The Gloaming: Ewen Leslie breaks down his character’s journey

Ewen Leslie in The Gloaming Season 1, Episode 2 - Courtesy of Bradley Patrick / Starz
Ewen Leslie in The Gloaming Season 1, Episode 2 - Courtesy of Bradley Patrick / Starz /

The Gloaming, an Australian import, has officially premiered in America on Starz, and if you’ve watched the first episode already, you know that you’re in for a thrilling, riveting ride.

We had the chance to chat with the show’s two stars, Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie, who play Molly McGee and Alex O’Connell, respectively, about their individual journeys and the relationships between their characters.

The Gloaming centers around a supernatural mystery with an unidentified dead woman at the center. Molly and Alex are called in to investigate this woman’s murder and discover a disturbing link to a 20-year-old cold case, the murder of Alex’s childhood friend Jenny McGinty.

If you’ve been watching Starz lately, you’ve likely seen Leslie starring in The Luminaries as Crosbie Wells, husband to Eva Green’s character. You might also recognize him from projects like Top of the Lake, The Cry and Operation Buffalo.

Leslie had lots to share with us on his experience working with actors like Booth and Martin Henderson, along with comparing his characters on The Luminaries and The Gloaming!

Read on for our interview with The Gloaming star Ewen Leslie

Show Snob: I feel like I’ve been seeing a lot of you lately between The Gloaming and The Luminaries. What’s it like to have both shows airing in America back-to-back?

Ewen Leslie: You know what? It’s sort of funny in that it’s a rare case of I did shoot them back-to-back. I was in New Zealand on-and-off shooting The Luminaries, and then I literally got the call about The Gloaming, which I’d auditioned for maybe 7-8 months before. So I flew from New Zealand straight into Tasmania and immediately started shooting.

It’s a rare instance. Normally, these things come out all over the place –– The Luminaries hasn’t even come out here in Australia, but in the states, it seems like these two shows have come out exactly like my experience of shooting them. Having said that, it’s quite an out-of-body experience in that I’m not there, but I’m in Australia as they come out there.

Someone sent me a poster of myself and Emma in L.A. the other day, which was quite a confronting experience because I hadn’t seen them myself. But look, I’m very stoked these shows are coming out over there, and hopefully, they find an audience.

Show Snob: That’s really interesting. I’ve always wondered what it’s like for actors in other countries to see their projects airing elsewhere when they’re not present. Is it exciting to see how audiences from other countries react?

Ewen Leslie: Absolutely, I think sometimes there’s a different reaction. I remember, years ago, I did a series called Top of the Lake, and it was interesting. In Australia, it was on a channel called Foxtel that doesn’t have a large audience, so there was a core audience, but not too many people had seen it.

Then it went to the states where a lot more people had seen it, especially because it had Elisabeth Moss and Nicole Kidman. Then it went to the U.K., where it aired on the BBC, and so many people had seen it. Another show I did called The Cry that went on the BBC, I think had 10 million viewers, which in Australia, you couldn’t get 10 million viewers if you tried! [Laughs] So, a lot of the time, these things go out to much bigger audiences than you initially thought they might.

Show Snob: I noticed one of the big differences between The Luminaries and The Gloaming ––both have mysteries, but The Gloaming is much darker. How did you change your approach between the characters of Alex O’Connell and Crosbie Wells? 

Ewen Leslie: The strange thing is that with The Luminaries, I was the mystery. I was the guy that had been killed that people were trying to solve. So, in terms of –– it sounds lazy –– but in terms of the plot of The Luminaries, there was a whole side that I didn’t need to worry or think about. It kind of served me best not to think about it because he’s the character at the center of it that all these people are scheming around him. These characters have all these plots and schemes that he is completely oblivious to, so it sort of serves to be able to fit in my own naive lighthearted world with that guy.

[Crosbie] was someone that was very kind of openhearted and open with his thoughts and feelings, and then I had to go immediately into someone who was a lot more insular and closed off. It becomes a harder thing to do. These characters are very closed off, very damaged, very broken, but at the same time, you’ve got to balance that with vulnerability and find places where they can be vulnerable and also places where they can be available. That was the thin line that we had to walk, and that Emma had to walk as well, to find the balance between those two things.

Luckily, for Alex’s journey, as we went along through those eight episodes, is that [show creator Victoria Madden] had charted a lot of that work for me. There were things like, “Oh, great, she’s given me this moment to allow the audience in,” –– or allow other characters in, or drop my guard.

