Felix Scott Interview: The Fantastic Mr. Nash
In his first MASTERPIECE interview, Felix Scott, the actor behind the charming, scheming Patrick Nash, discussed his eyebrow-raising character, and Nash’s evolution from Eliza’s pesky competitor in Season 2 to someone who may not be quite as ruthless in Season 3 (if Nash is telling the truth, that is). Read the full interview for an insightful deep dive into who Patrick Nash really is, how he truly feels about Eliza Scarlet, plus get the inside scoop on Felix Scott himself, including which Nash costume piece he’d love to take home, his favorite fictional sleuth (outside of Miss Scarlet and The Duke, of course), and more! [Contains Season 3, Episode 3 spoilers.]
What was it like filming Seasons 2 and 3 back to back?
I was fortunate enough to get cast in Season 2 and 3. As soon as I read the script and saw [Nash’s] character, I felt affiliation because obviously there’s a Celtic background to my family. But he came off the page so clearly and it was immediate… The scripts were great. It’s been a really wonderful experience, both 2 and 3, to be part of that. We were just really fortunate to hit the ground running.
I’d also worked with Kate Phillips, the amazing Kate Phillips, about 10 years ago [on Wolf Hall]. So I knew her a little bit. To be back on set with her was amazing.
We learn a little bit more about Nash’s history this season when he reveals the truth about his family, but mostly about his brother, in Episode 3. What makes him decide to be honest with Eliza about his past to have that vulnerable moment?
In Season 2, he’s quite unlikable at first because he’s so charming, but he’s slippery, quite abrasive, and sinister, and is prepared to get results in any which way he can. He’s really intrigued by Eliza and what she can do. He slowly starts to realize what an amazing detective she is really and spends most of his time trying to enlist her.
I think he learns to trust her. I think they both learn to trust each other and they both recognize similarities within one another. I would describe Nash as a Victorian feminist, which might sound quite ridiculous, but he believes in her and believes in her skills. It doesn’t matter that she is a woman in a very, a very strong man’s world. She can hold her own. She’s brighter than anyone else, frankly. She’s brilliant at her job. And he recognizes those fantastic qualities in her.
Because of that and because of wanting to be on her side, instead of using the nefarious means of trying to get to her or use her, he realizes that the best way is to be truthful with her and to reveal part of himself. I think she brings out in him parts of his personality that he has buried or that he’s tried to keep quiet… I often talk with Rachael [New] about how…it’s a fractious relationship, but it’s also a fun one as well. He likes her, but at the end of the day, they drive each other up the wall. But they like each other. And I think that’s what you’re going to see through Season 3 is a thawing of their relationship.
How would you say that his past, especially what happened to his brother, has shaped who he is now?
I was looking into the Irish coming over to England and how they were treated as aliens, others, animals. It’s just horrible. I think if you were trying to survive in Victorian London at that time, you definitely had to be tough and you had to be prepared to survive in any way you can. And sometimes that was criminal…[Nash] is prepared to use criminal means to be as successful as he possibly can within his line of work, which is the private detective agency, which is what he and his brother set up.
He talks about his brother being the kind of brains of the organization and himself being the front man. I think they made a great couple together, and their relationship and what happened with the two of them shapes him for the future as well. So he became harder, a lot harder. He’s not afraid to do bad things to get the right results. But there is a vulnerability to him, as well. He tries to hide it. And, coming back to Eliza, I think she brings out the vulnerability in him and I think that’s a surprise to him.
It seems that Eliza is his closest friend, even though they have that back and forth.
I’d agree. I don’t think he has many friends at all. I think he has colleagues, but I think he’s really intrigued by Eliza and how brilliant she is. I don’t think he’s ever met anyone like her. I mean, she is an incredible character. She’s Eliza Scarlet. She’s a survivor like him. And him recognizing in her those same traits really draws him towards her…They’re like an old married couple, really.
How would you describe Nash’s feelings towards Eliza? Does he see her as a competitor, a friend, maybe something more?
