Matthew Beard talks Vienna Blood, the beauty of Austria, and more

Vienna Blood -- Courtesy of PBS Press Room
Vienna Blood -- Courtesy of PBS Press Room /

Matthew Beard spoke to Precinct TV exclusively about the new period drama series, Vienna Blood. What makes this series so exciting?

Matthew Beard plays Max Lieberman in Vienna Blood, a student of Sigmund Freud. With a keen eye for detail and body language, he quickly proves himself to be an invaluable member of the police force in Vienna.

Beard took the time to speak exclusively to Precinct TV about the role and what he loved the most about filming. Don’t forget you can tune in every Sunday night on PBS for new episodes of Vienna Blood.

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Precinct TV: What was it about this show that you got that script and said, this is something that I want to do?

Matthew Beard: There were two reasons. The first is that the subject always interested me. I studied psychology at school and did English Literature at university, and a lot of my papers had a psycho-analytical angle.

Secondly, I didn’t know much about Vienna at that time other than the art and culture, so I wanted to explore that more.

It was nothing like I’d done before, and I was intrigued by the ambition of the project. I like to take risks, and I thought the scale of Vienna Blood was that.

PTV: That’s something I wanted to touch on. This is the first time, I think I’ve ever heard of an Austrian crime drama. I’ve watched a lot of just straight-up British crime dramas but I had never, you know, heard of or watched one that was set in Austria. So how would you describe that influence in terms of style or tone? What sets this apart from say, you know, just a regular garden variety crime drama?

Beard: I think, first of all, Austria, and especially Vienna, is a character in itself. It’s the heart of the show.

Also, the co-production with the English writer with the Austrian production and directors. That combination is really unusual. It’s unlike anything else.

There are also no subtitles. It’s not like the Scandinavian subtitle dramas. This is a different creature.

PTV: And what is a little more common with this series is it’s based on a series of books. Did you get a chance to read them while you were shooting this? Did you want to because I know some actors are saying, ‘I have to go and read the books’ and I’ve also met other actors who say, you know, ‘I either didn’t have the time or I just didn’t want to be influenced by the source material.’ So which camp do you fall into?

Beard: It depends on the project. With this one, I had a clear idea in my head when I read the scripts what I wanted Max to be. So I did read the first book, but as soon as I noticed the books were different than the scripts, I put it to one side.

It was useful to flesh out the world and see where the story came from. I also got in touch with Frank Tallis, the author, to find out why he wrote these books, and that was useful. But after I read the first one, I didn’t do any more reading. I decided to do my own thing for the character based on the script.

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PTV: I don’t want to spoil anything but I do want to make sure we talk about anything that you really love. Do you have any favorite scenes or things that were highlights for you while you were filming?

Beard: There’s a lot. At the end of the first episode, there’s a scene that takes place on the Riesenrad which is a wheel in Vienna, which has been seen in many films, most famously Orson Welles’ The Third Man. It’s a really climactic ending, and it was so exciting.

PTV: It occurred to me that this is the first crime drama where you’ve been the co-lead. I know you’ve done others, but this is the first that’s been this big.

Beard: Yeah, I’ve never had this much of a workload.

PTV: That has to be fun to finally get to step into that role and be the guy that gets to do all the crime-solving. But I’m also a nerd, so maybe I just find that really fun.

Beard: Yeah, it was nice to stick with the character for so long. Usually, I’ve just come in to do my bit and that’s it. It was nice to be someone for such a long time.

Also, Juergen Maurer, the actor playing Oskar, the police officer in Vienna, was amazing. When you come into a show, you sort of tap into the standard and morale around you. He’d worked on more projects and I learned a lot from him, like how to be a leader.

PTV: In general, is this a genre that you enjoy as a fan? Do you have favorite crime dramas you like to watch? Or is this something that you maybe wouldn’t necessarily be into?

Beard: I do like a lot of crime stuff. I do also like covering different periods of time.

But the main thing I like is doing something of a genre where the action might be heightened. It’s a different feel in the taste of the dialogue and all the witty one-liners.

PTV: I love to wrap up my interviews by asking people what are the things that you are like super passionate about? Do you have things that you would consider you know, your fandom or maybe other actors that you’re a huge fan of and anything that you really love and we would say to people, hey, you should totally go you know, see that or go watch that person?

Beard: Well, I’m a big film nerd. Right now in London at the BFI there is a Fellini season so I’ve been going to those and enjoying his work on the big screen. I’d never seen I Vitteloni before and that was a particular highlight.

PTV: Is there anything that I may have missed out that you wish that someone would ask you about?

Beard: You got most of it. Vienna Blood is an amazing story of Austria at a crossroads in time. There are some things we haven’t delved that much into in the first season, like the politics. It’s there in the backdrop, you can feel the rise of antisemitism, for example.

But I hope it leads to people looking up Vienna in 1906 or 1908 and finding out more about that world, the art, the architecture, and more. I’m so glad that I had the chance to do the research and I hope that encourages others.

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Vienna Blood airs Sundays at 10/9c on PBS.