We met up with actor Jack Brett Anderson, who at the age of just 25, has an impressive collection of roles under his belt. The talented young actor, who always aims to challenge himself, won over critics when he played Edward in Christopher Marlowe's Edward II, impressed audiences with performance in docu-drama Is this Rape? Sex on Trial – part of the Breaking the Mould series directed by the BAFTA-winning, Ben Anthony.
He also plays a lead role in the hit BBC series Wolfblood and is going to play the protagonist in Tina Jay's play Held this summer. Jack talks to us about why it's so important to him to show young men that strong male characters can be emotional, which roles he has found the most challenging, his personal style and why his next project will focus on mental health.Photography by Matt Crockett
Hi Jack, thank you for joining us today. Can you tell me a little about acting background – when did you first realise you wanted to become an actor?
I first started acting when I was 12 at school, and then I started from there; I got into local theatre, acting in things like Grease and Bugsy Malone. My first proper job was in the play Edward II by Christopher Marlowe, which was my first ever job in theatre; it was an incredible opportunity.
It was actually that review that got me signed in the States and to my management then. I didn’t go to drama school, so that play was really my training.
How did you find playing Edward II?
Firstly I hadn’t trained, so my knowledge of classics and historical plays was quite limited. And I had always wanted to be a contemporary actor so I hadn’t thought much about acting in theatre.
But I learnt so much on that job; I was really excited to have been given that role, it was something I had never done before. It really gave me a chance to dig into a challenging role that would be respected. I feel lucky; it was the perfect entrance into theatre.
The role also gave me a lot of confidence; I thought to myself if I can hold this character and do this for a few hours live on stage then I can manage short scenes for a film.
How do you find acting in the theatre compared to filming?
I feel like it’s all good practice, so when I film I try to get it all done in one take, as that’s how it is on stage. I do really like film – it’s much smaller, but intense and subtle performances, often closer to how we act or what we do in real life. Whereas in theatre you have to really amplify things and make it bigger so it reaches the audience at the back of the room.
I have to say I honestly love both; there is definitely something about the subtlety of film I love, but then there’s something about the exuding of energy you get on stage – you get your ‘singer moment'.
You also get live feedback too, which is great. You can tell if people have been moved by the piece there and then and that’s probably one of the most rewarding things.
You’re also very well known for your character in the BBC series Wolfblood. Have you enjoyed being in an on-going series?
Wolfblood is my first series and I play Matei Covaci, who is a wolf but also an orphan that looks after his little sister. I was really excited to play his character, and I like that Wolfblood has such strong characters that break through, but also stick together. He is very strong but also broken; he lost his family and now he has the responsibility of looking after his sister at such a young age.
For me that was a beautiful storyline to play; because I could play him as a ferocious wolf in one scene, but in another show that he is also compassionate and tender.
And I think that is really important for boys to know; that it’s OK to cry or have problems and it doesn’t take away from any of your strength. So I’ve really enjoyed playing him and to be able to show a softer side of a lead male character.
I love being part of a series as you can come back for another season and you have the chance to really develop your character. I feel very grateful to be a part of the show.
You’ve appeared in some other high-profile TV shows, including the docu-drama Is this Rape? Sex on Trial. Did you find this role challenging?
When I was reading the script I realised that this character could have been anyone who found himself in this situation. So when I read it, I tried to read it looking at a normal person rather than the stereotype of a rapist – a person who could make this mistake. And the director Ben Anthony said to me he was glad I made it normal, and that was always my vision.
Of course it is a tough character to play as no one wants to be associated with rape, because it is such an awful and vile crime. But I did think it was really important to highlight how these mistakes could be made, and if you see what happens at the end, it highlights that it wasn’t malicious rape as people expect, but it was still classed in the same category as a planned rape.
It was just a moment that I had to embody and I just tried to make it as believable and honest as possible so that someone could understand and not judge too quickly, and that there are two sides to it as well.
When you accuse someone of rape that will stick with them forever and this programme also brought people in who were accused before and discussed how much if has affected their life. So I think the docu-drama also highlights that people need to understand how serious it is. It was very tough, but it had a great message as well.Photography by Matt Crockett
Would you say it was the toughest role you’ve played so far in your career?
I don’t know. It was very difficult. It’s the nature of it, but I don’t’ know if I would say it’s my toughest. I think the play Held that I’m doing at the moment comes up there.
Yes, we heard that you’re going to return to the stage this summer with a lead role in Tina Jay’s new play, Held. Can you tell us about that? Are you excited?
This play is hard-hitting. It highlights a world that exists within our own one that is so detached from the current day. It follows two characters, Jamie and Fin, and I play both of them.
I play Jamie in the first act and Fin in the second. Jamie is very new to this world, and you see his journey and how the world can corrupt you and lead you down the wrong path; based on innocence but ending in disaster.
And with Fin, he is a broken soul from how he grew up, and his failure becomes his destroyer, and there’s a heart-wrenching moment where you get to see these passionate situations turn explosive over the silliest things. I don’t want to reveal too much in terms of the dynamics of the play. But I think the play really highlights the evolution of relationships and the knock-on effects of how things that happen to you when you’re younger really affect you.
It’s been a hard role to play, but it’s so interesting. And Tina Jay, who wrote the play, has done such an incredible job at portraying these two lives facing different struggles; and both characters handle these obstacles. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s a great play.
I’m really excited for it as I get to play two characters in the same play, and portray so many different emotions. I get to run from left to right from beginning to end and get to have two different journeys and hopefully make people think two different things. It’s an arresting piece and I think people will either be silent at the end or maybe be a bit mad!
How would you describe your style?
I would say I’m quite casual but I do like to dress up and wear smarter clothes in the evenings. Generally I like to keep it casual and wear a good pair of jeans with a nice top, but I never like to try too hard.
Would you say your taste in fashion has evolved as you’ve grown up?
Oh yeah, definitely. When you’re younger you just wear what you think is on trend so you end up wearing brands that everyone has and wearing what you think is cool.
But as I got older, I’m not as bothered about which brand I wear. It’s more about finding what suits me. It’s definitely evolved and reflects my personality more than when I just used to wear what everyone else was.
Who are your favourite designers?
My favourite high street shop is definitely Zara – they always have smart, cool and casual pieces to wear. I also love Belstaff jackets, I love to grab one of those and mix it up with high street casual pieces.
I also like a lot of smaller designers and accessible-lux clothing.
Can you tell us some of your favourite secret spots and hangouts in London?
I live in Shoreditch and I love it there. There is a great restaurant called Black Ship on Brick Lane and they do incredible food. There are so many great spots to pick [from] in Shoreditch and all around London.
Another place for summer would have to be Victoria Park; it’s a great spot. It’s not too central, but it’s great for relaxing.
Finally, what are your plans for the next year?
At the moment I’m focusing on the play Held. But I am also creating a show with Hussain Manawer. We did a mental health session at Hackney Empire and it won a Guinness World Record. And based on that we want to create a show, which goes around four large venues similar to Hackney Empire. The show will highlight issues such as mental health, bullying, cyber bullying and lots of thing that people face and feel like they can’t always talk about.
And we’re also going to have a racial debate in performance where people say lots of different controversial things, but it’s from a point of view. We’re trying to highlight the issues that people face through sensitivity and also political correctness and hopefully tackle some of those issues by the end.
For tickets and more information about Held click here.
All of Jack Brett Anderson are by Matt Crockett