NEW YORK COMIC CON 2014 INTERVIEW: Ioan Gruffudd Talks FOREVER and Immortality

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On Forever, ABC’s procedural with a twist, Ioan Guffudd plays Dr. Henry Morgan, a NYC medical examiner who also happens to be immortal.  200 years earlier, Morgan was a doctor on a salve trade ship and murdered for his morals trying to save lives. After he was tossed into the ocean, death proved to be merely a temporary thing.  Henry skirts the afterlife and is reborn naked in a nearby body of water shortly after he dies. We join Henry in the modern day Big Apple as solves cases alongside NYPD Detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza) and haunted by a 2000 year old foe known only as Adam. Judd Hirsch also stars as Abe, Henry’s life-long friend who also knows his secret.

I had the opportunity to participate in round table interviews with the show’s cast at New York Comic Con in the Warner Bros. Television / ABC press room. During Ioan’s Q&A, he discussed what attracted him to the role of Henry, his personal theories of the character’s immortality, and what fans can look forward to as the show’s first season plays out.

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QUESTION:   What drew you to this part? What appealed to you about playing Henry?

IOAN GRUFFUDD:  It’s sort of very hard to pinpoint exactly what it was.  I think it was the script in its entirety.  When you read a script you fall in love with it as a whole. And certainly the part of Henry I knew I could lend myself to it immediately.  He’s British, sort of an Englishman in New York as it were and I knew I could lend my talents and my abilities to bringing him to life immediately. It’s very hard to put your finger on it all. Most of the things that I’ve got to do as an actor I’ve read the script and said immediately “All right, I want to do this. I need to do. I have to do this.”  And when you have that feeling when you read something, more often than not, you do get the role because you know you have such an affinity with the part.  There are scripts that you read and you, “Oh my God. I’d love to do this, but I’m never going to be seen as this character.” But this was one certainly that I read and went, “I know I can do this, I have to do this.”  Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite aspect about playing the part of Henry?

IOAN GRUFFUDD:  Well there’s so many elements.  I think the fact that he’s got this sort of quirky almost, sort of pompous, sort of confidence in his abilities and his powers of deduction. I think his cadence as a character is a lot of fun to play. Especially when he’s being sort of quick-wicked, quick-witted and so smart and he’s almost sort of looking down his nose at some of the other characters. And then, conversely, you have the wonderful romantic side of the guy when he goes back in time and we see him with Abigail. And we see how tortured he is being an immortal living in the present day having lost, loved and lost so many times in his life.

IMG_0871QUESTION: So do you have any theories on how Henry keeps living forever? You, personally.

IOAN GRUFFUDD:  Me personally?  I wouldn’t know where to begin with a mythology.  I mean, that’s why I’m not a writer. I’m an actor. I mean that’s why Matt and his team, I have so much admiration for them because I don’t know how they come up with these ideas week in and week out and try to weave that into not just an episode, a stand-alone episode, but this serialization element that we have running throughout. I hope we don’t find out about that for a long, long time. Which will suggest that would run for a while I hope.

QUESTION:   Eight seasons, at least. (laughs)

IOAN GRUFFUDD:  Yes. Cross your fingers, yeah. But I think if the moment we discover what that is might be the conclusion of the entire show.  M, but we don’t want to, we don’t want to keep people on tent hooks too long, you know, we have to give enough to keep an audience intrigued, uh.

QUESTION:   Can you tell me a little bit about shooting in New York City and then also having to get to do the period pieces.

IOAN GRUFFUDD:  New York itself is a character in and of itself.  In the show for certainly. When we shot the pilot, it’s clear that we’re shooting in Grand Central Station itself which was extraordinary, and shooting it in a different time period there as well. When we see Abe’s Antiques, that is a New York street corner.  The set is an actual corner store, corner front, that we’ve turned into our set. So there’s an incredible energy and vibrancy that New York has, which is what we all love about the city.  And the period costume stuff, I just love it. There’s something about putting on that stuff, all those fantastic clothes and stepping back in time, and because it’s a television show we don’t get necessarily to see the scope of that period because it’s very hard to create that. But even these little corners that we build to make to look like 1910 tenement-sort of housing in New York, that’s pretty impressive.  You just have to give a little element of it and people have bought into that, sort of, conceit.

QUESTION:   What can you tell us about the sixth episode and even maybe the next few episodes?

IOAN GRUFFUD: This week’s episode, I’m trying to remember where we are, yes, um, (pause) it’s…

QUESTION:   Henry’s told, you know, a little bit, tiny bit about his past…

IOAN GRUFFUD: Yes, he revealed that, didn’t he, this week, about who broke his heart?  Now we know, as the audience, that it was somebody from way back when.  Now Jo, of course, is going to imagine that it was somebody recent. It’s all these, every week that we, we sort of give answers or give sort of indications to where and who Henry is poses new questions again. Just while I’m talking to you now I’m thinking, “Well if this show runs for five years, I’m going to look five years older.”  If I’m not careful, and Jo’s (laughs) you know. Do we have to do something like Henry’s pretending that he’s putting prosthetics on to make himself look older to convince Jo and people around him? Or does he take off and disappear for a while? Which is what he’s done throughout his career. His life is run and hide the moment that he gets too close to somebody he runs away.  But I think Jo’s character is going to help him remain in the here and now and try to face his demons.  Up to a point.

IOAN GROFFARD: Thank you, guys.  See you later.  Bye.

Forever airs on ABC on Tuesdays at 10pm.

Jim Kiernan
Founder and moderator of Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel. Steering this ship the best I can. Lifelong opinionated geek & pop culture enthusiast. Independent television & film professional. Born & raised New Yorker. My dog Nicholas is awesome.

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