Pink Mist has had exceptional reviews, you have particularly. What attracted you to this piece?
There were so many things that I loved about Pink Mist the first time I read it, so you’ll have to excuse my gushing about it … I couldn’t believe how original and vibrant Owen’s writing was. He brought dignity, beauty, and poetry to a story that’s desolate, sad and all too familiar. Arthur’s journey is so beautifully balanced; the weight of the decisions he makes and the consequences they have for the ones he loves is huge, so much so that it pushes the boundaries of what a human is able to cope with, and that was a gift to play with every night. Also, the Directors were excellent – John and George had such an incredible vision for the piece. John’s expertise with text and George’s brilliance in movement meant that the poetry of the writing and the expression of the movement were masterfully linked. See? Gushing. My brother’s an officer in the army, and so this had a huge resonance with me as well. Young lads going off to war is something I am familiar with, so I felt a real need for this story to be told with honesty and respect.
When people think of theatre in the UK, they are often drawn to London’s West End. Having studied at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, how important is it for theatre to be prominent in other areas of the country?
It’s so important to feel that people from around the country are being engaged with and that their stories, concerns, and aspirations are being reflected in our culture. We have such a distinctly rich history all over Britain, and without there being these wonderful homes of storytelling around the country, we simply don’t get the opportunity to pass that history down. Having a sense of community and feeling that your story is in some way part of that community gives you a sense of belonging. Regional theatres give us a chance to reach out, learn and ultimately try and empathise with the lives of other people who shape the city or town that we live in. There are a couple of brilliant theatre companies in Reading, one of which I worked with a couple of years ago, Reading Between The Lines, and they commission and put on some really great work giving opportunities to local actors and technicians.
You have a wide array of genres under your belt. From comedy to drama, to period, theatre too. What has been the most challenging genre to work with?
Well, I’m not a very funny person, so comedy is tricky for me! I was lucky enough to have a part in Catastrophe which was written by Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney. They’re funny – very funny. I’m confused how they can be that sharp and witty all the time. It’s a good thing I was playing the straight guy in my scenes with Sharon. I loved the sense of drama and ‘grit’ that Lennie James has so brilliantly written in Save Me. The stakes are constantly getting higher and I had to match what that meant to BJ in every scene. So much fun, loved the challenge.
Murder On The Orient Express had such an all-star cast, how did it feel to be a part of the film?
What a ludicrous cast that was! The call sheet was hilarious. It looked wrong to have my name on it. I had been lucky enough to be a part of Kenneth Branagh’s season at the Garrick Theatre so, oddly, seeing him on set as the director actually put me at ease. I met Olivia Coleman briefly in make-up and she’s a real hero of mine. She went to the same drama school as me, so I’ve looked up to her and I’ve loved everything she’s done, so I may have squealed slightly when we met.
You were part of BBC Two’s Man In An Orange Shirt, which reflected both history and current times. Do you think actors and filmmakers have a responsibility to challenge controversial things in our society and past?
I think that the role of an actor is to tell stories, to enable us to see someone else’s experience of life. In highlighting someone’s story, we hope to understand their plight and their reasons for doing the things that they do. I think we have a responsibility to tell those stories honestly and respectfully, and given that there are such brilliant platforms for filmmakers, then I think that yes, we do have a responsibility to challenge controversial, sometimes unsavoury, and uncomfortable things in our past.
What can you tell us about your role in the upcoming Sky Atlantic series Save Me?
BJ, other than having a cracking name, is a young guy who works for his Dad in the live music and producing industry, and his Dad also has some more nefarious goings-on that BJ is very much a party to. Him and his Dad are very close, as I get the feeling that he wouldn’t have been particularly old when his parents split. BJ has been moulded from his Dad; he has his Dad’s eye for gaudy fashion. BJ’s pretty dodgy at times and gets himself into some pretty hot water in his attempts to remedy what’s going wrong, but I think that he acts from a place of really wanting to help his family and make his Dad happy. Like most of us sons, I suppose!
What’s next for Phil Dunster? Have you got anything particular you want to achieve or do in 2018?
The second half of Strike Back Season 6, which you might see me pop up in, is back on our screens at the start of this year, and I’m lucky enough to be working on a couple of additional projects at the moment as well. As I’m writing this I’m waiting to head onto the set of Channel 4’s Humans, which I’ve been filming over the past few months. I love being onstage, so hopefully, I’ll get back on one this year. Every show is unique and I find there’s magic in that. I want to tell important stories in original ways. I also have a woodwork course booked in. I’m ecstatic about it. Other than that, I’m always happy to see wherever the wind takes me!
All episodes of Save Me are available from 28th February on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV.
Interview by Ian Casey
Photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Grooming by Gloria Penarnada
Clothes: Suede jacket by Scotch & Soda – Jacket by R.M. Williams – All tops by Scotch & Soda
Special thanks: Daisy Vaughn West @ Fabric PR