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Elizabeth Henstridge, Kunal Nayyar, Tom Rhys Harries Talk Suspicion, Star Wars, And Dune - Exclusive Interview

If you suspect something is different with the new AppleTV+ streaming series "Suspicion," your thoughts will immediately be confirmed. That's because at least two members of the series' ensemble cast — Elizabeth Henstridge and Kunal Nayyar — are playing a genre we're not used to seeing them in, and both of them welcome the departure with open arms.

Henstridge starred for seven seasons on ABC's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," which had the distinction of being the first series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Playing Agent Jemma Simmons, a brilliant biochemist who helped the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division solve cases involving Marvel's world of superheroes and supervillains. Nayyar, meanwhile, spent 12 seasons on CBS' Emmy-nominated comedy smash "The Big Bang Theory" as Raj Koothrappali, an astrophysicist in a group of four socially awkward brainiac friends who befriend a waitress and aspiring actor (Kaley Cuoco) as they struggle to adapt to societal norms.

Together with Tom Rhys Harries (Netflix's "White Lines" and Guy Ritchie's "The Gentlemen"), Henstridge and Nayyar star together in the new AppleTV+ crime thriller mystery "Suspicion." Henstridge, Nayyar and Rhys Harries play Tara McAllister, Aadesh Chopra and Eddie Walker, respectively — three in a group of seemingly ordinary British citizens whose paths converge when they are suspected by U.S. and U.K. authorities of kidnapping the adult son of an American public relations mogul, Kathrine Newman (Uma Thurman), while in New York. With footage that shows them in the same hotel at the time of the abduction, officials desperately try to figure out if they were all in the same place by design or by mere coincidence.

The trio discussed "Suspicion" — which also stars Georgina Campbell and Elyes Gabel as their fellow suspects — as well as their previous hits, and thoughts about other major TV and movie franchises in an exclusive interview with Looper.

Falling under Suspicion

Let's start with you, Tom. You've had the benefit of playing in the crime thriller space before. I'm wondering what you think separates "Suspicion" from other projects in the genre.

Tom Rhys Harries: Social media's a big part of "Suspicion." The events that happen throughout this eight-episode series, it [happens] over the course of the week, so it all moves [quickly]. Then, you have the interesting aspect of the UK and America and how different authorities deal with things differently and a culture clash going on there.

Elizabeth Henstridge: We get to see London and New York — they're such huge characters in the show. For us, we were really there filming. It wasn't a cheat for London or New York, so that's really fun. It's a great, fast-paced thriller. There's a reason that people love them because they're so fun to watch. It deals with a lot of big issues, but it's also edge-of-your-seat watching.

Tom has done his share of thrillers before, but I'm wondering for you, Kunal and Elizabeth, was it a conscious decision to go with this genre because you spent many a year in the comedy genre and you spent many a year in the fantasy, sci-fi genre? Was it a conscious decision or was it just all happenstance?

Kunal Nayyar: Speaking for myself, it was a combination of factors. One of them, yes, was to do something in a different genre not only to diversify my portfolio, but also to challenge myself to see if I can live in this world as well as a different character because I've been known for one thing for so long. That, coupled with getting an opportunity to work with ["The Americans" director] Chris Long, getting an opportunity to work with Apple TV+, it was really a combination of factors — and of course then, finally getting to meet an incredible cast. It was a combination of factors for me.

What about you Elizabeth? Did you want to just try to, again, just get away from what you did previously and try something different?

Henstridge: I think it's always lovely to challenge yourself in new ways. I loved "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and I love the world of sci-fi and superheroes. Honestly, as an actor, the job wasn't that much different. I love being involved in action scenes and seeing how all that shot. In some ways, to me, it felt similar in terms of what my job was and what that entailed, but yeah, as soon as I read the script, I was in.

Mutual career admiration turned to friendship

All of your characters' stories start separately, but eventually, your paths converge. I'm wondering if there were any geek-out moments once you filmed together. Kunal mentioned that one role that he played for many years, and what a terrific role that was, obviously on "The Big Bang Theory." Elizabeth and Tom, did you have that geek out moment where you said, "Come on, tell us a little bit more about Raj"?

Henstridge: Oh, my gosh, of course. I'm crazy to first meet if I've seen you in anything. [It was that way] with both of them. [With Tom] I was like, "Tell me everything about 'White Lines.' Where did you shoot it? What do you think was happening?" 

Nayyar: Elizabeth is incredible because she literally will watch the short story you shot 12 years ago and then write you a letter about it ... She really is a genuinely incredible human being.

Henstridge: Yeah, but it's good though.

Nayyar: Yeah. We—

Henstridge: You didn't tell me you did a short film!

Nayyar: I'm just saying. Well, I'll send you [it]. ... We definitely had those moments between us that we were fans of each other, but I think what came out of all of that was that we also became dear friends. We were shooting [when] it was a very difficult time for a lot of people. We were shooting at a time where we were away from our families. We were humbled and thankful to be working together and all we had was each other, so we're very lucky that we got along.

