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‘The Leftovers’ Christopher Eccleston on His Relentless Reverend Matt Jamison

”He’s a hero to me. He has what a lot of us long for, he has faith,“ actor tells TheWrap

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you have not watched Sunday’s episode of “The Leftovers”)

Of all the lost souls on HBO’s “The Leftovers,” Christopher Eccleston‘s Reverend Matt Jamison is among the most compelling — as a man of faith in the wake of the disappearance of two percent of the world’s population.

Eccelston’s portrayal of the egotistical Episcopalian minister is consistently heartbreaking. For the duration of season one he toiled caring for his vegetative wife Mary (Janel Moloney) and launched a campaign to expose the sins of many of those who had departed — a desperate mission for reassurance that his creator had left good people behind.

In season two, we see Jamison pack up his wife and head south for Miracle, Texas, where many other characters find themselves this year — a dusty little town that didn’t lose a single community member in the great departure.

TheWrap reached Eccleston in England where he’s shooting an autism drama for the BBC, to discuss the passion of his reverend, a very dark turn for the dynamic of his marriage and why everyone just wants to get drunk with his co-star Ann Dowd.

Matt Jamison can’t really catch a break. Do you find it exciting or discouraging to play a character so blindly optimistic? 

Christopher Eccleston: He’s a hero to me. He’s endlessly resilient and optimistic. He has what a lot of us long for, he has faith. I picked him out. I read the original novel [“The Leftovers” by Tom Perrotta], and he was in one or two scenes. I approached [showrunner] Damon Lindelof because Matt was never intended to be a part of the show until I told Damon I’d like to play him.

A few episodes back, Matt tells his sister Nora (Carrie Coon) that his wife Mary “woke up” their first night in Miracle, but returned to her state a few hours later. On episode five, we find out she’s pregnant. That’s a doozy. More than one person points out she’s not in the position to give any consent for sex.

I made a decision about whether Matt was lying or not about what went on. My conviction is that he was not lying and that Mary did wake up. Everybody else can think what they like, I made the decision. Damon Lindelof didn’t tell me whether she woke up or not, but I played that to the end.

Are you worried about how the storyline might be received?

I do think as a dramatic idea, it’s brilliant. A religious man with a vegatative wife who is pregnant? It’s a brilliant problem for the audience.

What is Matt Jamison’s idea of success? What does he want? 

God delivering Mary back to him. He feels like he’s not only going to get that in Miracle, but the thing they were unable to do before the departure — have a family. Matt has an enormous ego. For all his love and care for Mary, Matt is desperate — like a showrunner, like Damon Lindelof — they’re desperate for a congregation. For a time he gives Mary up in search of that. He puts the burden of care down for a while to pursue his calling.

I think Matt is very much invested in his life and that the people around him invest in that life. He does not believe the departure was an act of god. He thinks god’s intention is still in front of him.

You have a huge cast. Anyone you’re dying to get in a scene with?

Ann Dowd. But every actor on the show wants to do a scene with Ann Dowd. I think it’s her in every role, look at her career — she’s an actor’s actor. She also happens to be falling down drunk whenever she’s around me. There are stories of me and Ann Dowd and vodka that will go down in legend.

“The Leftovers” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO.

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