Wolves are known for being pack animals. According to theory, there is an existing hierarchy, with the alpha wolves being at the back overseeing the status of the pack. Their natural position in the hierarchy ensures the protection of the weaker links. There is an instinctual logic to the way these animals lead, which transcends our understanding. Perhaps this logic is applicable to us humans. Are you an alpha or a beta? Georgia Devey Smith captures British actor Jack Brett Anderson's protective alpha wolf from within.
Jack Brett Anderson speaks about training for his character ‘Matei’, a werewolf he plays in season four and five of the CBBC show ‘Wolfblood’. With the help of animal exercises the ‘Wolfblood’ cast trained to emulate the traits of wolves to get a sense of the movement and sounds that their characters could make. However, it’s clear that Jack already shared a similar trait to his character - an innate quality that is potentially rare. On the show, ‘Matei’ has been left to fend for himself and his little sister ‘Amelia’ following the death of their parents in a terrible fire, ultimately leaving him to become the alpha wolf of his own little pack. In real life, Jack has somehow taken the position as alpha wolf to his family. Following the death of his grandmother, he made the promise to take care of his 44-year old uncle who suffers from mental health issues and learning difficulties. Not something just any 25-year old would commit to.
Jack is a versatile actor, which he recently got to showcase in the play ‘Held’ where he played two inmates, ‘Jamie’ and ‘Fynn’. The two characters are on opposite sides of the spectrum, ‘Jamie’ being the more extroverted of the two and ‘Fynn’ being quite soft and introverted. Usually an actor deals with only one character at a time, so when there is a second character added to the equation, the task at hand seems more strenuous. While Jack explores his emotional spectrum, Lewis Evans-Martin drapes him in relaxed fits and neutral colours.
How was your shoot with Georgia?
It was easy and it was fun - everyone was just doing their part. She is a really great photographer and she managed to really capture moments of me. I really enjoyed it and I’m happy to be here.
I have a little bit of a philosophical question for you. You’re usually seen playing other people, but who is the real Jack?
I would describe myself as a really compassionate, hardworking and strong. I say that, because being compassionate to me is somewhat weak. I’m hardworking and I love what I do, and I want to be good at what I do and also show others the best example. Strive for the best and even if you do like ten reps, just do extra three reps for example during push-ups or sit-ups. Just push yourself that little bit more each time to add growth. I’m a layered person, but I think I probably appear more strong and emotionless sometimes.
At work, I often play characters that are very emotion-forward, so it’s a part of me that leaves that behind when I’m being my normal self. I’m kind of militant about things, but in a good way, I get things done. The real me - a big load of mush. I’m very family-oriented. I’ve got two little brothers who are eight, they’re like my own in a way. I just want to be able to give them things that I maybe never had, certain things that I didn’t get to see. I’m a family guy. Just really driven to do well, more than anything. I think that’s a good quality to have, I have seen people around me that harbour those qualities. I look at the person you are. I try not to be swayed by emotions, because I think that sometimes clouds our judgment. I guess that’s the real me in a nutshell.
Do you ever bring your little brothers to set?
While I was filming the fifth season of ‘Wolfblood’, my brothers came out to visit. I think that was quite a mad experience for them, because they watch the show. Then they come in and see the other side of it. I think it was very interesting for them to see their brother in these heroic type moments. That’s something they can be proud of - and for me, that is one of the biggest rewards. I think it’s important to have someone to look up to when you’re young. I remember when my older cousin would come over to the house, and I would become so excited. I wanted to know what he’s been doing and those sorts of things. I think it’s important to create little memories with the ones who are younger, I want to be there for my brothers and sisters. There are a few of us. I’m the oldest of six, and then I’ve got five stepbrothers. That’s from my mum - yeah, that’s a long story. It’s a lot - big family.
Do you have big family parties?
Yeah, Christmas is crazy. It’s expensive for me - I’m just trying to find sentimental things now, nothing to extravagant. They’re all young, so they all want the expensive things. I wanted expensive stuff too so…
What makes you happy?
That is an interesting question, because I’m not really sure. I think being free to do what I love, but actually growing from being a person who leads an ordinary life then to able to transition into doing what I actually like and makes me happy. I love performing - I love stepping into new people and finding out about them. I think what makes me happy is doing that. I think it makes me feel fulfilled, that I’m adding something and playing my part. Knowing that I’ve done a good job - I think that also makes me happy.
