Eyes, adapted from Sarah Pinborough's buzzy 2017 novel, is a trippy masterclass in genre-bending television. While the majority of discussions about the Netflix mini-series—about a mysterious doomed couple, an affair to remember, and an ill-advised foray into dream manipulation—have centered on the finale, it's impossible not to take note of the cast's ability to build enough intrigue to properly pull off that bait-and-switch ending. (One which has undoubtedly entered the pantheon of most-discussed finales, alongside television titans like Lost and Game of Thrones. A feat that's even more impressive for a streamer.)

In an effort to answer the burning questions we still have about Behind Her Eyes, we chatted with Tom Bateman about playing David, the poor soul trapped in wife Adele's (Eve Hewson) tangled web of lies and magic, while creating his own messy situation with Louise (Simona Brown).

Here, the British actor—who was recently tapped for Ron Howard's upcoming feature film Thirteen Lives—talks pulling off that "magic trick" of an ending, the possibilities for a Starsky & Hutch-inspired second season, and why David so always so damn gloomy.

Marie Claire: We have to start with the end because there have been such heated discussions around the shock and awe of it. Unlike, for instance, Game of Thrones which many people agreed didn't nail the end, this show was all about the end.

Tom Bateman: I'm not on social media so it's nice to not really have any access to how it's going down other than people reaching out to me...We've become very good as a general audience at predicting and knowing where something's going from quite an early stage. I think what's captivated people with this drama: there's no way you could see the end coming. What [the cast and crew] wanted is that kind of "water cooler moment." People talking about it with their friends.

MC: What was the process of getting the script? Had you read the book?

TB: I'd never read the book. [I was told,] "There's this drama. We've only got one episode of it." I read it, and I went, "I wanna know what happens next to these three people." Anything that grabs my imagination like that is something that I want to jump at. I was in Atlanta [at the time] and had no one to do the [audition] take with me so I had to pay $50, and I went to this guy's basement. We did this tape and, and he asks me, "What's this about?" And I said, "Dude, I wish I could tell you."

MC: Was your script fully redacted so you didn't know the reveal until you saw it play out on-screen?

TB: [Once I got the part] Eric [Richter Strand] the director, told me the arc of it. Which really confused me, 'cause it's not easy [to explain]...But we did have all of the scripts by the time we started. I don't think there was a single moment when I was filming that I had nothing to chew over and wrestle with, in my brain. I had all of these secrets that this character's holding.

MC: What was your initial reaction to reading the script for the final episode?

TB: Joy. Because there's a difference between being an audience member, obviously, and being someone who creates it. It's a little bit like being a magician; all of the crew and the cast pulling this trick off for the audience.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

MC: In your mind, what were David's motivations throughout the series? Why did he stay in this marriage when it didn't seem like he needed the money from Adele and he could've just turned her in to the police for Rob's (Robert Aramayo) death?

TB: What was wonderfully helpful was that we started shooting the flashback scenes first. So we went to Scotland and filmed all the scenes when we were young and in love and happy. Of course, Evie's character, Adele, had been through a lot, but they were a young, optimistic, happy in love couple. That was really helpful for me because then jumping to the future and shooting of the rest of the series, I could remind myself of what this woman was... She used to be the brightest, most wonderful person that [David] knew, and that kind of naïve, perhaps, hope that she could become that again.

And he's a therapist—not a particularly good one. [Laughs.] His thing is he wants to fix people. And she is kind of the ultimate project, really. He's somebody who is trying to fix this relationship, who is tortured by the memory of what it used to be. He needs a lot of help, and a big kick up the ass, and really his cards are played for him when Louise tells the police. He's almost happy at that point. He's like, "Thank God. This is the thing I don't have the courage to do."

MC: Were you trying to play David like someone who might be experiencing emotional abuse and is finding it hard to escape that? Or do you think it was more he felt trapped because of that secret that they shared or because he still loved her?

