Gershwyn Eustache Jnr

You’re currently starring on stage at the National Theatre, such an iconic venue must demand a certain level of courage when you head on stage. Do you ever have pre-show nerves? If yes, how do you deal with them?
In one word YES. During a run of a show, there will be times I feel more nervous than others. During previews, the nerves are strongest as you’re trying to get used to playing in a new space after being in the rehearsal room. Also, during previews, the play you knew will change as you will be taking on notes/alterations from the director and creative team. This definitely keeps you on your toes. I always like to feel a little buzz of nerves, sometimes when you feel too overconfident it can make you too relaxed, you end up on stage and can’t quite catch the pace of the show. The nerves just let you know you’re alive, a good kick before you enter the stage. It’s just about keeping it in check and turning it into positive energy, so it doesn’t negatively affect those around you.

At the National Theatre, you are playing Stromboli in Pinocchio, did you take much from the animated film when developing your character?
I tried coming at the character from a different angle. In the first audition John’s (Tiffany) note was “don’t hold back, you can go further with him”, which first gave me great confidence to know I was on the right road and secondly, a pleasure to be given permission to be as big and bold as possible with Stromboli as he’s not at all short of confidence. Then you’re put in front of a 12-foot puppet and you understand why. However, as we see with Stromboli in the animation he has the ability to be incredibly charming and flamboyant, then in the blink of an eye a raging tyrant. I like to think we’ve been able to capture this and turn up the dial.

From Pinocchio to Fortitude to Britannia – how do you go about discovering your ability to play such roles?
At Identity drama school we were lucky to have tutors, and fellow actors, who pushed us to read plays and play characters we may not typically get the opportunity to take on in the industry. I think this has definitely given me the confidence to play around with things and not be too restricted by the fear of getting things wrong. Prepare yourself, learn about the world the story is set in, what was happening historically, what type of work people were doing etc. Do your best to be true to the character and people will hopefully believe it too. If you ask my mum she’d say I’ve been clowning around with accents and characters since primary school, so maybe it’s about time I put it to good use.

Working on these projects for so long, you must develop strong friendships! Do your fellow actors or crew watch what you are currently performing in? And likewise, do you stay across your peer’s work?
Yes, from drama school to each job I do try and go to support others’ work when I can, or take time to sit and watch a series or film when I know it’s been released. I think like with any job, you’ll have working relationships that turn into friendships. As actors, we work on many different projects and have the chance to meet new people all the time, and it’s a blessing when you know regardless that a person will be part of the rest of your life. You can’t help but be inspired by seeing people you like and love making moves.

Returning to the subject of Britannia, it looks like an incredibly stylish and classy piece which covers a part of history that has not yet really been covered on television in this way. What have the highs and trials on taking part in this programme been?
The chance to travel around the Czech Republic was incredible. Yes, it’s someone’s job to find locations but a lot of the time I’d turn up on set and wonder how anyone found these hidden gems. It was great to get the chance look closer into this section of British history. The ups and downs of the Roman Empire, seeing it’s long-lasting influence on Britain and other parts of Europe. What was really cool was getting to learn to move like an army/legion. I learned to ride horses, which I would recommend to anyone, get involved in fight sequences with swords daggers and javelins. I also got to do a little archery, so I’m ready for life in the wild, well maybe just the back garden for now. Learning to look after your health and maintain stamina during long shoot sequences or fight sequences was testing. Had a little tweak in my back at one point but the team had me well looked after in a hurry. I think my biggest trial on this job was learning to ride a horse. As I said before I would recommend it to anyone, but I had a real fear of getting on a horse. I always remember learning of Christopher Reeve’s accident when I was younger and that definitely stayed with me, but after a couple of days, you realise how intelligent and responsive horses are. Hell of an experience!

Starting 2018 with a new programme is a great way to begin, what else has 2018 got in store for you?
Well as you know, I’m also in Pinocchio which continues until April, so if you haven’t seen it already, come down to the National Theatre, put your backside in a seat and enjoy the magic. I was also involved in filming The Yellow Birds, which has a great cast and should hopefully be given a release date in the near future.

Lastly, do you have any specific dream goals? Such as a dream venue or production?
Being at the National and so close to the Olivier Theatre you can’t help but want to get up on the stage and play. I’d love the chance to play in the main space at the Young Vic. I’ve seen some amazing pieces of work in there and I’m always in awe of how each creative team builds something unrecognisable from when I was there before. I want to be involved in projects that bring social issues to light and force people to really question themselves. Biographical films/plays about enigmatic figures that have both puzzled and fascinated me. I learn best on the job so it’s also nice to have an excuse to really indulge in a person’s history. I’m a comic-book/animation fan, I’d love the chance to be involved in the MCU or DCU whether it be in the films or series. I want to get involved in voicing animated/CGI characters, be it on films or games I’m in. If I ever had the chance to study a particular animal or group of animals, be it for a film/series or documentary my heart would be filled. I grew up watching a lot of wildlife programmes so that would be a large box ticked. Hahaha, what could I not say if you let me, I want it all, throw it at me.

All episodes of Britannia are available from Thursday 18 January exclusively on Sky Atlantic and TV streaming service NOW TV.
Pinocchio is running in repertoire until 10 April at the National Theatre.

Interview by Ian Casey
Photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Grooming by Gloria Penaranda

Clothes:  Grey coat by Gloverall, sweater by Mads Norgard  –  Full look by Scotch & Soda  –  Red sweater by Gloverall  –  Shirt by Scotch & Soda, T shirt by AmericanVintage  –  Suede Bomberby Scotch & Soda,  gloves by Nike  – Black leather jacket by Scotch & Soda,  White T-shirt by American Vintage  –  Full look by Scotch & Soda.

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