Do fans tell you how much they appreciate your work?
Yeah, since going on ‘Wolfblood’, that has really brought a lot of attention to my work and I. For anyone to be interested in what you do and love, that is such an overwhelming thing. There have been people who come and say lovely things - that is them going out of their way, their day, their time - they don’t have to do that. I played an orphan on ‘Wolfblood’ and my character’s sister is ‘Amelia’, I think it’s important to represent what’s happening to a lot of people as well. My character doesn’t have a family and has to take care of his sister, so he has to be strong one. There is no one else to take on that responsibility and the only bond is between Amelia and ‘Matei’. I’ve had a lot children, even adults write to me, in fan mail talking about what it meant to them and seeing that ‘Matei’ had lost all kind of strength and hope, and he had to be strong for his sister. That made other kids feel happy - they felt like they could get through it too.
No matter what happens or what can be taken away. It affected them in a way where they saw an example that succeeded beyond their realm of struggle and for me, what was important with ‘Matei’ was to show show strength and someone standing up for himself and his sister. I also think it’s really important to show people that it’s okay to cry, and that it is okay to be a bit upset - especially for a boy. In today’s day and age, I think more so today, it’s been broken down and we can be that man who doesn’t necessarily have to show strength all the time. We’ve always been shown or told as a man to be strong and not cry - just to hold it together. I think that you can do that, as well as being a bit sad - having a release, because we’re human. We need to have that release, and I think boys are told it’s not okay to have that, and I want to embody that somehow by playing ‘Matei’. Yes, he is strong and got superpowers, he can run fast, but actually when it gets to the quiet moments, it’s okay to be upset - you can be strong and sad at the same time. And that was one of my aims when I realized the type of role I was taking on.
I noticed that the body language of ‘Matei’ was very protective when it came to his little sister ‘Amelia’.
That also came a lot from the fact that we learnt about wolves. We met ten wolves, and saw their behaviour and how they operate - super intelligent. They’re incredible animals. We were studying them a lot and we got to embody them. One of the biggest things about wolves is loyalty. Like for example, the wolf we visited, there was one wolf that had no teeth and therefore the other wolves chewed its food for him. Then they spat it right out and he ate it.
Such a support system.
Unbelievable. When you look at they way they manoeuvre - the three weakest wolves will be at the front, then the strong wolves and then the youngest wolves, and the alphas at the back, so they can see everything. People don’t realize this about wolves, there is a structure to things, and they’ve got a natural order. It’s incredibly powerful. Not only is this a fantasy show, but also I’ve learnt so much about things and just becoming more in touch with nature. How we’re all apart of it. I just think it’s amazing. I got to play a role that could embody these special things and I think you see that with ‘Matei’ and ‘Amelia’, that they’re kind of the more mythical side of ‘Woolfblood’. It was awesome to be apart of that, and being loyal and strong - it’s just such an empowering thing. To get to do that for two seasons, it was great.
In a previous interview you said that to prepare for the role of ‘Matei’ you were sent to movement classes and one of the processes you went through was the animal exercise. What was that process like?
Gail, I think her name was, came out and did movement classes with us whilst we were on set - before we started filming. She was kind of embodying how a wolf would operate, so like the breathing - how that allows you to have a pant. Then watching how your body moves with that and then there is this internal fire with a wolf, so they react on fear and anger. Other than they’re very calm and collected, and anger is what gets them going. So we’re not wolves obviously, so we have to kind of embody what they do and we were just doing all sorts of growling and howling. I remember when I was at school and they asked us to be a snake or a lion, and I was like; ‘I’m never going to be a snake. Why are you asking me in drama class to do this?’. And now at 24-25, I’m playing a wolf jumping around and frothing with my mouth. It was good fun, I got be a kid. It was naturalistic, but animalistic at the same time.
How would you usually choose to prepare for a character?
I think the realest inspiration is from something true and honest. I try to relate what I do to things around me. I don’t think any character is a complete replica of what someone is around you, but you can take elements of people and things. For example, the play I just did ‘Held’, I played two very different characters, ‘Jamie’ and ‘Fynn’. In ‘Jamie’ I saw this friend of mine that I grew up with, so I embodied bits of that person, and someone else I knew was a little bit softer in their body language, which I drew from to use for ‘Fynn’. ‘Jamie’ is the character that I played in the first act and he is supposed to be from up north and he’s kind of strong physically appearing. ‘Fynn’ appears to be much weaker and introverted. There is this friend of mine and when he gets upset, he closes himself up. Over the years I’ve seen that behaviour and I was thinking; ‘Cool, I can draw from that behaviour.’ I wouldn’t say I am method, I would say I’m more instinctual.
