Fresh from David Bailey’s studio, Henry Lloyd-Hughes bounds into the new Scarfes Bar at London’s Rosewood hotel and orders a lime and soda. “What a great place,” gasps the 30-year-old, settling into a corner booth under a giant Gerald Scarfe drawing of the Monty Pythons. “I’ve been out of the country for five months and so much has changed. It’s good to be back.”
Any homecoming will have to be short-lived. Lloyd-Hughes is just off the plane from the Malaysian island of Penang, where he’s been filming the second series of Indian Summers—a big-budget drama set around a gin-soaked ex-pat community during the last gasp of the British Raj—and in five days he’s returning for another three months. There’s also a 48-hour trip to Los Angeles to promote the show’s U.S. launch this month; boasting exquisite scenery, 1930s fashions, political intrigue, and sweaty sex scenes, Indian Summers is an easy sell.
Lloyd-Hughes stars as Ralph Whelan, private secretary to the viceroy of India and a wily, stiff-lipped master of Machiavellian arts. “Yes, Ralph is very good at ducking and diving through trouble,” he says grinning, “but his day of reckoning is coming.” It’s a role he clearly relishes and one he’s primed for after an 11-year career punctuated by period pieces, from Anna Karenina (2012) and Madame Bovary to the BBC/HBO World War I epic Parade’s End starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s easy to see why Lloyd-Hughes makes ideal casting for historic productions. In the flesh, there is something yesteryear about him: He’s dashing like a Dr. No-era Connery; uses the word fruity a lot; plays for a cricket team called the Bloody Lads (“We just registered our first league win!”); and is an unashamed old-school romantic (he designed his and wife Rosie’s wedding rings).
His Hollywood breakout, however, promises to be a thoroughly modern affair. Alongside Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Daniel Radcliffe, and Michael Caine, Lloyd-Hughes plays a shady computer scientist in the upcoming Now You See Me 2, the follow-up to 2013’s smash-hit heist caper. “The plot is so complex and tricksy that I couldn’t even tell you how it ends,” he says with a laugh. “I’ll be watching it blind like the audience.”