Exclusive: Martin Freeman Turns Down ‘Nice Guy’ Roles, Wants to go Darker

Posted 2022/05/09 8 0

Martin Freeman is well-known and beloved as the respectable, kind, and cheery Bilbo Baggins, the lead character of The Hobbit movies in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings universe. This is hardly his only friendly and kind ‘nice guy’ character. Freeman got his start as the funny and arguably one of the most likable characters in the original British series The Office, Tim Canterbury (played by John Krasinski as Jim Halpert in the American version).

He plays Dr. Watson, the endearing and humanistic counterpart to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, and was the affable but put-upon ‘everyman’ character Arthur Dent in the underrated Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie. His image is often considered to be a sweet, non-threatening nice guy, something Freeman is now hoping to avoid.

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Martin Freeman Started Turning Down Roles After The Hobbit

It may come as a surprise to some viewers, however, to see him in darker, more uncomfortable roles, and this is apparently by design. “There are a lot of things that I did turn down,” Freeman says, admitting he has been making the conscious decision to avoid more likable, ‘nice guy’ characters in favor of darker roles which could prevent him from being typecast and allow him to enjoy the challenge of playing someone more nefarious or troubled. Ironically, he almost turned down The Hobbit, but making the film resulted in even more ‘nice guy’ roles coming his way. He tells us:

Probably after playing Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, who’s a very likable character and a certain type of character which I loved playing, but I thought that I can’t really keep playing likable, nice people and then wonder why people don’t give me dark types of roles to play. You have to sort of make that space for yourself […] Really just go, “I like that thing, I like that script, but I can’t play another person who just seems like a nice guy next door.

There has been an element of sacrifice to this, with Freeman saying, “I could have done things that, in one way would have been really fun and certainly successful or good for my career, or whatever.” Even his kids give him a bit of a hard time with this, as Freeman says:

There are a couple of things that I did turn down, and my kids end up going, “Why did you turn that down? I love that!” […] But in a way, that would’ve kept me potentially in a certain mindset for people that hopefully now I’ve widened. I’ve widened I think how people view me now, compared to 10 or 12 years ago.

The Future of Martin Freeman’s Career

He certainly has, taking on some villainous roles as well as appearing in the MCU as Everett K. Ross in previous and future films (with Freeman in the Black Panther sequel Wakanda Forever as well as in Secret Invasion). Perhaps one of his most surprising and complicated performances was as Lester Nygaard in the FX anthology TV show Fargo.

Lester was a brilliant subversion of Freeman’s previous ‘nice guy’ image, taking on a polite and mousy Midwesterner and turning him into a manipulative, scheming weasel responsible for death and chaos despite his refusal to take responsibility for his actions. It’s an incredible performance, one which perfectly encapsulates the lurking darkness of Noah Hawley’s TV show, and the potential for Freeman’s acting excellence when given dynamic parts.

That role and his new one as co-creator and star of the excellent series Breeders should help put to rest any presumption that Freeman is just a “nice guy next door,” as he says. His upcoming roles in the British police procedural The Responder, the highly-anticipated Peacock series Angelyne, and the third season of Breeders will likely only solidify his range.

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