For many years, except for only but a handful of home-grown stars, British thespians had few choices. The Burtons, Connerys, Caines, Nivens along with Vivien Leigh, Deborah Kerr and Julie Christie had the run of Hollywood. Most didn’t and had three choices: stay in rainy, tabloid Blighty and plough on in our indigenous kitchen sink TV dramas, sitcoms and maybe a bit of Merchant Ivory costume loveliness, or be dedicated to the stage if you had the training. Third choice go to LA and be a gangster or a Nazi. Or in Peter Cushing’s case, a space Nazi.
Today, superhero and sci-fi franchise-based tent pole movies and their sequels costing over $250 million apiece have polarised the business, leaving only micro budget indie films and HBO-style ‘box set’ quality TV shows at the other end. Thus a new breed of British actor is emerging. Spider Man, Superman and Batman have all been played by highly regarded British actors. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart flit between X-Men and Beckett. In their wake come their descendants:
Leaner, fitter, faster and evolved to take on either the strains of green screen, wire work and constant gym training and still be subtle and nuanced enough to play character parts that hold the audience’s emotions – be it in Shakespeare, musicals theatre, gritty British thrillers or South American political drama. All of them are deeply pragmatic about the realities of the industry, yet hugely positive about the opportunities emerging. This is adaptation. Meet the new breed.
A Yorkshire gal who has already taken the London and New York stage by storm, having already played Ophelia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Dame Judi, lead in Sheridan’s The Rivals with Sir Peter Hall and been directed by Sam Mendes in the Old Vic’s Richard III, opposite Kevin Spacey, she has moved into musicals with her new film, 80’s jukebox and sunshine fest, ‘Holiday’ out next year, having already proved her fantasy credentials in ‘Being Human’.
“As a woman hitting 30 it’s interesting because I now think there are more parts for females that age and over, whereas traditionally, there would have been more for mid twenties. And these are character parts, stuff with real depth. Take Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Age is not an issue anymore, it’s an asset.
I’d always been into musicals – as a kid I was mainly a dancer and singer in the National Youth and Music course, but then I got to drama school and that took me in the direction of ‘serious’ theatre. I’d love to do Sondheim and I really need to play Sally Bowles at some point. When I was cast in ‘Holiday’, even my agent didn’t know I could sing and dance. He had to call me up to ask. Originally, Kylie was playing my part, which is bizarre. Apparently my singing voice is in her range, which I’ll take.
Moving from stage to film is difficult, because in theatre you’re used to all this freedom to create and then, in film or TV, you have to turn up, know your stuff, be surrounded by crew and be put into maybe a physically weird position and just… deliver in an incredibly dramatic scene. The great film actors can still produce in those conditions. Whilst I love the ritual and space of theatre, I aspire to that. My heroines are silent stars such as Clara Bow and Louise Brooks. They could convey so much just with their eyes. What’s the line from ‘Sunset Boulevard’? ‘We didn’t need words. We had faces!’.”
With a slew of movies scheduled for release and a proven track record in Channel 4’s hit teen hero show ‘Misfits’, 2014 is shaping up to be Nathan Stewart-Jarrett’s year. Having first trained at the BRIT School (alma mater of Amy Winehouse and Adele) he got his first taste of the hard side of the business when he started training at The Drama Centre.
“It was so hard. We’d all been playing around, wearing tutus and beads and, amongst proper school work, ‘expressing’ ourselves and occasionally being chased by the kids from the state school, next door – admittedly, we were a bit unbearable. Then I got to drama school. That was a culture shock. I wanted to express other aspects of myself, that’s why I became an actor and that is, I realised, hard work.
The BRIT School kids were fairly earthed when I was there – the only famous pupil, after all, was Dane Bowers. Later, they became starrier. As far as the action stuff goes, running around and avoiding explosions is a lot of fun, I admit. I’ve dangled upside down, metres off the ground with a guy keeping me alive with a rope and praying I don’t wet myself. But the real work is internal.
