Beecham House might have similar tropes to Downton Abbey in that it perfectly captures the world and characters in which it's set, but it's inherently very different, says star Tom Bateman. Gemma Dunn finds out more.

Tom Bateman is no stranger to a good ol' period drama.

Take his turn as the dashing Giuliano de' Medici in Da Vinci's Demons, for example, or his portrayal as the eponymous Jekyll and Hyde; and more recently, military man Rawdon Crawley in Vanity Fair.

But by all accounts, finding himself "transported" to historical India for a new six-part ITV drama was a first for the classically-trained actor.

Set on the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi, Beecham House - co-created, written and directed by filmmaker Gurinder Chadha OBE - follows former soldier John Beecham (Bateman) as he snaps up an imposing mansion in a bid to begin a new life with his family.

Wealthy and distinguished, Beecham has witnessed exploitation during his time with the East India Company and has now resolved to conduct his business as a trader in a more equitable manner from here on.

But with a baby in tow and two Indian nursemaids (neither of which openly identify as the mother), it seems there's more to the Englishman than meets the eye.

For Bateman, the merging of two very different worlds proved to be a real draw.

"It always comes down to script and characters," he begins. "I was sent the first three scripts and I really wanted to know what happened next. I got very invested in all the characters.

"There's a great line that John says which is, 'I'm not here to build walls'," he recalls. "And I thought the idea of working with two very different cultures would be very interesting."

He follows: "I've never played a character with so much weight to him, and that appealed to me straight away.

"My characters are normally quite energetic, but John is very strong, quite hard and you don't really know who he is at first.

"He internalises, he's a man of mystery..." Bateman teases. "He's got a baby but there's no mother and he doesn't tell anybody anything about that, which instantly makes you think something's going on because otherwise why wouldn't he just tell people who the baby's mother is?"

He is inherently "a good man", however.

"[He's] trying to do the right thing, but he's been through the wars. He's also very forward-thinking," insists Bateman, who read lots of history-led books and had Urdu lessons in preparation for the part.

"He left the East India Company because he didn't agree with the way they did things which, at the time, was very bold," he adds, the show having been set before the British ruled the region.

"A lot of people just went along with it and didn't question it, but he refused to be part of it. For someone to stand up against the norm makes them very intriguing to me."

A rising star of costume drama, Oxford-born Bateman - one of 13 children, including a twin brother - was drawn to acting after starring in school plays. He later went on to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and before he'd even graduated was on stage in Much Ado About Nothing.

It marked the beginning of an impressive theatre stint, from portraying William Shakespeare in Shakespeare In Love, to joining Kenneth Branagh's repertory company at the Garrick, where he landed a role in The Winter's Tale alongside Dame Judi Dench, and appeared in Branagh's Harlequinade.

TV followed - as did Hollywood in recent years, whereby he clocked up roles stateside in Branagh's Murder On The Orient Express, Snatched and Cold Pursuit.

It was the latter that saw Bateman tread villain territory as Trevor "Viking" Calcote - think guns, stunts and a taste for revenge - opposite action film veteran Liam Neeson.

Beecham House required a similar high-octane skill set, he notes. Perhaps just with more horses to hand.

"Gurinder tipped everything in; there is action in it, there's a lot of pounding through the countryside on horseback, there's guns and swords being drawn," he enthuses. "The first two seconds you are going to go, 'This isn't Downton Abbey' - no offence!"

So the "Downton in Delhi" reference that's been floating around is unfounded?

"I can see the headlines now!" he says, laughing. "No, I mean, it is that sort of world and the reason people loved Downton - I never actually managed to watch it - was because it captures that world and that idea and people got invested in the characters.

"That has been a huge thing for Gurinder," he reveals. "So hopefully people love it as much as Downton!"

It seems likely, considering UK audiences' love for period work.

"They just look beautiful, they're very rich in composition. You're instantly in another world," Bateman says of the domain.

"But for me, the reason I love filming period dramas is that they instantly make you act differently," he maintains.

"People don't talk about their feelings as much. They don't say, 'Oh, I really fancy you'. And you don't touch each other. So you have to find another way of expressing those feelings, which is really fun."

That's not to say he will always play to type.

"I don't really have qualms [about genre]," confides Bateman, who is reportedly engaged to Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley.

"I have friends who say, 'I don't want to do period now because I have done a period piece and I need to wait for two years' - I don't have that...

"I don't have a plan for my career; the reason I liked Vanity Fair is that it was saying something - and this is saying something different," he explains. "So just because it's a period piece, it doesn't make its arguments any less valid.

"But yeah, I will do a bit of modern. Why not?"

Beecham House starts on STV, tomorrow at 9pm.