What made you want to become an actor?
This is one of the most “West End Wendy” stories I think you will hear, but when I was six, I couldn’t sleep one night so I went downstairs where my parents were watching an adaptation of Les Miserables. I sat there and watched it all from about 30 minutes in and thought it was amazing! My parents recorded it on video tape and I remember watching it over and over again. I thought it was absolutely wonderful and I think that’s what probably sparked my interest/curiosity in acting and performing arts.
From that moment, what steps did you take to break into the industry as successfully as you have?
I didn’t know a lot about the industry really. I was involved in local amateur theatre and performed in all the school plays. I was eventually signed onto a local agency where people taught me to sing and act every Saturday morning and when I was 17, they invited me to audition; I did and things went from there, really.
Tell us a bit about your career since then?
I did a couple of television jobs – even though I was still doing my A levels. When I turned 18 in September 2008, I made the decision to act full time and the following December, I got a role in Spring Awakening. It had been really big in America and they bought it over here for a few months. It started at the Lyric Hammersmith but was soon transferred to the West End. After that I was given the chance to work with new writing for 18 months, where I was working in London and Manchester with the likes of David Eldridge, Sean Holmes and Simon Stephens. I really got a good grounding in new writing and working on different types of plays. Since then, it’s been about trying to balance screen work. I was part of a BBC drama called Prisoners’ Wives and a biopic about Morecambe and Wise. Now I’m just plodding along doing a bit of everything.
It seems like you’ve been thrown in the deep end and have been in work since day one?
Yeah – my second job was a BBC drama called Clay when I was 17. Before that, the only TV work I’d done was a couple of days on a Nickelodeon pilot. That was the first time I had ever been in front of a camera, and Clay was a 90 minute drama with really terrific people in it, a brilliant director and writer. All I could think of at the time was how this was completely different to when I first got into theatre which took place in the form of Monday evening sessions and rehearsals after school. Suddenly I was working six day weeks, travelling to London and being on a show that had a real buzz about it, and so much expectation. Since then, I’ve not had to wait more than a couple of months between jobs. I’ve been quite lucky.
What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?
Oh my goodness! This may sound like half an answer but I think everything that you do is part of a learning curve, experiencing as many different ways of working, working with as many different people, in different mediums and projects as you can. I spent eight months working with the Royal Shakespeare Company last year and I had an amazing time! I worked with some extraordinary people on some really wonderful projects. For me to go from that to working on a two hander project which we took to India with a company called NAVICON is amazing because my work is so varied. Because of that there isn’t really one thing that’s stood out. Every little thing has been exciting – exiting and sometimes challenging.
What about any struggles you’ve faced?
I have been very fortunate that I’ve not experienced what the vast majority of aspiring actors have, which is spending a long time out of work. I hope I haven’t peaked yet. In terms of personal struggles, the more I do, the more I worry that I’m not good enough and that what I do isn’t going to make the grade.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors and any creatives who want to break into the industry?
There is no formula. Something may work for one person but it doesn’t mean that it’ll work for everyone else. One person may explore an avenue and get a certain amount of success but it doesn’t mean the same will happen to you. Equally, just because one person experiences struggle, you may not. I think the best thing is to open yourself up to as many people and as much work as possible. Go to see and read lots of stuff, watch and learn as much as you can and take whatever opportunity you can get. Be humble and willing to learn. Challenge yourself and be prepared to make yourself vulnerable. The more you give, the more you’ll get out of it.
Tell us about your latest play, Debris, and about the character you play?
It’s a two-hander written by Dennis Kelly who has written Pulling, Utopia and the script for Matilda the musical. Debris was his first play, was written 10 years ago. It tells the story of two borderline abandoned teenagers; a brother and a sister who find a baby in a rubbish dump. It’s a non linear presentation of their journey, their lives, hopes, dreams and fears. I play Michael, the brother.
How did you find the rehearsal process?
The rehearsal process was amazing, actually. We had the luxury of having 4 weeks to work on a play with 65 mins running time. Because of that, we were able to really take our time and experiment with physical work and movement. The process wasn’t rushed which was a brilliant thing. Abigail Graham, the Director, was great to work with. She was keen for us to challenge our expectations and our discoveries and not let us get safe two to three weeks in, because there was more to be done, more to evaluate and investigate. It was quite full on but in an exciting and rewarding way.
What’s in store for you over the coming months?
I’m doing something but I don’t know if I can tell you about it as it I’m not sure if it’s been announced yet. HOWEVER, I am going to be doing another theatre project which I’m really excited about. It’s a great play and a great part… As for the rest of the year, who knows? Hopefully I’ll keep working and see what happens.
Any chance you can give us a teeny weenie clue about your next project??
It’s not a new play and it’s not based in London. That’s all you’re getting, I’m afraid…
Debris is at Southwark Playhouse until 17 May. For more information and tickets visit Southwark Playhouse’s website.