Tom Hiddleston stated that he “felt very wild,” playing a pastor in a village that feared a sea creature on Apple’s TV’s The Essex Serpent. The series is inspired by Sarah Perry’s book and is based on the Victorian watershed in Essex and London.
Will Ransome (Hiddleston) tries to allay residents’ fears, saying that the creature is “an invention, a symptom of the times we live in.”
Widow Cora Seabourne (Claire Danes), who visits the city to examine serpent reports, discovers archeological remains in the Essex area after the earthquake, making God-fearing residents aware of the possibility that something has awakened.
Rumors of a fearsome sea monster are piling up following a report of a missing local girl – who is thought to be dead. A few locals speculated about what happened, saying she was “taken for her sins by the Blackwater beast.”
Hiddleston, in an interview with BBC, said the script was “brilliant” and added, “They were about complex people at a complex time, with a conflict of ideas.” He further stated that shooting the series “felt very wild and mirrored the passions of the story we were telling. I was really excited to do it.”
Beasts are not new to Hiddleston, as he met “Hulk-smash” as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. However, he acknowledges the unwavering interest in fantasy creatures as a means to figure out things we can’t explain or understand.
“Monsters are symbols of mystery … they reflect our need to find meaning in our lives,” he added. “I think human beings need, or are drawn, to externalize mystery. We like to be humbled by forces in nature and in our world that seem to be unexplained.”
Considering it’s “probable we know we don’t know everything,” he believes “we still have so many questions.” But, he continued, “And sometimes those questions coalesce into the shape of monsters, benign and otherwise.”
Cora, whom he meets on a beach, constantly challenges Will’s perception. Often, the plot revolves around the tension – both intellectual and sexual – between the two.
Although the center of the film may be the serpent, in one way or another, it involves the Dane’s Cora, who lives alone with her young child after the death of her cruel partner. However, it is not the typical TV drama where the woman searches for a partner.
“No. Oopsy daisy,” says Danes laughing, evidently amused by her role’s independence. “Her intellectual pursuits are the driving force.”
Cora lives far from religion and loves archeology. In addition, she is interested in knowing whether the serpent was a dinosaur that endured extinction.
“I think it’s her eagerness to realize herself,” she further states. “Her development had been quite arrested when she married this intensely controlling, abusive man. She’s just so relieved to have a chance to breathe again.”
Cora’s film coverage is entirely accurate.
Gowan Dawson of the University of Leicester’s Victorian Studies Center drew attention to the fact that a few prominent women at the time “who collected and studied fossils did not marry and devoted their lives to their paleontological pursuits.”
“This was the case with both Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, who, despite their very different social backgrounds, worked together in Lyme Regis and made some remarkable discoveries of fossilized sea creatures,” he stated.