Interview with Christopher Eccleston
"Two Boats and a Helicopter" gives viewers a window into Rev. Matt Jamison's world, three years after the Departure. What do you think the previous years were like for him?
He's almost unlike any other human being because he was so present on the day of the Departure. He was traumatized personally, just with the notion of it - the intellectual, emotional impact of what this may be. And then most of all, of course, was the devastating effect it had on his wife and then his sister, who he's very close to, and the loss of his brother-in-law and his nephew and niece. He experienced huge personal loss, and the whole thing he built his life around - Christianity - is questioned. He loses his flock. He loses his potency in the community, and he loses his sense of meaning, really. Rather than just the ordinary man on the street, he is a man who's taken a spiritual view of life. So he's got more to think about, more to suffer, all while trying to cling to his flock, really. There are a lot of people questioning him and looking to him for leadership.
Rev. Jamison's sanctuary is rather empty. Where is his flock?
There probably was a great movement toward the church in the first couple of days, as there always is. But as people have had time to think and reflect about the idea that this was an act of God, I can fully understand that they would turn away from Christianity.
Your character lays there on his fold-out bed and draws inspiration from the painting of Job. Did you research Job?
Two or three years ago, before I did the show, I was asked to do a reading at Westminster Cathedral in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was asked to read from the book of Job, when God finally decides to address Job's questions and says, "Who are you to question me? Did you make the sea? Are you responsible for the fish in the sea?" And all that powerful, unbelievable powerful prose. I was very, very struck by it - by the power of that exchange, the first questioning of God by a man, the first existential man in literature, possibly. A year later, I was in a tiny church in Devon, a tiny church with my mother actually, and the Bible was open. I walked up, and it was open at that very page. Then I ended up playing a character that identified with Job. So I've been following him -it's crazy. If you're playing a man of God, you do read the Bible, and you do find meaning in it. It's extraordinary, just simply as a narrative, it's so rich.
Should fans look to the Book of Job to understand Rev. Jamison?
People should read the Book of Job. It's an extraordinary piece of literature. I don't think Job is just about Matt Jamison, though. Look at Kevin Garvey and the stuff he's going through. It has to do with suffering and making sense of it. Jamison makes sense of his suffering, finds the positivity in it, and finds a way to go forward, not to just throw himself off a building.
There's a moment where Rev. Jamison digs up a peanut butter jar full of cash from Kevin Garvey, Sr. What's the connection between these two?
I'm wondering myself. I refer you to Damon Lindelof. One of the joys for me on this series is that I gave up this idea of complete ownership of a character, which is not the way I was taught in drama school and not the way I worked in the past. But it's a new way of making television that's developed over the past 15 years in America. I don't know what's going to happen to me tomorrow, and I don't know what my reaction is going to be. There's a freedom in that. It just happens that I trust Damon's sensibility and his respect for his audience and his intelligence. I know I am not going to turn into Batman. Although... interesting idea in Matt Jamison as Batman.
Matt's dream is loaded with backstory. There's a moment where Mary whispers at Matt, "Why do you persist?" What do you make of that?
I knew broadly what that was intended to do. The fact that that question is in the mouth of the person he loves most in the world, Mary, makes it very ambiguous and interesting. The very interesting interpretation of dreams is that when we dream, everybody in the dream is actually a version of us. So, perhaps, he was asking himself: Why do you persist? Why don't you just lie down and die? Why do you persist caring for Mary? Why do you persist with your Christianity? Why do you live?
Also in the dream, Mary changes into Laurie Garvey. What should we read into that?
It's obviously a way of exploring a character's interior life. We talked a lot on the set about how, when people are deeply traumatized, all of their belief systems come tumbling down, their normal way of behaving, their sexuality, reacts in very strange ways to death and to loss. You could argue that Matt becomes a far more instinctive and animalistic being, certainly if you look at the beating scene. Some of his behavior is wild. To suddenly be, at 3 o'clock in the morning, sneaking into a garden and, suddenly, standing in front of you is Laurie Garvey. It's a very charged moment, and I thought that that moment surfaced in a quasi-sexual dream. Guilt would be attached to it. Matt has lost his physical life with his wife.
This episode ends with Matt Jamison walking up to his former church to find the Guilty Remnant painting the windows white, and Patti Levin staring at him. What's going through his mind in that moment?
He thinks that this is the Guilty Remnant's first big mistake - to take a church and deface it. There's no doubt that Christianity is on the ground, but there's nothing like victimization to get something off the ground. He sees huge political capital in them making him an outsider. He's clever, you know, he's clever.
Aimee calls Rev. Jamison "Father Nutballs." How do you feel about that?
I want a t-shirt: Team Father Nutballs. I love that. Father Nutballs!