Black Narcissus hunk Alessandro Nivola on how his sex appeal 'wreaks havoc' with nuns in raunchy new BBC drama

BLACK Narcissus hunk Alessandro Nivola has spoken about how his sex appeal 'wreaks havoc' with nuns in the raunchy new BBC drama.

Nivola takes on the role of handsome bachelor Mr Dean in the new mini-series set to screen over the festive period.

Adapted from Rumer Godden's 1939 novel of the same name, the BBC/FX drama is set in the 1930s and tells the story of sexual repression and forbidden love.

Summarising his character, Nivola, 48, told The Sun Online: "He’s living a bachelor’s life and he has casual sex with the local women there but I don’t think there’s ever any feeling that he’s disrespectful or taking advantage of them – at least that’s not the intention of what we’re trying to portray."

Gemma Arterton stars as Sister Clodagh and is among a set of nuns who travel to Nepal, however, they find themselves in a place of sensuality nicknamed the House of Women due to some of the sexual antics that previously took place there.

Land agent Mr Dean is the source of temptation for Sister Clodagh, as the young nun attempts to find her feet in her new surroundings.


"The passion that sparks between him and Clodagh is something that neither of them have any interest in and are determined not to indulge," Nivola explained.

"It really challenges them both because of that. I don’t think either of them like feeling vulnerable that way.

"Everything he’s doing – he’s naturally a gruff, rude person, in particular with these people coming in from England and Europe that he’s so predisposed to disliking and disliking their mission.

"He is a self loathing person. He doesn’t feel that he is lovable, and so he doesn’t want to love anybody else."

But Nivola admitted his feelings were mixed when it came to taking on the role, based on his misconceptions of the character from the 1947 film.

He explained: "Before I read the script I didn’t really remember Mr Dean that much from the film.

"I vaguely remember a guy in very short short shorts on a 3 foot pony. I remember thinking this isn’t going to be a great role.

"Then I read the script which isn’t really based on the film, it’s based on Rumer Godden’s book. I immediately felt the character was much more well rounded in the script."

Nivola, who is married to British actress Emily Mortimer, went on: "I came to understand him from this story as someone who had had some kind of traumatic experience, whether that was from his first world war experience or some kind of romantic pain, he really is a mirror to Clodagh.

"The two of them have both had at some point their hearts broken. It had caused them to be terrified of their own vulnerability. They don’t want to allow themselves to be put in that position ever again.

"She has chosen this very extreme religious life and he has chosen this dissolute bachelorhood that doesn’t ever call on him to have to feel anything."

The American star reflected: "In the film I wasn’t really aware of this.


"He just seems more like an object of desire for these women that was a catalyst to wreak havoc on their lives."

And his thoughts on become every nun's fantasy?

"I’ve waited a long time for this moment," Nivola joked.

"All my Catholic school boyhood days are coming to fruition. I grew up for a lot of my childhood in Vermont and I was taught by French Canadian nuns."

Black Narcissus begins on BBC One December 27 at 9pm.

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