Photographer Michelle Marshall captures his devilishly handsome features; kind, dark eyes and an infectious gleam of humour in his smile. There is no unfathomable ego, nor any pretense. With the raspy charm of his Northern Irish accent, he shares anecdotes of his journey from Belfast to the bright lights of London’s theatre mecca.
You can tell he’s the type of person who deserves the flood of success he’s received; warmness spirals out of his very presence, and you can’t argue with that. From unfiltered optimism to unwind (think monkey documentaries and origami), to carrying a copy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his jacket pocket; a self-confessed cliche he reveals with hesitation. Having graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama last year, adapting to the swing of his breakthrough role has been a personal whirlwind of perseverance but most importantly, fun. Countless hours and a fresh audience to charm every night, it’s understandable that he hasn’t had much time to explore his new-found city.
Stylist Becky Seager plays with the concept of colliding spheres; from home comforts to the structure of life on stage. Volumised knits are worn with clean silhouettes and the emblems of tailoring, such as pin-stripes and checks that are modernised in boxy cuts. There’s no Hollywood glazing here, that false sheen is replaced with something a little more human. It’s that unkempt, honest and carefree acknowledgment of the obstacles before you. It’s the absence of a phone call and those little pitstops along the way that can make you question it all. Trusting yourself is the secret, and it’s one that Anthony knows well.
How did you find your shoot today?
It was great! I’m a bit tired as I started watching these vice documentaries and I ended staying up till like half three.
We heard you like documentaries about monkeys.
Absolutely, love monkeys. It’s weird one, I think everything you need to know about acting, just look at monkeys. I used to watch a thing called 'Monkey Life', which is in the South of England, and they have a monkey sanctuary for monkeys. It's really interesting to watch the politics in the group and how they manoeuvre around each other, how the status would go up and down depending on which monkey enters. This fascinates me, plus I think they’re cute and funny.
There seems to be a lot of comedy in your work. Your character Scorpius is meant to be quite hilarious from the reviews I’ve read.
In the first play, his role is definitely quite fun and so it's lovely to play, but can also be quite high pressure. Stand-up comedians are often the people that are the most impressed. When you have to make people laugh there’s a certain pressure, but the audience so far have been incredible and giving warmth towards the character, so it has been a bit of a gift. In the second play he then was on a real huge journey, and there’s a lot less comedy in that presence. I got to be a lot more serious. I don’t want to give too much away, but he has to save the world.
Because Harry Potter is such a big franchise, how are you dealing with being part of that?
It was weird, because during the rehearsals our director John Tiffany kept saying to Sam, the guy who plays Albus; 'This is going to be quite big'. We knew the films were massive, but as this is theatre we were wondering if it was going to have the same sort of reach. It has been lovely; the fan base is just like no other fans in the world, they’re so on it and you can see why people feel such a connection to the books.
What draws you to the roles that you pick and the characters that you engage with?
I said in an interview with the guardian about five or six years ago that in order to play a character you have to find the bastard and the child in everyone, you have to find that hatred - the mean and the horribleness we have inside us, but you also have to find that childlike innocence. So, when I’m looking at a character, if I can’t find both of those things, then I don’t think I’ll be very good at it.
How have you been finding this, because you only graduated this year?
Yeah, I left early. I did my first show where I played a crack addict in Stephen Adly Guirgis ‘In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings’. That was the first time it came together for me and came together in this unified thing, and I got an agent from that. I then auditioned for this and two weeks later I had it. I then did another show called ‘Mojo’, where I played a character called Baby, which is most recently done by Tom Hollander and then by Ben Wishaw, and then I came to do this. He loses his mum in the first three scenes. I’ve always got something to deal with, I’m never in the place of someone who’s just relaxed. I’ll just have to play a stoner next where nothing happens and he just sits in a room and drinks tea, haha. That would be lovely. But that’s what is impressive to me, you don’t want to watch someone meditate, you want to see real life drama don’t you?
That’s very true! How have you found that transition from Belfast and moving to London?
It was strange, I was saying earlier that I feel like Paddington bear when he first came to London; lost and looking for a home. I moved to Cardiff straight away to go to drama school, and I was there for two and a half years. It was lovely, because it was really condensed and had a very homely sitting. I think I needed that, cause if I moved straight to London I would have been swallowed alive I think. Moving to London has just been amazing, you know, just incredible. There’s always something happening and we are right in the heart of Soho, which is so cool - so many bars and so many different people from all different walks of life. That's the good thing about acting; in the company and the current cast there’s all colour, class, age, and everyone mixes together. It’s a big melting pot of society.
What was it like coming from small independent films to having a small role in "The Lost City of Z", with such a big cast and produced by Brad Pitt?
