Angela Black spoilers follow.
When Michiel Huisman last appeared on our screens, his character was the victim of a violent and deadly crime. He played the role of Alex Sokolov in The stewardess, in which Kaley Cuoco‘s Cassie woke up in a hotel bed next to her bloody corpse. At Mike Flanagan The Haunting of Hill House, his character Steven Crain wasn’t perfect (who among us is?), but he’s not a morally bankrupt man.
Many of you will also remember him as Daario Naharis in Game Of Thrones, advisor and lover of Daenerys Targaryen who has dedicated her life to defending her honor, never raising her voice or her hand to the Queen of Dragons. But the character of Huisman in Angela Black doesn’t hesitate to grab his wife by the hair and drag her to the ground, before beating her with such force that she loses a tooth, the skin around her mouth tinted with a deep shade of purple.
“I always feel like I have the opportunity to play a character that is a much more positive force more often, it’s very charming,” Huisman said. Digital spy and other press. “So I loved using it and then playing against someone really bad.”
Angela’s initial scream and the ensuing strangled screams can be heard, but Olivier is not seen physically harming his wife – a director’s choice that many viewers will find more moving, so much is the power of the invisible.
We are struck by Olivier’s heated rage in the first five minutes of the ITV thriller and about ten minutes later we learn that he has already used Angela as his personal punching bag.
“You’re still sorry,” she said, after he begged her not to go.
Olivier’s previous explosion left his partner unable to breathe after breaking his ribs. She fled to a nearby hotel with their children, before reneging on the promise he would change. But Olivier still inflicts physical and emotional wounds on Angela, and now plots to paint her as an unworthy mother so that he can claim sole custody of their children. Huisman himself described Olivier as “messed up” as he discussed the “psychopathic strategies” his character employs in his efforts to destroy his wife.
“[I don’t know if would] replay a character like that right now because it’s a challenge, “he admitted.” I love taking on that as an actor, but it’s very dark. ”
Casting Huisman in such a monstrous role was a stroke of genius. He’s both pleasing to the eye and has an naturally charismatic demeanor which, coupled with his more recent roles and the way they chose to dress the character of Olivier, has an intensely disarming effect.
He speaks mostly quietly, only raising his decibels during his assault on Angela; he doesn’t giggle maniacally after beating her; his face is not strewn with scars – a feature that has been misused to attribute on-screen villainy since time immemorial. In fact, there is no all external indicators generally used in film and television that highlight the depth of his cruelty. Instead, they paint the other way around.
Her sartorial elegance, groomed facial hair, and a body that has clearly been put to the test in the gym are traditional markers of desirability that draw you in rather than send you scrambling in the opposite direction. These attributes are complemented by his financial security, noted by his lavish home and golf club membership; its accent is a signifier of travel and culture; her go-to drink is red wine rather than a pint of Stella – just a subtle distinction that masks her harsh edges with a cover of civility.
Sometimes we struggle to reconcile his true nature with the image Olivier projects into the world, which is a damning accusation of the power of such signals. They are fundamentally superficial, unable to convey what is really hidden beneath, and yet they are endlessly attractive.
“He always seemed to be such a nice man,” is a phrase often heard by baffled residents when vox-pops about bodies escaping under their neighbor’s patio. Then there’s Christopher Jefferies, a retired teacher who was falsely accused of murdering 25-year-old landscape architect Joanna Yeates in Bristol in 2010. Much of the media coverage about him has focused on his “strange” and “eccentric” personality and appearance, which are fatal in the court of public opinion.
Olivier challenges many of our preconceived ideas, which is probably why Huisman was chosen for this role. If he was working class and spoke with a heavy Mancunian drawl, would our initial view of him change? Would Angela’s fate still be invisible to those around her if Olivier presented himself differently?
All the layers that converge to build the man we see before us do not exist in a vacuum. They are loaded with social, political and economic connotations. In fact, they mean very little, but in this reality in which we all live and are judged, they mean everything.
Writers often back down when asked what “message” they want their work to convey to its patrons, arguing instead for the importance of complete autonomy of feeling with regard to the fruits of the artist’s labor. But in the case of Angela Black, we are faced with the idea that abuse can so often go unnoticed, and those who inflict it do not wear t-shirts that say “I’m a bad guy.”
“It’s so important for my character to keep up appearances and I think that’s very true for a lot of these cases in real life,” Huisman explained. “On the outside it looks perfect.
“So maybe in some way our show, although it’s primarily meant as entertainment, can remind us that we need to stay open and listen to the people around us.”
Angela Black continues Sunday October 17 at 9 p.m. on ITV.
The stewardess, based on the book of the same name by Chris Bohjalian, broadcast on Max Sky and NOW in the UK and HBO Max in the USA.
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