Our resident Medical Specialist Dr Natasha Berridge (@dr_natasha_surgeon) recently sat down with British Actor Jack Brett Anderson to talk about his career, how he survived lock-down and everything in between!
Hi Jack, can you tell us when you got into acting?
Sure, I started acting when I was 12 and at secondary school. Not only was I moved by the gloss of the movie ‘Titanic’ as a kid but also captivated with the ‘stage and lights’ of productions that took place at my school. After that, you’d find me applying to be in every production possible. I just loved it from a very early age.
Professionally, it was really a few years later in 2011 when I performed in the play Edward II by Christopher Marlowe that opened the doors for TV and film work including a signing in the States. I didn’t get formal training at drama school and so this play has really been my own formal training in acting. It was also the perfect entrance into the professional world of theatre.
Brilliant. In addition to acting, you’ve taken on other roles as a model and director?
Yes, the modelling opportunities came via the acting, which to be honest, I hadn’t ever considered doing before. Having said that, it’s been a nice addition to my professional work portfolio. Sometimes, things just align. I’d just finished Wolfblood and got a call asking if I’d like to be part of a fashion show that Dolce & Gabbana were doing at Harrods.
To be honest, I thought it was just so cool because I’m from London and felt it was an honour to be invited to represent the city with such an established beautiful clothing brand. I was very flattered and even more so when they invited me to Milan to participate in two further shows. I had the time of my life and really loved the experience! It was nice to see that another industry believed in me. I’ve also been in the music video for the music band Wolf Alice which was produced by Sophie Muller and who I had worked with before. The video and song did extremely well and I enjoyed being part of that success.
More recently, I have directed a play and produced a short fashion film for a colleague who is a designer. I love grasping new opportunities and challenges which is why I’ve completely enjoyed ‘directing’. It’s definitely allowed me to have more influence in the way that I would like a project to be ‘brought to life’. I’d very much like to direct again as I feel that I’ve got something unique to offer.
Where did you grow-up Jack? And where did you go to school?
I’m born at Whitechapel Hospital, East London. I went to school in the Isle of dogs, which is located just by Canary Wharf. I absolutely loved it! An inner-city vibe whilst growing up was really fun. The experience definitely helped me find my inner confidence at a young age and build my character! I still live in London and absolutely love it. There are so many great restaurants and hang-out places in London.
You’ve got a really impressive resume of acting roles. Do you prefer stage or screen?
I honestly love them both but they do have such different expectations and demands in a way. Whilst on stage for theatre productions, you get live feedback and learn that the show must always go on irrespective. I’ve definitely transferred the skills that I learnt on stage and that mindset to filming for screen.
I suppose I’ve drifted more towards film and TV because of the subtle nuances that you can create in filming, which do not get lost in the ‘moment’ as they can on stage. When acting in a play, you only have a certain amount of time to get the story across in the most effective way possible.
This can be a little restrictive as the actor may not be able to explore certain other aspects of the character being played due to the time constraints. Alternatively, in film and TV, I find that there is greater opportunity to further expand the character being portrayed which I enjoy.
Who would you consider to be the most influential mentors that have helped guide you in your acting career to date?
As mentioned earlier, I was absolutely captivated by the film Titanic when I was younger. I’ve been inspired by the acting skills of Leonardo DiCaprio and in particular the way he portrayed the character of Jack in Titanic.
I’ve been amazed by the consistency in his choice of projects throughout his career and his apparent authenticity. I’ve also been inspired by Meryl Streep and really enjoy watching her. She’s an absolute force and especially there is something so unique about her. Both are extremely talented and well-known actors, so maybe I’ve been influenced by them just as much as the next man!
Do you have any actors or stage performers in your family?
No, there are no actors in my family. When I was younger, I didn’t know how anybody within the industry who could advise me about how to get into drama school or how to apply for a scholarship. I didn’t understand the processes of it all and have really learnt as I’ve gone along.
