You seem to gravitate towards family dramas. What do you think this says about you?
I’ve been blessed with a wonderful, close, supportive and loving family, but have always been fascinated by family dynamics and politics. How families survive when huge events happen, how their differences are challenged, how parents treat their children and vice versa. It’s a universal thing to be part of a family and yet every single one is totally different. It’s all about love and history. That’s why I gravitate towards that particular genre.
How does your character navigate the turmoil he faces in Years and Years. How much of the real you leaked into the character of Daniel?
I guess every performance of mine has a bit of me in there. My life experiences, emotions and people in my life determine and nuance the choices I make for the characters I play. Daniel, in Years and Years, just wants to find happiness and lead an unassuming life. My life is far from boring but I strive to keep my happiness present, always. Acting is a job based on one’s imagination and sharing a social experience with other people about someone else’s life. It is the act of empathy.
How do you feel about the future portrayed in Years and Years? Do you believe Russel T. Davies’ vision is realistic?
It’s going to happen. It’s happening. And it’s very very scary and extremely sad. What can we do but our best to be good people, learn from the mistakes made in the past and try to turn this ship around so that the children of tomorrow aren’t going to inherit a world that’s already dead.
The Good Liar will be out later this year, what’s your character’s involvement in the story?
I play a superbly complex man. Grandson to Helen Mirren, making sure granny doesn’t get into a situation she doesn’t see coming. He’s protective and spoilt and was a gift to play.
Next, after Helen Mirren, Imelda Staunton will be part of the ensemble cast in ITV’s Flesh and Blood. Has this been an artistic challenge for you at all?
Yes, she will be playing my neighbour with Francesca Annis as my mum. No challenges at all. They are both a total dream to work with.
Imelda previously starred in the stage adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and is now passing that baton onto you.
I’m playing the role of Nick. He’s beyond ambitious, precocious and proud and considers himself to be a total stud. He’s manipulative and has totally met his match in Martha and George. I cannot wait to start rehearsals.
Oscar Wilde once said that “All art is quite useless”. In your podcast ‘Talk Art’ you seem to disagree…What does art do/mean for you?
It’s continuing a dialogue that is thousands of years old. This is our contribution to that dialogue. Oscar had a point, art isn’t necessarily needed for life, but art is life and art is death. Art is what it means to be part of a culture and a society.
Then again Oscar also said, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art”. What are your thoughts on this?
I am an actor. I make my own form of art through acting. I like nice clothes. Design is important. Designers are artists. Can I be both and have both?
Actors, just like dancers, create art out of their own persona.
Writing is the highest art form of all. The ability to contain someone’s imagination with just words for a period of time is comparable to nothing else.
Years and Years is currently on BBC iPlayer in the UK and HBO in the US. Russell will next be seen in Warner Bros. The Good Liar out in cinemas on 15th November and ITV’s Flesh and Blood.
Interview & photography by Andrea Vecchiato
Grooming by Sam Basham
Styling by Emily Inghe
CLOTHES: Knit T-shirt by Orlebar Brown, Navy trouser by J. Lindenberg – T-shirt by J. Lindenberg, Check shirt by A.P.C – Cream T-shirt by Orlebar Brown, Grey shirt by Corneliani – Light blue shirt by J. Lindenberg, Navy trouser by J. Lindenberg – Cream T-shirt by Orlebar Brown, Black jeans by Mother, Brown jacket by Corneliani