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Ringer – How Ioan Gruffudd likes being ambiguous

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Ringer - Ioan Gruffudd
Andrew Martin (Ioan Gruffudd) © 2011 The CW Network

Best known by film audiences for his role as Mr Fantastic in Marvel’s Fantastic Four, and by TV viewers for his performance as the lead role in Horatio Hornblower, Ioan Gruffudd is back on television this season with the new drama Ringer. In it he portrays Andrew Martin, a wealthy businessman married to Siobhan Kelly (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Although their marriage seems picture-perfect, they are living a lie, and the relationship is beyond repair.

When Siobhan’s twin sister Bridget (also played by Gellar), visits her unexpectedly, running away from her past, Siobhan suddenly disappears, apparently taking her own life, leading Bridget to move in and take her place. As Andrew has never been told by his wife about Bridget, it seems the perfect plan -or is it?

You’ve been very successful in films, why do a TV series?

Ringer - Sarah Michelle Gellar
Siobhan Martin/Bridget Kelly (Sarah Michelle Geller) and Andrew Martin (Ioan Gruffudd) © 2011 The CW Network

I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been able to do things that I’ve wanted to do based on the script and the story. And when I read this script, I fell in love with it. It has very cinematic elements to it. It’s a combination of all your favorite film noir or Alfred Hitchcock movies combined with a soap opera. It just leapt off the page.

And for me personally, it was an opportunity to play a contemporary character. I haven’t had a chance to do that ever, I think. So getting rid of the frilly shirts and the long frock coats and slipping into a nice Tom Ford suit every day is a bit of a treat.

What about this character interested you?

What I loved about him is he’s slightly ambiguous in the pilot. We’re not sure what his background is, we’re not sure why their marriage has soured, was it something that Andrew has done, what are his duplicitous secrets?

So he has secrets as well?

I think so, yes. He does run an empire, he’s a multimillionaire, I think he’s a hedge fund manager or investment banker.

Is this your first series?

Ringer - Ioan Gruffudd
Episode 1.01 Pilot - Andrew Martin (Ioan Gruffudd) © 2011 The CW Network

I did nine episodes of a series called Century City for CBS years ago, but it only aired for three episodes and it got pulled because it went up against the first season of American Idol, so we didn’t have a chance really. And it was a little bit before its time.

I did a mini-series with Horatio Hornblower on television, and I [did] a couple of other pilots that have been unsuccessful, that haven’t been picked up. I’m in the same situation as Sarah Michelle, I have a daughter, she’s the same age a Sarah’s, so it was an opportunity to have a bit of security in my life as well as doing this great project.

It’s long hours.

They’re incredibly long hours. I’d forgotten how intense it is.

I think that’s exciting in a way, there’s so much pressure on creators, writers and networks now to satisfy the audiences, because there’s so many networks and so many shows out there.

I think our show is elevated in a sense because we have that thrilling aspect on a weekly basis, it’s not a long arc of one storyline, there’s several storylines and we’ll have answers and questions posed on every episode.

To me from watching the pilot it looked like a long arc, it didn’t look episodic at all.

Ringer - Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ioan Gruffudd
Episode 1.01 Pilot - Siobhan Martin/Bridget Kelly (Sarah Michelle Geller) and Andrew Martin (Ioan Gruffudd) © 2011 The CW Network

Well, in the sense that each episode will have some answers, or at least journeying towards an answer, I know there are some shows out there, they take 13 episodes to tell the whole story.

If you look at a show like The Wire, there are many stories involved; they’re intertwining, not throughout the one season, throughout the six seasons, or whatever they did. I think people are going to be satisfied. I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.

There are so many characters here and so many stories, I’m hoping that we’ll drum up such excitement that in the end they’ll want the two sisters to discover what’s going on, and the other characters, especially my character, will he ever discover that he’s not really married to his ‘wife’?

When you’re working with Sarah and she’s playing the two different roles, how different it is for you regarding what you’re getting from her?

Well the beauty of the show is that you, the audience, are let in on that secret. The other characters aren’t. I still believe that I’m married to my wife.

Yeah, but you do say, ‘What’s wrong with you today?’ Do you get a different energy from her?

I guess I have a suspicion, but there’s only so far we can go with it, we have to suspend disbelief somewhat that I would be married to an identical twin and not know that it wasn’t my wife. So if we can get over that hurdle, then I think people will be sold and enjoy that journey.

How did you feel about the fact they are rebooting Fantastic Four – are you relieved, are you annoyed?

Ahhh, I had an amazing time doing those two films. Naturally I feel a slight disappointment that I won’t be stepping into the shoes of Mr. Fantastic again, although there has been nothing official. Again, I think it is a rumor, but it feels true because we haven’t heard anything from our point-of-view.

I guess it kind of makes sense for the studio to reboot it, because I guess you have longevity out of that franchise that they own.

I was waiting for you to mention spandex as one of things you were happy about not having to wear.

The spandex was made a lot more comfortable by the fact that I had this incredible muscle suit that I was wearing underneath. I looked like the sculpture of David, because me in the spandex without that muscle suit isn’t the most attractive thing in the world!