TB: There were moments when I did feel like David was in an abusive relationship, as is Adele. They both abuse each other. It's almost Macbeth and Lady Macbeth... I think there were moments where David is certainly on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. When she paints that wall the forest color that is a deliberate, aggressive front-footed move from Adele to hurt and provoke and to strike fear into David. But then he's on the other side of that. He's controlling her pills, he's controlling where she goes and who she talks to. So they're both of them in a very, very awful, poisonous relationship. But I still think there are moments where he did still love her. He talks about it as well. In the script, David has lots of lines: "Adele used to be this. We used to laugh so much. We haven't laughed in ages." And it's hard to let that go. I think if you've experienced true love before, the idea that it's gone or has changed is a very traumatic difficult thing to come to terms with. It's easy for an audience member to go, "Come on. Move on. Leave." But that's not how life works. We constantly give love a second chance, a third chance.

MC: Were there ever discussions with the director to give David more of a backstory?

TB: To be perfectly blunt, this story is about Louise and Adele. It's really their story, and David is this guy who's trapped in the middle. To me, he is someone who is so broken. He's built this cage to protect himself and Adele and other people. He's seen the danger she can be to other people. So it's kind of this sacrifice he's made of just going, "I'm just gonna live this life and I'm not going to be happy in it."... I didn't ever feel like David needs more. I thought of him being this damaged, slightly hard-to-understand character. So if there were any moments of gray ambiguity, like, "What's he doing? What's he thinking? I don't get it," that's what I wanted for him as a character anyway.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

MC: Let's talk about the fire that David saves Adele from. The show never fully explains if there was something nefarious going on. Did David burn down Adele's home to get her money? Did you discuss that with the director or the screenwriter?

TB: I love intrigue. I love mystery. I love not being things spelled out for me. 'Cause it surely stays with you. Sometimes shit just happens. Obviously, as an actor, we did have to work it out. I had to say to Eric, "I believe this is what happened."

MC: Which was what?

TB: David managed to get in [the house]. He knew exactly where Adele's room was, he got her out but by the time, but it was too late to go and help anyone else.

MC: So you still believe David is a good guy then? You're still giving him the benefit of the doubt?

TB: He's not a perfect guy, and he's not an angel. But I think he's a guy that has found himself throughout his life in situations where there are only bad outcomes. And invariably someone who lives a life like that is constantly going to look like a bad person because they are making bad decisions... But I don't think that he's a person that would have started a fire.

MC: Are there any scenes or clues you talked about with the director because without it the Rob ending doesn't work?

TB: What was quite strange about this piece for me was everyone else was in a drama about astral projections, except for me. So they were tracking those things. And what I was really doing was trying to track the logical, non-supernatural side of the story.

But little moments like when they're cooking the chicken [in the flashback]. There's a moment where I put the chicken in the oven and me and Rob are very close and there's a sort of slightly strange eye contact thing. And then anytime [Rob and David] were left alone together Eric really wanted to load up and ramp up the tension so that by the end of it, were anyone to go back and rewatch they'd go, "Look how loaded that scene is."

MC: The finale really leaves the door open for a second season. Would you be into continuing the story?

TB: I have not heard anything about a season two. When we started [filming], Evie and I were joking, and she said, "Maybe we could do a prequel about what happens between Adele and David in Brighton." But I'm a bit of an old-fashioned person. I quite like when it's: this was the story we had, beginning, middle, end, and we did it and left it. But that said there was such a huge scope for where it could go, and if people love it, I would love to work with that team again.

MC: What would you want to see for your character if there was a second season? Do you think he would finally start to realize something is up?

TB: He's not a stupid person. He's obviously starting to catch on. But it's quite a big leap to go from, "You seem to know things" to "Are you leaving your body sometimes at night and watching me live my life?" But I think if there was a season two I would like to see a bit of joy in him. He made me think of the color gray; he's given up and he's just sort of trudging through life. So it would be quite interesting to see him have some happiness. And then maybe a bit more investigatory sort of attitude. A bit more of a fast-paced thriller of him investigating [Rob and Louise].

MC: I like the idea of him and her son, Adam, teaming up to avenge Louise.

TB: Yeah. Like a double act, Starsky & Hutch.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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