What is it that drives you to success?
The honest truth is that I think when you experience in life in a certain way, for example, I didn’t have much growing up, you develop a drive and focus to want to work hard and achieve the ‘unattainable’. My childhood experiences were not terrible but I remember a time that as a 7-year old I went on a school trip and wasn’t wearing any socks nor did I have a spare pair in my schoolbag. I felt so embarrassed and conscious that my ankles might have been on display beneath my trousers. I just remember feeling so traumatised by it all and knew that I didn’t ever want to be without socks again or have to ask somebody for a helping hand! I wanted to take charge in my own life and not have to live a life of ‘wanting’ for the basic essentials. This, without doubt, is my driving force for success and perseverance.
The path to success is not always easy. Have you ever been rejected for roles in your acting career and if so, how did you deal with it?
I think that it’s quite obvious going into acting that you’re not going to be right for every part that you audition for. If I know I’ve done my best, worked hard to prepare myself and given it my best shot then I can honestly tell say that it just wasn’t meant for me. And that’s ok. I think that can be construed as egotistical to assume that every role or opportunity is for me. Again, rejection of a role can get actors really down but it’s important to not enter that cycle of self-doubt or it could become a losing battle. I mean, if you’re an Olympian, for example, you may do 4 years of training and not then qualify for the Olympic games.
You don’t give up at the first hurdle, after all those years of hard work and dedication. The hope is that in the future you do qualify and get that gold medal or that Oscar. In a similar way, this relates exactly to how I feel about acting and winning a BAFTA in the future. We can get very disappointed by our expectations, particularly if we perceive that they are not met. So I believe that if we remove our expectations, then we won’t be disappointed. Rather, I think we as actors should be grateful for having the opportunity to audition, getting the call-back, seeing the producers and showing them a little of that ‘magic’.
Hopefully, that will leave a lasting impression in which they are in no doubt that was a good meeting and wants to onboard you. Personally, even in adverse situations, I’ve always tried to portray positivity so that I don’t appear too desperate.
You are well-known for playing the character Matei Covaci in the BBC series Wolfblood. Tell us more about that experience?
My experience on Wolfblood, my first TV series, was one of the best times in my life. I compare it somewhat to Twilight, which was a huge show when I was growing up. I’m really grateful to have been part of the show and played Matei.
The storylines beautifully demonstrated that it is ok for young men/boys to be emotional and cry without it compromising their perceived masculinity or strength. Matei could often be a ferocious wolf in one scene and then in another show his softer side with compassion and tenderness. I enjoyed the familiarity of working with the same actors, we developed ‘a family’ and I feel really lucky to have been a part of it. All made possible by the fans and supporters of the show. Also, the beauty of a series is that you have the chance to really develop your character and can come back for another season!
Would you tell the readers about the play Syndrome, your directorial debut?
Syndrome is a play set in 1991 during the first Gulf War in Iraq which premiered at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden in February 2020.
Written by Tina Jay, the play is set against the backdrop of the first Gulf War in Iraq and follows the personal stories of four young British soldiers from their days at war through to their return to ‘normal’ civilian life and the challenges it brings. They are suffering from the debilitating adverse psychological and physical effects of what became known as Gulf War Syndrome.
There are probably about 60,000 British soldiers who returned from the Gulf War and at least 33,000 these war veterans are living with ongoing symptoms today. Tina was amazed by the negative portrayal of some of these men in the media and felt passionate about being able to tell their side of the story.
It’s heart-breaking really how these men feel that they have been dismissed by society. Although there was a very serious story to tell, I also wanted to show the ‘vivre de joie’ and banter that existed between the soldiers. Syndrome was definitely a turning point in my career where I thought “Wow, I’m here and finally able to use my own ideas and creativity to direct a project”. I gave this project my all and wanted to do the storyline justice.
Talking about challenging roles, you starred in the docu-drama ‘Is this Rape? Sex on Trial.’ How did you emotionally prepare for that role?
