Glass meets Joseph Quinn, the British actor on the rise

IT’S common knowledge that being an actor is hard. The industry is over-saturated, competitive, and flooded with talented actors each of them waiting for their big break. One British actor on a slow-burning rise against the odds  is Joseph Quinn, whose name you probably don’t know — yet.


Joseph Quinn. Photography: Benjamin Tietge

Shifting from the stage to your TV screens, Quinn is grabbing the industry’s attention with his unique approach to period drama and ability to take on a character. Now, at only 25, the actor has major productions under his belt including Catherine the Great, Death Watch, Les Miserables, Dickensian, as well as the bragging rights of having worked alongside the likes of both Helen Mirren and Olivia Colman.

It’s also been announced that Quinn will be joining Tom Burke and Holliday Grainger in the BBC1 adaptation of JK Rowling’s latest Cormoran Strike novel, the number one bestseller Lethal White. For this pivotal role, Quinn stretches his acting muscle even further, playing a troubled young man asking for his help to investigate a heinous crime he believes he witnessed as a child.

Glass meets Quinn to discuss his greatest roles, his career highlights so far, and his latest film Make Up, which premiered at the  2019 BFI London Film Festival.


Joseph Quinn. Photograph: Benjamin Tietge

Towards the beginning of your career, you were in a lot of theatre productions (Death Watch, Wish List, Mosquitoes), how does TV compare to this and which would you say you prefer?
They’re completely different processes. Theatre you rehearse for four weeks then you’re doing the show eight times a week so It requires a lot of discipline and stamina. The reward is the immediate reaction from the audience you get every night. If it’s a good show it’s extremely empowering and a joy to do, If it’s not, it’s pretty challenging. TV and film, the camera is your audience I guess so it needs a more naturalistic performance. You have to do numerous takes and more often than not it’s shot out of sequence so you don’t get the satisfaction a linear narrative gives you in the theatre.  Both theatre and TV have pros and cons. The pros out way the cons in both camps though.


Joseph Quinn. Photograph: Benjamin Tietge

You play Prince Paul, the son of Catherine the Great in the new HBO drama. They have quite a tense relationship, what was it like developing this on screen with Helen Mirren?
Nuts. Working with an actor of her calibre is, of course, an enormous privilege.  The fact that she’s also a lovely person made it even better. It was a joy.

The film locations for CTG were pretty impressive! Did you enjoy exploring Russia and Lithuania? What was it like filming in a palace?
It’s a huge perk if a job takes you to a part of the world you haven’t been before. I’d never been to the Baltics or Russia and I’d definitely go back if I could. Vilnius is stunning. Lovely people, great food, it’s a winner. St Petersburg was special. Go if you can. You do get kind of immunised to the opulence filming in these unbelievably beautiful buildings.. After your tenth Russian palace you’re wonderment is reduced and it just feels normal. Spoilt really.


Joseph Quinn. Photography: Benjamin Tietge

There are only four episodes in the CTG miniseries, which isn’t long to delve into so many interesting characters. Can we expect another series to follow? How do you see Prince Paul developing if so?
I’m pretty sure this is the end of the road for these characters. It’s Helen’s show and her character passes away at the end of the series as Paul comes into power. If they were going to do it again I guess it would be Paul’s journey through the trials he faces as emperor. I think such a substantial part of the series’ message is its commentary on female empowerment and history’s misrepresentation of powerful women. I’m not sure how much Paul’s story would serve that but I guess it could be about something else… Who knows? I’d say it’s very unlikely though.

You’ve been in quite a few period dramas (Dickensian, CTG) where you get to wear some very interesting costumes. What is this like? Do you think they help you to get a better feel for your roles?
Anything that connects you to the time helps. If you’re playing an emperor in a pair of air max it’ll feel weird. For this one I wanted him to look ridiculous. The script was constantly referring to how ‘ugly’ Catherine’s son is. So I wanted his make up and costume to enhance that. It was an interesting exercise. He thinks he looks the dogs bollocks, so maintaining that self assuredness the character had whilst in reality I resembled a half man, half lamb kind of thing was pretty of hilarious. The make up and costume departments were outstanding on CTG. It looks brilliant.


Joseph Quinn. Photography: Benjamin Tietge

Your new film, Make Up, premiered at the BFI London Film Festival earlier this month. What can we expect from the film and your character?
So the film is set in a holiday park in Cornwall. I play a character named Tom who is in a relationship with Ruth (played by Molly Windsor.) It’s is a psychological thriller/ adolescent Romance/ British countryside romp. It was great fun to make.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
I think doing a play [Mosquitos] with Olivia Colman was pretty magical. I’m supremely grateful for that.


Joseph Quinn. Photograph: Benjamin Tietge

If you could be in a remake of any classic movie or show, which would you be in and who would you be?
All the characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Joseph Quinn. Photograph: Benjamin Tietge


What are you most looking forward to in the future?
What am I most looking forward to in the future? Some clarity. And for all this hysteria to calm down. It’s quite fascinating. There is a self-awareness that our society has now.  We know we have some enormous challenges to overcome. The climate crisis, surveillance capitalism, dishonest leaders.  It feels like a truly, transitional period in history and it can feel like we’re lost at sea a bit but I think we’re all trying our best find our way back to shore. I’m looking forward to getting there.

by Alicia Poutney

Lethal White will premier on BBC1 in 2020, exact date to be announced

All episodes of Catherine The Great are available to stream now on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV

Photographer: Benjamin Tietge
Fashion Stylist: Julia Lurie
Hair Stylist: Davide Barbieri
Photographic Assistant: Dominic Markes
Special thanks: APIARY Studio
Talent: Joseph Quinn


Look 1
Knitwear: JOSEPH


Knitwear: JOSEPH
Ring: Joseph’s own

Blazer: DIOR
Rain jacket: GIVENCHY
Trousers: DIOR

Shirts: MARNI
Woven belt: Stylists own

Knitwear: ROCHAS
Trousers: DUNHILL

Zip up top: PHIPPS
Leather jacket: JOSEPH
Trench coat: DRIES VAN NOTEN



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