You might recognize him as Lord Anthony Gillingham, one of Michelle Dockery’s more memorable love interests in Downton Abbey. And now Tom Cullen, 32, is back in action as the leading lad in the upcoming series Knightfall. Here, the hunky Brit tells Hello! about his dream role and what’s so special about his girlfriend of six years, Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany – or “Tat,” as he calls her.
Tell us about your role in Knightfall. Why did you decide to take it on?
I made a conscious effort to pick my next project very wisely and do something I really wanted to do … and then Knightfall came through and it wasn’t just something that I wanted to do at that moment in time, it was something I’ve wanted to do my entire life. It was like my dream role, my dream project.
There’s been some talk that Knightfall might be the new Vikings...
I’m a huge fan of Vikings, it’s such a brilliant show. I think parallels between us and Vikings are that we’re going to be on the History channel and it’s the same genre, but we are very much our own unique show. I hope people love it as much as I love Vikings!
What about your long-time girlfriend, Tatiana Maslany – was she excited about your new gig?
Yeah, she was really excited for me. She’s seen the show and [wants] me to get her a part in it – that’s how much she likes it!
You two worked so well together in The Other Half. What was it like filming such an intense love story with someone you’re already in love with?
It was amazing. We share a lot together, but our work is something that really defines us both, so it was a real pleasure to share that. She’s an extraordinary actor. I love to surround myself with people who are better than me so I can learn, and Tat’s one of the finest actors of our generation. So to get to play and work opposite her was [amazing].
It sounds like you really look up to her.
I admire her so much. I actually just directed her in a film [Pink Wall], and it was amazing to work with her in that capacity, too. She’s just an awesome actor.
Before Knightfall, you had a recurring role on Downton Abbey. What was that experience like?
Everyone on Downton Abbey is just amazing and I learned so much working on that. Sitting down at a dinner table next to Maggie Smith – and we got on really well, Maggie and I – was a huge lesson.
You say you like surrounding yourself with people who are better than you – who would you say is your biggest acting inspiration?
I have a lot of acting inspirations! I think my favourite actor of all time is probably Marlon Brando. But for Knightfall, I watched a lot of Russell Crowe, who’s such a great actor. I have big acting crushes on Meryl Streep and Jimmy Stewart, too.
If you weren’t acting, what do you think you’d be doing?
I don’t know ... I always thought I’d actually end up being a nanny – I really like kids, because I’m just a big one myself.
Are you hoping to have kids of your own some day?
Definitely! But will they have me? That’s the bigger question – will they put up with me! [Laughs].