Matthew Rhys has revealed Dame Eileen Atkins' "laser" stare meant he didn't have to act nervous in new TV show The Scapegoat.
The Brothers And Sisters actor stars in the new ITV adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's story about a teacher who unwittingly finds himself forced to take the place of his wealthy doppelganger. Eileen plays his alter-ego's bed-bound mother in the period drama directed by Charles Sturridge, who also directed the 1981 TV classic Brideshead Revisited.
Matthew said: "She's everything you'd want her to be. But when you're working with someone of that calibre, you still get a bit nervous. In a way, you don't have to do any acting, because she sort of lasers you like an old Victorian mother would, so you go, 'Oh God!' And this is before they say action."
The 37-year-old Welsh actor plays teacher John Standing and his wealthy double, Johnny Spence, who he meets in a pub, only to wake up and find Johnny has vanished and no one believes who he really is.
To help get his performances spot-on for the scenes between the two characters, he rehearsed with another actor.
Matthew revealed: "I was wary that you have two very different characters, but they have to be alike enough to be believable. At first, I thought, 'I know, I'll give one a limp and then the audience will know which is which'. But you have to be similar enough so that the closest people to them believe that the other person is them. That was the tightrope."
:: The Scapegoat is on ITV1 on Sunday, September 9.