'The Leftovers' Season 1, episode 3 'Two Boats and a Helicopter': Christopher Eccleston chats about using desperate measures
So far "The Leftovers" has certainly kept viewers on their toes, but this week takes the cake. In a standout episode, Reverend Matt Jamison continues to preach his gospel and tries to prove to the people of Mapleton many of the departed were sinners and far from saints. When Matt has to come up with money to save his place of purpose, his church, from getting sold, he is a desperate man. Despite trying in the most honest of ways at first to get the cash, he ends up empty handed in the end and has left his sister Nora, with the shock of her life.
The root of Jamison's troubles stems from the paper that he puts out spotlighting the evils of the gone, but not forgotten. Why does he feel it is his duty to point this out to people? Actor Christopher Eccleston tells Zap2it, "He is trying to convince the population and himself that it (the departure) was not an act of God. Because if he believes it's an act of God, he has to accept that God did not want him. As he is a reverend, that is particularly painful and humiliating, because he has devoted his life to the cause."
Eccleston describes Nora and Matt's relationship as protective. "I think he adores his sister. He has always been quasi-paternal towards her," he says. "He adopted the role of the father early on, because they lost their parents really young. I think he's hugely protective of her and I think it blinds him somewhat to her intelligence and her individuality."
Was Matt protecting his sister when, after she refuses to give him her departed benefits fund to help save the church, he confesses to Nora her beloved husband was cheating on her constantly with her children's pre-school teacher? Eccleston says its complicated.
"He thinks on one level he's doing the best thing because he's telling her the truth. She has begun to idealize her family and her husband, perhaps that is preventing her from moving on," Eccleston says. "The other possibility is he is just furious with her and her atheism and her denial of God and he is smacking her in the face. We really went for the ambiguity in that."
Episode 3 is a roller coaster ride from beginning to finish and Reverend Jamison is in the forefront of it all and he is beaten up several times, in addition to getting hit in the head by a rock and has at least one hospital visit. Eccleston says the physicality of his role in the latest episode was quite challenging: "I was on my feet and being beaten up. It was one of the toughest winters New York has ever seen and we were out in the street at two in the morning, it was really cold and the crew worked really hard. I was just very fortunate to have such a great script and to have had a really amazing director."
The veteran actor credits episode director Keith Gordon, a former actor, as being crucial to his performance. "That was a huge help to me,having a director who was so interested in performance, so clued in on how to get a performance from an actor and Keith, he saved me really," he explains." My first day I did a scene and he said it's too angry, this is not an angry man. He's angry to a certain extent, but he's grieving and he is trying to do his best. That's what he said and that's what I clung to. He said, don't vilify this man, don't judge him, just play him. Whenever I am playing Matt, I always think, 'What would Keith say?' He was hugely influential in the creation of this character."
Ultimately Eccleston reveals Matt gains a new perspective regarding his beliefs saying, "He begins to think it was an act of God after all. God has purposefully left him on the planet to suffer and also to carry the flame of Christianity forward."
After all, the actor says if something similar to the sudden departure happened here in our time, it would be easy to just end it, but "The brave ones choose to stick it out and go forward to live and love."
Check out a clip below from the marathon of an episode and let us know what you think in the comments.
"The Leftovers" airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.