Victoria is now known for its LGBT visibility, because of your character. How does it feel to know you are the face representing this community?
Oh Gosh! I never really thought of it like that. It is utterly humbling and I feel incredibly proud to be to be in any way considered with such high accolade. I have been very humbled with how the fans have reacted to the gay storyline. There was a part of me which was slightly reserved while were filming it, about how it was going to be received. I feared there might be those who point out the fact there is a certain “artistic license” shall we say taken with my character, historically. Im really pleased to see that everyone has got into the spirit and that there is a truth behind it. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter who was gay and who wasn’t – the fact was it happened. There was this kind of love which is being respectfully represented. So, if I am in any way a figurehead – great!
What sort of reaction have you had from fans regarding the LGBT portrayal?
Well, Leo Suter and I were both a bit worried. So we did pay some attention to the Twitter response. Actually, we counted out of thousands of really beautiful, funny tweets that resulted in a whole cult following behind what became known as “DrumFred”. We only saw one or two negative tweets that you may count as bigoted. So the majority we were really thrilled with – a really good outcome in relation to how seething the Twittersphere can be.
Was this on social media? How does social media affect life off screen?
I think that it’s amazing as an actor to have that automatic critique and response. It can sometimes be daunting, especially if the comments are negative. Having not experienced that, I am fortunate I haven’t had that much negative back. It’s been really great and humbling. I’m really pleased it made so many people happy.
With Victoria being based on true events, how do you prepare yourself for a role like this?
Obviously Alfred Paget is based on a real historical figure. According to history he is a military man a politician. Best friends and dance partner to Queen Victoria. In real life he had a Golden retriever that he called Mrs Bumps, it had a locket of the Queens face around its neck. Interestingly his great grandfather or grand uncle – he was blacklisted for cross dressing! He was erased from history because he had a bit of an LGBT flare. There is always the possibility in any historical character, to have something that might not be in the history books. Do all the research – you always should for a historical character. I played Randolph Churchill in the Darkest Hour, he is even more well documented as such an illustrious figure head for our country. There comes a point where you’re on set and you should just be a person talking to another person. Do all your research up to a point, then leave it all behind. If you’ve done the preparation, you shouldn’t have to worry about it so much when it comes to saying the words.
Do you see any of yourself in Lord Alfred?
I think that it’s difficult to say. I think everyone sees a bit of themselves in Lord Alfred, for so many reasons, it’s easy to understand what he’s going through. He has this dedication and friendship for another human being. I think he is a great hero for forbidden love, even if you’re not that way inclined, it’s something that’s relatable to everyone. We all get forbidden love. Aside from that, I’ve got a plummy voice – which I never used to have! I used to have a Bristolian accent, it’s only when I went to university I started speaking so posh. I didn’t know how to dance or horse ride or pretty much do anything! They taught me all those basics of any renaissance man – for which I am eternally grateful.
How did the acting experience in Victoria compare to that of your other hit shows such as Love And Friendship and the highly anticipated Darkest Hour?
Funnily enough, the Darkest Hour and Victoria shared a few film locations. I was slightly surprised to find myself going back up to Yorkshire, to such beautiful country estates. It is glorious up North and I had never really been before. That was an unforeseen comparison. As far as acting, all period pieces present different challenges. Different forms of etiquette for different periods. It is very much the people you’re working with. I’ve been lucky everyone is pretty cool
Do you have a specific interest in period pieces?
It just seems to have fallen this way, especially as my accent has sort of mutated into this horrible Tory drawl. It’s outside of my control. This has been natural casting. Also because I’m blonde, slim and a little bit petite. I would love to play something more modern and grittier, more of a comic as well would be ideal. That’s why I’ve written a dark comedy that I’m pitching to the BBC. Which I want to star in, in a totally narcissistic way haha!.
You are a man of many talents! A writer, what inspired you to tell your story in your new Docu-Drama?
I’m passionate to tell my story, it’s one that needed to be told. Our society focuses on and is used to this nuclear family. One man and one woman raising a child. I emphatically didn’t have that being risen by lesbians, not having a Father and be a surrogate child. I soon realised that no one really has a nuclear family. You’re never really presented with compelling single Mother or single Father stories. Certainly never any LGBT family presented on TV. That’s why I wanted to do it, dark comedy is my favourite genre. There is no such thing as normal. It’s great to be different and important to be different.
Interview by Ian Casey
Photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Grooming by Dan Watts @ The King’s Canary Salon Fitzrovia
Clothes: Coat by All Saints – leather Jacket by Raddar 7, White t-shirt by American Vintage – Shirt by Gant – coat by Topman