‘Flesh and Bone’s Ben Daniels on Why His Character Is ‘a Lost, Lonely Boy’

Ben Daniels
Myles Aronowitz / Starz Entertainment, LLC

He Plays Mad genius Paul Grayson, bipolar artistic director of the fictional American Ballet Company. Nothing gets in the way of Paul’s success: not his mental illness (he skips his meds to stay sharp), not his troubled dancers and certainly not the nest of tweeting baby birds on the studio windowsill, which he tosses right into the street. “That’s a true story!” Daniels says. “Some ballet director did that. When I read it in the script, I thought, ‘OK, I cannot underplay this man.’”

Where you’ve seen him On BBC America in Dick Wolf’s London-set Law & Order: UK as the aptly named prosecutor James Steel. And as soon-to-be First Lady Claire Underwood’s (Robin Wright) publicly shamed hipster lover, photographer Adam Galloway, in Seasons 1 and 2 of House of Cards. “Oh, he deserved to be pushed under the bus,” Daniels says with a laugh. “He was just too perfect with his artsy photos and his amazing apartment.”

Next up Playing the Duke of Buckingham opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Richard III in the continuation of the BBC’s The Hollow Crown.

Why We Love Him It’s easy to steal the show playing a colorful, bellowing madman with heaps of panache, but it’s very difficult to make you root for him, which Daniels does. “You don’t judge your characters,” Daniels explains. “You just have to justify what they do. I see him as a lost, lonely boy who is in constant fear of his light going out.”

Nudity Clause Going full frontal in Flesh and Bone was no biggie for the theater actor, who’s bared it all many times before, including on Broadway in the 2008 revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. “But it’s much easier to do it on stage,” he says. “When you’re shooting, there’s a camera barely two feet away from you. It’s slightly disconcerting.”

Flesh and Bone, Series finale, Sunday, Dec. 27, 8/7c, Starz