The following story contains major spoilers from the series finale of The Undoing — proceed at your own peril
The Undoing‘s Hugh Grant readily admits that Jonathan Fraser is probably the most despicable character he has ever played in his four-decade career — and that’s not even accounting for the stuff that was left on the cutting room floor. Below, the former rom-com poster boy reveals to TVLine the heinous moment in the HBO thriller’s series finale that viewers didn’t see, and also sheds light on the behind-the-scenes debate over the climactic car/bridge sequence as well as the identity of Jonathan’s other other woman.
TVLINE | Did you know at the outset that Jonathan was the killer?
Yes. I’m not very experienced with television, but I hear that more typically the [scripts] come through as you’re filming them. It must be very difficult not knowing where your character is going to end up or where the story is going. But, in this case, we had all of the scripts before we started. In fact, knowing I was the killer was key to me signing on, because, obviously, that was a far more interesting part than an unfaithful husband who just pleads his innocence the whole way through.
TVLINE | Jonathan was a very convincing liar. He had me fooled. What was it like for you to get into the head of someone who is able to so convincingly lie to his wife and son?
He believes his own lies. And I think there are sociopaths, psychopaths, narcissists like that [in real-life]. I’ve met them. They are incredibly convincing. So that was fun to play. It was also essential to play, because if he’s not convincing in those moments you have no show. The whodunit mystery goes out the window.
TVLINE | Would you say that Jonathan is the most despicable character you have ever played in your career?
[Laughs] Yes. [Pauses] Well… going back to the 1980s and my miniseries days, I was a very nasty elder brother of a champagne family in [CBS’ two-part drama Judith Krantz’s Till We Meet Again]. I sold all the champagne to the Nazis and I got whipped out of the house by Michael York and shot by the resistance. I raped poor ol’ Courteney Cox. I was horrible.
TVLINE | Is it more fun playing someone who is so unabashedly evil?
Yes. And I really can’t tell you why. I’m not alone; actors love it. And they dread the “nice guy.” The “nice guy” is a nightmare to try to play and not be boring.
TVLINE | In your opinion, what is the grossest thing that Jonathan did during these six episodes, aside from the murder itself. For me, it’s a tossup between him having sex with — and then murdering — Elena, before immediately returning home to have sex with Grace…
People on Twitter quite rightly said a man of 59 wouldn’t be able to have sex twice in an evening. [Laughs]
TVLINE | And also when he tried to pin the murder on his son.
Suggesting to Grace that [Henry] might be the murderer was pretty awful. And the poor boy overhears it. I’m able to bring him around with my infinite daddy charm. That was just ghastly. Even some of the crew said, “Oh, that’s just revolting.” The only other time they said that about is when we were shooting the murder and… [Chuckles] I don’t know what’s in the final cut, but I was doing some takes where Jonathan — while hammering away at [Elena’s head] — was spitting out a part of her brain. I don’t know if that’s still in there.
TVLINE | I believe it is…
And this is much worse, but after her head was [beaten into] pulp I [did a take] where Jonathan the doctor was quite interested in her brains, and he started poking around in them with his finger. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Was that scripted?
No, that was just me trying stuff.
TVLINE | Did you ever discuss with the producers who the other woman was that Jonathan had an affair with? He mentions that Elena was one of two — of course he could be lying about that, too. Some fans were speculating that it was Sylvia.
The conversation we had was that he was lying. There were plenty of other women. I think he’d been a womanizer all his life. In terms of Sylvia, there was a version of the script where when she tells Grace that she represented Jonathan in his dismissal case from the hospital that he also made a pass at her. Not a successful pass, but he did come on to her.
TVLINE | Why do you think Jonathan didn’t follow through on his suicide attempt?
I think he’s not really sure what his plan is when he gets into that car [with Henry]. He certainly wants to put things right with the boy, because his vanity can’t accept that he’s not a wonderful daddy and a great doctor and all that. I think he’s quite comfortable with the fact that he will be caught by the police helicopters and he’ll be the center of attention again. A narcissist doesn’t particularly mind that. And his narcissism is so out of control by then that when Grace comes running along the bridge [towards] him he actually thinks, “Yep, she can’t resist me. I’ll give her a nice hug and it’ll be OK.” [Laughs] And I hope that’s on my face. And then, of course, for the first time in his life, he literally cannot charm his wife and kid anymore.
TVLINE | What was it like shooting that elaborate climax on the bridge?
It was right at the end of the shoot and it was extremely hot. There were a lot of moving pieces — helicopters, camera on drones… And it was also extremely complicated emotionally. Episode 6 had been the subject of so much debate. [New script] versions were emailed back and forth, especially the last section in the car. I was terrified [when we were shooting it], and I remained terrified until [the finale aired] that the whole road trip might be laughable in the wrong way. And so it was a huge relief to see — at least on social media — that people seemed to think it worked. I was the one who pitched [the idea of Jonathan and Henry] singing that song. That was a song that me and my cousins used to sing on holidays as kids, and I thought that might be cool as a moment of craziness. But I was terrified people would just think it was all crap.
TVLNE | What other aspects of Episode 6 provoked debate behind-the-scenes?
The bridge [scene] and the helicopter chase. I was worried, like, “Whoa, the tone has changed drastically.” We’ve been huddled in rooms with intensity and now suddenly it’s a big action sequence, and is that going to be startling to [viewers]? And then Jonathan going a bit bonkers in the car… It’s highly dangerous. If we get it right great. If we get it wrong it’s gonna be embarrassing. I also worried if there was enough jeopardy on that bridge. Should Jonathan have Henry up there [on the guard rail] with him? All of those things we discussed endlessly.
TVLINE | Was that actually you standing on the guard rail? Or was it a stunt double? Or green screen trickery?
That was me. [Deadpan] I am very brave and manly. [Pauses] I think they rigged something underneath so I’d only fall a few feet.