Toby Kebbell and Rupert Grint Developed a Bromance on "Servant"

True chemistry can't be faked. It's entirely evident that Toby Kebbell and Rupert Grint have precisely that when they sit down together to discuss their work on the new Apple TV+ series "Servant". After I tell Toby Kebbell that I said during the show's New York Comic Con panel that he is the most underrated actor in Hollywood, he expresses appreciation that the cast and crew on stage seemed to agree with the sentiment. Grint then jokes, "I was drinking a lot of wine, though." I joke back that I had assumed all the wine he was drinking on the stage was merely him being a method actor since his "Servant" character Julian Pearce drinks a significant amount of wine on the show as well. Kebbell doesn't miss a beat, responding in his best deadpan, "No, he's just a raging alcoholic."

Despite the heavy tone of this Apple TV+ series, Kebbell and Grint have developed an easy rapport with one another that translates incredibly well on screen. There are plenty of shared scenes between the two as Julian is Sean Turner's brother-in-law. Sean and Dorothy Turner lost a baby, though the exact circumstances are not revealed when the characters are introduced. Sean frequently confides in Julian about Dorothy's struggles to know what's real and what isn't, following this loss. They have used a new age therapy method where Dorothy treats a lifelike doll as a baby. The problem lies in the fact that Dorothy fails to understand that the doll isn't really her baby.

Sean is a renowned chef and his relationship with food and the various dishes that he prepares poses a strong presence in the story. With all the close-up shots on Kebbell's hands and forearms, it's impossible to miss the striking tattoos. He removes his coat to show that some of them are real and on the front side, but the ones on his inner forearms were added for the series by an artist called Mr. K.

Kebbell is coy when talking about the challenges he faced with different type of food preparations, though he surprisingly notes that doing spun sugar was easy. He is also full of praise for his colleagues.

"Working with Rupert was the hardest," jokes Kebbell. "We had the best time, honestly. He was my favourite person to work with. I've been sitting with Lauren and Lauren is obviously tremendous, but she's a phenomenal actress and I was like, 'Oh I'm gonna compete all the time, she's too good!' But with Rupert..." he pauses to laugh with Grint, who takes the joke in good stride. "No, we had a great time. It was so good."

Julian isn't a character who exists solely to be comedic relief or break up the tension, though he does offer a bit of both in the midst of all the serious dramatic content.

"He has a very different energy that comes into the house," says Grint. "He's very brash. He comes from the financial district so he thinks money can solve a lot of problems and he's developed all these different methods of manipulating people. He's one of these guys that always is like two steps ahead and knows what to do. He always has a plan. He's your only confidante in this," Grint says while looking to Kebbell.
"He is and he understands the situation I'm going through but is a real person, you know what I mean? That's how ludicrous it is that this financial, kind of brash dude is the real person in the whole thing whereas everything else is depicted as 'the crazy people.' [Julian] absolutely is the [confidante] and like... imagine having that as your brother-in-law for real. It'd be so good. He plays it fantastically. Brilliant character."

Kebbell struggles to narrow down any one particular moment between Sean and Julian as his favourite comedic moment. "I enjoyed Rupert's company so much that I was laughing all the time just as a human being and just hanging out. Scenes wise, it's been overthrown by how much joy we had."
"Yeah, we had a lot of clandestine conversations in the basement."
"I enjoyed our stuff in the basement!"
"Yeah, the basement, the wine cellar."
"That was the best stuff. I think that, because it was all one shot as well so we were allowed to just run it through. It was a lot of single shots so it was a lot like doing a play. It had that feeling and it just allowed us then to breathe out and be kind of greedy with our time."
"A lot of scenes as well with like, FaceTime, where I'm being kind of... we actually did that for real, didn't we?"
"Yeah, we did."
"I actually called you from a green room."
"He was off!" laughs Kebbell. "They called him in, poor dude, on his day off. He was like... 'Alright.' Yeah, it's hard work."

One of the more peculiar dishes that is presented on the show is a lobster ice cream, which Sean prepares and attempts to make work palatable for those unaccustomed to eccentric cuisine. Kebbell says he did try it.

"Was that what I had?" enquires Grint.
"No, we made you strawberry. What we did was, me and Drew DiTomo who is a phenomenal cook and was my partner-in-crime when it came to all of that, we would always take Tony's recipe which by the way was never a recipe. It was just like, 'They were eating this,' and it's like, 'How do we make that?' We would spend all of this time trying to figure out exactly what could go into it and then, Nell's a vegan. We'd have to figure out how to make everything a vegan version. What [Rupert] ate was actually delicious, vegan, strawberry ice cream made with oat milk. Drew's phenomenal. His Mrs. is an incredible pastry chef so whenever he was stuck he would just ask. We had such a good time figuring it all out but yeah, we made a lobster ice cream and it's like eating a dead guy. It's horrific. It's truly horrific. There is no purpose to it so don't make it at home. We made it and it's pungent. We made real haggis and everyone complained. 'It stinks in here!' Not disrespecting haggis but if you do it in a confined space it's a lot of odour to try and get rid of, so we just ended up making huge sausage with oat involved in it to try and give it that feel."

