British actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen stars as James, a shady husband with murky motives, in the Apple TV+ thriller “Surface.”
“It’s been a really interesting past couple of years, with the success of [‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’] and ‘The Invisible Man’ and all of that,” Jackson-Cohen, 35, told The Post, referring to his past few projects.
“I seem to be a go-to guy for toxic men. I don’t know what that says about me! There’s so many layers to these types of characters, and they often happen to be in a darker genre, whether it’s horror or thriller. Ultimately, every decision I make is based on whether or not there’s something interesting and multidimensional about the character, and if I feel like I can bring something extra to it.”
Premiering Friday, July 29, “Surface” is a psychological thriller about Sophie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a woman who suffered a traumatic head injury after she threw herself off of a boat in an apparent attempted suicide. The result has given her memory loss. As she tries to get back into the swing of things and re-acclimate to her life, she’s confused about why she tried to kill herself, since she seemingly has a perfect life with a swanky San Francisco house, a loving husband James (Jackson-Cohen) and good friends. Soon, she begins questioning what James and her friends have told her about her life — and about the incident which resulted in her memory loss.
“I kind of loved the fact that it’s incredibly ambiguous to an audience what James’ intentions are, what he’s holding onto, and all this stuff about secrets in marriages. There was so much juicy stuff to get into, there,” said Jackson-Cohen, who is currently in Vancouver filming another upcoming series, “Wilderness,” for Prime Video.
“There was a documentary called ‘Tell Me Who I Am’ on Netflix, which should probably come with a trigger warning because it’s so horrific,” he said. “It’s about these twin brothers and one of them loses their memory about this horrific childhood. The brother that does remember tells him about his life [without that bad part]. Then, eventually, you start to piece together that it probably wasn’t the way he told him. That was quite a big inspiration – the cost of holding onto secrets, and what that does to a relationship and to a person.”
“Surface” was also a reunion for Jackson-Cohen and his co-star, since he’d crossed paths with Mbatha-Raw before, he said.
“We met on one of my first-ever TV jobs. I was 18 or 19, and I think it was her first TV show in the UK,” he said. “It was a very questionable BBC series. We can’t quite remember whether or not we had scenes together, I was in like 1 episode. We met then, and we’ve known each other ever since. It’s been so nice, when you start out with people and see how they grow. It was really nice on this one to really get to spend time together and work so closely on characters and their dynamics. I feel lucky.”