Yeah, that was cool! I was only on it for a couple of days, but it was lovely. I was doing a scene with Charlie Hunnam, and I don’t know if it’s going to make the movie or not, but I had one line where I had to walk in and say; 'Sir, a message from Cornell Howard'. I give him the letter, salute and walk away, and that was it. It was so small, but during the takes, we got talking and I was like; ‘Yeah I’m an actor, I went to drama school and it's going really well’. I ran in with my 'Sir, a message from Cornell Howard’, and he went; ‘thank you’ and then turned around and went; ‘how’s it going out there private?’ And I thought; ‘Holy shit, holy shit’, I must improvise. I nearly said; 'let’s see what this bastard Cornell Howard has to say’.
What would you say is the main difference between filming to being in theatre?
Just the audience isn’t it and the live response. Every audience is different, so it’s like a live organism, and often depends on what is happened in the world. Trump was elected and that night and coming in that day, you could feel the national tragedy that had happened - you could feel the audience was a bit deflated and thinking about something else. They were elsewhere. I don’t know if the cast as well, and that compared to the other days was just this. We also had someone propose in front of the stalls one day at the performance, and that was the best audience because they were fucking going mad and the show hadn’t even started. Coming on to that when everyone’s energy and love throughout the room was so big.
What if you are going through a personal issue or if there’s a lot on your mind, how do you put that behind you when you go on stage?
It’s interesting, the guy who plays Harry Potter is Jamie Parker. Class actor, I’ve learned so much from him. One day I was feeling really down and I was like; 'I don’t want to go on tonight, I don’t want to go on', and he said, ‘you don’t get paid for what is good, you get paid for when your dog's died. You’re having a shit day and you have to go on and you have to tell the story and you have to feel - that’s when you get better focus. I don’t know how, I haven’t learnt how to separate that yet. You always bring a bit of what you’ve done that day onto the stage, or else you are not doing it right.
How would you describe your journey with acting?
I’ve always wanted to do something creative. I left school at 16 and I’d come home every day and Google auditions in Belfast. I’ve done some awful things before drama school; I was doing a play at the Lyric in Belfast and a teacher had seen me from a college and she asked if I wanted to come to drama school. I wasn’t aware of it as an option, I just thought actors sort of got on with it, so I started training and it became more of a craft.
Would you have any words of advice for a young guy who wants to get into acting?
I want to be careful about this, because I’ve been through a lot of challenges. I think one piece of advice is, which someone said to me, which is simply to be yourself - because nobody does you better than you. You should embrace the newness of you, because no one has the same story. No one has been through the same experiences, has the memories and can draw on those things or looks like you or sounds like you. You know what I mean? So, as long as you embrace that, that’s the only piece of advice really.
That’s really good advice.
Genuine advice anyway.
Do you think there is a kind of cookie cutter way in how the industry want you to be?
Yes, especially for young women. My girlfriend is an actress and the pressure on them to be like models, as well as actresses, is wild. It's bullshit, obviously, it’s a visual art, and you know people want to look at good looking people and stuff, but there’s no need for men or women to look like models. Emma Thompson said that you don’t have to be a model and an actress, that job already exists, they do it beautifully and they're brilliant at their job, but we are actors should focus on the acting.
Who do you look up to?
I really like character actors. I like when you see an actor in one thing and then you see him in another and go; 'That’s the same dude?!” Melissa Leo is awesome, and I love Christian Bale, Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy, who's in a thing called ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’, he’s phenomenal in that. And there’s an actress called Susan Lynch, an Irish actress who I’ve seen in a play in the Abbey in Dublin called ‘By The Bog of Cats’, and it was one of the most heart wrenching performances. There are so many, I like Timothy Spall, Eddie Marson then Peter Mullen - these actors are the ones that let you in. There’s this connection I have with actors who are not afraid to be vulnerable, who open up and let you see it's them. I think that’s true talent.
With masculinity today changing, do you think vulnerability is something that’s becoming easier to show?
That’s interesting. I was watching Goggle-box recently, and there was a bunch of lads on it that were about 13 or 14, and they started talking to each other about who had the best eyebrows.
Haha, that’s amazing!
And I remember thinking that if at that age I had said; ‘God I hate my bloody eyebrows, yours are lovely’, that would of been a whole different story. Now there seem to be all new terms of metro sexuality. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, but I think that men should be able to open up more. I think that really needs to happen more, especially in Ireland, as northern Ireland has the highest rate of male suicide in the UK.
I think a lot of that falls upon mental health and not being able to open up, express yourself, be vulnerable and get things off your chest. There’s a lot of pressure on being a man and what masculinity means, at the end of the day I think the majority of that is all bullshit - we should just be people.
What was it like growing up in Belfast?
