Lucian Msamati: 'If a job terrifies me, then I usually go for it'
As he steps up to the role of Salieri in Amadeus at the National for the second time, Lucian Msamati explains why reviving the production is just as thrilling as the first time
Game of Thrones star and veteran British-Tanzanian stage and screen actor Lucian Msamati forged his career as an actor working with Over the Edge Theatre Company in Zimbabwe in the nineties. Since then he has starred extensively on stage and screen, becoming the first black Iago at the Royal Shakespeare Company, starring in Clybourne Park at the Royal Court, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes at the Tricycle Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith's production of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. He ran company Tiata Fahodzi from 2010 and is now returning to the role of Salieri in Michael Longhurst's production of Amadeus for the National Theatre, which originally opened in November 2016.
There was an alchemy in the room in our production of Amadeus. And it's as present as ever now we return to the show. It might sound arty farty but when you come back to a project you've had more experiences, life has moved on, you look at something with fresh eyes, ears and heart. It becomes very exciting.
It was only working on the big scenes as a whole cast when the silent scale of what we were trying to do hit me. Amadeus has 32-odd people in the cast, a full compliment of actors and singers and the Southbank Sinfonia. It is wonderfully chaotic, exhilarating and terrifying.
I hadn't ever really thought about playing Salieri. That's mostly because Amadeus hadn't been in production for some time. But when it was mentioned I thought: ‘Oh OK, yes, why ever not?' I saw the film many years ago which I enjoyed and I saw a production of the play in Zimbabwe which was also fantastic.
When something terrifies me, then my immediate reaction is: 'Yes let's do this.' When you read the script of Amadeus of course all you see before you are reams and reams of lines and action and you try to imagine what will it look and feel like. But you never question whether can you do it. You said yes to it, so of course you believe you can do it. So it's more the joy of going: 'Wow, this is massive, OK then, let's go for it'.
Acting was always something I wanted to do. At an early age I watched the film of Grease, or The Incredible Hulk or something like that and thought: 'Wow, they look like they are having lots of fun. I want to do that.' There was no theatregoing tradition in my family and it's not been an easy journey, but in my heart of hearts, this is always what I wanted to do.
I do miss the ability to pick a play and decide that is what we are going to do. I was part of a company for ten years in Zimbabwe, and we took ourselves around the world. And I ran theatre company Tiata Fahodzi for four years. But there are certainly elements [to running a company] I don't miss. Sometimes it can feel as though you are trying to squeeze as much heart as possible through the cracks in the bureaucracy. But it was a priceless and valuable experience. At this particular moment I can't say that I miss running a company. But I certainly would not discount it in the future.
Amadeus runs at the National Theatre from 11 January to 24 April.