But in STARZ's medieval miniseries The Pillars of the Earth (airing in eight parts starting July 23), Rufus' character finally sees the light—and it's good. As Tom Builder, a mason with lofty dreams of building a cathedral, Rufus brings the beloved working father from Ken Follett's epic novel to life.
Rufus reflects on his first impressions of the Oprah's Book Club selection, how being a father influenced his performance and why he'll never look at a classic piece of architecture the same way again.
Rufus Sewell: Um no, before, no I hadn't. But in between reading the first two episodes and getting the final ones, I read the book and enjoyed it very much. Even though I was aware that a lot of the material I was reading probably wouldn't make it into the finished script, it was incredibly useful.
JW: How did you prepare to play Tom? Did you study with artists before filming?
RS: Well, I studied with stonemasons, which was exciting, basic training and that was really cool—not that, you know, I wouldn't recommend myself to build you a castle or even fashion any kind of stone at all. But it was really useful, if anything to get to know some of the characters and look at the environment and how they operated with each other and get some blisters. I did that with Eddie Redmayne [who plays Jack] and the other actors around me. Every day we'd go in and study, and that was great.
JW: What surprised you most about stonemasonry?
RS: [laughs] I'd say what I'd have for dinner every day. The endless stock supplies of that cart coming in at 8 o'clock in the morning, and I couldn't send it away. So inevitably despite that I became an actor, I ended up having to do the real work, which I resented enormously.
What fascinated Rufus Sewell about playing Tom