Manhunt : Interview with Actors Tobias Menzies and Anthony Boyles 

Manhunt : Interview with Actors Tobias Menzies and Anthony Boyles 

Photo by Courtesy of AppleTV+ – © AppleTV+ 2024

Synopsis : Part historical fiction, part conspiracy thriller, this series delves into the first presidential assassination in the United States and the fight to preserve and protect the ideals that were the foundation of Lincoln’s Reconstruction plans.

Executive Producers : Monica Beletsky, Carl Franklin, Michael Rotenberg, Richard Abate, Frank Smith, Naia Cucukov, Layne P. Eskridge, James Swanson

Network : Apple TV+

Rating : TV-MA

Genre : History, Drama, Mystery & Thriller, Crime

Original : English

Release Date : Mar 15, 2024


©Courtesy of AppleTV+

Interview with Actors Tobias Menzies and Anthony Boyles 


Q : How much did you know about Edwin Stanton before you took on the role? And what did you find interesting about playing him?

Tobias Menzies: I didn’t know a lot about him, it’s not a period of history I know a huge amount about. I instantly found him amazing, an impressive political figure from that part of American history. I learned how much he had this sort of huge energy and great achievement, but also a sort of quite tragic family story, he had lost children. It was interesting reading about his protocol and that period of history that was also kind of universal.

There’d been so much loss through the civil war and through, infant mortality was very high then. And so I tried to understand Stanton both domestically and politically. Little by little he became a pretty rich character to fill. I hope that through Manhunt people will have a few bits of information about what a lot of this story I was not aware of. I knew that Lincoln was killed in a theater, but that’s probably all I knew.

And there’s obviously so much more to the story. The fact that he was killed a few days after the end of the civil war, so all that he had done was put into question, like the loss of reparation and reconstruction. It’s an amazingly pivotal moment in the story of the formation of the United States as a young country.  It is very, very live materials to sort of draw out through the structure of this true-crime thriller.

Q : Did you have any second thoughts about accepting the role of John Wilkes Booth?

Anthony Boyle: I just didn’t want to mess up with the part because I am not American. You want to do it justice to the character, whoever he is Um, Was there any nervousness because of his actions, because he was a bad guy? No, I didn’t feel nervous playing him, someone who was so wrong. I actually really enjoyed it. I just played someone who was motivated by love and was a good person for like a year when I shot Masters of the Air so the opportunity to then jump straight into someone who was evil was something that I looked forward to.

Q : How did you work in order to find the right angle to portrait your characters?

Tobias Menzies: I started with the accent, which is a boring approach to your question. I had a coach who recorded all the sounds I had to make, and he made sure that I would do the sounds in the right sequence. Anytime I would sound too modern he would correct my voice because talking in that period was slightly different. I don’t often play historical characters even if they’re interesting people that can bring interesting roles. There is some complexity in Stanton, he’s not necessarily the most agreeable of human beings, but he’s obviously a very moral man.

He was built with incredible political energy and integrity. When he first met Lincoln didn’t like him, he thought he was some sort of country hick. But then they developed a very interesting relationship, they ended up being very close friends and political allies. It was Stanton then who asked to join, later on during the civil war.

He ran the war department, made a huge number of changes and was a big part of why they were able to deliver that victory.Stanton was the heart of winning the war for the Union. But then this tragedy happens and he’s thrown into this double role of both trying to hold the Country together and mourn his friend. And of course rescue the political project that they’d both been trying to achieve. Playing him has been a melding of those things that are exposed in the show.

Anthony Boyle: There were tons of sources I could use to build the character. I had a lot of letters John Wilkes Booth wrote between 12 to 26. I went to Savannah weeks before the starting of the shooting and I started riding horses, drinking whiskey, and chewing tobacco. Just trying to physically feel like going back in the past, and then I went back to my hotel room and read Shakespeare, this sort of mental place. I read a lot of tragedies about characters who were hungry for power. Yes, I started putting on all these little different things, placing in order the details.

So John Wilkes Booth showed himself to me little by little. I was surprised to learn he was an actor. I didn’t know that, I just thought he was a Confederate assassin.  He came from an acting dynasty. It really opened up the road for me and really opened up the story.

manhunt 1

Photo by Courtesy of AppleTV+ – © AppleTV+ 2024

Q : Even if it’s a period thriller, Manhunt addresses so many issues about contemporary America. How did you work in order to achieve this?

Tobias Menzies: I think that was a big part of why Apple+ was interested in making it. I certainly was. And of course Monica Beletsky, our showrunner. It can be truly helpful sometimes to look back at history and find lessons for the present time. It is clear in the story that we tell that there was a deep fragility in this fledgling Country and its democracy, which was really thrown into huge jeopardy.

Through the killing of Lincoln everything could have been very different. I guess that’s what may also be true now: there is a very Important election in the US coming up in November. I guess it’s as true then as it is now that democracy needs to be defended. Stanton understood that, it feels certainly very relevant and modern, relevant to our time.

Anthony Boyle: This series works like this sort of locomotive thriller. It’s telling a story that I think most people in America have forgotten, if they ever knew it. The parallels speak for themselves, and it’s deeply unfortunate that Manhunt is so timely. It’s unfortunate that these sort of racist ideologies that Booth embraced are still radicated in certain sections in American society.  Just when we were filming there have been several shootings. There were horrific things going on. As I said we shot in Savannah, where there were protests to pull the Confederate statues.  So it definitely feels unfortunate, very current.

Q : What was the biggest challenge in playing Edwin Stanton?

Tobias Menzies: The same challenge with all these period stories, trying to get  inside a set of ideas belonging to a different world. The spine of the story was a mixture of character and the history. We needed to develop the right storytelling. because it’s not a documentary. Manhunt has hearts of bits and pieces of different genres, even if in the core is a true-crime thriller.  So you’re trying to honor those two things, achieving the idea you are reaching back into a very different world from our own A moment in American history where they’d gone through great suffering. Imagine yourself into some of that chaos was also an opportunity, that’s where the interesting fun stuff is really.

Q : How is it important to keep producing this kind of show that talks about history?

Anthony Boyle: If they’re done well, extremely important. It’s a very high bar. Storytellers should set for themselves too, draw their audience and give them compelling reasons for tuning in week to week. Having substance behind it, something that does resonate with contemporary young people and just the contemporary moment. That has to be a founding principle for, for telling a story and telling it well.

Tobias Menzies: Very important. That’s certainly what we are trying to do, bring this story to a whole new audience. We had to choose what to highlight and what to focus on, so we picked Stanton as the person at the heart of it, the guy to lead us through.  The structure of the true-crime thriller hopefully. will make it compelling to watch, without reducing the political complexities. The killing of Lincoln meant a great loss in the African-American history. It took another hundred years for those rights to be given in the 1960s. That was a very long time.

 Check out more of Adriano’s articles.

 Here’s the trailer of the film. 

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