I was a John Hughes fan as a kid – Home Alone, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club – they were great, great movies – tonally and that lightness was what appealed to me. As an actor I’m struck by what Bob Hoskins said. He used to watch old screen actresses because the men had to be stoic, consistently, whereas the ladies had to do a lot with very little action on-screen. I love that kind of old school large acting. It’s stylised. Vivien Leigh in ‘Gone With The Wind’ goes through so much emotionally and you can tell that. I miss a bit of that grand style. Having said that, I never watch myself. Maybe a scene that I was worried about technically, but the risks are so great. You get obsessed – I have a zit! I’m mumbling! My eyes are wonky! It’s just not worth it.”
Raring to get out of the blocks earlier than most, Coventry-born Tamla was cast in ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’ whilst still at drama school, having to return to complete her course, after filming had finished. She’s since cut her teeth in both theatre and fantasy TV, playing a recurring role on Being Human, playing 1950’s era ghost, Pearl. She’s due on British TV screens in the BBC’s ‘The Musketeers’ and is preparing for a West End role in Peter Gill’s family melodrama centred around the end of WW1, ‘Versaille’ at the Donmar Warehouse. Yes, she is named after the famous record label and yes, calling her ‘Tammy’ is quite dangerous.
“I learnt the acting trade at a very young age, playing with my Barbie dolls as my mum rehearsed in regional theatre companies. She taught Theatre in Education classes to uninterested school kids, too, which I don’t envy at all. She stopped after a decade, because she just couldn’t afford to not work all the time. I knew what I was getting into – potentially a world of unemployment.
So I’m glad that it’s working out for me and that, so far I’ve made a living doing this. I do have a strange fan base. I get drawings – one guy keeps sending me this portrait over Twitter. It’s a shocker. They do seem to be 13 year old boys. Mainly from Russia.
My ambition is make gritty, independent homegrown cinema, such as Ken Loach. I would kill to work with him. That’s really where my heart is, but after Musketeers, who knows? I’ll be looking at LA, next year. For now, I’m really excited to be going back to the Donmar, telling a story in sequence. Film and TV can be disjointed, with a different skill base. For now, I’m happy to be back home.”
The multilingual son of a Chilean diplomat, a global citizen and very nearly a pro footballer, Cabrera already has major roles in big TV shows under his (utility) belt, having starred in ‘Dexter’, in ‘Heroes’ as Isaac Mendez, a heroin-addicted artist who could paint the future and Lancelot in the BBC’s ‘Merlin’. Having shown his range in as a revolutionary in Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Che’ and in many Shakespeare productions, he is about to swash some buckle in the BBC’s new version of ‘The Three Musketeers’ as Aramis.
“I started in theatre and the thing you look for in film much more is to trust the director, because he ultimately is making the choices that create the performance, so you look for that reassurance. TV is more a producer’s medium. All I’m looking for is that structure to be relaxed enough that if I’ve done my homework, it flows. If it’s period, then you research – if it’s new or fantastical, you use your imagination. For me it’s always about story, so whether stage, screen or TV it’s more about the script, the part and the other cast. If you trust the writing, everything’s easier. You can tell that straight away, as you read. What I love about ‘The Musketeers’ is that although we’re a group, our individual characters were revealed in the scenes where you first meet us. That’s rare today and you revel in it when you find it.
I’ve worked in South America and want to keep doing that. You express yourself differently in Spanish, it’s my mother tongue. Those characters are written by writers with a different sensitivity. Whatever language though, we all want that universality of experience and the positive outlook I have is that anyone can now grab a camera and make something personal that looks great. There’s less work, but ironically, more opportunities, if you know where to look. I don’t resent the old guard who do the big franchise movies, McKellen or Hopkins, they’ve earned the right to kick back. Ironically though, the truth is they just make it look easy. Those guys have got real chops.”
Styling by David Bartlett, Styling Assistant Perry Juby, Jodie Hyams using REN skincare and Bare Minerals makeup, Men’s Hair by Joe Mills @ Joe & Co Soho, Women’s Hair by Carolina Crona @ The Lounge Soho using Davines.
Shot on location at the Triton Penthouse www.tritonpenthouses.com, a British Land development. Prices from £6 million.