Real life events always seem to manage to outperform any fiction. What can you tell us about Pedro an African mercenary from Spain fighting in Scotland/UK in the times just before Elizabeth’s Golden Age?
The truth of the real Sir Pedro is that he was taken into Henry VIII employment as a soldier after a ship he was on carrying more than 1000 Spaniards was waylaid and growing tired of the sea they asked the king if he would take them in to employment. He was later knighted by the Lord Protector Duke Somerset for his heroics in helping the English keep Haddington castle from 10000 besieging Scots. He’s a regular badass by all accounts, riding through the Scot’s with 200 men armed with muskets and supplies. My Pedro is a confident and principled man who understands the somewhat simpler life of war but when he finds himself somehow in the political battle field his understanding of the world, his principles and loyalty really get tested.
How did you prepare to play Pedro?
So I read anything I could find about the historical character which was the best foundation which lead to two major discoveries. He’s Spanish and would have been an excellent horse rider…two things I am not! So with the support of Penny Dyer on dialect and the devils horsemen, Doug in particular, I began hours of work to get me to standard where I could portray this Knight.
Where were you in your career before this dream role came your way?
Before the pandemic I’d been predominantly doing theatre at some incredible venues. I’d also played a recurring role in Aisling Bea’s This Way Up which is such an incredible show and on such an important topic, mental health. I was even in the middle of a run of Macbeth at the Globe when we all had to head to our homes to stay safe. So truth is, I was feeling good! It felt like the next stage of my career was just around the corner, yea Ekow you’ve got this! Unfortunately with the arrival of Covid that quickly changed.
How did you manage to keep your mental health together during the Covid lockdowns?
My mental health journey had already begun 2 years prior to the pandemic when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I’d love to say those 2 years had helped and prepared me for what was to come but sadly that wasn’t the case. I really struggled. I couldn’t see a way out of where we were. My theatre show cancelled, no idea where I’d get an income from and no idea how long this might last. Luckily I was living with my parents so I had a roof over my head, food, no financial pressure from them and most importantly my family close to me. However it felt like I was losing any hope of my dreams and aspirations coming true. I’m 30, living at home, no prospect of a job, any possible income, the job I love was no longer viable in this pandemic world we now lived in… yup, I’m going to be growing old under the same roof with my parents! Theatres had shut their doors, some not knowing if they’d open again. Sets had closed down and I already felt like I hadn’t earned my place on the lists of actors being seen for big screen projects. I crumbled. Days of not leaving my bed, because what’s the point. My motivation went, exercising in my living room, no thank you! I leaned on food to make me feel better, which quickly became binging. I was really struggling. I eventually got a job delivering for Amazon but when we came out of the first lockdown I had to stop because I could no longer guarantee no contact with the public and I had two vulnerable parents at home.
Interview and photography by Andrea Vecchiato.
Grooming by Eoin Whelan.
Becoming Elizabeth premieres on the 12th June on StarzPlay.