Photography by Ram Shergill
Fashion Direction by Margherita Gardella
Styling by Moritz Lindert
Grooming by Natasha Lakic
Written by Miles Twist
Joshua Hill is the new ‘kid on the block’, yet his maturity, skill and depth of acting knowledge is not correlative to this fresh status. As we chat with him, his East End accent is both charming and gravelly; the depth behind his character, both on and off screen and stage, becoming immediately apparent. His teacher once taught him that “You should be able to do any play with just a chair and a table.” This simplicity and dedication to character is apparent. Hill graduated from Drama Centre in 2013, immediately landing into the role of Carl in Yann Demange's feature film 71. He then went onto to performance as Ray, one of the co-founding members of LGSM in Pride, appearing with Bill Nighy and Andrew Scott. His latest role has been as Constable Scott in Brian Helgeland's Legend, a biopic about the Kray Twins starring Tom Hardy2 and Christopher Eccleston. We spoke to the man who’s gone from Paul Daniels magic kit to working with some of the greats in acting about approaching the role, the differences between theatre and film and his method-like dedication.
How do you find the transition between shooting for a film, the interim and then the promotion for the films that you’ve done?
I suppose the interim gives a chance to settle and think about all that you’ve done. There’s that excitement factor when you’re doing it, but afterwards it’s just as cool to talk about something, particularly if you’ve been passionate about it. It keeps on reverberating inside you.
What do you do personally when approaching a role?
I suppose it really depends on the role and how similar the role is to you. I try and find similarities in a character to myself and then find what’s different. A lot of the time the jobs that you’re going to get are ones that you are similar to, simply because there’s always someone who will walk in the room that is that role - I’m always going to fit East London boy or scallywag more than 19th Century Aristocracy - those are just the roles that I fit into easily.
Preparing for a role depends on what it is and how much you already know about the role. With Legend, I did a lot research into the police and into the Kray Twins and the context at the time. For Pride, we actually got members of LGSM to come in and talk to us and go through everything that young gay men and women were going through at the time. We had so much information from that week of preparation before we even started. Even in simple scenes such as a pub, we had all the research at our fingertips and in our minds such as “when we walk out of here, we may get beaten up”.
Do you find that this research can overwhelm and distract you from the role?
Definitely, you have to make sure you can focus on what you’re doing in the scene rather than the research. Character foundations and research are strength. All this research sinks in and then it’s there - it’s like going to the gym and you build up strength. You then don’t need to worry about that strength, it’s just there. It’s the same principle with the research for a character.
What sort of role do you feel you’ve been furthest from compared to your own character?
The most recent role I did was a stage production where I was playing a Northern Irish UVF militant and everything for that was different: accent, walk, life. The only similarity was that we were working class. He was a solid hitman and didn’t waiver with any emotions - this role was a lot to deal with, particularly when it came to getting the Northern Irish accent down which was very difficult. Now, no matter what accent I’m meant to be doing, I slip back into a Northern Irish accent.
I tried to replicate how uptight my character was. You could be shot, you could be bombed in his world at any minute, it was really dangerous. There was one show where everything went wrong and afterwards we thought it was the worst show we’ve ever done. The director came up to us and said, “That was the best show you’ve ever done.” He said that the fact that things went unplanned put everyone on edge and made the whole play tense and on point.
What are your thoughts on the differences between theatre and film and the role of the audience in those two mediums?
I love film but watching and being in a film are two completely different experiences - when you’re watching, it’s an amazing experience but when you’re in a film there’s a lot of waiting around. When you’re doing theatre, you get the sound of the audience and this is something that’s grown on me more as I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, I always believed you had to be quiet in the theatre, however now I enjoy it when there’s a gasp from the audience or some reaction.
I performed a play which included a lot of dialogue with the audience and at the start this girl comes onto stage and says “Hello”. The usual British reaction was silence, however one night we had three elderly ladies at the front who said “Hello!” back! It was such a good moment, suddenly we have people who are interacting and talking. It can be magical. I saw Mark Ryan’s perform Richard III and he was interacting with the audience - people loved it. I don’t think many actors can get away with it, but when they do, the audience enjoy and crave it.
I prefer people to go to the theatre because they want to go to the theatre and allow themselves to react to the performance onstage, be it a gasp, a shout, an exclamation rather than going to the theatre just so you can tell people you’ve been to the theatre. I remember there was a performance piece with a woman - I can’t remember her name - and she allowed audience members to interact with her for thirty seconds with a chosen object. At first they were tickling her and touching her but after a while people picked up say a gun or a knife off the table and started prodding her or pointing the gun in her direction, so much so she started crying. For me, this was shocking to watch but it’s an interesting array of reactions.
Do you enjoy taking up comedy roles?
I find it enjoyable to analyse where the comedy comes from but I prefer to do a mixture of comedy and dark roles, a sort of ying and yang. The mixture of them keeps me sane. I believe a lot of comedy comes from a dark side rather than actually trying to be funny.
How did you get into acting?
It was gradual: I used to want be a magician as a young child, I enjoyed the performance side and had a Paul Daniels magician kit. I remember I did some theatre at school such as Elvis in Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat - I don’t know why Elvis was in this play, but I was. I ended up going to Drama Centre. It was layered: you start finding different aspects to characterisation and then you become really involved in it and then it’s just a drive to play the guy, it’s addictive. You read a line and you think, “I can’t wait to say that, to do that.”
Is there a particular person you’d like to work with?
This is funny, you have these ideas about people and then when you meet them, all these assumptions can be changed. Sometimes that can be good or sometimes it can be bad. There are a lot of great actors out there but if I had to pick one, it would be Ed Harris - I think he’s great!