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Irons Enjoying Ride of Acting in 'Borgias'

LOS ANGELES -- Jeremy Irons returns to the role of the power-hungry, lascivious and corrupt Pope Alexander VI for the second season of the Showtime original series "The Borgias."

The series is set in 15th century Italy at the height of the Renaissance when Rodrigo Borgia (Irons) uses the papacy to retain his power and wealth. If that means committing a few of the sins he is supposed to be against, then so be it.

Irons talks about the series, created by Academy Award winner Neil Jordan.

Question: What made you agree to star in the cable series?

Answer: One of the strengths of ever doing a television series is one is able to concentrate on the inconsistencies of characters. You have time. You have 10 hours per series. Whereas a movie you have, or a play you have, maybe two hours. So you're able to go into details, play contradictions, and that's a great plus of doing a series.

How does "The Borgias" compare to [1980s series] "Brideshead Revisited"?

I was saying that it's not since doing "Brideshead" that I felt so comfortable about making a program. It works. The way it's constructed. It works. We are always fighting to make things better. But, for me, it's a very similar experience in many ways to making "Brideshead," which was a very hands-off production.

How does family play into the story?

Having sort of set up where they are as a family, as a political power, we're now seeing the intricacies of holding that together. I think as parents, we will all share in the turmoil that Alexander goes through with his children, holding the family together. And one of the strengths of Neil's writing in this, in Series 2, is that he concentrates on that. What captures the heart of an audience is the characters, the individuals, the relationships involved and how they interact. Seeing that is held together, or not, I think is going to be one of the bits of fun we've got ahead for Series 2.

What do you like about Jordan's writing?

Neil does have a very particular style. It's a style which, when you are reading it on the page, you think, "Oh, dear, this feels a bit odd." But, actually, when you speak it, he has a wonderful sense of rhythm, which is, of course, one of the things that Shakespeare also had. I think Neil has managed to find a style which is not Shakespearean, but neither is it contemporary. It has a feeling of period.

In regards to delivering Jordan's words, when did you realize you have such a distinct voice?

I remember when I was about 29 or 30, I was having a cup of coffee with John Hurt and we were bemoaning the fact that there were an awful lot of good, young actors beginning to appear, sort of 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds. He said, "Do you know what I'd do to them? If I meet one, I'd say, 'You know, you have a wonderful voice. Have you ever listened to it?' And you know from then on they are [expletive deleted]." So the answer is I'm not aware of my voice.

How long can "The Borgias" run?

It seems to me that we are not even yet halfway through Alexander's reign. He was there, I think, for 12 years. Neil is aware there is an enormous wealth of material available to us. So I could see us going through for another two episodes -- further two series after this.

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