Glass interviews Welsh actor Luke Evans

Luke Evans talks to Glass about his role in the Netflix series The Alienist and his ever-growing career as a leading man in Hollywood

AFTER performing onstage for most of his twenties, Welsh actor Luke Evans got his Hollywood breakthrough role as the Greek god Apollo in the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans. Since then, his film career has skyrocketed and he’s played a variety of major roles in films such as the 2016 crime drama, The Girl on the Train, Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast and Gary Shore’s Dracula Untold. Whether he’s playing dragon slayer Bard in the last two instalments of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy or psychologist William Moulton Marston in Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman, Evan’s has proved he can adapt for any role he’s required to do.

Alongside Dakota Fanning and Daniel Brühl, Evans stars in the new gripping mystery-drama series for Netflix, The Alienist. Based in 1890 New York, the series follows psychologist Dr Laszlo Kreizer (played by Brühl), illustrator at The New York Times John Moore (Evan’s character), and police department secretary Sara Howard (Fanning) as they try to discover the identity of a murderer of boy prostitutes. When Glass got a chance to speak to Evans about the series ahead of its release, he had just celebrated his 39th birthday in Rome on the Sunday prior (coincidentally the as his Beauty and the Beast co-star, Emma Watson).

How was your birthday?
Yes, I turned 39 and it was a really good day. I decided to come a little earlier to Rome before we did some press with Netflix for show. I brought over some friends and they came with my family and we had some great food, saw the sights. Overall it was really good day.

I read that before The Alienist, you had never done TV before apart from the BBC mini-series The Great Train Robbery. How was it, being able to develop a character across ten episodes?
It was really interesting to do something in that medium of ten episodes. Often when you shoot movies, you have to condense an awful lot into an adaption of a book, for example, because there isn’t enough time. So, it was very nice to be able to develop a character and everyone had their moments because there was enough space for each member of the cast to shine. It’s much harder to let a character go after you’ve been playing them for seven months.

I imagine that’s probably similar to when you were performing in the West End, playing a character over and over and then having to say goodbye to that character.
Yes, exactly.

Luke EvansLuke Evans. Photograph: Hew Hood

Do you think there are many similarities between you and John Moore?
I try and find a similarity, or at least a trait, with all of my characters that I can relate to personally because I think it helps develop the authenticity of the character if you can understand them. There are parts of him that I feel drawn to. He’s quite a sensitive creature in a way. He’s very emotional. A hopeless romantic, which you could say I am.

Are there plans in the works for a second season?
It was a limited series, so we don’t have any plans for a second one. Although, there is a second book, so who knows. It went down very well in the US and there’s a lot of anticipation for it to be released on Netflix to the rest of the world, so we shall see what everybody thinks of it. As of now, it was a lovely experience and a limited series of the whole book.

How was working with Dakota Fanning and Daniel Brühl?
It was wonderful. Since leaving Budapest last September, we’ve seen each other intermittently and we chat on WhatsApp all the time. It’s very nice to see them here in Rome. We all get on and clicked. It’s great to be able to call people you’ve worked with over a couple of months your friends.

Before you worked in film and TV, you worked in musical theatre. Having done both, where do you think you’re most comfortable now? On stage or on camera?
I’m comfortable doing either, to be honest. I haven’t worked on stage in 10 years, which is a bit long. I enjoy both mediums. They’re both very different. Live theatre provokes a continuous reaction to what you are going, whereas in film and television there is a delay before you have a response and feedback. The process is a much slower, drawn out experience compared to theatre, but I enjoy both.

Luke EvansLuke Evans. Photograph: Hew Hood

Would you ever want to go back to theatre?
I definitely will. I’ve just got to work out what I want to do and where I can fit that period of time in my schedule as I’m quite busy at the minute. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and talking about with producers and reading scripts and plays, working it out and finding the right thing. I will definitely go back at some point.

Do you enjoy playing villains like Gaston in Beauty and the Beast?
They’re quite fun, especially If they’re Disney villains like Gaston. He was a very fun character to play. Weirdly people sort of liked him. I don’t know how that one turned out – he’s quite a lovable oaf, but turns very nasty. It’s also quite fun when playing villains because you can push it quite far, which you would never do in the real world.

Did you always want to be an actor when growing up?
I always wanted to sing, but I never thought I would sing and act for a living. I came from a very working class family. My father is a bricklayer and my mum was a housewife and cleaner. It wasn’t something ever talked about in my family, that it could be a career at all. So I always thought I’d end up doing something very different. I always wanted to be a forensic pathologist when I was a teenager, but that didn’t work out. I left school at 16 as I didn’t like school or want to stay on in further education. I got a job and started having singing lessons. That was the beginning of my journey into theatre, London, musical theatre and, eventually, film.

Luke EvansLuke Evans. Photograph: Hew Hood

Would you ever want to step behind the camera and try your hand at directing or producing?
I would love to. I am producing a few projects this year, which is exciting because it means you can get involved in many more aspects of a project. Directing is something I’d very much like to do at some point. I’m taking one of the projects I’m producing to Cannes Film Festival and the other one I’m producing with Josh Gad has been picked up by Netflix. We’re just waiting for the first draft of the script and will hopefully be shooting that in the late summer of this year.

What has been your most demanding role to date?
I’d say the most demanding role so far is probably the one I played in Dracula Untold. Emotionally, the journey the character goes on, the physicality of the character and the actions made it a very demanding role.

Luke EvansLuke Evans. Photograph: Hew Hood

I read that you’ve worked with a number of charities including Save the Children and The Prince’s Trust. Have you always been interested in charity work?
I’ve come from a family who’s always helped the community, supported charities and helped people less fortunate than us. So I’ve always been aware of my responsibility when it comes to charity work. When my profile rose to a point where people knew who I was, I could use that as a productive tool to represent, or raise money for, a charity, or spread awareness of a particular issue. It’s a rewarding part of my career that I’m able to use this by-product of fame as a way of helping charities.

What can you tell us about your film 10×10?
It’s a thriller written by Noel Clarke. You think you’re following one story about a man who’s kidnapped a woman and locked her in a room in his house. However the story unfolds and it’s one full of twists. It was very fun, actually, to play against Kelly Reilly in such a difficult role. She really went for it – she’s fantastic, as you’ll see in the film.

So far, your body of work on screen is built up of mainly action-packed films. Could you see yourself getting involved in something different in the future, such as comedy?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve done a lot of action-packed movies in recent years. That’s why I try to fit in lots of independent movies because often you can delve into subject matters and do different stuff. It’s been fantastic to delve into something dark, mysterious and cerebral and I have really enjoyed it. I would love to do some more comedy. It’s something I’m hoping to do with Josh Gad in this film we’re producing with Netflix.

by Tom Halford

The Alienist is available on Netflix

Taken from the Glass Archive issue 33 — Vision

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Photographer: Hew Hood
Styling: Stevie Westgarth
Grooming: Lee Machin at CARREN

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