The Good Karma Hospital has been received amazingly well, how did this opportunity come to you?
It was very simple, I auditioned, I met the producers, the director and the creator of the show and they were crazy enough to think that I could play a young, grumpy but a very multi-layered Indian Doctor.
Did you get to see the script beforehand, did it appeal to you?
If I remember correctly they sent the first 3 episodes of series one, so I got to read quite a bit ahead, which is nice because that’s quite rare these days. A lot of the time there is this strange thing in the industry where they’ll shown you one or two sides of a 100 page script and you’re expected to base your whole character off that, which I feel is bizarre. I felt that they roughly new where the arc of the character was going to go in that first half of series one. What was lovely was that when I met them they were super open to my suggestions to what I felt was interesting and emotionally true. They were very open which is always quite beautiful.
Have you had a high point or favourite bit of the production?
That’s really hard. If you were to put a gun to my head I’d probably say riding the motorbike. I ride a Royal Enfield, it was really nice because ITV paid for me to get my motorbike license. That was a nice perk, I’m a lucky boy. I’m really into bikes now, but I don’t have my own – yet. People around me are all terrified I might have an accident. I’m probably going to get one secretly, well not secretly now I’ve told you! That was really great! First of all because it was really fun, the little boy in me was very excited. But also, it was an amazing way to get into character. Those sort of things are really, really useful. It’s like if you’re playing a boxer and you get into boxing, that’s what it was for me. He’s married to his motorbike, it was his wife. I got quite close to the bike and had a lot of fun on it, even when I had a few little stumbles on it. It was always really fun and that bike is a classic one. It has very iconic and long running links to India. That was amazing, riding through some rural Sri Lankan roads. Those sort of experiences remind actors how lucky we are, it’s not a real job per say – it’s not 9-5 office desk job. It’s not contributing to the mainstream economy. Those sort of experiences remind me to be very grateful and not to take myself too seriously all of the time.
Was there a hardest part?
For me the hardest thing was being away from my little son. Being a young Father and wanting to spend as much time with him as possible, that was very difficult. He was there for about half of the shoot, which was nice. It’s hard because I want to be as hands on as I can be. That was a very new experience for me. That’s what part of my career means now, that at times there’s going to be distance from my son. But the good news is that he got to experience the incredibly unique Sri Lanka.
You’ve been likened by the Telegraph, from you performance in My Brother The Devil – to a young Robert De Niro, is he an inspiration of yours?
When I was probably 15 or 16 I first realised who he was and I started to watch Taxi Driver and New York, New York, Mean Streets and King Of Comedy – those 4 films blew me away. Especially King Of Comedy and New York, New York, those two films are really emotional and really get under your skin. The form to those two are so different, yet bothso raw and so in the moment. Early De Niro work is pretty astounding stuff.
Are there any specific actors or anyone else you would consider an influence?
How long have you got? I was pretty influenced by well known actors. If you had asked me that question a few years ago I would have reeled off Daniel Day-Lewis, Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour-Hoffman but now its kind of different, I get influenced by things that are not really to do with actors. Its more just the life that I am living now, regular people who I meet that inspire me. When you’re a young Father you get to meet a lot of older parents, I’ve met some Father’s and Mother’s who are really good at living life. Having fun but being very practical and responsible parents. I find that very impressive because it’s a very creative thing to do, being a parent. I can relate more to people who aren’t actors, people who are parents and are going through that balance in life. Something as monumental as having a child or another big thing in your life, as artists we can really be stuck in our own bubble of the industry and these sort of events can take you out of that. A richer and more real part of life can inspire you. Film and television, most of them aren’t emotionally truthful. If you go to the cinema, the average Joe or Josephine wants to see explosions and kickass superheroes, which is fine but you can’t relate to that when you’re going through a very heightened emotional experience in your life. I find it hard to relate to a rich billionaire who puts on a superhero suit and goes to save the world – that doesn’t hit me the way it did years back.
You’ve played some iconic characters such as Freddie Mercury in the Kenny Everett biopic The Best Possible Taste, how do you prepare for a role like that?
Well, I think I did betray Freddie Mercury. My performance, I’m not a huge fan of. I was actually cast about a week before shooting. The way I generally like to work, preparation is important to me. I think I was a bit underprepared for it. A lot of people seemed to like it though. Its hard playing someone like him who is so iconic. I wanted to avoid too much of an impression and try and get under his skin emotionally. When you’re playing someone who is well known, I think its always good to not treat them as these incredibly special human beings. Ultimately, people like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela or whoever is being portrayed – they all have to go to sleep at night, get up in the morning, go to the toilet, brush their teeth and have some breakfast. I think if you can find that element of it, its always more interesting and relatable. To this day I think that I learnt a lot from that job because it was a wonderful opportunity that the BBC gave me, but in hindsight generally speaking I’m someone who needs more than a week to learn how to create a character. Actually, what I think is irrelevant because I can think one thing about my performance or a project I’m in, but I am the last person you should listen to. I have the most ridiculously subjective view. I’m always looking at the dumbest thing! Oh my nose looks big there, my eye brows slightly skew-whiff here! Why is my voice so deep there or so high here. It’s really about what everyone else thinks. I hate most of what I do. I find it very difficult to watch myself back. It’s a very disconcerting experience for me.
You have impressive stage credits! Would you consider going back to the stage?
I’d love to go back on stage, I think some of the work I liked the most was on stage. Partly because I couldn’t watch it back. I loved it, I had some great roles. Myself and my agents talked about that, hopefully I should be back. At the moments things are kind of rolling on with film and TV and in some ways I want to utilise that boulder rolling down the hill. I’d really love to go back.
What’s next for you?
I’m gearing up to do something called Rotterdam, I Love You which I was supposed to do last year but they had to postpone the shoot. Touch wood it looks like its going to happen soon. I don’t know if you remember Paris, I Love You but it was a really interesting anthology of films with incredible actors. Luckily I was offered to be in a film by a director called Paula Van Der Oest, she’s an Oscar nominated director who has written this really interesting piece . Another project that is really rolling on nicely is a film I am hoping to do with the people who made My Brother The Devil. And I’ve also written my own film. Hopefully that’ll come together in the next 6 months to a year. I’m just trying to smell the roses.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I’m a bit of a moral warrior, which is good and bad in this industry. One thing I like to talk about and plug is microfinance. The main and most well-known is Kiva, look at Kiva.Org. That is one of the greatest charities you can ever imagine. It’s a website where you can donate small amounts of money to an entrepreneur who’s starting a business in the 3rd world. Last month I donated to women who have a small sweet store in the Philippines. Cumulatively it can end up being a loan of a few thousand dollars, which is incredible – it acts like a interest free loan. The return rate is in the high 90spercent. You’re investing in someone’s life. You almost always get the money back so you can keep lending if you wish. Bill Clinton and others have done it. I highly recommend looking into it, it’s not a scam.
Interview by Ian Casey
Photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Grooming by Gloria Penaranda
Styling by Alexandra Beaumont