Kebbell has his fair share of gross things to do for the show, whether it's cooking or sampling unsavoury dishes or cleaning up pretend vomit. "The vomit was particularly awful because it was freezing cold in Philly and for some reason I had to be wearing espadrilles and shorts. I was like, 'Why am I in these summer clothes?' But that's acting, they say. You've got to pretend that it's hot when it's cold! Our life is so hard," he jokes before continuing, "It was oatmeal with a little egg in it or something to give it more strands or strings. It doesn't matter what the actual product is. It's the mammalian reflex of reaching into a gooey mass with tissue where your finger goes through it so yeah, it's not really gross is it? It was all easy... but it was pretty gross."

Julian has some of the most memorable one-liners of the show, with some being so strikingly funny that you can't help but burst out laughing when hearing them for the first time. I ask Grint whether this comedic delivery was something he tried to bring to the character or if it was more so the result of following the script.

"Yeah, he does have a way with words, Julian. I think it's the script. It's all credit to Tony. It was such a clear voice that that character had that it was very easy to jump into his skin and yeah, there's some good lines."
"His timing's brilliant, though, which is the performance part of it," adds Kebbell. "It's hard because we'll do fifteen takes because as I said, it's a continuous shot, but his timing is spot on so it's hard not to crack up. Every day he would have lines and he's just looking at me, I'm like, 'Don't do it. Don't look at me like that.'"
"Yeah, we did struggle with eye contact a little bit, didn't we?"
"A lot, dude, yeah! But it's good! That's the joy, because it's a stressful story to tell. It's a heavy story."

There's still a lot left to explore within the Turner/Pearce family dynamic moving into season two. The first meeting of Sean and Dorothy was never showed or explained and a lot of their familial relationships and character origins were omitted.

"Those are things we talked about," says Kebbell, "even things like who our parents or my parents are. Are my parents alive? [Are] there siblings? There's a lot of scope. I think what's incredible about that house is, I actually love being there. I know when you watch it, it starts to feel claustrophobic. Lauren would always say she wanted to get out of the house but I think that's how tremendous of an actress she is that you realise, obviously as you've seen it all, why she wants to get out of the house and hopefully you realise why Sean wants to stay in that house. For me, we're telling our own stories. For me, I love to be there. I want to be there. I want to make that house a home again. That's what's so nice about Julian coming over. It's the authenticity of it actually being, entertaining a guest and a guest who brings a bottle of wine and has some spurious story about why he's there. He's there when you're fixing something. It's that kinship you hope to get with a brother-in-law, that you hope to get with a brother. That's what we worked on, is like, 'Who is the family?'"

Grint says the experience of playing an American character is enjoyable. "The accent is something I've not done before. It's a funny one. There's a few words that do kind of trip you up. 'Aunt' springs to mind. I couldn't make up my mind how to say that."
"Because you guys say it two different ways, and it depends where you're from. Me, I have to stay in it and [Rupert] has this beautiful ability to go out. You try to stay [in it], 'Do I need to call you your character's name?' and he goes, 'No no, just Rupert.' I have to stay in it."
"I did try that. I tried."
"We tried that."
"Do you remember how awkward it was," says Kebbell to Grint, "We had another actor come in who plays the detective, the P.I. We were sitting and he was like, 'Where you from?' I was like, 'Newark', just because I'd been chatting with Rupert and I was just in my thing and I had my accent. I was like, 'Newark'. He was like, 'Oh yeah, I hear it in your accent,' but I had my American accent, but I'm actually from Newark in England. He was like, 'Whereabouts?' I was like, 'Boundary Road'. He was like, 'Oh yeah yeah, I know it.' I was like, 'This is such a fluke.' I'm giving all the right answers to a lie. I'd make a great spy. It is a struggle for us. It's a struggle. Some words are like... [unintelligible noises]. Your tongue gets three times the size, you're like, 'I can't get that word out,' especially cause he's an English writer."
"There were some words I had to be like, 'I can't say that. It's too English.' I'm not saying you're not erudite as a people. I just can't be English pretending to be American and say this super English word."
"I just did Drew DiTomo, who's from Philly. I was like, 'I'm Drew. That's it!' Talked with him the whole time."

The show also posed a unique challenge of alternating between shooting with the ultra realistic baby dolls and an actual baby. Kebbell shares about the eerie qualities of the doll. "It's a tricky thing because this baby has an anatomical correctness. It moves kind of real but no one hands it to you like it's a real baby. You know everyone hands you a baby like this and there's all this shuffling and you half hug each other and accept. People just hand you [the doll] like that and you're like 'Oooo...' and it's ice cold cause we're in Philly. The real baby's actually a blessing cause it comes in with it's mum and comes in with a nanny and it comes in with all these other people and there's the smell of a baby in the air and you're like, 'Ah, there's life.'"
"I actually have one of these dolls."
"Doesn't it have horns or something?"
"It's got fangs, yes, it's a vampire version. Yeah, it's the weirdest thing cause you wanna look after it cause [of] the weight and everything, the head, you want to support the head."
"It feels exactly right so you want to be tender, even with fangs."

The first three episodes of "Servant" will premiere on Apple TV+ November 28.

Watch our extended interview with Toby Kebbell and Rupert Grint here:


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