Life in public eye

A question for all of you. "Suspicion" really emphasizes how CCTV has proliferated all of our lives. Everywhere we go, everything we do, it seems there's a camera on us. Having done this series, living it essentially, does it make you look at things in a different light now? Since you are familiar faces in the public eye, does it make you a little more paranoid, perhaps, knowing that you're always being watched?

Nayyar: I think it's a double-edged sword, right? It's not so black and white. These are the questions that the show actually presents, not necessarily with the conclusion so much, but really, that's the question that it's asking. For me personally, it's a double-edged sword. Sometimes I [wonder] whether there's all these cameras so they can protect me if harm is coming in my way, but then you think the other side of it is ,there's all these cameras, so what's the balance between protecting your privacy, [and] also feeling protected if harm is coming your way.

Rhys Harries: As Kunal said, these are all questions that this show has touched upon and in a very interesting way.

Elizabeth, what's your take on this? Are you a little bit more conscious now of everything that's going on around you knowing that you're being watched?

Henstridge: Not really. Maybe I should be. When we were filming it, you are so in the mind of your character and then, it's interesting, the questions we get asked afterwards of what people pick up on. Yeah, I agree with Kunal. There's always a balance and I think how much we share, too, of personal lives and things like that, that I'm quite careful about. The show's interesting for that reason because it shows both sides. There's good and bad in it as with a lot of things, but no, I don't really live my life thinking too much about that. You know when you binge a show that's like "Suspicion," and then for the next couple of hours, you walk around feeling like you're in that world? I'll probably do that.

Mysteries on their minds

I never tire of the crime thriller and mystery genre and I think "Suspicion" is a great reason why. What a terrific series. It's so intense, thought-provoking, and just the way it's done. It's expertly shot, written — everything. Do each of you have a particular favorite in the genre that made you want to get involved in this particular project?

Nayyar: It would be difficult for me to say there was one. If I really go back and rack my brain, I'd say "The Wire," for me, was probably the precipice of thinking about being in a genre like this. To now be part of something not similar, but in the same realm, it's really a dream.

Henstridge: Yeah. I would say "Homeland." I loved it when it was on and that was a huge attraction for me with this project. It's made by Keshet, that was behind "Homeland." [They] made "False Flag," which "Suspicion" is based on. That is the Israeli series. There's so many brilliant ones, aren't they? They really take you back when you watch them.

Tom, what about you?

Rhys Harries: I don't know whether I'm actually drawn to any genre in particular. It's also often informed by what's happened just before.

Henstridge: Yeah, like in the world.

Rhys Harries: In the world, but also with your personal work, right?

Henstridge: Yeah.

Rhys Harries: I remember one weekend I spent when I was in my early 20s with my then-girlfriend, where we were binge-watching a lot of Hitchcock films and that was such a good weekend. We had "Rear Window" and "The Birds." There's a timelessness about the genre of thriller because it's more interactive, isn't it, than observing these characters in a box. You are brought along on the ride and asked to figure it out as [you] go.

A trip to Tatooine ... or Arrakis?

Elizabeth, I want to take you out of the genre now. Your fellow Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Ming-Na Wen, is so terrific and a big part of the "Star Wars" universe now with "The Book of Boba Fett." Do you have any desire to follow Ming-Na into the "Star Wars" realm?

Henstridge: Oh, my gosh, yeah. Who wouldn't? We also have another alum, Simon Kassianides, who was from "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and is also now in the "Star Wars" universe [as Axe Woves in "The Mandalorian" Season 2]. I love sci-fi and what it can say. The realms of possibilities in that genre are amazing. Of course. I'd be a little robot somewhere in the background. I should speak to Ming. I believe she should invite me to come and do background. But yes, of course, following in Ming's footsteps would be a massive honor and achievement. So yeah, I'm always down for that.

Tom and Kunal, of course, Elizabeth came from the Marvel Universe with "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Are there any hopes for either of you to join a Marvel film or television project — or it could be DC or it could be "Star Wars"?

Rhys Harries: Hey, listen, if the material's strong and it's something that I think is interesting, then it doesn't really matter what universe, so to speak, that it's inhabiting. The scope of those things are pretty cool like those sets. I'm a big fan of sci-fi when it's done well and the social commentary that you can do subversively with that stuff. I love the last "Dune." Any opportunity I have to pitch to Denis Villeneuve to be — I don't know, I'll be someone in the background of "Dune II."

What about you, Kunal? Any desire for DC, Marvel, "Star Wars" — anything like that?

Nayyar: Look, I'm a huge "Star Wars" fan. My dog is called Boba Fett. I'd never say no. Similar to what Tom said, if the material works and it's something that's thought-provoking and something that's enjoyable, I'd never say no. Sometimes, it's hard to be in things that you're a fan of. As an actor, you [need to] have an intention, a real focus to not become the fan of the thing that you're in so you can actually play the truth of the moment. It would be interesting. I'm never going to say no, but there are other factors involved.

"Suspicion" debuts on Apple TV+ Friday, February 4 with two episodes, followed by a new episode each Friday for the next six weeks.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.