In Time, the actor known as Game of Thrones’ Ned Stark had to show the terrors of prison … mostly by sitting in silence. He talks religion, looking rough – and the role he played that would not be made now

Across three Sunday nights last summer, Sean Bean was remarkable. BBC One’s Time saw him play a teacher jailed for killing someone while drunk-driving. With Jimmy McGovern’s script often leaving him silent and alone in his cell, he painted an astonishingly affecting portrait of the regret and terror of a previously respected professional banged up with veteran criminals – and he frequently did so using expressions alone.

How is it to try to grab the audience entirely through looks? “As you get older, it’s sometimes a bit easier!” says Bean, 62, with a laugh. “When I started out, I used to count up how many lines I had and want some more. Now, it’s: ‘Oh, fuck, do I have to remember all that?’ So I don’t mind silence.”

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