LOS ANGELES — Mark Strong has played protagonists and antagonists throughout his career. When he starred in the 2006 two-part British series, "Low Winter Sun," he had to deal with the blurred line of what happens when a basically good person does something very bad.
The two episodes didn't give him much chance to explore the deep questions about the nature of good and evil. But now that the British production has been adapted into a series for AMC, Strong is getting plenty of opportunities to debate the issues. The show debuts Sunday.
Strong plays a Detroit detective who, along with his partner (played by Lennie James), kills a fellow detective. The pair are assigned to solve the murder.
Whether it was the original British version or the new AMC series, one question keeps haunting Strong: Is there something a character can do that's so wrong, he or she will never win back the sympathy of the audience?
"Lennie and I had this discussion. He rang me up and asked, 'Are we really doing this?' I said we were and then I asked him, 'How do you come back from that?' " Strong says. "Actually, that's the challenge of the show. It's about the moral compass. That's what's going to be fascinating.
"How far can you take an audience down a certain path before they hate you? And when you take them that far, how do you bring them back?"
If recent TV is any example, he'll be able to take the character into horrifically dark areas. This is the era of anti-heroes with shows like "The Sopranos," "Breaking Bad" and "Dexter." "The Shield," which ran for years, started with a cop killing a cop.
Strong says the only way "Low Winter Sun" won't work is if he's only doing bad things and asking the audience to like him anyway.
"Audiences have become sophisticated enough to know a character doesn't just have to be good or bad. They can be good and bad. So, we have to be clever with the story and how I play the role," Strong says. "There's much more going on in the show than whether or not these guys are good or bad."
The British actor has had plenty of acting experience to help him find the right tone for the series. He comes to the cable show after starring in "Sherlock Holmes," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Green Lantern," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Robin Hood."
He's been a very busy film actor, but Strong was willing to commit to a TV series because it gives him a chance to revisit the role.
"The original was only three hours long. Stuff happens in the series that never happened in the original, and that's amazing," Strong says. "With the films, you only have 90 to 120 minutes to tell a story.
"In this, I've got 10 hours. TV can allow you to create a character arc you just can't duplicate in a movie."
"Low Winter Sun": 10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, on AMC
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.