As a highly relatable Catholic priest torn between his faith and his unexpectedly tender feelings for a charmingly messy young woman, Andrew Scott was integral to the runaway success of the second season of “Fleabag.”
Though virtually all of his female costars were (deservedly) nominated for Emmys this year and the poignant Amazon comedy swept the awards in September, Scott’s subtle but deeply felt performance as the character dubbed “The Hot Priest” by the internet was overlooked.
But divine justice — or something like it — came Monday morning when the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. nominated Scott for supporting actor in a television series, limited series or movie.
The Irish actor, who also appeared in a small role in the Golden Globe-nominated World War I drama “1917" and is about to film the Showtime series “Ripley,” spoke to The Times on Monday from London, where he was visiting with his best friend and waiting for his godchildren to get home from school. “It’s a nice little pep in the afternoon,” he said of the news. “The fact that these things are being seen, that’s all you really want as an actor. It’s a day for celebration.”
Are you surprised by how “Fleabag” resonated with viewers this time?
I don’t think any of us could have foreseen how extraordinary the impact of it was, but I’ve got to say I knew it was something special right from the beginning. Phoebe [Waller-Bridge] and I had an amazing conversation about what we would like to create in this relationship, and what Phoebe wanted, not just with this relationship but with so many of the characters in the show. I am not surprised people have enjoyed it, but I’m certainly shocked at how much of an impact she had across the world. I really do find it heartening because I think that she is the absolute queen of nuance.
Nuance dies within drama and comedy and we’re on a path to nowhere, because our lives are so full of nuance. I love the idea of a nonjudgmental idea about the way we live our lives. We’re all kind of messy and don’t really know where we’re going, but we’re still deserving of love. And to be able to smuggle all those things in through comedy, they really are like little masterpieces of life. I am genuinely thrilled to be a part of it. That’s rare.
Waller-Bridge says you had a long conversation at a Quaker meeting house about the themes of the season.
I took her to a place that I go to to avoid — sometimes London is an overwhelming city, as you can imagine. The Quakers have this beautiful and very accepting philosophy and there’s a place in St. Martin’s Lane you can just go to and be on your own. It’s a place with a lot of spirituality. I brought Phoebe in and we were talking about religion and love. We were in there for hours in those exact positions that she eventually ended up writing into the show.
It’s just a testament to her that she’s able to incorporate things that have really deep feelings for her and the actors and make magic out of it. That’s why it feels so special.
The internet has anointed you “The Hot Priest.” How do you feel about that nickname?
It’s really important to remember that when we started talking about the script, even before the script was written, it was the character of “The Priest.” It’s the internet that’s turned him into “The Hot Priest.” If you’ve got a script that says “The Hot Priest,” you’d say “OK, what’s required of me is pretty one-dimensional.” I think in the same way if a female actor had a character described as “The Hot Nun”: “OK, what’s the intention of the writer here?” [Laughter]
It’s hilarious that it happened on the internet. But I suppose I feel protective of Phoebe in the sense that’s not something she ever aimed to create. It’s an example of the power of the internet. And listen, there are worse things to be called. But I think it’s important to make that slight distinction [laughter] because Phoebe is a writer of great class and intelligence.
One of the most exciting things about the season is that your character sees what Fleabag does with the camera. Was that a tricky adjustment as a performer?
It’s such an amazing thing to do. My job is first to pretend I don’t see her, then to sense something, then to really, really incorporate that. We explored that a lot, about what it actually means. He is somebody who really can see her. Like we all do when we fall in love with somebody, we don’t see everything immediately. His relationship with the camera has to develop in a subtle and believable way as well.
That’s that part that felt really exciting, because it breaks a television convention, but it also makes the audience really emotionally connected. It makes them aware that there’s something going on between these two characters that they’re not even aware of themselves. And that’s a very thrilling place for an audience to be.
What does the connection between Fleabag and the Priest come down to?
Do you know what? I think there are people in life that you just meet — Phoebe and I talked about this — that you just sort of tilt your head up as soon as you see them. You just sort of love them, you have a certain physical and emotional connection that just happens almost immediately. That’s one of the great mysteries of life, isn’t it? We kept talking about the idea of insanity and love. And love is kind of insane. It’s just a sane form of insanity. They’re both wearing disguises to a certain degree, I think. One of the masterful things about the central character, Fleabag, is that she’s sexually frank and open and honest but she dresses quite sensibly and there isn’t any nudity in the show. And he’s a character who’s a man of the cloth. He’s literally got a disguise on.
That’s what makes it both emotionally resonant but also kind of sexy. There’s actually something going on between them that’s totally subversive. I think they’re both vulnerable and they’re both rebels in a certain way.
Also, between Phoebe and I there’s undeniable chemistry. We worked together 10 years ago in the theater [in the play “Roaring Trade,” where they played traders in the city of London]. That’s very difficult to understand — and maybe not worth even questioning. It’s just there. We relied an awful lot on the listening — and the chemistry that we genuinely have as people. So that helped a bit too. [Laughter]
Tell me about “Ripley.” Have you started filming?
We haven’t started filming “Ripley.” That will be further into . I’m really excited. Steve Zaillian, who’s just been nominated today for “The Irishman,” has written the most extraordinary scripts. My jaw hit the floor when I read them. We have incredible plans for that. I really want to be respectful of the character but bring our own stamp on it and create something that’s truly original.
Is there anyone you’re excited to see at the Globes?
Olivia Colman [his costar from “Fleabag,” who is nominated for “The Crown”] is an old pal of mine and we worked together for years. There are people who you’ve been unemployed with and been in things that nobody’s seen with and I’m really happy to hang out with her. Ben Platt [nominated for “The Politician”] is my new friend, we met and were hanging out recently. And of course there will be loads of people I’ll be open-mouthed to see but I’ll act cool ’cause that’s what I’ve got to do.