20 Questions: Another Country's Will Attenborough – 'I watched Jeremy Irons slap Tom Hiddleston'

Will Attenborough – son of director Michael and grandson of film legend Richard – stars in ”Another Country”, which has transferred to Trafalgar Studios following its acclaimed run in Chichester last year

Will Attenborough (Judd) and Rob Callender (Bennett) in Another Country
Will Attenborough (Judd) and Rob Callender (Bennett) in Another Country
© Johan Persson

1. Where and when were you born?

London, 1991

2. What made you want to become an actor?

I played one of Jason’s Argonauts at primary school aged 9. My brother told me I was a worryingly convincing drunk in one of the revelling scenes and I’ve never looked back.

3. If you hadn’t become an actor, what might you have done professionally?

I’ve always found it difficult but I love teaching. I also really like the idea of working in a restaurant. But maybe that’s just gluttony.

4. First big break?

I don’t think I’ve had one yet – this is my first substantial role and it’s a really great gig so I’m just focusing on doing my best with it.

5. Career highlights to date?

I got a small part in The Hollow Crown while I was still at university. Just watching the whole work was a real highlight and a massive education in screen acting. Plus I got to watch Jeremy Irons slap Tom Hiddleston across the face!

6. Any regrets?

No, better just to learn from any stupid or careless mistakes and sharpen up as you move forward.

7. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?

The first play I can remember seeing was Othello with Ray Fearon. He was amazing. I didn’t really get the verse but I understood everything he said.

8. And the last?

Analog.Ue at the National. Daniel Kitson‘s one of the most exciting theatremakers around and he takes a massive risk with this show. Plus Befrdfgth by Doctor Brown, a mime clown show that won the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2012. I saw it four times. Hysterical, bizarre – complete connection with the audience.

9. Who are your acting idols?

Adèle Exarchopoulos. Her performance in Blue is the Warmest Colour is the most open acting I’ve ever seen. I’d really like to get somewhere near that over the next 60 years. Mark Rylance and Philip Seymour Hoffman are the male actors I most admire on stage and screen respectively. But Charlie Chaplin is the all-time hero.

10. What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Run towards your fear.

11. Why did you want to get involved in Another Country?

It has amazing parts for young people – I’m incredibly lucky to be offered a character this detailed and complex at my age. The play quickly became iconic when it was first produced and for good reason. It’s an intelligent, witty look at how young people first encounter power and hypocrisy, and it opens up fascinating questions about the emotional basis for betrayal.

12. Tell us more about your character, Judd?

Judd is an outsider – bright and rebellious, a committed Marxist determined to bring social justice and revolution to England the moment he can leave his brutal public school. (He’s in part based on John Cornford, the Communist and poet who died aged 22 fighting in the Spanish Civil War.) His views might seem naive or even dangerous now, but he backs them up with genuine integrity and compassion – a rare thing in his world.

13. Favourite line in the show?

"You can’t beat a good public school for learning to conceal your true feelings."

14. Any rehearsal room mishaps?

There were about a dozen mattresses brought in for us to rehearse a dormitory scene. I think Rob Callender managed to break every single one… There was also a moment Bill Milner threw a tennis ball which accidentally hit our director, Jeremy Herrin, on the back. In style true to his character, Bill immediately turned on his heel and ran out of the room.

15. What do you hope people take away from the production?

First, that they’re entertained and engaged. The play is very funny and the plot very intricate. Secondly, with Edward Snowden in the news, controversial legislation on homosexuality in Russia, debates on political class and public schools still very much alive, that the play adds to and enlivens any discussion about what it means to be included in society, and why somebody might turn away from theirs.

16. What's your favourite post-show haunt?

I don’t really have one yet… My bed? Or does that sound weird?

17. How do you unwind?

I watch A LOT of television. Currently I’m on House of Cards and True Detective.

18. If you could swap places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

My dentist.

19. Favourite theatre joke?

"Great news! I got the job. Best part is – I’ve got the day off tomorrow!" Every. Single. Actor.

20. What's next?

I shot an episode of the new series of Utopia at the end of last year so I’m looking forward to seeing how that turned out. Then we take Another Country on tour.

Another Country is at Trafalgar Studios until 21 June 2014. Want to put some questions to Will and the cast? Then come on our Outing on Monday (31 March), which includes a post-show Q&A – details here