You seem to be very much acting off of things? Maybe there is a bit of Meisner in there?
For me, when I was doing A-level drama, the theories never interested me. I had a need to express, and I feel like I had that physical ability to just be up there and doing it. But maybe I could still learn from the method side of things, I think growth is so important. I think I will definitely come across actors who I believe in and who I like look up to and they’re using a method and they get a good result from it. I just feel like if you’re putting in that much effort shouldn’t there be exceptional results? And sometimes, that is not the case, so therefore I haven’t been able to really believe in a method or such, but I understand it. Everyone is different, you know, you do what works for you. I just do what Jack feels is right. Whatever makes sense to me. What I think tailors to me, so I’m not being false. Otherwise, it’s just boring to do what someone else has already done.
Do you have a favourite performance of someone you admire?
For me, my three favourite actors are James Spader, Meryl Street and Leonardo DiCaprio, because if you look at them, they’re so consistent, powerful and present. I’ve said it before, but I think one performance that sticks out to me is DiCaprio in ‘Titanic’, just because he had so many layers to him and he just didn’t do anything wrong. And Meryl Streep in ‘Doubt’ as well, there are certain moments that just gripped me. There are just so many, so it’s hard to pinpoint just one specific performance. Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Shutter Island’ maybe - really enjoyed that performance. Natalie Portman in ‘Black Swan’. I like the flipping of those characters - like in ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Shutter Island’. I would like to play roles like that. Where it’s unexpecting and the appearance is not what it seems. Like for instance Christian Bale’s character in ‘American Psycho’. That kind of thing, I feel like I get the twitches of the characters. Something like that would be really fun for me to explore at some point.
How do you handle strong emotional acting scenes, do you find that it’s easy to move in and out of character?
The play I did ‘Held’ was so intense, I don’t think I realized the intensity of it before I took it on. I rehearsed each act as it was to be done, and then it was like my mind went over to the next act when the first one finished. I just did it that way - I rehearsed it and had it embedded in that way. When you’re coming out of a character, you’re kind of buzzing and it was traumatic in a way, but coming to the end of that I started to recognize that it had quite an affect on me as a human being - you exist and you’re experiencing it. It was definitely challenging and it was scary at some points, and it felt like it was never stopping. With filming, every scene almost is different. You’re not really stuck in that turmoil. You’re moving on from it and it’s not in chronological order, so you’re flipping and going, whereas with a play, you go through it from beginning to end. It can definitely be tough. I think as a human you don’t want to go there, but as an actor you do.
What does a good performance feel like?
It can feel like a good performance, but you don’t know until you see other people. You can see it in the eyes of people if they were moved by it. You just know and then that makes me go quiet. You don’t really know what to say, because it’s the best feeling when you’ve achieved that performance and people were moved by it – that’s quite overwhelming actually. It’s exhilarating. It’s like running across the finish line first. Adrenaline bursting through your veins. I think that comes with anyone doing whatever they love. Getting an A grade. When you’re doing a film, you don’t have that immediate response - you don’t know what the fans think until you maybe meet them in real life. That immediate response in the theatre is quite gratifying. Feeding off the energy of the audience. When you know the response is there, you just fly through the performance. That’s a good feeling.
Would you want to do more theatre?
Definitely, but something lighter next time. I would love to do a comedy, but I don’t think I’m that funny. Maybe a romantic comedy could be quite fun? That could be cheezy and a different type of vibe. I did a comedy short called ‘Drop’ with my friend Harris Dickinson. He challenged me - he called me up and said; ‘I want you to do this part’ and I was like ‘ehh’. And he was like; ‘Bro, turn up, learn your stuff.’ I went and did it - I really enjoyed filming it. It was a lot of fun and I just think comedians are brilliant - different level of smart. I admire them. I don’t want to think I am that, because I know what they are. It’s like being a singer. I can hit a few tunes, but I’m not a singer. There are people out there who can sing! But yeah, comedy for sure - I think I should lighten up a bit soon haha.