It’s tricky, sometimes, playing the character who is a lot more quiet or in their own head. It’s a lot harder than when you are the person who’s driving it or who has pages and pages of dialogue. It’s a really big difference from The Luminaries, but, hey! That’s what you’re after as an actor, so I was very lucky.

The Gloaming
Ewen Leslie, Emma Booth in The Gloaming Season 1, Episode 5 – Courtesy of Bradley Patrick / Starz /

Show Snob: Your character Alex, and Emma’s character Molly, have this really intense history, and Alex also has a history with Martin Henderson’s character. When you guys into those scenes, do you get a chance to work on your chemistry beforehand? You can feel all of the tension between these characters right away despite not knowing what their past is.

Ewen Leslie: Well, that’s good! [Laughs] You kind of do your best, a lot of the time. I’ve done a lot of theater in the past, where you get a lot of rehearsal, and then in film and TV, you’re like, “Oh, great, we’ve got two weeks of rehearsal here!” Then realize a lot of that rehearsal gets chewed up by makeup and costume and other stuff that’s important as well.

I was lucky with Emma, in that we had done a short film together 10 years ago. But we only worked together for one day, and in fact, I think we only had one scene. But I was a really big fan of hers, and I had seen in her a bunch of stuff. We met at an award show a few years ago and thought it would be great to do something together one day.

We’re lucky in that, we both grew up in a place called Fremantle in Western Australia, and we both had families who lived down the coast in a place called Busselton, and we both had done kids TV as youngsters when we were like, 12-14 in Western Australia, but on different shows. So, even though I’d never worked with her before and hadn’t spent much time with her, we kind of weirdly had shared history together.

As an actor, she’s very reactive. She’s very –– you kind of throw anything at her, and she’ll fly off in that direction with it, so she was someone that, from the word “go,” it was very easy to build chemistry. Obviously, with a show like this, in a strange way, the case and the mystery at the center is sort of a MacGuffin. I mean the main story is between these two broken characters who learn to, hopefully, in these eight episodes, rebuild themselves or heal each other. It kind of becomes this love story at the center of this that you have to chart and go on this journey, and I was really lucky that I had Emma to do it with.

Martin was someone that I had seen in lots of stuff, I was a big fan, but I’d never worked with him before and I’d never met him before, and actually, when we started shooting, he hadn’t yet been cast. So when I was talking about Gareth — I don’t know if I should be saying this, but now I’ve started it — [Laughs] we didn’t know who that was.

When it was Martin, he came in, and we had a very specific amount of time to work with him because he was shooting another show, so it was interesting for Marty, I think. He had a very intense period where he was on every day, every scene. He was someone you had to dive into the story headfirst. He’s a very smart actor, a very intense actor, and he did a really great job. He was very easy to work with.

The Gloaming
The Gloaming Season 1 – Courtesy of Starz/Bradley Patrick /

Show Snob: I know that The Gloaming finished filming a while ago, but is this a series you could see continuing or that you would be interested in returning to for another season?

Ewen Leslie: Without heading too much into spoiler territory, the show and characters find a lot of closure, but it also leaves them in a place that is quite tantalizing in regards to its possibilities and future. Vicki told me the ending when I first spoke to her, and I thought, “I wanna do that show now.” We, of course, just needed to get there. If the story continued, it would be a completely different ballpark for Alex and one that I’d love to explore.

Related Story. The Gloaming: Chatting with star Emma Booth. light

Show Snob: Do supernatural shows and horror generally appeal to you? Are there any that you’re a fan of right now?

Ewen Leslie: I think when I was younger, they appealed to me a lot more. I loved being scared. I’m a bit more of a wuss with them now. I loved acting in that world, though. I suppose I approached it from a psychological place. It’s far more about the ghosts of our past that we carry with us. We may be done with the past, but the past isn’t done with us.

Alex is someone who’s been running from his grief and trauma for 20 years. The second he arrives in Hobart, these spirits start closing in on him. As the series progresses, he becomes a lot more proactive. He realizes he needs to confront his past, and ultimately he’s the only one who can walk through that door.

Next. 5 shows like The Luminaries to watch. dark

New episodes of The Gloaming air Sunday nights on Starz at 8 p.m. EST (tonight’s 9 p.m. showing was a special time). The premiere is now available to stream on the app!