The charming 26-year-old Olivier Prize winner, who was once expelled from school, talks about his passion for the theater and the recent unrest in his beloved hometown
« Howiya buddy », shouts Anthony Boyle and enters the zoom chat. He is sitting in his London apartment against a white background and sees the sunlight shining into my room in Dublin. « It was just hail here, what’s going on? »
The Belfast actor – for whom the term “little puppy” was certainly invented – is immediately likeable. He has an easy laugh, a real interest in our conversation, and a personality that doesn’t tend to be serious.
We’re speaking shortly after England eased its Covid-19 restrictions further and Boyle managed to find a beer in London that doesn’t disappoint. « The toucan in Soho makes the best Guinness in London, » he says. « Hands down. »
A bold claim – as any Irish person abroad will know, finding good stout is a tedious task, especially given rose-pink nostalgia. I ask him if he’s seen @shitlondonguinness, a growing Instagram page – Jamie Dornan and Niall Horan are fans – that was created solely to profile the objectionable condition of pints over the water.
« Yeah! I think he’s the same guy who runs @beautifulpints, » he says, pointing to a similar page that praises perfect casts around the world. « Any man. »
When it comes to acting, Boyle is « a man » himself – he’s quickly established himself in the industry. He won an Olivier Award at age 26, was cast by Steven Spielberg and is the star of the upcoming BBC drama Danny Boy.
I’ve interviewed Boyle before. In 2018 we talked about his trip from Poleglass to Broadway with green tea and a bottle of Buckfast in Hell’s Kitchen.
These days he’s closer to home, both physically and figuratively. When he’s not working, Boyle spends his days in London with a group of young creative people – many of them Irish.
However, there is no place like home, he says. There never is. “Belfast is almost like a country in itself. There is an energy up there that can be felt. It’s a strapless place. And then when you go to the west of Ireland, to Galway, it’s a little more relaxed and lyrical. «
Boyle’s tendency towards poetry was in him from a young age. » When I grew up I always wrote; poetry and that weirdness. But things started for me when my mother came into my room one day and Said to me, « You have to get a job or you’ll be out of the house ».
After a failed stint as a glass collector at a local nightclub – « I was there for a week and then they let me go » – Boyle stepped on the boards as his hometown allowed. Googling « Belfast Acting Jobs » while being agentless at 16.
« I’ve done some of the worst acting jobs you have ever seen. I worked on a ghost tour pretending to be the ghost of Henry Joy McCracken. I went out once and said, « I’m the ghost of Henry Joy McCracken, » and someone who passed by said, « No, you’re not, you’re Anto Boyle. » Unimpressed, Boyle set off to an open audition that would have him – something that would eventually earn him a spot on the & drama at the Royal Welsh College of Music in Cardiff. « Acting school is as clichéd as it sounds, » he says with a laugh. « But it’s really useful in a way you would never think it would. Some of the exercises we did came back to you in the strangest way when you were actually working. But I loved it, man. I indulged kind of in the ridiculousness of it all. There were people who were really against the more avant-garde stuff, but I really enjoyed it.
« My favorite game I’ve ever played was at this school. It was a thing called In Arabia we were all kings. It was the first time it all came together for me and I remember operating on another level – I hissed. “
His time in Wales was cut short when, eight months before graduation, he was selected to play Scorpius Malfoy in the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The role earned him an Olivier Award and a Tony nomination. “It was crazy. I was in drama school when I was offered this and when they say « three years » you just say « yeah, definitely » and all of a sudden you’re there. «
» There was « 15 months in London’s West End and another 15 months on Broadway. » I loved every minute of it. I’ve enjoyed it more over time because there was less … pressure. When I started , I felt tremendous pressure – I thought I was going to get fired all the time – and when we got to Broadway it felt like the stabilizers were off and we could really just enjoy it.
« I was 23 and lived in New York to have the best time of my life. That’s the dream, to be honest. I would like to live in New York and do a theater. With film, you just capture a moment and you’re done it’s there forever, but there’s something in the theater where you rediscover and play with it every night. «
To have a role in the world of Harry Potter meant being under the control of the franchise’s avid fans stand. “The American fans are so vocal too, man. It was such a change from London. I also played a character whose mother had died so after the performances I would walk out the stage door and there would be fans who had lost mothers and had such a connection with Scorpius.
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« I also felt absolutely vulnerable with the wig on [Boyle’s costume consisted of Hogwarts robes and a peroxide blonde short wig]. I felt like Bo f ** kin ‘peep. But it was also a good thing since no one recognizes you. The rest of the cast were bombed when they left the theater, but when I did they all said, « Who is this Irishman? »
Boyle says he felt « culturally starved » while the theaters were closing. « I forgot how much I actually went. I would have gone to the theater more than I saw movies or TV or something. I watch [quiz show] The Chase with Bradley Walsh, but that is probably the only TV I see. I’m actually great at it – I usually get a six for the cash builder! «
On the small screen, we see Boyle next in Danny Boy, a biographical drama that the Story of Brian Wood, an M. medalist charged with war crimes by the Iraq Historic Allegations team. Also starring Toby Jones, the series was directed by Sam Miller, who previously directed Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You for the BBC.
