Ever since his days on Downton Abbey, the actor has segued seamlessly between British period drama and high-rolling US sci-fi. He talks about playing a robot – and why he has moved on from romance

When I speak to Dan Stevens, he’s in Los Angeles, shooting Gaslit, a forthcoming TV show that sounds like the definitive deep dive into the Watergate scandal. It’s full of big hitters – Stevens and Betty Gilpin playing John and Mo Dean, Sean Penn and Julia Roberts as John and Martha Mitchell – and is based on the podcast Slow Burn, which is marvellous, if you get a minute and want a refresh on who these people are.

Ever since his years on Downton Abbey, Stevens, 39, has been very much in that glossy league, moving seamlessly between British period drama and high-rolling US sci-fi – he is the lead in Legion, Noah Hawley’s epic addition to the Marvel universe – with hybrid projects in between. Blithe Spirit, for example, a British reinvention of Noël Coward’s classic, with a sort of American reverence for the past, and a partly US cast. It wasn’t very well-reviewed, but that’s beside the point; this is an actor who makes sense in many contexts, for whom there is very high demand. That – although like everyone he says he has had “chunks of months here and there” without work – has been the story of his career since his first professional job, cast as Orlando by Peter Hall in As You Like It. Hall had spotted him in a university production of Macbeth.

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