‘The Artful Dodger’ – Thomas Brodie-Sangster on Jacks Subtle Differences


The Big Picture

  • The Artful Dodger is a beloved secondary character from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and Hulu’s adaptation gives him new adventures in Australia.
  • Actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays the grown-up Dodger, now an accomplished surgeon named Jack Dawkins, who grapples with his past and a new set of challenges.
  • The series explores Jack’s relationships with his former mentor Fagin and the governor’s daughter Lady Belle, highlighting themes of trust, love, and personal growth.

Charles Dickens is one of the most well-known authors, particularly when it comes to the holiday season when Christmas Carol is the talk of the town at every panto and playing on everyone’s televisions. Oliver Twist, however, is another one of Dickens’ most beloved stories—and one that has also lived many lives through various adaptations. While Oliver Twist might be the titular character, readers and audiences were always quite fond of one of the secondary characters: The Artful Dodger—a clever and cunning street urchin who worked under the guidance of Fagin. Unlike most adaptations of Dickens’ works, Hulu’s The Artful Dodger continues the story by giving Dodger new adventures throughout his new life in Australia, far away from the streets of London.

In The Artful Dodger, the titular character grows up to become an accomplished surgeon by the name of Jack Dawkins (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who lives in Australia. But things quickly go awry for Jack when a figure from his past turns up on the recent convict ship, and Jack finds him forced to play host to his erstwhile father figure, Fagin (David Thewlis). Together, Thewlis and Brodie-Sangster make for a dynamic duo, and the series is made even more delightful by the blossoming romance between Jack and the Governor’s daughter Lady Belle (Maia Mitchell).

Speaking with Collider, Thomas Brodie-Sangster discusses how Jack presents two versions of himself when he’s with Fagin or he’s rubbing elbows with posh society, why he chose to stick with one accent for his character, how Jack is grappling with a loss of trust and security, the high mortality rate of surgeries in the period, and how vital “love” is to who Jack is as a person, particularly in relation to Fagin and Lady Belle. Check out all of this and so much more in the video at the top of the article, or in the full transcript below.

The Artful Dodger

Release Date
November 29, 2023

Thomas Brodie-Sangster, David Thewlis, Maia Mitchell, Damon Herriman

Main Genre

Drama, Crime, History


James McNamara, David Maher, David Taylor

Watch Our David Thewlis Interview

COLLIDER: I love the first few episodes that we got to see. It was very excellent. I studied Dickens at college, and Dickens is very much a writer that has influenced a lot of the media that we consume today, specifically with historical dramas, and I’m curious, what was your first introduction to Dickens?

THOMAS BRODIE-SANGSTER: It probably was Oliver!, the movie, many years ago with Oliver Reed as the baddie. I think it was the first movie that actually scared me, that and The Witches by Roald Dahl were the two films that scared me quite a lot. I mean, I grew up in London. It was a different aesthetic. It’s changed a lot since then, but there’s a lot of those old Victorian buildings, and I grew up in a Georgian flat and lived in a Victorian house for a long time, and now I live in another Georgian house, so the aesthetic is somewhat familiar to me. But thankfully, things have moved on a bit since then. But that was my first introduction to Dickens.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster Thought the World Could “Do With a Laugh” and ‘The Artful Dodger’ Can Deliver That

What drew you to The Artful Dodger?

BRODIE-SANGSTER: Well, I always liked the character, the Artful Dodger. He’s my favorite character in Oliver!. He’s the fun, and in some ways perhaps, the most relatable, too, and I thought the scripts were really fun. I could see myself doing it. I liked bringing Dickens to Australia. I could picture what that would look like. I liked the idea of that aesthetic. I also like the idea of a Dodger grown up and trying his hand at a different style of life and attempting to break away from what we all know him as being, a street urchin. And I love David Thewlis, big fan of him, and he was already attached at the time. I remember thinking at the time the world could probably do with a laugh and some good fun, and I thought that this show could do that.

I love how unexpected it was. I definitely wasn’t expecting for him to be this accomplished surgeon. That was such a neat angle with the story. I’m curious, in your preparation for the role, did you do any research into the surgical practices of the time to kind of familiarize yourself with all of that?

BRODIE-SANGSTER: I mean, very loosely. The scripts were written in a manner where they had quite a lot of that knowledge already built into them a certain amount. Then we had sessions with a surgeon to really actually break down each scene and try and figure out exactly what surgery would be taking place in each scene, and we would then speak with the special effects guys and try and make it all as correct as possible. But also, the show is very fast, it’s fast-paced and also the Dodger has a certain flair to it, so we didn’t want to get too hung up on actually how long these procedures would take. But then also coming from the kind of Navy-style back then was to act very, very quickly to cause as minimal amount of pain as possible and to get the surgery done very quickly and roughly, so we add speed and flare into these procedures. But yeah, it’s very interesting.

What’s so interesting, as well, with Jack is that obviously he’s an established character in Oliver Twist, people are really familiar with him, but you’re giving a whole new kind of story to him, a whole new life to him. What was it like to kind of build up that character? What kind of character preparation and work did you put into fleshing out who you wanted him to be?

BRODIE-SANGSTER: Well, I didn’t think he should be the kind of classic cockney. I thought about doing that, and between myself and the showrunner and directors and everyone, I think we kind of decided to not go for the proper old-school cockney, like proper Dodger, and again, bring back that idea that he’s running away from that and trying to push that and trying to build his way up in society. So, vocally quite different to what we think of as being Dodger. However, in the scenes with Fagin I wanted to kind of play around, and it’s a hard one to do to kind of do two accents and for an audience to not go, “What is he doing?” But it was the choice to kind of go a little bit more into the old Dodger with my scenes with Fagin – only slightly, but just dropping T’s and things and and being a bit more like the old-school Dodger. Then in my scenes with Belle and with any members of higher society where I’m trying to slightly be a different person, I kind of posh it up as it were. So, that was important for me.