To be honest, I was initially a little scared because of the title of the play. But after reading the script I felt that this was an great opportunity to showcase the diversity of my acting skills. The issue of sexual consent and assault is such an important topic, I felt that I had a responsibility to highlight the complexities associated with the storyline.
I’m hoping the audience could see that and not hate on the character I played. I wanted to explore the character with an open mind, free of prejudice so that I could portray the character as honestly as possible. I feel that the character could potentially have represented anyone crossing the line, or going too far. And primarily, that the sexual event which had unprecedented consequences may have occurred through lack of knowledge and/or understanding. That being said, the point about the play was to educate the audience that this is how you can mess up and all the different scenarios which could be construed as sexual assault.
Of course, it was challenging playing the character of a rapist, however, it was also important to highlight the ‘grey areas’ surrounding modern-day dating. Furthermore, I just want to do my job to the best of my capabilities and share a story that needed to be told.
Has playing a challenging role, ever affected your personal mental well-being?
I think in order to play a part, there has to be a part of you given to that character. We all have different sides of our personality which are undoubtedly brought out by being around different people and in different environments.
When I performed in the play Held, also written by Tina Jay, it was super intense and very different. I played two characters in the same play called Jamie and Fin, who both face different live struggles (leading to death) and how they dealt with the challenges/adversities.
Naturally, the stress of playing two parts to the best of my abilities was at time stressful. On occasions, when I did get the odd short break I found it difficult to switch off and unwind. I think I may have retracted somewhat and became intolerant of certain things when around other people but I know that was purely due to sheer physical/mental fatigue.
What also came with this experience was an opportunity for me to learn about myself and to develop coping strategies. I learned what I could and what I could not! More importantly, I learnt the value of self-care. It’s so important to have time for yourself, in a space where you can just be calm and have your own thoughts or even to just be surrounded by the right people in your life where you can express yourself unreservedly and you’re not judged.
What do you do to clear your mind and get that essential down-time from a hectic schedule?
You know I like to travel particularly abroad. Italy is incredible, Sardinia and Sicily are very special to me. Austria is also awesome, I visited for a film festival in 2015. But, as I’ve already mentioned I love my hometown of London.
I like to be outside and love walking and riding my bike. You know, I literally I walked from Knightsbridge to Shoreditch in an hour and a half! Being with my family is important, I’ve just started baking with my mum actually.
What else have you been doing to keep yourself occupied during COVID-19 lockdown?
I think there are so many good things that can come from this lockdown which perhaps some may not be considering. For example, I’ve been doing things that I would never have done because of my hectic schedule, just before COVID-19, would not have allowed me too.
To be honest with you, I have to read a lot as an actor so plan to spend lockdown doing the absolute opposite. I have started decorating my pad and find it so therapeutic. It’s allowed me to clear my ‘space’ and my head to allow space for new things.
I love starting a project and completing it. I also love listening to music, whether that be house, R&B, pop. My favourites? I’m loving Khaled at the moment, he’s such a vibe but also Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. Basically, I listen to anything that is uplifting and fun to dance to.
Recognising the importance of mental health awareness and #bekind campaigns, what was your last act of kindness?
I had some leftover bread that I baked which I didn’t want to waste so decided to take it to some of the homeless guys on Brick Lane. I suppose that’s an act of kindness in a way. But I think you can look at kindness in so many ways, you know? It’s being conscious and aware of yourself, what you have and what you probably take for granted at times.
One of my friends has not been able to get out for essentials at the moment so I’ve also taken some bread to them. Small acts of kindness really. To be fair, I actually don’t like to talk about the nice things that I’ve done because as far as I’m concerned shouldn’t we be doing that anyway?
Jack Brett Anderson has certainly proved that if you dream big, you can achieve great things! We’ve loved talking to him. Be sure to follow Jack on Instagram @jackbanderson and on twitter @JackBAnderson.