One can sometimes tell how much an actor enjoyed doing a project by the amount of trouble, aggravation or inconvenience he or she is willing to endure to promote it.
It's probably safe to assume that British actor Rupert Penry-Jones is pretty fond of his new drama series, "Whitechapel," premiering Wednesday, Oct. 26, on BBC America, since he gets on the phone to talk about it the day after having knee surgery.
"It's all right," he says. "I might be a little bit slow and not really with it, that's all."
Penry-Jones went end over teakettle last year while training for the British charity event Soccer Aid.
"I fractured my knee," he says, "and then the screws that were in my knee were sticking out. It's good to get it done. These things have to be done."
In "Whitechapel" -- the first two three-episode seasons (or series, as they're called in the U.K.) air together -- Penry-Jones plays Detective Inspector Chandler.
He's an up-and-coming officer with a family legacy on the force in London and a bright future. Then he gets assigned to a unit investigating a series of murders that appear to have been inspired by Jack the Ripper.
Between the sensational aspects of the crime -- including the involvement of a self-proclaimed "Ripperologist" (Steve Pemberton) -- and the clash of styles between the fussy, germ-phobic Chandler and the hard-bitten investigators, led by veteran Detective Sergeant Miles (Phil Davis), Chandler's future may be wrecked by the time the crimes get solved.
Having played the formidable case officer Adam Henry Carter in the spy drama "Spooks" -- called "MI-5" when it aired in the U.S. on A&E Network -- Penry-Jones was happy to play someone who wasn't quite so brave and stalwart.
"I like Chandler," he says, "because obviously he's so different from what I did in 'Spooks' before. He makes mistakes; he's a bit weak, with the OCD and various other things. He's a very inexperienced policeman.
"And I liked that, because if he'd been another out-and-out hero like Adam Carter, I couldn't have done it. But what's been nice, through the show -- and we just finished the third (season) now -- he's starting to become a stronger man, getting things under control.
"His OCD never goes away; it comes through at specific times. He's quite a fun character."
In the first three episodes, Chandler and his team are pursuing their killer on the streets of Whitechapel, the very London neighborhood the original Jack the Ripper terrorized in 1888.
Fascination with the case doesn't seem to have dimmed over time.
"We were filming on location in the Whitechapel area," says Penry-Jones, "and you'd see tours coming through, the Ripperologists, as they call themselves, taking the tours through the streets of London, showing them the sights where the Ripper murders took place.
"When the show was aired here, it went out to 9 million viewers, which is huge. That was a lot to do with the fact that it was about Jack the Ripper."
But, things in the formerly down-and-dirty Whitechapel itself seem to have changed.
"It's a lovely place," Penry-Jones says. "It's got lots of cobbled streets. What's great about it, you still feel like you're somewhere that's very, very old, but the shops are amazing now, great night life. It's quite a trendy, up-and-coming area."
Of course, today's London police have an advantage that the original investigator, Chief Inspector Frederick Abberline, could not even have dreamed of: closed-circuit cameras at almost every street corner and building entrance.
"It's there to keep us safe; that's what they say," explains Penry-Jones. "I suppose if you're not a criminal, and you're not doing something you shouldn't be doing, why should it worry you? Only people who are doing things they shouldn't be doing would be worried about it."
In the second half of the episodes on BBC America, the focus shifts from the 19th century to the 20th, from a serial killer to a pair of sibling criminal masterminds.
"Series two is based on the Kray twins," Penry-Jones says. "They're trying to rebuild the criminal empire that the Krays built in the '60s. So instead of having the Gothic Victorian feel, it has much more of the '60s things about it."
One thing conspicuously missing is any sort of a love life for Chandler.
"No, no, that doesn't start until the series that we just shot," Penry-Jones says. "The first two series, I thought he was gay. I was sort of playing it that way, and they weren't telling me not to."
Chandler also doesn't get to pull guns on people, but that's OK with Penry-Jones.
"I got sick it of it, actually, after a while on 'Spooks.' After a while, you feel silly, running around with a gun, chasing bad guys. I wanted to do something more serious."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun