Jamie Bamber Talks Acorn TV’s Signora Volpe and Battlestar Galactica’s Lightning in a Bottle

Spoilers

Jamie Bamber will be in the upcoming Acorn TV series, Signora Volpe.

He plays Adam Haines, a special agent and the husband of a former spy, Sylvia Fox (Emilia Fox).

When Sylvia decided to take a new direction with her life, she left behind a man who clearly still loves her, and he’s not afraid to show it.

We had the chance to chat with Jamie about Signora Volpe and a whole lot more.

Jamie Bamber in Stripes

What drew you to Signora Volpe?

Oh, lots of things. Rome and Umbria, in Italy. I’m a massive Italophile. I studied Italian and French college, and I spent a year in Italy as a student. And this all came to pass just as we were coming out of the lockdown here in the UK, about this time last year. So, it was a great opportunity to be allowed to travel if people weren’t free to travel.

Also, to work again with an old friend, Emilia Fox, who I worked with on my second ever job back in 1998. I think it was the Scarlet Pimpernel, which we were both in and got on very well.

So, it was a chance to catch up with her. And I really liked the potential that this character, Adam had. I love the idea of playing an ex-husband who is still in a relationship with his ex-wife, works together, and then outmaneuvers her at work in such a way that she cuts him off entirely and runs away.

And then I like the way the third episode pans out with him, sort of reeling her back into the world of intelligence. Yeah, that arc really appealed to me.



Yeah, it was an interesting choice to reel her back into the job, as opposed to reeling her back into a romance, if you will.

Well, yeah, I mean, but he is implicitly kind of doing both because, I guess, they are not married anymore. And yet, you see them at the beginning, and they have a relationship. So, it’s reeling back on many levels. These two know each other very well and have made decisions about who and how they should be together.

And yet, there’s always a level that keeps it interesting between them because of the job that they do, what they can tell each other, and what they don’t tell each other. And I think Sylvia’s journey over the three episodes is to try and find a more peaceful, honest, open life.

And to see if she can find enjoyment in it, and she can to some degree, but as soon as Adam shows up again, she can’t really help herself, and she’s right back in it.

So, there’s something about the devil, you know, that is exciting, I guess. There’s that sort of like-minded spirit that they share, that means that they can drop all pretense and all facade, and yeah, they always keep something back from each other.

Signora Volpe Shot

And how did knowing Emilia in the past help you form that onscreen relationship?

Well, Emilia is a producer on the show, and you know she wants you to be there. So, that’s great when you’re playing a smaller role, guests in her story. It’s nice to be wanted, and that’s what happened.

So, I couldn’t wait, and the dialogue is playful, and yet got an undercurrent which is definitely, at times, quite biting and quite ruthless, and yet a surface of charm.

So, the layers involved made the character interesting to me, his sense of humor and his refusal to be anything but quite light on the surface.

Jamie Bamber in Cannes

And yet, you know, deep down because of everything that he represents, and does for a living and that she does for a living and what they know about each other means that there’s a latent menace and in any exchange between them because they deal with quite serious stuff in very duplicitous ways at times.

So, it was a combination of both knowing Emilia, although we hadn’t seen each other for well over a decade, and the character.

Also, I can’t deny it, just working in Italy, for me, is a massive kick and to be there when there were no tourists and to be able to spend my days off walking around Rome where the streets were comparatively empty. You only heard Italians discovering their own city rather than the usual plethora of foreign tourists from all over the world.

It just meant you could get about, and it was just quite a pleasurable place to be at that particular time.

Jamie Bamber Smiles Pink

It’s funny because I was going to ask questions about the filming location and how it influences the jobs you choose.

I know that if somebody asked me to cover something, and they’re going to fly me to somewhere different and lovely, I’m more inclined to do it. It sounds like Italy is your thing.

Oh, absolutely. Look, I love Italy, and any excuse to go there. I would happily live there. But you know, it changes at different stages in life.

I have three kids who are now just at, sort of, school-leaving age, and 10-15 years ago, flying off to the other side of the continents for three weeks wasn’t the greatest thing in the world because I was deserting them and leaving my wife to cook and to ferry them here and there, and to bathe them every night and to do everything.

And it was not what I wanted to be doing. So, times change. But now, my wife and I tend to go together when we go somewhere, and the kids can fly out and join us when they can. So, traveling and experiencing different cultures and parts of the world with different film crews is part of the joy now, absolutely.

Jamie Bamber in Jacket

And how does filming in such a location help the story unfold on screen?

In so many ways. Primarily, we’ve got great local actors as well who are playing the locals.

So, this is a story about a fish out of water, essentially, who goes to stay with her sister, played wonderfully by Tara Fitzgerald, who has been there for many years and is invested in and accepted by the local community. But it’s about those spheres of belonging.

And when you have great local actors, that’s a massive, massive excitement to work with Italian actors who are, albeit working in English, but they’re playing locals. And then they can introduce you to the stories behind the locations that you’re working in. They can regale you with a bit of history, a bit of local color.

I mean, I remember one actor we were working with; we were shooting in a bar some of the scenes in the third episode in Rome, and he was saying he would never come in this bar because it was a fascist bar, things like that.

‘You wouldn’t know,’ I whispered, ‘it’s cool.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but this place in this corner of town is not somewhere where artists would readily hang out because it’s got a reputation.’ And he explained that the name was synonymous with something to do with fascism in the past, things like that.

Jamie Bamber Full Pink

Oh, wow.

That brings a place alive.

It sure does. You know, you’ve split your work pretty generously between UK and US productions. Has that been mostly because of your family obligations? Or is that just something that you like to do?

