20 Questions with … Public Enemy‘s Darrell D’Silva

Darrell D’Silva is currently playing the Mayor in Richard Jones’ radical new staging of Ibsen’s Public Enemy at the Young Vic, which continues until 8 June

Darrell D'Silva in Public Enemy
Darrell D’Silva in Public Enemy

Where were you born?
I was born in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

What made you want to become an actor?

I was brought up by my grandparents and they were serious film watchers. The light would go off in the living room and we would shut up and seriously watch films. I saw hundreds of black and white classics, Hitchcock, Westerns, as well as all the key 70’s movies and I became a film buff at a young age. I really loved the way my grandparents would react so emotionally to stories and actors’ performances; it always seemed to me that it was definitely something I should get involved in. I discovered the theatre later on, first by looking at photographs of actors in full flight during performances and then by going to see plays, then reading them.

If you hadn’t become an actor what might you have done professionally?
I don’t know, as it was always in my head to become an actor. I was a musician for a long time, playing in bands in Sheffield and doing gigs in Europe in the ’80s. I became a very good thief when I was a drama student… Yeah, other than that i think i might’ve just got into trouble.

First break?
I got lucky. I was firstly in a BBC cop show Out of the Blue and then I joined the RSC to do Camino Real by Tennessee Williams with Steven Pimlott in 1996.

Career highlights to date?
Camino Real; Absolutely (Perhaps!) directed by Zeffirelli; Six Characters Looking For an Author at the Young Vic.

Favourite directors?

That I’ve worked with? Richard Jones, Steven Pimlott, Anthony Neilson. Zeffirelli was fun…

What’s the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
I saw Howard Barker‘s play Seven Lears at Sheffield Crucible three times one week in 1988, that was brilliant. And I saw the Snarling Beasties do a show about Valentino – it seemed to be in black & white, with bits slow motion. They were all cracking performers.

And the last?
The Effect in the NT Cottesloe.

Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Get on with it.

What attracted you to the role of the Mayor in Public Enemy?
Really it was because Richard was directing the play and Nicky Gillibrand was designing the costumes; I’ve just always liked working with them and I knew we’d create something different together. Strangely it was the first part I ever worked on at Drama Centre.

Niall Ashdown (Aslaksen) & Darrell D’Silva (Mayor) in Public Enemy

Have you based him on anyone in particular?

Would you describe him as evil?

Why do you think Ibsen is so perennially popular?
He writes good well structured dramas about gender inequality, political corruption and venereal disease… go figure.

Have you enjoyed working at the Young Vic?
Yes, I’ve liked the mix of audiences. You never feel like you’re playing for just one certain type of people – elsewhere you do.

What’s your favourite post show haunt?
I used to do a lot of haunting but these days; I’m just happy to ride my motorcycle home across London when it’s fairly quiet.

Who are your acting heroes?
Same as when I was a kid really – Lee Marvin, Brando, James Stewart, Richard Burton, De Niro, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Orson Welles. It’s always been film actors really.

Dream role?
The Private Eye or the Mad King or the Ordinary Villain.

Favourite book?
Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars

Favourite holiday destination?

What have you got lined up next?
I’m playing a Viking in a Viking action movie.