I’d say all of the above. I think when we meet Nash, he definitely sees her as a competitor. He views her as someone to beat, someone who is so good that he wants her on his team, but he also wants to show her that he’s the best. Now, what transpires inevitably is that he realizes that she’s a much better private detective than he is, and that’s a surprise to him. But it’s also an opportunity, because he’s an opportunist. Eliza is funny, strong, attractive, intelligent, and anybody would be mad not to be drawn towards that. So all of those things pull Nash towards her. It’s all of the above. Now, whether there will be any romantic liaisons with them in the future, who knows? I don’t know. But, for the moment, their business relationship is a tempestuous one, but one that is really interesting to see develop.
Will he ever stop asking Eliza to work for him?
I think he’ll always be on it. I think she is too good a detective not to want her on his team. When does she ever fail? She doesn’t fail. She’s magnificent at her job. She may win, she may lose some battles, but she always tends to win the war. She’s so good at what she does that I think his pursuit of her will be relentless. He’s a relentless man. He will do whatever it takes to win. He will do whatever it takes to succeed in whatever job that he has given. And his job is to be a private detective. If that means enrolling, enlisting her, then that’s what he’ll do. He wants what he wants, as does she. So you have, you know, an irresistible force and an unmovable object hitting head on.
Nash has quite the fashionable wardrobe. If you could take one prop or accessory or costume, what would you take?
I’d take them all! I cannot tell you the incredible amount of work that goes into my costumes. They’re all handmade. The costume department, all of them, the seamstress, the designer, they are all absolutely at the top of their game. Before I started doing this job, I loved Gangs of New York with [Martin] Scorsese, obviously. All of the costumes within that, particularly Bill the Butcher and what Daniel Day Lewis wore… I’d had an idea that that’s kind of what I’d like Nash to wear. The [Season 2] head of costume, Momirka Bailovic, she’d had the same thought as well. So she presented me with this version of these Victorian, very beautiful, grand three piece suits, buttons up, walking cane, capes, the lot. I was absolutely over the moon that she’d had the same kind of ideas. If I could take anything back, I’d just take all those three piece suits. Who doesn’t love a three piece suit? They’re all beautifully done.
You’ve worked on a number of other MASTERPIECE Mystery! series. You were on Grantchester for a lot of Season 5, you were on an episode of Endeavour. So, we have Will Davenport, we have Geordie Keating, we have Endeavour Morse. Who do you think is the best of those detectives?
They’re all as good as each other! We’ll go with young Morse, he’s just wonderful. He is. He’s calm, collected, and a very good man at that. Shaun Evans, who plays [Morse], is a really lovely man, as well.
If you could play any other character on Miss Scarlet in the Duke, who would you play?
I mean, obviously it’s got to be Eliza, isn’t it? I think me and her are very alike. I think we have the same kind of hair color, so I think it’s going to be a straight swap, isn’t it? And she has some great outfits.
Do you know what? God, there’s so many good characters in Miss Scarlet and The Duke and we have some amazing, really brilliant guest parts as well… they all bring something original and new. It’s always so much fun to see them bring the character to life. The casting is always absolutely spot on.
So I’m going to be a party poop and say I don’t think there’s anyone else really who I can play. I’m going to stick to Nash because Nash is the one I know best.
Aside from the excellent detectives in Miss Scarlet and The Duke, do you have a favorite fictional sleuth? Whether it’s from books or television or films, any favorite detectives or crime solvers?
That’s a really good question. Who is my favorite detective? There is an amazing detective series called The Singing Detective by Dennis Potter. That was an amazing drama. The main character was played by the brilliant Michael Gambon (Gosford Park, Harry Potter). It’s one of the seminal, most incredible series. It was made in the 1980s. Brilliant. I watched it when I was about 18, and it’s still one of my favorite series to this day. And Dennis Potter is a genius and his sleuth really sticks with me, as a man of charm and charisma and and intelligence.