2015 is definitely a good year for Adam Nagaitis. He is soon to appear on the screen, next to some of the biggest UK and American names, from Daniel Ratcliffe and James McAvoy to Ben Wishaw and Meryl Streep. Right now he is flexing his acting muscles on BBC Two drama Banished.
When you portray a character like Private Buckley in Banished, do you draw from some hidden part of yourself or do you create a persona based around unpleasant people you have met?
You absolutely draw from within, I think it’s impossible not to. Buckley is a complex and very tormented character. To be completely honest, it is a subconscious or unconscious process. I don’t mean to romanticise it. I think you just try to go wherever they take you, not be afraid to expose yourself, and just hope you do them justice.
How do you manage to feel compassion for a character like Private Buckley?
I think we can all empathise with people in pain. Buckley despises himself absolutely and desperately wants to be a ‘better’ man. He is absolutely human. He is contradictory. The beauty of Jimmy’s writing is this exact conflict, who I am vs who do I want to be. The question hanging over Buckley in the first series is will he do it, will he become a ‘better’ man. And yes it is incredibly fun! Regardless of what the character is going through, there is always an element of joy in all work, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.
Can you tell us about your role in the upcoming film Suffragette?
Suffragette is an amazing story about the foot soldiers of the women’s liberation movement. I play Bertie Cummings, a protégé of Geoff Bells character Mr Taylor, the owner of the laundry, where most of the women in the story work. I don’t think there has ever been a better cast assembled, anywhere, ever. I got to see the amazing work of Ben Whishaw, Carey Mulligan, Brendan Gleeson, Helena Bonham Carter, the list goes on… There are really too many great actors to mention, I get the feeling it is going to become a classic film.
There are a few films coming out about the original feminist Mary Shelley and her most famous creation Frankenstein. What’s the angle in the version you will appear in?
The upcoming version I did was called Victor Frankenstein. It is an amalgamation of the original Mary Shelley story and the more modern graphic gothic novels. It tells the story of Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) and the relationship that forms between him and Frankenstein (James MCavoy). Also showing the story leading to the creation of the monster. Its a great story and brilliantly told.
When did you first feel that you were really an actor and not that you wanted to be one?
I think I’ve always been an actor. I don’t think there was really a moment I remember when I felt otherwise. I think it is a waste of time to wait for permission to be who you are. In such a difficult industry its easy to get distracted and I think it is so important to just focus your energy on trying to master what you do. I am incredibly lucky to get to make a living as an actor. I honestly believe this industry is about 90% luck. So I have so much to be grateful for and I have absolutely nothing to lose.
Training to become an actor is a considerable investment – both time and financially wise. It also offers a solid introduction into the industry. How did it pay off for you?
I was lucky enough to have 5 years of training and I’m still going. I trained at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York, and then went on to train at RADA. My training helped shape who I am as an artist and a person. Stella Adler’s motto is ‘growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous’ and I suppose I try to live by that. I think all training pays off no matter when or where. It’s just the start of a lifetime of practice.
What is it about Jimmy McGovern’s writing that sets it apart?
Jimmy writes the reality of who we are. He doesn’t shy away from our contradictions. He writes the very darkest, shameful and exposing parts of us, and he does it so beautifully. He faces social issues from a human perspective and his writing is powerful because it risks so much. He risks criticism because he is brave enough to take a swing at something he believes in and stand by it…in this day and age I think that sets him apart.
Interview & photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Groming by Stan Watts @ The King’s Canary
Jacket by Reiss, Shirt by Paul & Joe, Shirt by Reiss