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Max Beesley: 'I just want to be a good father now'

Max Beesley, star of new Sky 1 drama Jamestown, tells Gemma Dunn why daughter Sabrina (3) is playing a bigger role in his life

By Gemma Dunn

Now a father, Max Beesley is the first to confess that his career priorities have changed. "What I really enjoy is realising that the work is a means to an end, to pay for food for my daughter, rather than, 'I wanna be in Oscar-winning films'", declares the Ordinary Lies actor, who has a three-year-old, Sabrina, with his American wife, Jennifer.

"That was my mindset for many years. And the envy that comes with that, with your colleagues that are doing great and going, 'Why aren't I in that?', it's cancerous, consuming and it's horrendous.

"Having a child - and getting older - switches it all up and gives you so much more freedom to go to work knowing that it's just work."

A huge part of perfecting that balance, Lancashire-born Beesley (46) claims, is knowing when to down tools.

"That's one of the things with 'method acting'," he says. "People think it's being a freak for the whole shoot - and there are actors I know that do that - but, really, it's about being able to make choices and using your sense and memory to visualise things and personalise things, and then turn it on and off at the end of the day. You have to turn off.

"At the beginning of the job, your natural dynamic, as an actor - we come from a world of insecurity, because of the nature of our job - is to immerse yourself into it and sometimes you do come away going, 'I've not managed my downtime very well', and that's no good.

"To take a break does our partners a massive favour, because there can be nothing more boring than an actor banging on about their story and character... It's a yawn-fest."

Speaking from the gritty European set of his latest venture, Jamestown, Beesley - miles from his LA residence - is a true advocate of his own advice.

"I went home only a couple of weeks ago and I consciously went, 'I'm not taking any scripts, I'm just going to be a dad and a good husband - that's my job this week'", he announces, smiling broadly.

"That was it. And then you come back and its full-throttle again."

Judging by the nature of the series in question (Beesley likens the Sky 1 original drama to a brutal, Jacobean tragedy), it's a slog that requires some pace.

Set in 1619, Jamestown - written by The Paradise's Bill Gallagher and produced by the team behind Downton Abbey - tells the story of three women who enter a ruthless and male-dominated frontier town that's been without females for 12 years.

Leading the testosterone-fuelled settlers is the "multi-complex" survivalist Henry Sharrow - a character that Beesley maintains is one of his most challenging to date.

"I said to my missus the other day, 'It's a job that's come at the right time, at the right part of my life, because it's a hard part to play'," he says. "You can't wing it, there's no way. You have to prep."

He did this by arming himself with as much information as possible.

"That's my method: to get involved and know as much as possible, so then you can throw it away and act accordingly", reasons the Mancunian, whose previous credits also include Hotel Babylon and Bodies.

"If you don't know anything, you don't know anything. The more skilled you are at something, the less effort you put it into it and the more it flows."

Working exhausting 17-hour days, Beesley - a one-time tabloid regular famed for his dalliances with celebrities such as Mel B and Susie Amy - is thankful things like FaceTime help him remain in contact with his family during shoots.

"I miss my daughter, because she's at a beautiful age", the actor admits, shaking his head. "From two-and-a-half to three years, it's a wonderful age.

"Just this time, when I went back, I noticed a little bit of a difference after five weeks away. I've just missed a few beats. I mustn't miss beats."

It makes all the difference, then, that his famous actor-musician father, Maxton Beesley Sr, is out on location with him.

"He's an actor and he writes", says Beesley, who starred alongside his dad in Mad Dogs. "He likes being out here; he loves people and he loves watching the process. He's a very talented man. He's writing the next short that I think we're going to do."

What about a musical collaboration, considering his own impressive past as a percussionist and pianist who's played with the likes of James Brown and Robbie Williams?

"I really do miss music", Beesley proclaims. "I get to dip into it; I wrote some songs for (TV series) Empire in the States this year, a couple of ballads and a hip hop tune. I'll get back into scoring at some point - that'll be my pension, I think."

For now, he hopes to have his passion project realised - it's a film he started writing in 2008 about a crime family in Manchester.

But he knows only too well that LA is a tricky marketplace.

"A lot of the film actors want to do television; it's a wonderful medium to explore, but it's a machine," he says.

"Last year was not a huge year for me - a couple of weeks on Homeland, a couple of weeks on Empire, 10 months writing music and writing. It's swings and roundabouts. That's why it's great to be doing this series."

  • Jamestown, Sky 1, Friday, 9pm

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