A bit of both. I’m a US citizen. And I deliberately sought out work in the US when I was starting out, and that took me to do a series of like, like Battlestar Galactica took us over there for a bunch of years. And then we were based in the US.

And at that time, I very much prioritized working over there because I wanted to be at home in LA as much as I possibly could. And then we decided to come back to Europe; we lived in France for three years. So I worked quite a bit in France, too.

And then, I’m back in London now for the last three years. And honestly, now, the ideal is to change it up.

I ideally love working in America. I love US crews and actors. I love the ambition, that American dream that television, in particular, has had over the last 20 years. And, yeah, I would love to work more over there, but I’m spoiled. I’ve spread myself quite thin.

And sometimes that feels like the wrong thing to do because you could be out of sight out of mind in one territory whilst you live in another, and that poses its own challenges. But my ideal situation is to keep working in Europe and the US, and other continents, as well. It’s the variety of our career, its pitfall, and its great advantage.

Jamie Bamber in Stripes

And for name recognition and keeping yourself out there, isn’t it just wonderful that all these streaming services now hold worldwide content, instead of it always being one country or another, trying to remake what has already been done?

I agree 100%. As someone who has always enjoyed world cinema, it’s lovely that World TV is really a thing now. I mean, if you were into films, there was always a way that you could go to the local arthouse cinema and see French, Italian, Mexican, Polish films. But television was always off-limits. There was no way of doing that.

So now we do have this idea that any story, the more culturally-specific it is, in a funny way, the more universal it is. And we’re discovering that, and I think people are becoming a lot more open to subtitles if that’s what it takes in the success of things like Squid Sames, Gomorrah in Italy, or all those Scandi Noir things.

Israel’s producing some amazing stuff. I’ve seen so many Iranian shows, which are fantastic. So yes, I think that is a massively exciting moment. And hopefully, one that we can take even further.

I guess Signora Volpe is an example; this is a hybrid kind of British-American-Italian production. I’m about to embark on another show, which is a French-American-British-Swedish production in Cannes.

So, that is a great joy that we are finding the stories that happen across cultural barriers and in different territories taught by different characters that we wouldn’t have come across 20-30 years ago when the networks dominated everything and everybody in every single country.

Jamie Bamber Glasses

Right, right. It seems like it just opens up so many more opportunities for you, too, as an actor. There are just so many projects out there to choose from.

Yeah, it’s funny. There are. But you know, the truth of being an actor is awful. There are an awful lot of actors out there, too. So we’re never in full employment. But you never quite know where the opportunity is coming from.

I suppose that’s what’s different. And I’m very much at the stage in life where that is something to be relished and enjoyed, so I’m very grateful for that.

And do you know if Signora Volpe going to be continuing or if it was just the three-episode arc?

Honestly, I don’t know at all. No. I would be very happy to revisit the character and revisit that part of the world. But I don’t know. I suspect it probably rather depends on how it’s received.

Alright. The ending just screamed for a second chapter.

I agree. When I read it, it did seem that way. You know, I don’t know how. Obviously, my character is much more of a supporting role. I don’t know what contractually was decided with the other actors, but I know personally that it’s a character who I’d love to reprise and see where the stories take him.

Close Up in Cannes Jamie Bamber

And you know, because it is you, and we’re coming up on the 20-year mark since the production of Battlestar Galactica began, I have to ask — how do you feel about that legacy now and being a part of it?

Oh, immensely proud. I will always be immensely proud and slightly incredulous that I was ever that lucky to be involved in something like that. Obviously, it disappears into the rear-view mirror, and weeks and months go by with me not thinking about it too much.

But every now and then, I’m reminded, and you might catch someone talking about it or catch a snippet of it somewhere, or it’s referenced in the press or in a book you’re reading, and you’re reminded of pleasant memories of being hugely engaged in a collective endeavor telling a story that you are 100% invested in.

And that it went on for five years? I should be so lucky ever to have an experience like that ever again. But I’m blessed that it happened once.

Jamie Bamber Day 4

You know, it seems like it was at the beginning of this kind of prestige television revolution, and it was still the time when everybody was watching it because there weren’t as many choices.

So, it had a really powerful impact. With today’s programming, that is a lot harder to achieve just because of the volume that’s out there.

Yeah. Correct. You do realize that we caught lightning in a bottle. You’re right in saying we were on the cusp because we were maybe one of the first cable shows that got that kind of adulation, and yeah, there were Friday night frat party viewings, where people got together and watch the show. It was appointment viewing.

And yet, we were also the most downloaded show, maybe nefariously because our viewers were quite tech-savvy. They knew how to find it and get that, rip it, or whatever. And so, we were at the beginning of that binge viewing thing as well.

People in other territories who maybe weren’t able to watch it on a Friday night in other parts of the world were finding a way to watch it. So, we’re in the Guinness Book of Records — I think for 2005, I want to say — as the most downloaded television show. So yeah, we did a bit of both.

Jamie Bamber Close Up

But it was a privileged position to be in, and looking back, again, we were lucky. And also sort of unlucky because there was still a massive, massive emphasis put on the network shows.

And at that point, it was quite rare for a cable show, certainly on the Sci-Fi Channel, to really get a look in terms of all the silly trinkets and accolades that get spread around. We didn’t really get any of those. And I think had we been five or six years later, we would have, but now, you’re quite right.

It’s so hard for a show to become the show that everyone watches at the same time. And that only happens, I guess, if one of the big, big, big things hits one of the big streamers, and everyone watches it on the first or second night that it’s released and binges it all the way through.

There’s maybe a handful of those around, and I have never been part of that sensation. So those that are are very fortunate. And it’s akin to what we experienced, I guess, all those years ago.

Signora Volpe premieres on Acorn TV on Monday, May 2.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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