20 Questions With ... Andrew Buchan
Date: 31 March 2008
Actor Andrew Buchan – who plays the title role in Arthur Miller’s rarely seen play The Man Who Had All the Luck - talks about changing fortunes, his fellow Party Animals and why he follows his auntie’s advice on rowing.
Actor Andrew Buchan’s up-and-coming status is confirmed by a quick look at his IMDB page, which brings up a message board thread entitled, "Andrew Buchan to replace Daniel Craig as 007 in about eight years' time?".
Buchan is best known to TV viewers from his starring role as Scott Foster in the 2007 BBC series Party Animals. His other television credits include Jane Eyre, The Whistleblowers, Cranford and The Fixer.
On stage, Buchan has appeared in Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Exchange, Ship of Fools at Theatre503 in Battersea and Posh at the Royal Court. He’s recently won acclaim playing the title role in Sean Holmes’ revival of Arthur Miller’s rarely seen play The Man Who Had All the Luck at the Donmar Warehouse. Miller’s first Broadway play, it premiered in New York in 1944 but closed after only four performances. This new acclaimed production, which tours after it finishes in London this week, has marked a change of fortune for the piece.
Date & place of birth
Born 19 February 1979 in Stockport, Cheshire.
Lives now in
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
Why did you want to become a performer?
I think it's when you're eight years old - the showing-off element, Showing your aunts and uncles that you can do amazing impressions! I was doing all the school plays too, a lot of musicals at school actually - Charlie Girl, Guys & Dolls... My first role at university was Hamlet, and then I did another musical when I was at RADA – Sondheim’s Into the Woods, where I played the Baker.
If you hadn’t become a performer, what might you have done professionally?
I used to like languages so maybe I would have moved abroad and used those skills I have (allegedly French, German and Spanish - a form of those languages!). I was also into nursing. I did a lot of residential care work and really liked it - forgetting about yourself for a second and helping terminally ill people, that was nice. One of the most enjoyable day's work I've ever done was with Dr Barnardo's.
First big break
It was probably getting into RADA actually. I managed to get an agent during the third year too, so that was really helpful for me.
What do you consider your career highlights to date?
Party Animals on the BBC with Matt Smith and Andrea Riseborough. Andrea was in my year at RADA so it was lovely to work with her again. Also, I loved playing Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Exchange and doing Posh at the Royal Court. It was a Rough Cut in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs and was just really experimental, raw and fresh.
Colin Salmon, Peter Mullan, Matt Smith, Jody Latham. Jody is a touch of something else - he's a masterclass in chaos! Born on Planet Wow, Jody was. Oh, and Andrew Garfield, who I was in Romeo and Juliet with in Manchester.
I loved Lindsay Turner and Hetti Macdonald. I should also mention Sean Holmes, who is directing this one! He's been blinding.
What was the first thing you saw on stage?
One of the first things was probably Hamlet at the Library Theatre in Manchester. I also remember An Inspector Calls in London, which was amazing. Oh, and The Caretaker at the Royal Exchange with Roger Lloyd Pack - fantastic.
Are there any parts you would particularly like to take on?
I've never seen it but people keep telling me I should play Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger. I'd love to do another musical one day too.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My auntie, who is a religious lady, said: "Pray in a storm, but don't stop rowing." That's really stuck with me - I like that.
Favourite holiday destinations
I think South America is pretty up there, isn't it? I spent some time in Ecuador in my year abroad for university, and it was beautiful.
What made you want to accept the role of David Beeves in The Man Who Had All the Luck?
It was nigh on impossible to turn down. It’s a dream part and even more of a dream part because it’s not very well known – this kind of untapped gem of a part. He goes on a thousand and one journeys to explore what is luck, to try and make his own luck. The stakes are so high and the search is ongoing. It’s just this quite beautiful, complex journey of this young American South Michigan lad who just won’t accept luck for luck. He wants to make his own in the world. Obviously, I was also drawn to it because the Donmar is doing it – working here is a dream come true – and the director, Sean Holmes, is amazing. Then the cast on top of that is just … wow!
Did you know much about Arthur Miller or this play before you accepted the part?
I’d done bits. I did Death of a Salesman when I was at university in Durham, before I went to RADA.
Can you tell us a little bit about David’s character & the play itself?
The character is one of those young lads who always want to campaign for justice, in a way. He wants the right things to be done. He’s a good man and wants to do things right and lead a good life. He tries not to put a foot wrong, but he’s not naïve. He’s this young energetic American boy who’s kind of striving to do some good in his life. My dad’s always told me to go out there and get it. It might not necessarily come and find you so go out and be proactive. That’s half the battle in the play. Do you sit and wait for something to happen? Or do you take things in hand and go out to make it happen? That’s what really messes with David Beeves’ head. Part of the reason why Miller wrote the play was because of someone he met at a party. This businessman out in the countryside who was getting so successful that one night paranoia started creeping into his head and he thought that perhaps someone was fiddling the accounts and saying he had more money than he actually head. And all this over weird stuff and self doubt. Success, and the reasons for it – why had he been so successful? Well, he was found hanging in his barn – he hanged himself, because he just couldn’t accept the success … he didn’t get it. People would be forgiven for thinking that The Man Who Had All the Luck is just this very linear play about this lucky guy, but it’s a hell of a lot more.
What's your favourite line from the show?
Very good question! There’s loads of stuff. Initially, I quite liked “God must have pulled up the sun this morning, grabbed it by the back of the neck and said ‘Make it a graceful day.’” But Miller’s writing just makes me think “oh that’s a brilliant line” every single moment – it lifts you off your feet at times.
What’s the luckiest thing that has happened to you?
I have days where everything just mysteriously seems to click into place. The Tube arrives just as you reach the top step, for example. But then you have days which are utterly flattening. So I haven't had anything particularly lucky happen to me. It's that thing isn't it - "Are we making things happen or are we just the jellyfish who are moving with the tide?"
What are your future plans?
I don't really make plans. But I need to finish writing this play I'm writing. Your guess is as good as mine as to what it will end up like at the moment! It's 70% done but I have no idea what it's about at the moment! Watch this space...
- Andrew Buchan was speaking to Tom Atkins
The Man Who Had All the Luck opened on 5 March 2008 (previews from 28 February) at the Donmar Warehouse, where it's playing until 5 April. The production then visits Manchester (8-12 April), Liverpool (14-19 April) and Truro in Cornwall (22-26 April).