Allen leech

‘Downton' chauffeur Leech stars in ‘Bellevue'

Dubliner Allen Leech said he is intrigued by the new eight-part series “Bellevue,” partly because of Eddie, the complicated character he plays. COURTESY OF WGN AMERICA

By Karen Butler

Irish actor Allen Leech's latest role is a long way away from Tom Branson, the rebellious chauffeur turned Crawley in-law he played for six seasons on the period drama "Downton Abbey."

Created by Jane Maggs and Adrienne Mitchell, WGN America's contemporary mystery "Bellevue" focuses on Anna Paquin's Annie Ryder, an obsessive and self-destructive police detective investigating the disappearance of a transgender teen hockey player in a small, struggling town in Canada. Leech plays Eddie Rowe, an out-of-work miner and the father of Annie's only child. While Eddie is frequently an emotionally grounding presence for Annie and the on-off couple clearly loves one another, the bond also tends to bring out the worst in the man.
"For Eddie and Annie, it's such a volatile relationship. They want the same thing, really, which is to take care of their daughter and the best way Eddie tries to do that often is at loggerheads with what Annie feels is the best way to deal with it," the 36-year-old Killiney, Co. Duiblin, native told the Irish Echo in Los Angeles recently. "I was grateful to play those scenes because Anna is such a phenomenal actress. It's just an absolute joy when you know that two actors are in there and you are going to go for it and do the very best you both can."

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Leech said he was intrigued by the eight-part series, in part, because Maggs and Mitchell had crafted Eddie as a complicated character who never slips into a stereotype.

"It was their energy and their passion for these characters," Leech said about what made the show an appealing prospect for him. "It wasn't just a project the way they spoke to me about Eddie. He was so fully developed and one of the things they said was, 'We'd love to see what you'd bring to it, too.' There definitely was that kind of feeling -- that it was a collaborative effort. As we got underway shooting, suddenly this character became even more in-depth and [every] new script you got revealed more -- even to you -- about who this person was."

Asked if he was able to relate to the setting and people of "Bellevue" in any way, the Trinity College graduate replied, "The more isolated, the further out from the main cities you go, you're going to find these towns that, unfortunately, have fallen on times and what I thought was interesting is how that resonates.

"No matter where you go in the world, I think it's the same issues. These are good people who unfortunately sometimes do bad things or, honestly, turn to things because they don't know where else to go," he said, referring to what happens when a community's industry dries up and its residents need to find new ways to support themselves. "That was something, again, that did resonate with me and, I think, will resonate with anyone who has ever had any experience with small-town communities."

The actor said, unlike Annie and her fellow law-enforcement officers, Eddie is not trying to be a hero or save the town.

"I'm just trying to save myself and my family and it's [about] how, when those are your goals, the choices you make, how different they are," he said.

Leech admitted that in some ways it is the best of both worlds to have a short-season TV series as a home-base and then be able to go off and work on films such as "Bohemian Rhapsody" as he recently did.

Should "Bellevue" be renewed for a second season and if Eddie survives until the end of this one, Leech said he would definitely be interested in returning.

"When you do a show like this, while it was very short, it was a very intense time filming and you do create quite a strong, close-knit community of actors and it's something I'd certainly love to go back and experience again. We had an incredible time making this," he said.

Co-starring Shawn Doyle, Sharon Taylor, Madison Ferguson and Sadie O'Neil, "Bellevue" premiered on Jan. 23.