Joseph Fiennes on playing Gareth Southgate: 'Don't be misled by his decency - he has steel'

2023-06-09 02:33:46  • 5 mins

By Joe Inwood

BBC News

"Dear England, It has been an extremely difficult year"

Gareth Southgate's 2021 open letter to England fans was unlike anything any coach of the national team had ever written.

His 1,700 heartfelt words marked the culmination of an extraordinary transformation, both of the England men's football team and the unassuming man who runs it.

In just a couple of years, they went from a dysfunctional and dejected institution to a source of national pride. At the heart of it, one man.

"He's got a sort of moral integrity and compass," says actor Joseph Fiennes, who is now playing Southgate at the National Theatre.

"He's been brought up as a young player in a very toxic male environment and you can imagine that he wants to unshackle himself, giving players their voice."

It's a change of identity for the actor as well, who when we meet is sporting the same trimmed beard as the England boss.

Fiennes is best known to some for his period roles, notably in 1998's Shakespeare in Love, and to others as the evil Fred Waterford in The Handmaid's Tale. Is it a relief to be playing someone the audience will sympathise with?

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