An interview with Grégory Fitoussi
French actor Grégory Fitoussi discusses his new role in Spin, starring in Mr Selfridge and his love of skydiving
When Grégory Fitoussi finishes a film or a TV series he says goodbye to his co-stars, jumps in a car and heads for the nearest airfield for a dose of pure adrenalin.
“As soon as I don’t work, I like to go skydiving,” the actor explains with the sort of gleeful enthusiasm that is sure to make the producers of his upcoming projects bite their nails with worry. “Being able to fly is a dream I’ve had since I was a child. Initially I wanted to be a pilot, but the first time I tried skydiving, I realised it was the closest you can get to flying. I know it’s a dangerous hobby but I just love jumping out of a plane.”
Fitoussi doesn’t mind taking risks in his career, either. The 39-year-old Parisian, who is currently on British screens in political TV series Spin (Les Hommes de l’Ombre), has never been short of work in his native France, but has made a point of stepping outside his comfort zone. Take, for instance, his decision to sign up to the hit ITV series Mr Selfridge – chronicling the rise of Harry Gordon Selfridge and his famous London department store – a few years ago, even though he could hardly speak a word of English.
“It was my first job in English and I was a bit lost, but I jumped at the chance to work in England, where they do great period dramas.” he recalls. “I was working a lot in France but felt I was doing the same thing I had done before. I love a new challenge and really wanted to spend time in London. I just made sure I learned English while I was there. I watched a lot of TV shows and kept the news on for three hours a day so my ear could get used to the language.”
Fitoussi’s perseverance paid off as his character, Henri Leclair, became a firm favourite, with many female fans falling for his Gallic charms. “One woman told me: ‘You are a good reason for me to learn French,’” he says, with a guffaw. “So I’m doing my bit for the French language. I suppose I’m like an ambassador of sorts.”
Then, just at it seemed that Fitoussi would be a mainstay on British TV, the French actor left the show as he again looked for new challenges. Fortunately for his growing legion of British followers, the More4 channel bought up Spin, and the French TV series (launched in 2012) made its UK debut in January. Fitoussi plays spin doctor Ludovic Desmeuze, who clashes with his mentor when they back rival candidates for the French presidency.
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“I really learned a lot about the power spin doctors have,” he says of his stint on the show. “They really have a big influence, not just when it comes to what politicians say or which tie they wear, but big political decisions as well. In the UK, spin doctors have become well known, but in France we barely know them at all. We don’t see them on TV and they are really discreet. In France we don’t really think about them and we forget that politicians are being advised all the time. So it’s nice that Spin shows people a world they don’t really know.”
Fitoussi has been spending a bit more time in the UK recently after landing a role in ITV’s epic series Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, which has been shot in north-east England. He also appears opposite Oscar-winner Adrien Brody in upcoming historical drama Emperor, playing François I. And don’t be surprised if Fitoussi and his brother, fellow actor Mikaël, pop up in a movie together in the near future.
“We’ve done a short movie [Alliés Nés] and loved working together so we are looking for a book to adapt and make a film together,” Fitoussi says. “We get on well, so we’ll see where it goes. I love new experiences and I’m very curious about places and working with different people. I have a lot of new goals I still want to reach.”
It doesn’t look as if Fitoussi will have much time for skydiving over the next few years.
Spin is on More 4 on Fridays at 9pm, with catch-up at All4.com/WalterPresents
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