Oh a dream, I love my city so much. like I went back there for the first time in a year last week, because there has been so much movement. I went back and I missed it so much; like the accent and the people, it’s such an amazing community. I live in the west of the city, and coming back I sort of had this hero’s welcome. It’s a lovely place, an amazing place. There’s a roof from when you get off the plane in Belfast, and you can feel that it is a difference, there’s electricity in the air. I think there’s so much division there, and so much culture and art. You can feel a real pulsing energy in the place and something in your stomach when you walk through that town that I haven’t felt in any other city like Paris, London, or Cardiff. I’ve never felt this sort of electricity in the air - like anything could happen.
What does being Irish mean to you?
I’m very proud to be Irish, so I don’t give it a thought. I don’t walk out the door in England and go; “Oh I’m an Irish man in England” every day, but when I hear a band like the Dubliners or I hear an old song, it fills me up with such pride and emotion, and every time I get drunk and I sing an Irish song I cry. There’s a song by an artist called Christy Moore, get the people who read this to listen to it. Christy Moore did a song called ‘Ride on’, and if I have one drink in me and I sing a verse of that, I’ll just be in bits. I read Irish writers, I’ve got McDonagh sitting right beside me, I love Irish writers.
Because 'The Party' was set in the ’70s, I was wondering how you prepared to get into that mindset?
It’s interesting, because my dad was born in that sort of era, as well as my mum and the writers. It’s based on a true story of these people who all go to a house party. It’s something about the times they were living in, the uncertainty of walking out the door, and because the environment was so pedestrian you could forget that it was a war zone. The streets were constantly being patrolled by army men, and you’d have people with guns at your doorstep. I met up with a lot of people who lived in that time and experienced those things, and I also spoke to my family about it. He is a young IRA man. We shot it in Dublin, and I had read the script three times before getting up and three times before going to bed. Just to have those things still in me, and I had done a lot of research. It was lovely, it was great to do.
What are your hopes for the future?
I really want to do more movies. With the play, it’s been ten months and there are four months left, so I’m looking forward to doing more films.
What would you say your favourite film is?
Would you ever go into directing or writing in the future?
The best film I have seen this year was 'Captain Fantastic with Viggo Mortensen, it was incredible. The best of last year is 'The Lobster', which I loved. Of all time I think we’ll go for a classic and just say 'The Godfather' because my brother and I watched every film with each other, and it’s just incredible - storytelling at its best.
Yeah, I write quite a bit, I was meant to put a play on before I got 'Harry Potter'. I’d like to write a play. Next time I have a bit of time off I’d like to sit down and write for a while in isolation. I’d love to write, don’t know about directing. Directors are so clever and to be able to have so many different narratives in their head at once, and to be able to accommodate different people's acting styles and locations. I think I’m good at focusing on one thing.
Does family mean a lot to you?
Yeah, I suppose it does. It never did until I moved away, and when you move away you realise how much you love and miss people. I have one older brother, Michael, he’s 25, and a younger sister who is my hero, she’s amazing. She’s going to be the president of Ireland one day, she’s smart, funny and just class. She’s president of her local girl team and represents her class, and a representative of anti-bullying in the school - she’s awesome.
How are you finding the blonde wig?
Haha, how am I finding the blonde wig? I love it, I genuinely love it, I’ve always wanted to go blonde. The first time I put it on it all just came together and felt right. It’s a bitch to get off though!
Really? Is it like glued on?
Well, you’ve got glue and pins, so it’s a nightmare getting off - but I like putting it on.
I suppose you can look in the mirror and be like ‘oooh I’m blonde today’.
Yeah, my mum thinks I look like a devil child in the blonde wig. It's quite nice, because it is theatre and there is a certain enmity, and because I look and sound quite different from the role, at stage door it can be a bit mental; like a hundred-odd people coming and screaming at you, but it's great because they love it so much, but not in the street.
Is that something that’s important to you, your privacy?
I'd hate to be like a fucking celebrity, that would be a nightmare. I suppose it would be nice to be recognised for good work and be recognised for being good at what you do, but I think to be recognised just for the sake of it, it could be quite stressful. You see so many actors that couldn’t get on the tube, I think that would be quite suffocating.
Do you have any words to live by or a phrase that you’d like to say?
You could’ve told me and I would’ve thought of something good!
You can take your time on this one.
Words to live by... no. I can’t say that.
Yes, say it, go on.
Please say it.
I’ve got a quote from Hamlet here, it goes; “to thine own self be true", and it was the same thing I was talking about earlier, the you-ness of you. As long as you stay who you are, don’t forget where you’re from and be yourself, I think that’s the best policy - as opposed to trying to be something you’re not to change yourself or to fit someone else’s standards.