I like the aspect of the fact that he’s kind of got this almost addiction to gambling and risk-taking, and that harks back to his old life. He’s actually truly talented at surgery and sees surgery as a platform to elevate him, but he’s constantly struggling with these two worlds, the place where he knows he’s from and shunned of because of it, and the place where he thinks that he could be, which isn’t necessarily in high society, but that’s respected. So, it was good fun to kind of play with these two versions of himself, how he thinks of himself. I think he’s confident, but also I think his confidence helps cover up his insecurities that he carries with him.

Touching on that past that Jack is grappling with with Fagin coming back, it’s something I asked David, as well, yesterday during the interviews, but there’s an element of ambiguity between how these two characters feel about each other, if that is a genuine care between Jack and Fagin, or if it’s kind of like an obligation. I am curious, for you, how did you play Jack’s emotional attachment to Fagin? Does it feel like something from his past that he just has to deal with, or is there a genuine care there for what happens to Fagin and his fate?

BRODIE-SANGSTER: I think Fagin was the only person in his previous life that gave him any kind of love, any kind of care, or attention. He took him in from the cold, gave him a roof over his head, gave him a purpose in life, not for the best causes or reasons, his morals are very questionable — they were crooks, they were criminals, thieves, the bad sides of Victorian England — but they had each other’s backs supposedly and looked after each other. So, I think Dodger sees Fagin as very much a father, who provides that role for him at an early age, but then he’s also betrayed by him and really struggles with that betrayal. He holds a huge amount of resentment and anger towards Fagin, but despite that, he is his dad in many ways, and there’s no kind of running away from that or hiding that. So, he’s constantly either shouting and having a go at Fagin or he’s being slowly lured and pulled back into a way and a life that he actually flourished in.

They were a pack. They were like dogs, really, and Fagin was the head of the pack, he was the alpha. If you’re lost in the world, it’s nice to know that you have a family, that you have a gang, and you have a posse of people who rely on you and who look after you. The trouble is, that trust was broken, and I think that’s truly heartbreaking for Dodger.

I know people often ask what part of yourself did you bring to this character, but I’m curious, was there any element of Dodger that stuck with you after you wrapped on the series?

BRODIE-SANGSTER: It’s hard to put it into words, but I think there is a part of you as an actor that goes into every character. There has to be, otherwise it’s not a performance. And there’s something that they leave with you that helps you kind of grow as an individual. I’ve always thought that. Figuring out exactly what that is, I don’t really know. But he’s loyal and he’s confident in his ability, and perhaps that’s something I have taken on.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster Explains How “Love” Is a Crucial Thing For Jack

I love that. I also really love that this series has this little burgeoning romance between Jack and Belle starting with the first couple of episodes. We don’t really see where that’s going, but can you tease a little bit about exploring that side of Jack? It’s fun to see him experiencing some romance while also balancing, like, “Oh my gosh, my past is like knocking at my door.”

BRODIE-SANGSTER: Yeah, I think it all goes back down to love, really. His experience of love has not been the best, so I think he’s a little afraid and intimidated by the idea of love in general. But yeah, he desperately wants it, as we all do, but it means that you have to expose yourself. It means you have to completely let everything go, and that’s a very hard thing for people to do in general. I think that’s something the Dodger struggles with because it makes you vulnerable, and he hates being vulnerable because he has been vulnerable in the past and that has bitten him.

However, with Belle it’s slightly different because there’s this, I don’t know, there’s this competition level that she respects him hugely for what he has achieved and who he is as a surgeon, and there aren’t many people in that circle that do. I think he admires her tenacity and her audaciousness. At the beginning, I think he just thinks of her as another high society toff that doesn’t know what’s going on, has no connection with the real world. In some ways, he’s correct. She doesn’t really know what’s in the real world, but she is willing to try to experience that as opposed to just sitting on her laurels and enjoying her high life as the governor’s daughter. She has the potential and interest and desire to want to help people, and I think that’s where they connect. I think Dodger really wants to help people and so does Lady Belle, but they’re just from two very different parts of the world and of society, and it’s that that brings them together, their want to help and progress medicine, which is kind of being stuck in somewhat of a rut.

Back then the mortality rate was insane. Like, even if you survived the procedure, the likelihood was that you were gonna die of infection. 70% of surgeries ended in infection, and even if it was successful, you’d die. So, the progress made back then was huge in terms of just early forms of antiseptic and ether, as well, which is roughly in the right timezone of what we’re talking about. We slightly pushed the timings a little bit. I think one of the procedures we do in the show actually took place in 1920-something, and we pull it back slightly, but we tried to be quite accurate as to what the innovations were happening in the medical [field], and bring it to Australia, which was quite late in getting all of that.

Absolutely. As we wind down the interview, I am interested to know, do you think there is the potential for more stories to be told in this little corner of the Dickensian world? Are you hopeful for a Season 2?

BRODIE-SANGSTER: I mean, Dickens is still going. There’s a reason for that. He writes great stories that people can still relate to. Obviously, this is a twist on it, no pun intended, but it is a twist on it. It is far more colorful, it is bright, and it is fast-paced, much more so than Dickens’ novels, but using his larger brush strokes to create a slightly enhanced and different world. I think there’s lots of scope. Stories get retold and retold and retold constantly, and it’s finding new and wonderful ways and effective ways of doing that. So, I mean, Dickens is still alive and well.

Watch on Hulu

The Artful Dodger premiered earlier this week on Hulu in the U.S., where new episodes will arrive weekly. Check out the trailer below:


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