The Miniaturist's Alex Hassell on Johannes: "He’s polite and charming but not really present"
The Miniaturist BBC One's two-part adaptation of Jessie Burton’s internationally best selling novel
What attracted you to the role of Johannes?
I read the scripts and I thought it would be hugely important to me, as a person and as an actor, to play this part. He is such an interesting character and a deeply brave person, so I wanted to tell his story. Personally I’m very attracted to characters that have a combination of strength and vulnerability; often if I feel I’m not a good enough actor to play a part, I want to do it because it’s a challenge.
Had you read the book before you took on the role of Johannes?
Whats so brilliant about the book and the drama is that it sits so familiarly in the period world that we’re used to but with language, characters and relationships that we can relate to. It’s a household of minorities who are all protecting each other, and it’s them against the world, which is very contemporary.
Tell us about Johannes as a character.
What can you tell us about his relationship with Nella?
But he’s just not around and he doesn’t pay her much attention. He’s polite and charming but not really present or seemingly attracted to her, which will hopefully intrigue audiences.
It’s very unusual that Johannes and Marin, his sister, are both not married in their mid-30s and that they are living together, so it makes them immediately a controversial household and there are rumours about them. They need to protect their business and wellbeing so Marin persuades Johannes that he should have a wife, which would solve the problem.
Johannes doesn’t know what to do with Nella. He feels he’s conned this lovely young woman into marriage and so he gives her the cabinet to play with, almost as if it’s a toy, and to divert her attention from him. But it becomes a metaphor for how everyone in the house is a toy being manoeuvred and the miniatures seem to predict their future.
His relationship with Nella becomes the most important relationship in his life, and it’s a very transformative relationship because she accepts him for everything he is, even the parts that he feels most ashamed of, which allows him to be an open person and fully realise himself.
What was it like working with Anya and Romola?
The Minaturist will be shown on BBC One in late December 2017. Watch the trailer for the book below (not the BBC series):
December 2, 2017 8:04am ET by BBC One