IT’S ANOTHER season of the captivating period drama, Mr Selfridge. That needed to be said. After all, the writers have found the perfect foil for the story arcs by introducing Lord Loxley (Aidan McArdle), much to the chagrin of Lady Mae Loxley (Katherine Kelly), who has been enjoying her carefree lifestyle and clandestine affairs in the new season.
The Irish actor, who has done a slew of made-for-TV movies and TV shows, is chuffed about his distinguished character’s dark streak.
He laughed: “I think viewers will absolutely despise Lord Loxley. I don’t think it is complicated. If I am not hated, I have really failed.
“Loxley is incredibly ruthless and the embodiment of entitlement. He thinks there is absolutely no reason why he should not get what he wants.”
In the first season of Mr Selfridge, he was mentioned, but never seen.
Of course, Loxley’s appearance now isn’t without reason. With World War I looming, he is hoping it will be the answer to filling his empty coffers.
McArdle explained: “Loxley is in trouble and plans to use his position as a peer to make some quick money. His return also spells major trouble for his wife. They had previously come to an arrangement where he allowed Lady Mae her infidelities and to live in London while he stayed in the country seat.
“But because he finds himself in huge financial difficulty he is forced to stake his claim in London. Loxley is a major problem for how Lady Mae lives her life. She suddenly realises that the control she thought she had over her destiny isn’t there at all. One can imagine there was something quite dangerous about them when they first got together, almost like two panthers circling around each other.”
Whatever control Lady Mae thought she had over him, is no more. Surprising, since she is notorious for getting her own way by flaunting her wealth and influence.
The actor shared: “Lady Mae thought she would be in complete control and would be able to manipulate him to her own ends. But, to her horror, she finds out that she is wrong. This is something that is going to provide her with almost a taste of her own medicine. He is a very controlling man and she finds herself with a massive battle on her hands against somebody whom she does not really have much control over at all. Loxley immediately closes her account at the Selfridge store. He tries to make out that Mr Selfridge has been ripping off his wife in some way – lulling her into buying lots of stuff – and he is going to change that.”
Of course, he soon realises his recklessness in dismissing Harry Selfridge (Jeremy Piven) as a mere shopkeeper.
“Loxley underestimates Harry. He is out of touch (with things). He doesn’t realise there’s a new breed of powerful middle-class merchants in the city and that has changed the political background,” the actor shared.
“He has come in with his landed gentry privilege and size 10s and destroyed potential alliances. He has a very destructive persona. He is not above a spot of blackmail, even when it comes to old school friends. He wants to get on to the Military Procurement Committee handing out contracts because he knows that whenever there is war, there is money.”
As the actor pointed out – his character has no redeeming qualities. That’s probably why he will be making the most noise and be the drawcard this season.
A self-confessed fan of the series, McArdle added: “I had been following Mr Selfridge. It was very addictive. So I was keen to take the part, especially because of who he was and some lovely set piece scenes where you get to be completely bad.
“The first time I walked onto the store set I thought it was amazing. It is huge. We use Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire for scenes inside the Loxleys’ London house and that is impressive too, with lots of incredible paintings on the walls. It was great fun to think, ‘ah, this is my house’. It was brilliant working with Katherine Kelly. On our very first day of filming I had to be pretty rough on, her but she made me feel at ease. I was the new boy coming in and she was the one who was absolutely supportive.”
Expanding on the Loxleys’ marriage, he revealed: “Their relationship is incredibly toxic. The attraction isn’t based on love, it’s almost like a narcissistic attraction that you have met your partner in crime. But he no longer trusts her and has cut her off from him in an emotional way. Now she’s got to toe the line and he’s going to be the boss.”
In many ways Lord Loxley and Lady Mae Loxley are a marriage made in hell. He is physically abusive and domineering.
On the change in dynamics to her storyline, Kelly says: “I started talking to executive producer Kate Lewis about series two of Mr Selfridge before we had even finished series one.”
“The first thing Kate said was: ‘We are going to bring your husband in and he’s not going to be who people expect’. Lady Mae has painted him to be this old, weary gentleman who spends his time shooting in the country. But actually he’s the complete opposite. A bit of a devil. Instantly, the tables turn for Lady Mae. You can see Lord Loxley is a nasty piece of work. The fear of God is in Pimble’s eyes when he comes back and the whole household trembles.”
As for her character’s switch in personality, when she becomes more docile, the Coronation Street actress notes: “It’s an exceptional storyline that will come as a shock to the audience. In series one you saw Lady Mae when she wanted to be seen. She treated Selfridge’s as her own catwalk and red carpet. When you were in her house it was always on her terms. It was her party that she was throwing.
“But now in series two you see Lady Mae when she would not want you to see her. It really is that thing of not knowing what goes on behind closed doors. Although you will know by the end of this series.
“You get to know a lot more about Lady Mae and what makes her tick and the kind of woman she really is, rather than the woman she wants you to believe she is. They are two very different things. You see her vulnerable side for the first time.”
Shedding light on Lady Mae’s backstory, she offered: “Loxley is the landed gentry and Lady Mae is a former Gaiety Girl who married into his money.
“Once upon a time when they first got together there would have been some good times. They have a love-hate relationship and it is very much hate now. His money problems also impact on her lifestyle. At the outset Loxley closes her Selfridge’s account in a very public way and really makes a fool of her. Hard times have hit and she’s not the shopaholic she was in series one. Loxley has definitely dampened her fun. But that’s just one of the things he does.”
And so the battle rages on between Lord and Lady Loxley: him for power and money and her for her dignity and freedom. Meanwhile, Mr Selfridge is bracing himself, and preparing the staff, for the changes that are to come.
A hotbed of drama, deception, greed, hate, fear and romance – talk about tempting!
• Mr Selfridge airs on BBC Entertainment (DStv channel 120) on Sunday, July 27 at 9pm.