By Kay-B

Watchmen is already one of TV’s most hyped up and talked about shows and for good reason. It is bold, gritty, intriguing and thought-provoking in ways that you never see coming. Jeremy Irons sat down with The Beat to discuss all things Ozymandias and how his portrayal differs from the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel and the previous live-action take we’ve seen.

Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias
Jeremy Irons as Ozymandias. Photo: HBO.

On playing the anti-villain in Watchmen:

“I’ve never heard him (Adrian Veidt) referred to as the anti-villain. But I guess I have played a lot of those characters, and Simon from Die Hard With A Vengeance comes to mind. I love villains. Villains are people who make their own rules. I have a quote on my desk that says: ‘To go against the law, you must be an honorable man.’ And I think that’s probably a rule of life that I follow. I find it very attractive in real and in the characters I choose to play. In other words, you must do things that aren’t particularly legal but if it’s for a good reason, they must go ahead and do them.”

On Adrian’s timeless scenes and how he and the creator approached them:

“Well, Damon just wrote it and it was clear that Adrian had no technology and he was living in this place, that’s what I had to deal with. Damon put it in the script and that was the situation. Adrian feels a little bit like an ex-president, when you’ve been at the center of it and making world-shaking decisions and suddenly you are just being asked what color you want your library when you build it. So, that’s the headspace I was in when I was crafting this character. The character doesn’t know what’s going on so, there is no need for me to either.”

On whether Adrian believes he did the right thing when we meet him, and on whether Jeremy Irons thinks Adrian did the right thing:

“Yes. I do believe he thinks it was the right thing and carries necessary guilt. Probably like Tony Blair, who thought going to Iraq was the right thing, probably carries some guilt. Do I think it was the right thing? That’s a difficult one. I don’t think I would judge. I think he was in a position where he could do something and did it for reasons he thought was good.”

Jeremy Irons
Jeremy Irons in Watchmen. Photo: HBO.

On what it is like to play this master of a castle and create his own world:

“It is so diminished from what he did have and he is probably quite bored and frustrated. The most enjoyment and excitement he probably gets comes from his horse, over his help. Adrian has tried to create some sort of difficulty there and is trying to get away from it. But this is much like life, isn’t it? We all have jobs, which we would like to be doing better, although we can get a bit bored with the work and our colleagues. So, we fill our days and our weekends, to try to keep ourselves amused. We do our work as well as we can, so we can keep our self-respect. Most of us sort of struggle on, it’s just Adrian is on a different scale and trying to find a reason to get out of bed every morning.”

On Adrian’s complex relationship with The Gamekeeper:

“If a friend makes life more interesting, you’re going to want them, aren’t you?  Even if you disagree with them if you like arguing with them, if you like fighting with them. I mean, many marriages are based on something very similar. They just give you a life resource. So yeah, I think that is at the root probably of his relationship with The Gamekeeper.”

On Dr. Manhattan being untouchable to Adrian:

“I think there is a great deal of competition between them and Adrian does want to show Dr. Manhattan up at least once. Although the point of our story, I think Adrian is not there too well. Any two people who are in positions of power with different views, there is going to be a competitive and constantly questioning relationship between them. I think Adrian will probably think he was more realistic in his world view and view of human nature.”

On the “evil” version of Adrian and the consequences of how he has changed after the events in the graphic novel:

“In this TV version, Adrian’s lived with the consequences for almost 39 years and he probably has a sense of guilt and wonder if he did the right thing. He’s not too aware of what’s happening at the moment, but he is bright enough to question what he did and lives with that. He’s probably not too happy, but I disagree that he’s evil, I don’t think he’s particularly evil at all.”

On the clean-cut version in the graphic novel, versus how he is portrayed in this series:

“I think there’s a difference between the character in the graphic novel and the version I am playing. I can play more colors and play different things. I mean, I agree with you in the, in the graphic novel he seems to be a little bit wooden and we are told a lot about him. And yes, he does some amazing things but I was quite relieved when I read Damon’s script to see that he had broadened him.”

On the reveal of the clone:

“Adrian doesn’t have any trouble with killing and replacing his servants, who we now know are clones. But we also don’t have trouble with things like setting fire to Dresden or bombing Baghdad. Our leaders apparently treat people with disdain. So, I think he knows these people he creates in that 5-minute oven, are not very interesting, they haven’t lived and are easily dispensable.”

On the play and if its rooted in resentment or nostalgia around Dr. Manhattan:

Well the play isn’t very good. The writing is very wooden and the actors give very wooden performances, not the real- life actors, but in the play. I think the play for Adrian though is slightly nostalgia, slightly him trying to understand and fill a long evening. So, I think there’s some version of him doing this play to try to understand the events of the past and see how it makes him feel and to learn.”

As the season progresses, there are tons of surprises behind Adrian and life in his glasshouse. Jeremy Irons is so tactful, nuanced and layered in his portrayal of a controversial character that you may find yourself not knowing whether to love, hate or empathize with him.

Check out Watchmen on Sundays, only on HBO, and stay tuned to The Beat for our weekly recaps.