Boyle shines in his role as young Wood – how did it feel when a Northern Irish man played a British soldier? He’s taking a break. « Interesting, » he replies after a while.
“I remember when I was in college and met someone who was serving as a British soldier in Northern Ireland for the first time. At a country festival, of all places. We had this very open and heated discussion and he told me he was 16 years old when he served and was told he was being sent on a peacekeeping mission. I remember suddenly being confronted with the idea that this wasn’t a bad person. This was a guy with a ponytail and a Hawaiian shirt who drank Becks. And I remember my mind really changed.
« When I met Brian Wood we were talking about it and he respects my views and I respect his. I get where he’s from and he picks me up. The reason I chose the role was because I was fascinated by the script. The gray area of everything. There were no heroes and no villains – it was just two people trying to do what was best for them in the situation they were in at the time. I think this is where the drama lives – in these gray areas. «
Belfast is a city where there is a lot of black and white thinking alongside those shades of gray, as the recent riots show. Living in London, burning buses are not in Boyle’s immediate sight, but when the violence flared up, he left he on Twitter to urge the youth: « Please do not be used by paramilitaries as farmers. Do not get involved in the riots this weekend. The well-fought peace that we have now is a privilege. Treat it as such. “
How does he feel about the unrest? He thinks about his answer and lives during the breaks. « It’s strange not being there when something like this happens. I haven’t lived there for almost 10 years so I’m not an authority on what it feels like to be there, but judging by the people back home I guess that people are just desperate for leadership.
« There seems to be a real lack of leadership in all churches. And it’s so sad because every time I see a story like this, they always get involved disenfranchised working class children, and it’s their future that gets fucked – not the politicians who spur them on. They won’t get a job after that, not the politicians who will always be great.
« I just feel broken when the kids get involved. I want them to have a better quality of life. I want the leadership to show them that there is a way out. That you don’t have to pick up a bomb or a brick to drain your frustration and your life to change n. «
Boyle was confronted with his own frustrations in his youth. Excluded from school, he was sent to a girls’ convention as part of an experimental program: » They took 15 boys in the bottom sixth and 15 boys in the top sixth, and there were 2,000 girls. ”There, in the midst of this tiny group of boys seeking female attention, he became aware of the dangers of traditional masculinity – as if knowing that he shouldn’t cross his legs under the table for fear of homophobic abuse .
How does he feel as an actor in a Post #MeToo world where the consequences of male privilege are an ever-threatening presence?
« You know what, it’s crazy. The number of people I’ve heard say things like, “Oh, with all that #MeToo stuff, I’m scared of even flirting with a woman.” I think, “When a woman who is sexually assaulted makes you rethink how you flirt then you don’t flirt, do you? « It’s like people give up and say, ‘Oh, we can’t be casually racist anymore. « t. »
Boyle has learned to check his privilege, as his contemporaries would say. “They reassess things and don’t just see themselves as protagonists of the world. As a straight white man, it gives you so many privileges and when you walk into a room or work area I think you should take it upon yourself to see that everyone is being heard and see that everyone is being considered. You know what I mean? So long we’ve only ruled the world, I think it’s time for other people to take a step up and get the space for it. «
His next next step is with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. It was recently announced that Boyle would be appearing in Masters Of The Air, a major new series produced by the aforementioned Hollywood heavyweights for Apple TV based on the book of the same name, Masters Of The Air follows the true story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep will join previously announced cast members Callum Turner and Austin Butler, and will play the role of Major Harry Crosby.
« It’s a cool name, isn’t it? I can’t honestly say anything, but I can say it’s a leading role. Filming starts this month and everything is being shot in England so I’ll be in London by the end of the year anyway. I’m humming «
To wrap up our interview, I’ll ask Boyle about the only thing I think we can discuss on an equal footing about what he saw during the lockdown. Apart from Bradley Walsh, of course.
» I’m real right now boring and just watching a bunch of reference movies for this thing that i’m doing next. Although I recently saw The Father with Anthony Hopkins, it’s amazing. He won the Bafta for it. Besides that, I’m just looking forward to seeing Cursed Child for the first time, ”he says with a laugh. « I haven’t seen it yet! I will definitely do it as soon as the theaters open. »
Is going to the theater really what he’s looking forward to in the next few months? « I don’t want to look like a postcard sound and say madness … But I’m looking forward to getting started again. « Maybe a few more trips to The Toucan are planned.
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