We loved to hate him in his dual role as Black Jack Randall and Frank Randall on Outlander, we were charmed by him as Prince Phillip in The Crown, now Emmy-nominated Tobias Menzies takes us on a completely new journey with his role as Van in Modern Love, the Amazon Studios series based on the eponymous New York Times column.
In an episode entitled “A Second Embrace, with Hearts and Minds Open,” Menzies plays a divorced father who is still in love with his ex-wife (Sophie Okonedo). Their new relationship begins as a casual fling but reignites the passion and love between them just as one of them receives a life-changing medical diagnosis that causes them to re-examine their bond.
In the interview below, Menzies describes his role in Season 2 of Modern Love and whether or not he believes in second chances and shares his thoughts on a possible return to Outlander – but definitely not for Season 6, which has already finished filming.
Monsters & Critics: What are your thoughts on second chances? Can they work? Do they take a lot of forgiveness?
Tobias Menzies: It depends. I suspect, yes. Second chances are probably dependent on a certain amount of forgiveness and people having grown up or changed to make that possible in some way. I certainly feel like that’s the version that we tell in our episode. It feels like maybe it was someone who had a certain amount of immaturity in him as a young man and through losing Elizabeth, has had to grow up, has had to learn to do some of the things that she did, take up some of the slack that she took up, and through that has grown a bit. It means that maybe she meets a slightly different person when they start to see each other again.
M&C: Van is a bit of a Peter Pan who forced himself to change. Is that something you look at in your approach to playing him?
Tobias Menzies: I agree, there was a youthfulness, a boyishness to him, which I didn’t want to lose, because you want to have that sense of who he was, but he had actually become a more rounded, a better person through the loss of his relationship with her. And then, obviously, through her illness, he hit something else and finds himself stepping up, supporting her, maybe in a way that he wouldn’t have been able to do before. And through those necessary adjustments and necessary growing, it means that by the end of the episode, they can try and face the future together a little more bruised but maybe a bit clearer-eyed.
M&C: Speaking of the ending, we really are left not knowing, which is kind of frustrating as a viewer. Why do you think it’s a good thing to end with there still being questions in everybody’s mind?
Tobias Menzies: My feeling would be that fundamentally there are no definite answers to how they’re going to be because, I think, part of what the episode is saying is you have to work at it every day, you have to keep on turning up, keep on showing up for each other, and then you build it every day anew, or something like that. So to have anything that was too reassuring or too tidy maybe wouldn’t be very honest.
M&C: These are actually based on a column from the New York Times that are people’s real-life stories, so there is probably an answer somewhere, but do you think that because it is based on real people that it adds more humanity to the story?
Tobias Menzies: Definitely listening to the article and reading the article and knowing that this was a real couple, and this was their experience; it definitely brings it closer. I think it makes you want to keep it very authentic. Certainly, no melodrama. To keep it close to what it might really be like for those things to happen, to have some of those conversations, I did find it helpful knowing that there’s a real story.
M&C: Congratulations on your Emmy nomination. It’s much deserved. What’s it like to play someone who was still living at the time that The Crown was streaming?
Tobias Menzies: To be totally honest, I ignored it really for a couple of reasons. One, because it’s very useful to have all the footage and have all the audio of him to study his life and how he moved and how he talked, but then, in a way, you have to put the real person aside. We’re creating a drama show. It’s a construct. What [creator] Peter Morgan has written is taking essential elements of his life and making a drama. So, you have to do that with some confidence without too much looking backward. So, it’s definitely a mixture of Peter’s Phillip and the real Phillip.
M&C: Speaking of Outlander, if there was a flashback, would you return? Do you still have a fondness for that show?
Tobias Menzies: I have a huge fondness for that show. It was a really big part of my life for about three years. I made some very good friends. They’re very dear to my heart. Caitriona [Balfe], Sam [Heughan] and Maril [Davis], and everyone who is still there. We never say never. Who knows? And especially with Diana Gabaldon’s books in their time-traveling way, who knows where this show could steer off to next.
Modern Love is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.