Terry Gross of National Public Radio’s Fresh Air interviewed British actor Christopher Eccleston on Monday, and the conversation is suffused with talk of God and Anglicanism. Eccleston discusses his father’s final years of Alzheimer’s, his role in The A Word (BBC), his portrayal of an Episcopal priest on The Leftovers (HBO), and the Book of Job.
As Eccleston discusses reading from Job at Westminster, he describes encountering the expressive eyebrows of Archbishop Rowan Williams:
GROSS: Did reading the Book of Job also make you think about religion?
ECCLESTON: Well, I had an extraordinary experience with the Book of Job. I was invited to Westminster Cathedral to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. And I was positioned in a very sacred area of Westminster Cathedral. And they asked me to read Job. And I read Job, the section where God turns on Job and says — who are you to question me? Did you create the stars? Did you create this sea? — this extraordinary dramatic moment.
And I was I was asked to read that text in front of the archbishop of Canterbury. It — now his name escapes me, but one of his distinctive features was he had very pronounced eyebrows. And when I finished it, I glanced at him, and he waggled them at me …
ECCLESTON: … As if to say, that’s got you thinking, hasn’t it, son? And then about a year later, I was — I had taken my mother on holiday to Cornwall, in the southwest of England to give her a break from my father. We walked into a tiny, tiny church on the coast of the Lizard peninsula. There was just myself in my mom in there — in the 300, 400-year-old church, tiny. And the book was open.
And I — being an actor, of course — I went and stood there. And the book was open at Job, the same section I’d read two years earlier in Canterbury. And I read it. And my mom has a very strong faith. And I read it out loud. And she looked at me, and she said — well, you did that very well. I said well, I’ve rehearsed it, Mom.