Jim Broadbent is most comfortable being British.
“I like home really,” Broadbent says, his brow wrinkling as he sat amid the palms on the patio of a Los Angeles hotel, dressed in a jumble of clothing more suited for a stroll down a damp English street.
“I just understand Britain really. I get a lot of fun out of reflecting observations of British foibles. I don’t really understand any other culture in the same way.”
Few projects are more British than BBC America’s “The Young Visiters.”
The much loved Victorian comic novel was written in 1890 by 9-year-old Daisy Ashford, who wasn’t good at spelling — hence the title — but was an acute observer of grown-ups’ foibles.
The versatile 55-year-old actor, who won an Academy Award for his supporting role in 2001’s “Iris,” is both star and executive producer of the TV adaptation, which airs 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, Nov. 3.
He plays Alfred Salteena, described by Daisy as “an elderly man of 42.” In the hopes of winning the heart of a pretty young lady, Ethel Monticue, Salteena attempts to introduce her into society, despite the fact he only has a limited acquaintance with one aristocrat.
And Broadbent, whose film credits include “The Crying Game,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Gangs of New York,” “Topsy-Turvy” and most recently “Vanity Fair” and “Vera Drake,” soon will return to the big screen as Bridget’s dad in the upcoming sequel “Bridget Jones: “The Edge of Reason.”
Not easy to categorizeHe’s aware that American viewers unacquainted with “The Young Visiters” — still extremely popular in England — may find Daisy’s tale a little odd.
He believes it’s “gentle and it’s charming and it’s funny and it’s true,” but is a little puzzled as to how to promote it. “You can’t really categorize it.”
He says Daisy “spots the vulnerabilities and preoccupations of adults. She does see that some are rather pathetic and ridiculous, particularly men impressed by pretty young girls ... there is a freshness to the child’s perception of how we carry on.”
Playing Salteena in “Visiters” also demanded the skills of a true clown.
“Despite the mad playfulness of Jim’s performance, underneath it all it’s anchored by a kind of truth,” says director David Yates. “I think that’s his real skill. You can have this slight buffoon, but you really feel for him and empathize with his plight as this lonely middle-aged man trying to entrap this younger woman.”
Yates says he kept cracking up directing scenes between Broadbent and Bill Nighy, who portrays the absurd Earl of Clincham.
The Earl cons Salteena out of money while tutoring him in the art of social climbing, but does manage to introduce him to the Prince of Wales, who wears — in a typical Daisy Ashford observation — “a rather costly crown.”