In a previous interview of yours, you mentioned that you also write. You mentioned that you were writing a piece with a friend about mental health and social media. Tell us about writing and your relationship with mental health.
A few years ago when I first got into acting, I came across a shit group of people. And that inspired me to write something for the first time. I wouldn’t say shit people, I mean, people that I didn’t fully connect with. But it inspired me to write something, so I wrote a pilot. Actually, it’s funny, right after I did my play, my agent said to me: ‘How about that script? I think it’s time for us to move forward with it.’ It’s been on the backburner since 2013. I’ve written it and I’m really proud of it and I think it’s strong. Now I need to bring together a team to make the six episodes I want it to be and make it hard hitting. It’s based in London, but I don’t want to say too much. Now I definitely want to do it. And currently, Hussain Manawer and I are devising a play that challenges mental health, cyber bullying, racial misunderstandings and so on.
The reason why I became so passionate about mental health was because I made a promise to my grandma when she passed last year in April. I lived with her for several months and she has a son who is 44-years old, but he suffers from mental health issues and learning difficulties. She was worried that no one would be there for him and my promise to her was that I would be there for him. I’m a caretaker for him now, because there was no one else who would. When you look at this man, he looks strong, and for someone of those social stereotypes; ‘What’s wrong with you? Just get on with it.’ That’s the problem, because when people can’t perceive it, they don’t think it’s there. I only understood how important this was to highlight was when I was living my uncle. Only when I was with him alone did I see the calmer sides to him and how he could articulate himself. He hears voices. He’s got dyslexia. Daily tasks become so tough for him. He looks so strong and able to take care of himself, but honestly, that’s not the type of strength and looking after he needs.
When I saw Hussain on the morning show talking about mental health, I was so impressed with how he articulated it. I believe in energy and for whatever reason, only three days later I went to a gig and he was standing next to me. I looked at him and was like; ‘you’re Hussain, right?’. We got talking and we had this common understanding of how important it is that we have a form of influence and we need to use it in the right way. He was organizing the biggest mental health lesson hoping to achieve the Guinness World Record. He brought me on for that and we ended up achieving the world record for the biggest mental health lesson. 536 people participated at the Hackney Empire. There are so many lessons in watching this man. I admire him and his hard work, so now our mission is to devise a play that challenges these things - especially in the recent light of Brexit and social discriminations. I think we need to blend it and tell people that it’s okay to be different. I think we are going to make something that in some way or another is going to move people and make them think - a glimmer of hope in the midst of their mental struggle. I just think you’ve got to do your bit. We can all sit and watch and hope for other people to do something, but with my experience with my uncle, I’m 25 years old and I’m a caretaker to a 44-year old man. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s my role - that’s what I’ve got to do. I’m passionate about it because of that. It’s easy to be lazy and say no, but it’s hard to say yes. When you say yeah and accept the challenge, you feel a hundred times better on the other side.
What are you passionate about besides acting?
I like sports. I know it sounds a bit silly, but going to the park and throwing some Frisbee with my brothers, my cousins and my friends – that’s something. Hiking or cycling, I’m an active guy and I always have been since I was younger. I’m also passionate about energy - self-belief. Thinking like that is what has gotten me here. That’s why I feel passionate about energy. If everyone knew how to tap into themselves and be the best version of themselves. Hussain for instance, I keep going back to him, because he does a lot of public speaking and we’re on the same page, I look at what he does and that is what I am passionate about. I’m passionate about correcting the imbalance of justice, especially in the political sense. I hate how people avoid questions and skip round, and then they’re allowed to do so. I think I am passionate about making people realize they can be their best self and get rid of the fear of what others think. Something that made me think this way was dad when I first went to live with him when I was 12 he had bought a new car and when I got into the car I said; ‘I love the smell of the leather’. And he went; ‘You know what that is - hard work.’ It was people’s responses to things, which tuned in.
My Nan when she was around, all of her grand children would jump in her bed and sit and watch TV with her. Suddenly it would be like nine of us in Nan’s bed. That’s what we are. I might have come to my Nan’s house and there would have been like strangers there; ‘Oh yeah, they need the sofa for the night.’ My Nan was an orphan and then she rose like six children – she made a family from nothing. From love only, no money and no education. What it really stems from, my train of thought, is my grandmother. She was the best woman in the world - stronger than any men. Strong females inspire me. That’s why I love ‘Scandal’ for instance. There is nothing more attractive, not just in a sexual way, but in life, than a woman who opposes what is expected of her. That’s amazing. Don't worry about what other people say. Do 'you'. Fight for it. Go for it.
