Theo James on His Nude Landings on 'The Time Traveler's Wife'

Saturday May 28, 2022
Originally published on May 19, 2022

Theo James in "The Time Travelers Wife."
Theo James in "The Time Travelers Wife."  (Source:HBO)

Theo James first caught EDGE's eye when he appeared as a personal trainer in the 2010 comedy "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger." He caught other people's eyes as well when Screen International named him a "Star of Tomorrow" while still in drama school.

He made a striking cameo on "Downton Abbey," where he played a doomed Turkish diplomat. But audiences best know him from his breakout role as Tobias "Four" Eaton in the three "Divergent" franchise films starting in 2014. In 2019, he became the executive producer and co-star in the historical series "Sandition," which airs in the United States on PBS.

On this adaptation of an unfinished Jane Austen novel, James wears Regency-era fashions; but in "The Time Traveler's Wife," he wears fashions from many different time periods (or sometimes, none at all). On the new HBO sci-fi series, he plays Henry DeTamble, married to Clare Abshire (Rose Leslie). And he has quite an unusual affliction: He travels back and forth through time.

One comic and awkward side effect is that every time Henry moves through time, he arrives naked. "It makes for a trying existence, and an even more complicated relationship with his wife Clare (Rose Leslie), who lives in standard linear time while encountering various versions of her true love at different ages," USA Today said.

The series is based on Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 novel, which was previously filmed in a critically panned 2009 film starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. This adaptation unfolds in six episodes that air Sunday at 9 on HBO (and streaming on HBO Max.)

And the series shows a lot of Henry in various phases of his new (and nude) arrival. "Yeah, you see every inch of me," James told USA Today, with only slight exaggeration.

Being naked on camera led James to want Henry to be "lean and mean." He did not reveal his workout regimen, but added that it isn't all him. Some of his impressive physique is realized through special effects. "It's all lighting and CGI," he said.

"Henry is good at running, stealing and fighting. To be good at those things, you have to be in a certain shape," the 37-year-old told USA Today. "He's described as a panther, in a state of readiness and fearful all the time."

And his time-trip landings can be awkward. As is common with nudity on streaming shows, James worked with an intimacy coordinator.

Watch this clip of Theo James's nude scenes on "The Time Traveler's Wife" on Mr.

"Yeah, the intimacy coordinator thing was interesting, because normally it's usually when two people are together. We had a bit of that obviously, with Rose and I," he told the website

He continued: "But in a way, when there's two people, there's more clarity. Because it's about two people having boundaries and being feeling comfortable, and all those things that go with it. But when it's just you running down the street in New York at night with your bum out? I don't know, the lines are a bit more blurred. Because it's like, 'Cover up or don't cover up?'"

He added that he wants to capture not only the humor in the situation, but how vulnerable he is in those moments. "But I think that his nudity is so woven into the DNA of both the book and the show that I wanted it to feel dangerous. I know that sounds silly because in some ways the nudity is a great comic foil in places, but also, it's dangerous. He doesn't have a choice when, for how long, or where he goes to. I really wanted to connect with that."

Watch the trailer to "The Time Traveler's Wife"

Plus, James said, he goes through some pretty dramatic physical changes when he time trips.

"When he goes, it has physical and detrimental effects on his body. It's like an epileptic fit. He gets thrown through time. The other side of it, he's covered in sweat. He's depleted; he's hungry; he's naked. He has nothing on him. Not a weapon, not a wallet, not a pair of underwear. [I wanted to show] what that would feel like, and how dangerous that would be.

"Because one thing about the book that I loved is the simmering danger underneath the love story. At any point, he might die or be violently injured."

Imagine randomly landing in an alley and fighting a stranger. "If I was in that situation in real life, I'd probably have the (expletive) kicked out of me," James told USA Today.

Theo James in "The Time Traveler's Wife"
Theo James in "The Time Traveler's Wife"  

And James admits that at first he was nervous. "It was daunting in the beginning, because you know, you won't walk onto a set with 150 people who you don't know and you're like, 'OK, I'm gonna be naked and covered in oil,'" he told the Daily Beast. "But by the end of it, you just had to kind of own it because, you know, it happens a lot."