On Wednesday night’s season premiere of NBC’s new drama, “The Philanthropist,” television audiences are going to see British actor James Purefoy get about as nude as an actor can get in a network drama.
In one of the first scenes of the new series about Teddy Rist, a billionaire playboy inspired to mix business with helping out impoverished and troubled people around the world, Purefoy barely manages to keep his modesty covered as local authorities attempt to rouse his character from a hung-over slumber while storm waters fill up his African hotel room.
Despite the swirling waters, the sheet stays in place, but having disrobed for previous parts, including the virile Mark Antony in HBO’s “Rome,” baring his body on camera comes without qualms for the trim U.K. star. In fact, when Access Hollywood mentioned he might have to field a few stateside questions about the subject as he promotes a show television critics are already offering high praise, Purefoy said he’s ready for interviewers to go there.
“Nude scenes — it really doesn’t worry me. It didn’t worry me doing them, so I don’t know why it would worry me talking about them,” he said. “People are fascinated by nudity, I can’t help that. And of course they’re fascinated by nudity, they’re fascinated by that kind of thing because people often think, How would I behave in that kind of situation? It’s kind of a self-reflective question.
“Bring it all on,” he continued. “I’ll take each question as it comes and deal with it in an appropriate manner.”
While rich heirs and heiresses stumbling out of clubs in various states of inebriation and preening for paparazzi lenses on red carpets may be a turn off to a recession-struggling America, Purefoy believes people can latch onto Teddy because he’s not just about the vices.
“He likes a drink, he’s a bit of a womanizer, he’s a party boy, but on the other hand, that is balanced by the kind of thing that he actually does which is often going into countries [to help people],” Purefoy explained. “It’s not about changing entire nations. It’s about what we call baby steps. It’s about sewing the seed for change in places. It’s about helping… Maybe if you can’t help a whole country, maybe you can help just one person and that makes him feel better.”
And making the series, which is in part inspired by a real life billionaire, has made Purefoy himself feel better as well.
“Frankly, if we only did one season… and I’d died, I’d feel happy that I’d done [it] because this is… intelligent, it’s dealing with problems in the world,” he said. “When has there ever been a series on American television that looked way beyond the borders of the United States? It’s about looking at countries and not just countries as a backdrop, but problems specific to that country. So it’s really, really interesting.”
“The Philanthropist” premieres on NBC Wednesday night at 10 PM following “America’s Got Talent.”
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