Tom Brittney: actor, man of many voices, photographer, secret champion of the Frisbee. Tom is a fresh face, with a comedic attitude. If you don’t believe it, look at his Twitter feed! Recently having landed quite a few roles, he is currently starring in the BBC drama series The Syndicate. With a background in both physical and voice acting, it is no wonder the man with many voices has been offered a breadth of roles. Attracting the attention of many producers, Tom will be appearing in Unreal, airing in the US on Lifetime, a series about what happens behind the scenes of a reality show, in addition to being seen in Outlander, as well as the sci-fi drama Humans on Channel 4 and AMC, alongside Gemma Chan and Will Tudor. In our interview we discussed Tom’s first steps into the world of acting, his passions, and his goals.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I did an interview the other day on video and I look back at myself and you start thinking about the way you look and how you are perceived. I try to be funny, it doesn’t always work but I think I am a nice funny guy who can be dark and bad sometimes.
What made you want to act?
At school I was like a class clown, an attention seeker, and I liked telling stories and playing characters. My mum always encouraged that side of me. I didn’t realise for a long time that acting was a career. When I was eleven I thought people have a day job and it just didn’t occur to me that acting could be an actual occupation. At my secondary school they wanted people to have “normal”, reliable jobs. But that wasn’t for me. I think through rebelling against education I pushed myself into performing more and more. I then went to drama school and made it a profession.
What was drama school like for you?
I really enjoyed acting and found it really fun before drama school. I didn’t know any of the tools that I was taught prior to drama school like objectives, actions and technical terms, which are very useful, but the problem was that this was getting rid of my instincts a lot. I used to overthink things and it became very academic – but now I feel like I have gone back to acting taking more ‘natural’ approach again.
I also think there is not enough done about film and TV, it’s all about stage. I am not sure as to how much one can teach an actor how to act or not. I think the hardest thing for an actor in his profession is to keep going – perhaps drama schools do not prepare for this. I feel they do not teach enough about the business aspect of acting.
What is it that you like about film and TV rather than the stage?
It is just the amount of films I’ve watched and that have effected me emotionally so much – films that make you cry and laugh (which of course can work with stage as well). The visual nature of film, creating a complete three-dimensional world with the camera fascinates me. To be part of something like that is a motivation. I am hoping that something that I am in affects people in the way film has affected me. That is what I love about film.
What are some of your favourite films?
I like anything with Tom Hanks. He is a great actor. I like Sam Mendes or David Fincher films. Road to Perdition was probably one of my favourite films with Tom Hanks. I do like quite dark, stylistic films.
Are there any other actors that you particularly admire?
Yes, Daniel Day-Lewis – I just wish he was less elusive, I wish he was doing more work (laughs). Also Jake Gyllenhaal, I think he gets better and better with every film I see.
Can you tell us a bit more about the show Unreal that you have been working on?
It was my first American credit filmed in Canada last year. It is a drama show about a reality TV show, showing how horrible and nasty it is behind the scenes and what length people go to in order to win. I play the best friend of the main character, Roger, who comes over from England and the producers have said that he is the one to pick which girl he goes on a date with, so my character has the power for the episode and takes advantage of that – quite a lot – with the women.
How did you find the making of Unreal?
Why I was attracted to Unreal was that they treated it as something that would change the channel Lifetime. It is very dark. I hadn’t seen a lot of Lifetime productions before but I knew that it wasn’t the usual thing – and you could tell because it was very well looked after. It was really good to film, as horrible as my character’s storyline is. We went to a beautiful mansion in Vancouver and had a lot of beautiful women in bikinis for party scenes in pools with champagne – fake champagne – but it was a big party for a while. Unfortunately my character then takes it a little too far and gets a bit seedy. But it was fun and beautiful to see a bit of Vancouver too.
When you are playing ‘dark’ characters, do you find it difficult to immerse yourself into the role at times?
I like playing the darker characters. It was hard to play and do some of the scenes in Unreal. I had to improvise the dialogue at one point after filming and say very nasty things. I found it weird that I was able to do that. I like to play villains but I am just at the start of my career and perhaps have not quite found out what other roles I would like to do in future.
Can you tell us about your voice training and voice acting?
I did voice acting at drama school and I always liked doing that. I just really enjoyed changing the voice and technical aspects of it. It is a good thing to do aside acting for film and TV. I have learned a lot on the job – listening to many voice-overs you learn and you know the tricks.
Listening to different adverts that you have done – they sound very different from each other -
I once got told I sounded like a young Jude Law and that’s why they wanted me –There are a lot of voices that can sound quite similar. There are some people that do voice work exclusively, for example for big movie trailers, they are well known for it and do nothing else. I am looking forward to doing more. Hopefully as I act more I get to do more voice work. In fact I would love to narrate a documentary.
Would you like to do a voice over for a cartoon?
I haven’t really done cartoons. Some people are just so good at it and perhaps cartoon voices are not my thing. I think it takes a special someone who can just do the goofy kind of voices – but of course I wouldn’t say no if someone offered!
You mentioned working on documentaries as something you would be interested in- can you tell us more about that?
One of my favourite things is photography. It is my second love apart from acting. The fact that you can capture a story in a single image excites me. Some images are very powerful – one example is a falling man from 9/11 which is striking and one of the most powerful images that I have ever seen. I really like documentary photography. I have been to a few protests and I like to capture emotion – or trying to. I like watching documentaries and if I wasn’t an actor and had the guts I probably would have liked to be a war photographer.
What is your aspiration for the next few years?
I would like to do film. I haven’t done film yet, just a lot of TV. So this is definitely on my list for the next few years. I want to make good choices and do as much good work as I can. I love film soundtracks and Thomas Newman is one of my favourite composers – if I could be part of a film that he scored that would be incredible.
Photography Assistants: Alessandro Raimondo and Adam Brammall
Styling Assistant: Jessica Tarbard