What is your idea of masculinity?
I think masculinity has the connotation of strength. Strength doesn’t necessarily come from a physical aspect. Just being a strong-willed person and stand for what’s right is a masculine trait. The word ‘feminist’ for instance doesn’t seem to emulate masculinity, but yet it does. It represents both sides. I think women can be somewhat masculine as well in their presence. It would be so easy to put boxes around - it’s easy for people who aren’t looking to learn more; ‘This is a box - go with that.’ But I think it all crosses over. The same with people - we have our genders obviously and our different abilities as people, but I think there is a common level of strength. I think it’s a beautiful thing to have for women and men - fulfilling your role in the realm.
Do you feel like you’re in contact with your feminine side?
Yes, a hundred per cent. I think you would be silly not to. You are almost denying a part of yourself, X and Y, right? It’s there and that’s your emotional and tactile side. When you’re in touch with those things – that’s the feminine side. Of course I am, I think everyone should be. You are part of your mum and part of your dad. I think once you do that - accepting all of your flaws and being who you are, you’re going to be the best version of yourself. You won’t be driven by fear and worried about the small things.
It’s easy to get caught up in the trivial things.
What most people talk about are the trivial things, because they have nothing else to talk about. Sometimes society has brought us up to be in such a pattern routine that we end up talking about rubbish, because there is nothing else to do.
Social media is a big part of your industry and also just the general world today. What is your relationship with social media?
I mean, it’s more like anti-social media, if I’m going to be honest about it. I feel like it has droned us all in. My relationship with it is that I recognize the necessity of it, I recognize how it is a part of our day and life and I think it is a bad thing, but it has also connected us. Sometimes I find myself looking at my phone and I have to throw my phone down on the bed, because I need to stop looking at it. It’s a great tool, especially in what we do; being your own brand and daily manager - my industry requires that. There is a certain responsibility that comes with it in how you project yourself. I have a good relationship with social media and try to stay sort of proactive about it. I think it has just become a part of our being. I think it can be a great tool - it can be used in such a great way, but I think the essence of life is being lost in this digital age. It is evolution; it’s where it has come to. It all depends on how you use it and how consumed we become.
What mark would you like to leave on the world?
My mark is I would like to leave a legacy of: no matter where you come from or what you go through, if you want to achieve something - you can do it. Only you. Stop waiting for other people. Get up, go and do it. Right now. That’s the legacy or the kind of mark I would like to leave. Other people have their own interest first, that’s what I’ve realized. When you finally recognize that you have to stop waiting for other people to be that support system or to be the person who gets you in the door. You need to do it.
I have a little bit of a visualization task and it consists of two questions. The first part, have you ever been in love? And secondly, how would you visualize the sensation of falling in love?
I have seen people fall in love and what is does to them when it doesn’t work. That for me is not what I want to be. I don’t want someone to have control over me or me to be dependent on another person. I saw more heartache than love and happiness when people were together. I know that feeling when people have that ripping effect on you, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in love. Is that sad? It’s a bit sad, isn’t it? What if I don’t know how to recognize that feeling?
You’ll recognize it when it comes.
Well, that recognition I can imagine, is almost like a hold - it almost takes your breath away. You might fuck up, but you don’t want to fuck up. I think the moment when I start overthinking and letting myself go - that might be it. The physical description of that? I imagine myself being on a big ship and then there’s this octopus grabbing a hold of it. The octopus drags the ship into the deep ocean of love. And it goes crack. Ultimately that’s what love does, the cracking. Even though you might be a warship, Mother Nature can still fuck you up. The chemical that releases when you’re in love is the same as what comes with heroin. It’s crippling. Love is the ultimate thing. If you have it too soon, you don’t get to live the fruitful life that you should have been doing. Love is the ultimate prize - it’s to be in utopia with someone. It might be a cynical way of looking at love.
No, because it’s like the high prize, so it’s really worth something and you need to be deserving of it.
Yeah. Actually be prepared, be in a position to see love, so you are not blind to it or distracted by it. Be the full person that you can be. Know who you are and be comfortable with yourself. That’s the moment you can love properly. When they deserve it and you deserve it. That’s how I see it.