We have to admit, we shed a tear as the fourth and final series of ITV’s hit period drama, Mr Selfridge, came to a climax – and we’re still wondering what we’re going to do without our weekly fix of flamboyant costumes and of course, the eccentric millionaire himself, Harry Selfridge, played by the utterly brilliant Jeremy Piven.
Set nine years after the events of series three, we met Harry at the peak of his wealth and enjoying the frenzy of the roaring 20s. But as he partied and gambled with stage stars, the Dolly Sisters, and pursued risky new business ventures, the Selfridges boss began to lose control. In case you missed out on the emotional ending, we’re not going to spoil it for you – but let’s just say it’s gut-wrenching.
Also starring Katherine Kelly, Amanda Abbington and Tom Goodman-Hill, it’s a series that will stay with us for many months to come. But don’t fret if you didn’t catch it because the good news is that you can still watch the entire series on DVD, which is out now. And if that’s not enough? We caught up with the LA-based star of the show himself, Jeremy Piven, who shared some secrets of the show…
Could you ever have imagined Mr Selfridge‘s success when you started?
All I knew was that I’ve loved so many programmes that have come out of the UK, starting from when I was a kid, so the whole scenario seemed like a dream. I didn’t know Harry Selfridge was an American and I wasn’t aware of the store as everyone else is, and when they broke down the story of Harry’s life, I was blown away by what he was able to accomplish. I thought it was a very commercial idea and yet I thought it was edgy because I knew it would be tough for the Brits to get behind a character who cheats on his wife. So I thought, “Wow that will be a really fun challenge.”
Could you relate to Harry in any ways?
There are a lot of things that resonate with me; there’s something very real about the American spirit he embodied, which was that if you work hard and you have clarity of intent, one would be surprised what you can accomplish. I think sometimes we don’t dare to do things that might make us fall on our face when actually, if we don’t fall on our face, we might achieve something interesting. I appreciated the fact that at the turn of the century, he thought he could head over to London and create something that hadn’t been done before.
Were there any challenges during filming?
We filmed in what was basically an active carpet factory – half the building was for storing carpets and the other half was used for filming. When we were in there, it was a very dark, dusty and damp situation and we’d be in the middle of a scene and I could just hear pigeons mating right above us! They had to bring in a hawk to chase them away – it was very dramatic!
What did you enjoy most about your time in the UK? Do you miss it now?
I do miss it; I’m in LA now and sometimes when you walk around here people think there’s something wrong or your car’s broken down or you’re a hooker or something – they don’t know why you’re walking! But in London, every day was an adventure. I’d bump into things because I was always looking up at the beautiful buildingsl! I lived around the corner from the Chiltern Firehouse, which was great fun to go and I became a member of Soho House. During the last season they opened up a new one on Dean Street and I spent my birthday there.
Did you spend much time in the real-life Selfridges store?
I did – I took my mum there one day when she was visiting. I was briefly staying round the corner from the store at the Beaumont Hotel, which is actually where they used to park the cars for Selfridges back in the day. So it was almost like I was stalking the place! I’d go into the store and wander round and just take it all in. It’s such a beautiful place; the ceilings are so high and it’s so grandiose that you feel different when you walk in. When you walk into Harrods, no disrespect, but the ceilings are low – and you get a little claustrophobic!
What was it like filming the last ever episode of the series?
All the actors really got along, which doesn’t always happen, so it was sad that we weren’t going to see each other in that way again. One of the girls in the café there would organise drinks over at The Paradise, which is in between Notting Hill and Neasden where we shot though – and we had a big wrap party after too.
Have you made any lasting friendships?
Absolutely – there isn’t a person I wouldn’t want to see again from the cast. I’m proud to call Katherine Kelly a good friend – both her and her husband. They have a beautiful little daughter now and that’s one of the great things about doing the series – people have children, they get married and you get to see it unfold right in front of you. Sacha Dhawan who played Jimmy Dillon and Gregory Fitoussi who played Henri Leclair have become close friends too.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m working on an independent movie with my sister. I founded the rights to it and nurtured the script and now we’re immersed in getting it done. I think it’s time now for me to do projects where I’m more a part of the process; I like to be involved as much as possible. I’d love to do another period drama in the future too; I’m open to it all.
Mr Selfridge Series 4 is available now on DVD and digital download