Baghdad Central: Neil Maskell

Baghdad Central: Interview with Neil Maskell: Evans

Category: Interview, Press Pack Article

Who is Evans?

He’s a private security contractor working in Iraq. I’m going to be necessarily cagey but ... he’s been there before and he’s back now to help Temple (Bertie Carvel) who, it’s suggested, has worked with him before and trusts him. He’s lost someone he works with and whose family he probably knows. He’s spent time as an armed response officer, the environment where the enemy or, the Other, is demonised and vilified to the point where he’d rather not see them as human beings. So – as an actor you piece that together to avoid the moustache-twirling badness, but you wouldn’t call him a nice man, let’s say that!

What is he doing for Temple?

Temple needs him for protection, but Evans is also involved in some illicit business. There’s a lot of money floating around. There’s an idea of a circuit for private security contractors where they can just move around war zones. They’re not going through a detailed customs process, you don’t always know where they are at any given time, so they can go from Iraq to Liberia to the Caribbean and not be traced. It’s lawless, really.

Does Evans enjoy his work?

I think there are moments of excitement and the adrenaline rush of being involved in something, but it’s a lot of hassle and aggravation. Plus, it pays well and also there’s the appeal of having status, of commanding a group of men. It’s not just the money he earns but he can enrich quite a lot of guys he feels an affinity with at the same time – anything they need, he can provide.

Did you do much research?

I played a private security contractor in Kill List (2011) and did a ton of research, so I revisited some of that. The specialist advisors on the project were uniquely helpful in terms of offering insights into that work too.

Did you read Elliott Colla’s novel?

I did. I really liked it – it’s got an unusual rhythm and the language is gorgeous.

How much did you know about the background story of Baghdad Central?

I’ve gone from being someone who thought they were quite well informed to realising I don’t know anything. It’s a case of: the more you know, the less you understand. The most interesting thing so far has been the variety in the cast and specifically talking to the Iraqi cast and members of production. Sharing those experiences has been a highlight.

What do you hope audiences will take away from Baghdad Central?

No matter how much we think we have empathy, we still have a tendency to make people in non-English language-speaking countries the Other. This story’s universal qualities, a guy who’s good at a job he now can’t do, who’s had to make compromises in his life because of the regimes he’s worked under, those themes resonate with everyone. What’s different is maybe the humility and the resilience that a lot of people lack elsewhere in the world.