Luke Newberry is the subject of our newest ‘Ones to Watch’ and Jimmy had the pleasure of talking to the up-and-coming actor.
I sit here typing this having just witnessed one of the most powerful and arresting scenes I’ve seen on television since Oceanic Flight 815 first crash landed.
In it, a son tries to affirm his lifestyle in the face of sheer prejudice and in the company of those who would have persecuted him not all that long ago. You’ve been waiting episode after episode for this measured young man to show anything but patience in the face of adversity and when the outburst does come, it’s delivered in a superbly emotive monologue that will grab your attention from its first sentence.
The scene is from BBC Three’s excellent In the Flesh and is delivered by Luke Newberry as the show’s protagonist, Kieren Walker. It’s hard to describe in words just how superb a performance Newberry delivers so I implore you, before you read on, to go and hunt it down on BBC iPlayer along with the rest of the series. We’re knee-deep into series two so you have plenty of work to do.
That kind of performance is exactly why we chose Luke as one of our ‘Ones to Watch’ and we were very lucky to grab him for an interview shortly after In the Flesh scooped a BAFTA award for Best Mini-Series and Luke narrowly missed out on a gong himself. We have no doubt that he’ll go on to many more awards in the future though.
Hi Luke, how are you doing?
Hi, I’m great thank you.
We’ve chosen you as our One to Watch but you’ve actually been around for a while. Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up just outside Exeter in the Devon countryside. I got an agent when I was seven years old and spent a lot of time out of school and would be tutored on set whilst filming. I then took some time out to study Film-making, Fine Art and English Literature and then at 18 went to Bristol Old Vic for three years.
How did you find making the step up into a leading performance (and a fantastic one at that)?
Thank you! I was lucky to have had smaller roles on some feature films and guest parts on Television dramas, so I could absorb and learn how to work with cameras before taking on a massive role like Kieren. I felt ready for the challenge of a big role.
Has Kieren changed since season 1?
Yes, he’s developed in many ways.
He’s trying to be proactive, make decisions and not be reliant on anyone else. He wants to own this second life and make some changes for good. He’s stronger this series. He’s prepared to fight for what he believes is right and not follow the crowd. This of course proves difficult.
Were you surprised when Rick was killed off (again)? It sure came as a shock to us.
They never really had the opportunity to talk properly after Rick came back to Roarton. Do you think this ambiguity was synonymous with their relationship or would you have liked to see real closure between the two?
I think the lack of closure between Kieren and Rick made it all the more heartbreaking, cloudy and frustrating. Their relationship is only ambiguous because the show isn’t out to put labels on any of the characters.
We don’t know who the definite ‘baddie’ is, we don’t know if the PDS sufferers are heroes or killers. We don’t know if Kieren and Rick are gay, straight, bisexual- it’s very freeing. That’s what I love about the show.
I think Kieren finds his own kind of closure in talking to Rick at his grave. Kieren’s perspective of loss and death is very different from ours – he’s been there and come back!
In the Flesh scooped the BAFTA for Best Mini-Series recently. Were you expecting big things when you signed on for the part of Kieren?
I’m not sure as an actor you ever sign on thinking a project is going to win awards but from the first read I never doubted it would strike a chord with people.
I knew from first reading it that it was beautifully written, human, and complex.
How did the casting call go? We’re sure that must have been one of the most complex character descriptions you’ve seen yet.
I put myself on tape for our director Jonny Campbell and the producers initially. Then read scenes with David Walmsley and Emily Bevan who were already on board to play Rick and Amy.
Yes, it isn’t every day you get to play someone dealing with having committed suicide with the guilt of eating someone’s brain.
What influences your performance? There can’t be much in the way of research to do for an ex-rabid zombie.
No, I tried to relate to that feeling of otherness, of not belonging. Of feeling anxious. I often have moments where I stop and think – wow I’m a walking piece of flesh on an enormous rock floating through Space.
I magnified that feeling of weirdness and wonder and tried to imagine what it would be like.
Congratulations on the Bafta nod, it was richly deserved. How was it rubbing shoulders with British television royalty?
Thank you very much.
I was so honoured to be nominated alongside those three actors. It was wonderful.
I spoke to Helena Bonham Carter who played my Aunty on my first film role in 2001. She was lovely and is one of my greatest inspirations.
BBC Three is in danger of being axed, would you embrace seeing In the Flesh moved solely over to the iPlayer?
Well it depends if it’s only on iPlayer or if BBC Three are having their own online channel.
I think there are hit shows like Orange is the New Black and Breaking Bad on Netflix and they do brilliantly without being on television. I think it’s a shame to think of BBC One, Two or ITV as being more important.
BBC Three launches fresh talent and gives writers and Actors a huge platform. Hit shows like Him & Her, Cuckoo and Being Human all found a home there. I also believe that although some people look down their nose at some of the content, it produces important factual television. Stacey Dooley investigates being one of them.
We were doing a bit of research on you and discovered that you are an expert tenor! Is this true?
I’m not sure where you found that, and I’m not an expert, but yes I can sing!
And finally, what does the future hold for Luke Newberry?
Hopefully more complex roles on Film and Television. And stage work.
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