Rising Star: Sean Michael Verey

The ”Pramface” actor on his Bristolian roots, why he didn’t go to drama school and why Philip Ridley is the best

Sean Michael Verey
Sean Michael Verey

Sean Michael Verey is only 26, but he’s an old hand in this business we call show. His first job was at the tender age of ten on Holby City, and he’s never looked back. A Bristolian by birth, he grew up hanging around backstage at the Bristol Hippodrome, where his mother worked as a dresser. Since then he’s been working pretty much non-stop and in 2012 scored a lead role in BBC Three comedy Pramface. His turn last year in Philip Ridley's monologue Tonight With Donny Styxx was visceral, shocking and all-encompassing; he was brutal, funny, vacant and terrifying all at once. And he won the Stage Award for Best Solo Performance for it. He’s back to Ridley with his most recent project, a return to Radiant Vermin (he originally starred in the show with Gemma Whelan), which he will play in Bristol, London and then off-Broadway, now with his Pramface co-star Scarlett Alice Johnson.

When did you decide that you wanted to act?
It was filming on location on Holby City when I was about ten. It was shot like a mini film over two weeks and my dad was my chaperone. I just remember turning to him at one point and saying: "I love this, I really want to do this".

How did you get that role?
My mum worked as a dresser at the Bristol Hippodrome and she met an actress on one of the touring shows, who was also a drama teacher. She said I should do some of her classes. I think the teacher realised I had a natural knack for it and she sent me up to London to audition for a kids talent agency.

You never trained then?
No because I already had an agent. I did a BTEC in performing arts at City of Bath college from 16 to 18, but I just felt that if I moved straight to London I could keep auditioning. I got a job front of house at theatres such as the London Palladium, the Old Vic, I’d go for auditions during the day and work in the evening.

Would you describe Pramface as a big break?
Yeah, for me it was. I did quite a lot of guest roles in things, but Pramface was my first opportunity to play a lead throughout a series and it was a big thing for me. It hasn’t launched me into a film star, but it taught me a lot.

Why did you decide to return to Radiant Vermin?
I think because of the success of the first time round. This time we are doing it in New York and that feels incredible. I’ve always wanted to perform in New York, so to get the chance to do it in a play that I absolutely love, in a role that I love is a dream.

You’ve done several Philip Ridley plays, what is the appeal?
He is a fantastic storyteller, in his plainest form. There's a poetry to his use of language. There’s a reason why productions like Radiant Vermin and Tonight with Donny Styxx are completely stripped down in performance, there’s no set, very minimal lighting and it’s just the actor in the space. He is the best in my opinion.

Gemma Whelan and Sean Michael Verey in Radiant Vermin
Gemma Whelan and Sean Michael Verey in Radiant Vermin
© Anna Soderblom

Who are you inspired by at the moment?
Someone whose career I would love to have and who I think I’m slightly similar casting type to is Martin Freeman. The Office is incredible, it’s my favourite show and he’s brilliant in it.

What was growing up in Bristol like for a young actor?
One of my earliest memories was seeing Blood Brothers at the Bristol Hippodrome. I fell in love with that show. Ever since I have been obsessed with it and have always wanted to play Mickey. I used to see a lot of musicals when I was younger and there were always classes and local drama groups. There were always lots of acting workshops in Bristol, it’s very arty and creative.

Do you think you can be a young actor and not live in London?
It all depends. I think if you have got an agent somehow, then you don’t have to be in London. I moved to London because it was sort of my university. I wanted some life experience and to be in the thick of it. But I do think things have changed.

Radiant Vermin runs at Bristol's Tobacco Factory from 12 to14 May. It then arrives at Soho Theatre from 17 to 28 May and transfers to 59E59 Theaters in New York from 2 June to 3 July.

Read our review of the show's 2015 run here

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