The Wylde Interview: Ivanno Jeremiah
Only Human: actor Ivanno Jeremiah is our current cuddly cyborg of choice and, with series three of Humans just beginning on Channel 4, Wylde felt a far-from-synthetic urge to interrogate this star on the rise…
Interview by David Newton / Portraits by Etienne Gilfillan
Wylde: Ivanno, you are an alumnus of The BRIT School for Performing Arts... what is it about the place that creates so many successful actors?
Ivanno Jeremiah: Yes, I am Brit School alumnus, and fortunately so. It’s one of London’s very few independent schools solely dedicated to the arts of every kind. It boasts all specialisations from Fine Art and Stage Management to Media and Musical Theatre, but with a strict focus on getting great A levels and GCSE results too. The faculty was passionate, dedicated and managed to create the safest of environments to experiment and grow.
How did you get your first break? Was it in theatre or television?
My first proper job was at The Royal Court. Debbie Tucker Green, one of my favourite theatre auteurs auditioned me and, having studied and performed some of her work at Brit (Dirty Butterfly), naturally I was terrified. Debbie really is a one-woman task force; not only does she cast, but writes and directs all her work. And in the process still finds the time to make everyone she meets feel good about themselves. She’s an inspiration to me...
Would you say there are enough roles opening up for actors of colour at the present time?
I’m not sure what constitutes enough but I think it’s crucial that the worlds we see in the media reflect the real world we live in. Female, male, disabled, blue, purple and cyborg alike.
We are addicted to Humans here at Wylde, so I’d love to know how, in your eyes, your character Max has developed over the three series?
Oh yay! Thank you for your continued support and thank you for sharing. Max has come such a long way from the sweet and, at times, naive young sentient we met back in 2015. At the core, he’s still the over-loving, tender, tree hugger I’ve loved from the first script read, but he really has been forced to harden up in some ways. Considering he was around 10 years of age in series 1, it would be safest to imagine him as around 30 now. I think, in general, the big two are responsibility and trauma that force us to grow up rapidly, and at times prematurely, as human beings. Same case with Max and, over the course of his adventures from the first series to the end of the last, as you’ll soon see, the world he was thrust into has supplied him with no shortage of the above. He’s a fighter, we’ve got faith in him.
You were in the controversial play The Nether at the Royal Court. How did audiences react to the play?
Early on in the rehearsal process Jeremy Herrin and Headlong invited Jennifer Haley, the writer of this fantastic and complex debate, that also opened at the Royal Court and transferred to the West End. Things she said that stuck with me the most were the issues of rising online abuse, global warming and exploitation. She explained that she was always taught to and believes in the importance of "writing what you hate". I agreed with her immediately and I believe one of the best functions of modern theatre is indeed to bring these "modern" monsters, in all their ugliness, onto a brightly lit stage to be interrogated and hopefully outed. Understandably, we had a whole spectrum of reactions as expected, mainly good, but nothing was better than shouting disgust or fearful walkouts. Proof, I guess the debate was active and relevant.
With Humans, The Nether and Black Mirror and, more recently, Dr Who, you’ve done quite a lot of sci fi. Is this a genre you particularly like? How about a big-budget Hollywood sci-fi movie next?
I’ve always had a lot of time for sci-fi and it has a great importance for me. I’ve also always been obsessed with film. It’s truly a blessing to be able to work in things you care about, I’m very thankful.
You’ve played both humans and robots; does playing a robot make you more aware of what is takes to make a character human?
In ‘Synth School’ we developed the movement for our robots in Humans with Dan O’Neill (Frantic Assembly). The first and most important principle he directed was that of economy, as any excessive movement, for example scratching, twitching or idiosyncrasy, would be an unnecessary drain of battery power. What it did make me aware of was why I’m always so knackered!
What about screenwriting, is this something you're interested in?
Passionately but not right now, I’m pretty busy acting at the moment. I feel like they’re different hats and deserve their individual time commitments.
Did you have a Plan B... if acting didn’t take off?
I would have gone into law or medicine and I estimate would only just be graduating, considering my age. I have much respect for all those committed.
As a South London boy... tell us one or two of your insider places to visit/eat/drink...
Visit Nunhead Resevoir; if you know you know. I have my favourite spot and views.
Eat locally! South is spoilt for independent world food, both restaurants and markets. Drink at Frank’s Café Rooftop bar; the views are amazing, and Negroni’s.
You seem in great shape to us and your roles could be pretty physically demanding... any particular ways you prepare?
I always played competitive amateur sports since childhood, so it has gotten to a point where unless I pop to yoga, the gym or go a long while without running or playing basketball I get pretty grumpy.
What would you say constitutes great acting?
After the hard work of prep/rehearsals is out of the way, openness, honesty and being in the present.
Watch Humans on Thursday nights at 9PM on Channel 4.
Grooming by Paolo Navarino / Ivanno wears his own clothes.
Thanks to Kricket , Brixton for the location