Real fortitude

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British actor Nicholas Pinnock has an impressively eclectic list of credits to his name. In the 1990s, he appeared in UK TV stalwarts Grange Hill, EastEnders, The Bill and Casualty, but he’s since starred in film both in the country and abroad. Monsters: Dark Continent, a sci-fi thriller in which he plays an army sergeant, is coming out later this year, as is Daniel Barber’s The Keeping Room, a US, Civil-war based drama.

This month, Fortitude, a drama set in an Arctic town, will air on Sky Atlantic. We spoke to Nicholas, who stars in the show, about the roles he’s taken on and those he hasn’t.

What’s a typical day like for you now?
Lots of reading. I read a lot of scripts. I’m having to these days – a lot of stuff gets sent to me and there are lots of great stories.

Tell me about your current projects.
Well, Fortitude is due to come out; it’s a Sky Atlantic 12-part drama. I play Frank Sutter, who is Fortitude’s chief search and rescue pilot. Then there’s Monsters: Dark Continent, which is a follow up of the Monsters movie. And I’ve also worked on The Keeping Room, a Daniel Barber project, where I play Bill, a slave who joined the union army, then rode back to the plantation.

What attracted you to these roles?
It’s mainly to do with the story, and if it’s something that I want to be a part of telling. If the character isn’t someone that I can really get into and believe in as an individual, then there is no point in me doing it. Also, when it’s something that I can really lend my talents to. That’s what really attracts me to roles – doing something that I could do that other people possibly couldn’t. I think that’s been the same right across the board.

What do you do in your spare time?
Boxing. I train as a boxer. Also ballet. I go to a class – but I don’t think I’d don a pair of tights and get on a West End stage.

I’ve read you also enjoy writing poetry.
Yes, I’ve been writing poetry for about ten or 15 years. I can’t paint and I can’t draw, I’m absolutely terrible at that sort of stuff, so I ended up writing instead. I was writing what I was feeling, like I was painting it. A lot of the time it came because I suffered from depression and it was a really good way of getting out what I was feeling.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as an actor?
Keep going. Yes, just keep going, regardless of the highs and lows.

What advice would you give?
The same, definitely. Wait for your part. We are living in a celebrity culture like never before, and there are these young people who get picked off the street for major films. That’s not talent. Just make sure you’re an actor. Know your craft. Know your work inside out.

How did you get into acting?
I went to performing arts college when I was 16. By the time I was 21 or 22, I thought I was going to apply for drama school. But I thought – I’m going to go to drama school to do three years of training, and I thought hold on, I already have an agent and I’m already working, so I’ll bypass drama school. So, that’s what I’ve done.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
Turning down contracts and opportunities because it just wasn’t right. Also, when you haven’t got things on – there was a time when I was working three jobs, and there were days when I thought, I can’t do this anymore. The challenge is the business aspect of the industry, you have to have a strategy, a game plan and just know: this is what I’m going to do. It’s hard because you have to bypass opportunities to get the right role.

What’s most important to you, in terms of your acting, going forward?
I just want to be involved in projects that I 100 per cent choose to be involved in. I’m constantly challenging myself to do what I set out to do, which is make people laugh, cry … feel something. That’s why I take roles that I feel I can do something with; I want to move the audience members so that they are driven to think and feel, and to look at themselves, and others, in a way they didn’t before. If I do that, I’ll be happy.

by Becky Zanker

Fortitude screens on Sky Atlantic tonight

Images by Justin van Vliet