Copper Q&A: Kevin Ryan Talks Francis Maguire’s Dark Side, Breakdancing On Set

“Copper’s” Francis Maguire spent most of Season 1 of the BBC America series as a hard working detective in New York City’s Five Points, but he had some dark secrets and a dark side that took over as the show wrapped up its first run.

And it’s this dark side that continues to be explored by actor Kevin Ryan, who plays the detective-turned-gangster in Season 2. He has killed in jail, he has killed on the street, and he’s also now in cahoots with crime boss James O’Rourke.

Those things will no doubt cause more trouble for the best friend he betrayed – Tom Weston-Jones’ Detective Kevin Corcoran – as Season 2 continues.

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In a new interview, Irish actor Kevin tells about the conflicts on the way, his suave new Season 2 look, and the one Maguire scene this season that fans won’t want to miss. You’ve gotten to change up your look this season and look a little more business-like. How fun was it to go a bit more suave looking on the show?

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Kevin Ryan: That’s a very polite way of saying Maguire goes gangster. … Because he hurt so many people emotionally, and what he went through, and friendships, relationships went out the window, I wanted to sort of change him internally, with his approach to life at this point. The exterior, I think, just comes with that sort of change as well. I think when anyone goes through any traumatic experience in their life — whether they dye their hair or go shopping or whatever they do, generally, they’ll change a part of themselves. And aesthetically, that was something that we did with Maguire. All the parts that we love to hate and love about Maguire are still there.

Access: Francis Maguire unraveled at the end of Season 1, and at the beginning of Season 2 we saw him looking almost like a cave man in jail.

Kevin: I know! It was a crazy – I mean, it’s very rare that you get to play a role like Maguire as an actor. He just goes through so much. It was interesting because when we shot that in Episode 1, because Maguire was in jail for two and a half months, I actually dropped 26 pounds to do the jail scenes. … It was challenging in that sense, especially because we’re shooting TV, so I had to do it very quickly and then put it back on.

Access: How did you do it?

Kevin: I trained for probably four months prior to doing Season 2 and I trained heavily and [as] I was approaching that scene, then I did more sort of cardio based workouts and lighter weights to just burn fat, so you maintain muscle. But it was just to get a very, very lean look. These guys weren’t well-fed by any means in jail back then in the tombs and I just wanted to bring reality as true as I could to it. I went on a very clean diet where I dropped all salts, sodium, and it was just basically like pure chicken and greens and water. … That was it. It wasn’t a lot of fun, but I was happy with the results and I think we got to the place that we needed to.

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Access: How important to Maguire is Corky at this point because that was clearly one of the most important relationships in his life and it disintegrated. … Is he still in pain over losing this relationship?

Kevin: Oh, absolutely. Corky was everything to Maguire. They’re beyond best friends and they had that sort of brotherly connection in a sense, and it’s very challenging on Tom Weston’s part as well because we wanted to get those relationships correct on both sides. [Maguire] absolutely struggles with it and… you’ll see that… constant struggle between the two of them. It’s a very lingering thing that we won’t sort of just pass over [with] a ‘shake your hands’ and, ‘I’m sorry.’ It’s very much beyond that.

Access: Do you have more fight scenes coming up – this old school-style fighting?

Kevin: We have a lot punches being thrown, we have a lot of weapons being used, we have a lot of guns, a lot of shoot outs. The show this year is filled with sort of drugs, sex, violence. It’s quite a journey that we all go on. Maguire – yeah, you’ll definitely see some interesting kind of hands on approaches to whether it’s getting information or trying to [engage in] a bit of extortion in certain places. I have to say, Maguire does come up with very interesting ways of getting information. … I was freaking out when I read them because the writers are genius and we’d bounce ideas off each other for whether it’s how to murder someone or how to get information out of somebody. It’s one of the only jobs in the world where you can actually freely think of how to kill someone (laughs) and get away with it.

Access: How bad can Maguire get this season?

Kevin: I would never ever play a character saying he’s a bad guy… But, you are gonna see some very nasty things go on, but then you’re also gonna see things on the right side of the law that Maguire does where it’s very impactful. There’s one particular scene coming up this season, which I just think is absolutely insane and I think the audience is going to flip when they see it.

Access: What does it involve so we’ll know it when we see it?

Kevin: It involves somebody tied to a post, and Maguire’s trying to get information out of them and it’s pretty brutal. It’s pretty brutal.

Access: Some of the cast go out together in Toronto where you film. What’s it like when you walk into an establishment together?

Kevin: I think a lot of people think we’re biker-hippies. It’s a lot of mutton chips and strange beards and hair. It’s quite comical when we go out together.

Access: You are a dancer and can breakdance. Have any of your castmates tried to get you to teach them moves?

Kevin: I think I pulled it out at last year’s wrap party, I think I did a bit of breakdancing, but it’s been a while since I did it. But, it’s a lot of fun. We always just mess around if we’re out at a club or anything like that. Ato [Essandoh, who plays Doctor Matthew Freeman] loves to dance as well.

Access: Who is the best dancer that’s not you?

Kevin: I’m the best dancer (laughs). I’ll tell you, Ato likes to throw it down. Ato has a pop and locking thing going on and loves the hip-hop, whereas Dylan [Taylor, who plays Andrew O’Brien] is like an awesome MC. … We have quire the little hip-hop thing going on, on set, which is fun.

“Copper” airs Sunday nights at 10/9c on BBC America.

-- Jolie Lash

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