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Bedlam – Theo James seeing ghosts

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Bedlam 1.03 - Theo James
Episode 1.03 - Jed (Theo James) © 2011 Matt Squire for Sky Living

Theo James was deemed by UK’s InStyle magazine, ‘The man behind the hotness,’ in BBC’s Bedlam. Now everyone in the States can peruse his sexiness in the series as Jed Harper, who has been in and out of mental institutions throughout his teenage years and early twenties, leaving him torn between his supernatural experiences and being told he was crazy.

When he starts to receive mysterious messages saying, ‘Save Kate,’ he travels to the Bedlam Heights apartment building, to see his cousin of the same name who is living and working there as a sales agent.

Only Theo is aware of the dangers that fill the structure, which used to be an insane asylum, and is overflowing with ghosts who are out for revenge.

How do you see Jed?

Bedlam 1.01 - Theo James
Episode 1.01 - Jed (Theo James) © 2011 Matt Squire for Sky Living

In terms of Jed, there are obviously similarities in The Sixth Sense, because that’s the seminal [movie] in terms of seeing ghosts. But with him, I had discussions with the director that I wanted him to be real, and be really physically affected by it.

He sees ghosts in visions which cause a semi-epileptic fit.

The angrier the more vengeful the spirit, the more painful it is for him.

He doesn’t have any super powers. He doesn’t have to dig the body up or put a stake through something or say some magic words. He has to deal with each ghost on a ghost-by-ghost basis and work out what the hell he’s going to do.

There were times we were cursing ourselves as writers, ‘Why have we done this to ourselves? This is really hard.’ But that’s how it should be. We wanted to make it as hard as possible. And you’ll see later in the series there are some really shocking endings and he doesn’t always succeed.

We wanted that sense of unexpectedness about where the story’s [going], rather than here’s a ghost, we know he’s going to win. We didn’t want to play it like that at all. We go pretty dark at times in the series. A couple of the episodes are really dark and the end of episode five is really shocking.

Jed has quite a mysterious background in this. Did you make up a back story for the character or did the writers’ fill you in?

Bedlam - Theo James
Jed (Theo James) © 2011 Jonathan Ford for Sky Living

It was kind of both really. We had discussions about a skeleton framework of it, but it was really important for me to know exactly what had happened to him. With a character like this in a supernatural drama, you need to find the realism. I wanted to make sure I knew every element of his journey, because in a way he’s a fairly normal masculine guy.

I wanted to find the origins of that and how that happened, when did this start, at what age, and then what happened to him, because he’s called insane? I figured he would have been diagnosed young. He has visions [that] probably seemed something like a paranoid schizophrenic.

He’s put in and out of mental institutions because he seems sane, but then he has these fits.

He has had various jobs which he can’t hold down for very long because things happen, and that changes his personal relationships. And as a result, he’s quite a lonely, solitary man and can’t really trust people.

Bedlam 1.04 - Ashley Madekwe and Theo James
Episode 1.04 - Molly (Ashley Madekwe) and Jed (Theo James) © 2011 Matt Squire for Sky Living

By the same token, when you come to him here, he’s got to a place where he knows that the only way of having a vaguely reasonable normal life is to basically deny what he sees. But I think he knows in himself that it’s the truth. It’s not something going on mentally.

Whether you believe him or not, he is the only person who thinks this place is inhabited by ghosts, whatever you want to call them. No one else is aware of that. They just see this old building. It might have a connection to the family, but [nobody] else is aware of it. It’s only when Jed arrives that things start changing.

I think no one wants to believe in that kind of stuff.

Sometimes when you shoot at old locations, weird things happen. Did anything happen on this set?

We get asked that a lot. To be honest, not really. I did try to hide in a cupboard. I hid there for an about 20 minutes, hoping that I could scare someone, giggling to myself, but no one turned up.

As you step into these sets do they look as creepy as they do when we’re watching it?

Bedlam 1.01 - Theo James
Episode 1.01 - Jed (Theo James) © 2011 Matt Squire for Sky Living

They do look creepy as hell; some of them more than others. The buildings are quite gothic, and it really helps to give you the sense of it.

There was a grave-digging scene at one point, and that was pretty strange because it was a reduced crew for some reason that night. It felt like there was going to be two people and me just digging a massive hole.

Do you believe in ghosts?

I don’t think I believe in ghosts per se. My nearest experience was I went on a weekend away to an [Inn] in England years ago, with my ex-girlfriend. I was about to go to bed when heard this scratching, and I couldn’t work out where it was coming from. I finally located it on the ceiling.

It really sounded like someone was brushing their hair. There was no way it was a vibration from a rat or something like that. But it was nothing in the end. But that girlfriend’s dead. (he bursts out laughing) No, she’s not really!