The Wylde Interview: Anson Boon

Interview by David Newton / Photography by Etienne Gilfillan

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Talk about a face to watch… Anson Boon’s striking looks are just a small part of the story, as this 19 (!) -year-old is already acting with heavyweights of stage and screen. Fresh from playing opposite Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon and Sam Neill in upcoming movie The Blackbird, the talented Brit will soon be appearing at the National Theatre in London in South African apartheid-era drama “Master Harold”… and the boys. WE MANAGED TO GET ANSON TO SLOW DOWN FOR 5 MINUTES FOR A WYLDE SHOOT-AND-CHAT IN AND AROUND THE NATIONAL THEATRE…

Wylde: Why did you pick “Master Harold”…and the boys to perform in?

Anson Boon: It picked me! I auditioned for it in the completely normal way, like most actors do, and I remember hearing that lots of well-known actors in my casting bracket had also been seen for the role. I can very clearly recall following an actor I'm a huge fan of into the audition. I never thought I'd get it because I hadn't done theatre before and haven't been to drama school. I was also proper terrified of the idea of taking on the huge responsibility of a role like this at the little ol' National Theatre for my stage debut. I've learned since then that being scared is one of the best feelings ever. I guess the reason that I didn't "turn it down" is because to do so would've been pretty idiotic of me. It's not every day you get offered the lead role in arguably England's top theatre, with an amazingly complex character, in the most well-written script I've ever had the pleasure of reading, directed by Roy Alexander Weise, who is incredible in every way. I still have to pinch myself when I put it like that! It's also such an important story, which should never be forgotten. It's equally as beautiful as it is ugly and funny as it is heart-breaking. Everyone should hear this story.

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Are you drawn to edgier/more difficult subject matters?

The thing is, I'm still so new to all of this that I wouldn't like to say exactly what I'm drawn to... I don't think I've been around it all for long enough yet to have worked that out. If I look back at the significant roles I've played so far, they've definitely all been tricky, edgy or dark but in different ways: Euthanasia (Blackbird), World War One (1917), poverty and loneliness (The Winter Lake), and now Apartheid (Master Harold). I guess the difficult subject matters often lend themselves to the best scripts and characters, but its not an exclusive thing. I'd love to do a comedy!

Is it true you got a – real – tattoo after appearing in Blackbird?!

 Yes, we all did! All 8 actors and our director, Roger Michell. I also got the world's coolest WhatsApp group chat, all eight of us actors, which we still talk in every week. I had to help Susan [Sarandon] and Lindsay [Duncan] work out how to use the app!

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What was it like for such a young actor as yourself to be appearing with such screen legends as Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet etc?

 It's funny, because when I see their names written like that, I still have the star-struck feeling in my belly. Which is really weird because they're just my friends now! It was my first lead role in anything and the first time I'd be filming every day on a project, so it wasn't like I knew what to expect. The first day of rehearsals I was shaking with nerves and excitement and arrived first so that I could watch them all walk in... is that sad? I was just so blown away that I was involved in this. It is really unique to be in an ensemble cast. The shoot and the actors were everything you could hope for from an experience like that. They taught me so much about life and acting on Blackbird and I can't imagine I'll ever have another one quite like it.

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I love the fact that you didn’t attend drama school; do you think this can actually give you an edge over other actors, who may be taught the same things as each other?

Working at the National Theatre really is like having three years at drama school. I have learned so much about technique in the theatre. So far throughout my journey, I've just had to mainly use my instincts and really listen to all the top-of-their-game people I've worked with. So many of the best actors come out of drama school, so I wouldn't like to say I have an edge over them at all, but equally my on-screen Mum, Kate Winslet, didn’t go to drama school and she's done alright..! None of the three of us in Master Harold have had a formal training either, something which is very unusual in theatre, but it's also cool and comforting for me! I've absolutely loved learning on the job and wouldn't change my journey at all.

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Who are your acting heroes?

Two words: Gary. Oldman. My absolute hero! I've never seen him play a similar character twice and he is just so cool and talented. I strive to be as character-driven and diverse as him. I'm a bit obsessed and also love that he's a bit of a cockney. I do also massively admire Ralph Fiennes' body of work. He's worked with almost all the top directors and been involved in such a variety of projects in scale on stage and screen.

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You look amazing in the shoot we did with you; very model-like! Do you enjoy the world of fashion? Do you have labels you like?

Hahahaha thank you! That's really nice of you to say. With photoshoots I have learnt to just really embrace it otherwise I feel so goofy and awkward! I love clothes and always have but I definitely don't have a specific style, I dress really different for different situations. I have a match-day uniform for when I go to watch Spurs every weekend, a different style for if I'm about in London and different again for if I'm around the house with family or if I'm out with my mates. My favourite label is probably Stone Island, but I love Kenzo too and also Vivienne Westwood, Billionaire Boy's Club and Tommy Hilfiger. But really I do look at the clothes more than the label. And you can never go wrong with a Spurs top and a flat cap.

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If you hadn’t gone into acting, was there ever a Plan B?

Not really! I can't remember ever not wanting to be an actor. Plan B was failure, I guess! I've always hated when people have told me over the years that I need a Plan B. I never understood the point of it, as I always knew this was all I would do. I definitely have been through phases of every profession under the sun but as an actor you can do all of them so it suits me down to a T.

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What music are you into? Come on, make us feel really old!

I probably won't make you feel old because I love old music! I was only ever exposed to rap by my friends growing up but my Dad used to be a DJ and was part of the acid and balearic house scene of the late 80s/90s, so I'm really into that. I really started getting into 80s music too recently, again via my Dad, and when I worked on Sam Mendes' 1917 one of my now best mates, Dean, who stars in it, introduced me to so much good 70s, 80s and 90s music and now that's my go-to. I still do like a bit of Drill rap every now and again though. I prefer rappers from Tottenham. My favourite song at the moment is Cool for Cats by Squeeze.

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Would you try to balance stage acting and screen acting… or is the latter going to take over for the time being?

If you asked me this time a month ago before I started rehearsals for Master Harold I would've told you screen acting every day of the week, but ever since working at the National Theatre that has definitely changed. It's such a special place and everyone who works there really cares about it. The amount of rehearsals and preparation you're allowed in theatre is such a blessing and also as weird as it sounds it's so fun having a 9-5 job, which is what it's like in rehearsals, because there is no structure at all in film.  I love screen, but it's so full-on and long and intense. Both disciplines are really different, and I love both for different reasons, so a balance of each probably makes for the healthiest career for an actor. I'm not going to predict the future, I'm just going to see where the world takes me.

All clothes: Stella McCartney (AW19), except T-shirt: Anson’s own.

Grooming by Paul Rodgers

 Thanks to the National Theatre

Master Harold and the Boys  runs at the National Theatre’s Lyttelton Theatre from 21 September – 17 December 2019