You started acting at a young age, with your first major role as Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas at only the age of ten. How did this role come to you?
I went to an after-school drama club called Young Actors Theatre as a kid where a casting director, Pippa Hall, saw me and wanted me to audition for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I had done one small project before that, but it was my first big role. I remember it being a really long audition process and then I luckily got the part.
You have been involved in a lot of dramatic projects throughout your career. What is it like working on those projects as a young actor?
It’s definitely different from your typical experience growing up as a teenager but I loved it. I enjoyed meeting so many interesting people who are so good at what they do. I do think I missed out a bit on the ‘typical’ growing up experience, but I still went to my local school and that kept me grounded. I made sure I kept the most important things in my life – my friends and family – and made sure work never took over. It was a balancing act, but I really enjoyed it. I also got the occasional perk of taking time off from school as a kid.
In your latest show, Sex Education, you play Otis, an awkward high school student whose mom is a sex therapist. The show is funny and raunchy while including some heavy, dramatic moments. Why do you think the show resonates so well with audiences?
I think it displays the process of growing up and all of the experiences you have in a very truthful and unflinching way. The way it deals with sex, sexual identity, and all kinds of relationships is so honest, tasteful and relatable. All of the characters have their own issues and experiences and the show is able to discuss and explore them with lots of humor and honesty, which is really difficult to do. The show is funny and heartwarming and allows time for each character to develop.
Do you feel that the television and film industry has benefitted from the expansive platform of streaming services, such as Netflix?
I think Netflix allows for anyone, wherever they may be, to be entertained, watch tv and film, and see this art form at your fingertips. It allows film and tv to be spoken about and discussed in a way that is different from cinema; it is so universal, and anyone can watch it in any way they want. Netflix also gives filmmakers and talent a lot of freedom to be creative – Netflix trusts us to create something beautiful. They also select projects very carefully and let the team do what they do as creatives, which is very daring. Netflix also allows you to have these shows that subvert your usual teen comedy and brings something beautiful to them, like Sex Education.
From working in the industry for over ten years now, are you more selective about the type of projects that you choose?
Yes, I guess I am. I have always been quite selective. I have always wanted projects that are both unique and challenging, with characters that I can sink my teeth into and have fun playing and experimenting with, while also learning something from. I also love to work with great directors, actors and great teams overall. It’s always important to connect with the as both people and creatives, since you spend time so much time with them on and off set.
What defining moments or experiences over the course of your career have helped you to become the actor you are today?
My most defining experience was Hugo. It was the first film I did where I began to appreciate the artform of filmmaking, including cinematography, lighting, set design, directing, acting, etc. Never before had I taken all of those aspects into account until then. I have definitely learned a lot from all of my roles, and each has taught me to look at things in a different way. Journey’s End was the most mature role I had done to date. It was amazing to be working so closely with such established actors. They are people whose footsteps I want to follow in and are what I hope to be and achieve as an actor.
With an already impressive acting career under your belt, what’s next on your list explore?
I’ve been doing some travelling and taking some time off of filming while I can and I’m currently on my way to Tokyo. It’s been lovely travelling and I’m so excited for the rest of my trip. Projects wise, Season 2 of Sex Education was just announced, and I can’t wait to start shooting this summer.