That internal battle between being a good cop or a bad cop is manifested in the creation of Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones) in FX’s period police drama Copper. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with the British novice actor to find out more about his breakthrough role and getting to work in Emmy award-winning executive producer Barry Levinson’s (Homicide: Life on the Street) series…

EVERY actor needs that one big break to pave the way for their future in showbiz. And the Hollywood success stories are a mile long.

George Clooney will for ever be indebted to ER, while several other notable names used soaps as their launch pad – Kevin Bacon in Guiding Light; Marisa Tomei, Julianne Moore and Meg Ryan in As The World Turns; Josh Duhamel in All My Children and Eva Longoria Parker in The Young and the Restless, to highlight a few.

So how does an actor with just Spooks to his credit land the lead role in FX’s Copper?

Tom Weston-Jones laughs: “I was filming World Without End in Budapest, which will be airing in Canada. I was actually helping a friend record an audition for the part initially. And I was reading with him. Then I was asked to come to New York for a screen test. It happened so quickly, really.”

The historical drama he was working on was a Ridley and Tony Scott offering also featuring Cynthia Nixon, Miranda Richardson, Ben Chaplin, Peter Firth and Charlotte Riley.

So was his friend upset about losing out on the part?

“He and I are really close, so no,” shares Weston-Jones.

Copper is a crime series set in New York City circa 1860. Irish-American detective Kevin Corcoran, finds himself torn between his loyalty to two Civil War compatriots – one a wayward son of a rich industrialist and the other an African-American physician who secretly assists Corcoran – and maintaining law and order in the city’s notorious Five Points neighbourhood.

And then there is the matter of the disappearance of his wife and the death of his daughter that haunts him.

The 25-year-old actor says: “I was convinced that I wasn’t going to get the role. Then, on Christmas Eve, I got a call saying I had the part.

“To me, this was a very physical role. I connected with the side of him as a father and a fighter and tried to bring a sense of aggression and violence as well as a tender and vulnerable side.”

And Weston-Jones admits that he had no illusions about the violence in the series.

“In the first episode, there is a shoot-out with all these people killed and money stolen. I found it was really beautiful in the way this very rich world was built,” he says.

Somewhat similar to gritty offerings such as The Shield and Luther, where the hero is rather conflicted and tends to blur the line between right and wrong, Copper also casts a different light on the genre.

“Yes, morals are off-kilter. And some people might struggle when watching it. Viewers won’t know where allegiances lie and everyone is just trying to get by and will do anything to get that,” he reveals.

Weston-Jones doesn’t subscribe to that squeaky-clean protagonist image that used to monopolise the scripts of Hollywood’s writers.

“I don’t believe in heroes,” he admits. “Although I am a big comic book fan, I think it is impossible to play someone morally correct.”

As for what anchors the series and sets it apart from the plethora of offerings saturating the industry, he says: “In terms of the violence, that makes for a good comparison. But I do find it hard to compare it to other shows because, honestly, it is an amalgamation of various styles. It is not just a period piece, or a cop show with procedural elements. There is also straight drama. It satisfies many styles.”

Although he is the face of Copper, the actors says: “I don’t see it as a show run by one person. I think it is an ensemble piece. Everyone involved is as important as the other person, from the cast to the crew.”

Acknowledging that Copper has been a big “stepping stone” in his career, he is also proud to be in a show he believes in.

Then again, to be working with the heavyweight likes of Emmy award winning producer-director-screenwriter Barry Levinson, co-creator Tom Fontana, and a talented pool of executive producers and writers, is an honour in itself.

Without ruining the intrigue for viewers, Weston-Jones hints: “People will be surprised to see how stressed he is and how far he is asked to go. He is used as a stronghold over New York’s Five Points neighbourhood but, at the same time, satisfies the obsession he has with his dead daughter and missing wife. He often oversteps boundaries.

“Aside from him, each character has a particular journey. Those trajectories bring about changes at the flip of a coin.”

With Copper already piquing Hollywood’s interest with critics raving about it, don’t be surprised if Weston-Jones – earning his fair share of plaudits with this role – becomes the next big blue-eyed boy on TV.

• Copper airs on FX (TopTV, channel 110) today at 8.30pm.