08/05/2017 09:32 BST

EXCLUSIVE: 'Jamestown' Star Max Beesley Defends Rape Scene In Very First Episode

'It's Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones.'

‘Jamestown’ crashed onto our screens last week, with a rape scene in the very first episode, but actor Max Beesley, whose on-screen character is responsible, explains that the incidents in the period drama are justified by their context.

He tells HuffPostUK:

“The rape in the first episode is quite awful, rape’s not a good intro, but it’s a heavy storyline. It’s a town of violence and testosterone. There’s not much joviality. Everything on the page is justified, there’s no shock value in the writing.” 

Alice (Sophie Rundle) is the unwitting object of Henry's attentions after their first meeting when the ladies arrive in Jamestown

‘Jamestown’ follows Verity, Alice and Jocelyn, just three of a flock of English women sent out to provide wives for the men pioneers of the New World. If they become feisty, cunning and manipulative, it’s because they’re faced with a society where they are mere chattels.

“In 1619, when we find them, that was the way it was,” reflects Max. “These women travelled out thinking it was going to be a place of freedom, and instead they were faced with adversity, and a male-dominated country, where they were only allowed to talk when it was deemed appropriate.”

'Henry is a ghost-like figure,' explains actor Max Beesley

Meanwhile, Max’s character Henry, clearly not the most sympathetic of men to their plight, has his own demons:

“Henry has lost all sense of anything, he’s a soulless, ghostlike being, trudging through life. He had been trying to look after his brothers, then one starved, the other was murdered, and he became animal-like. Then his wife arrives, and it’s a different dynamic for him. He becomes almost beast-like.”

‘Jamestown’ is the latest drama from the production company who created ‘Downton Abbey’, and Max describes it as a cross between that mega-hit and ‘Game of Thrones’.

“It’s like a Jacobean Western, if you can picture such a thing,” he tells us. “It’s more than a costume drama, these are very people facing adversity, living in much more difficult circumstances than the ones we live in. Starvation was horrendous at the time – around 80% of people died. Everyone was really up against it. It was about survival.

“And it’s beautifully shot.”

Max’s bosses at Sky evidently agree, commissioning a second series even before the first one had gone to air. This doesn’t upset Max at all, who, despite a successful film career, says he’s with the show for keeps.

“The climate has changed. Years ago, actors would always think the grass is greener somewhere else, but at my age (46), life is about being a good dad and doing good work if you can find it, and this is great work.”

‘Jamestown’ is on Sky1 and NowTV. 


Photo gallery Top 10 Favourite TV Drama Moments See Gallery