Please forgive any typos - it's a long article. LOL
Creating his own magic
Missing out on a role in Harry Potter as a teenager, Harry Lloyd decided against drama school and chose to study English at Oxford instead. He tells Al Senter how his training experience contrasts with his co-stars Rupert Friend and Gemma Arterton, who he stars with in the West End production The Little Dog Laughed.
It's not often that this humble hack is offered a cuppa, personally made by one of British theatre's rising stars. But amiable Harry Lloyd, currently top-lining in smart showbiz satire The Little Dog Laughed, bustles out of his spacious dressing room at the Garrick and returns, moments later, with the steaming brew, plus delicious home-made macaroon, courtesy of the wardrobe mistress. Who needs a power breakfast at the Wolseley when such an afternoon tea is on offer chez Harry?
Lloyd, a boyishly handsome 26, is probably best known to the wider public as Will Scarlett in the first two seasons of the BBC's recent Robin Hood and he's still in touch with is Sherwood mates: "Little John's just texted me, actually." But he's also been catching the eye in the theatre with credits including Ghosts at the Arcola and Edward Bond's The Sea at the Haymarket. Most tellingly, he gave an excellent performance as Rodolpho in the recent revival of A View From the Bridge, squaring up to Ken Stott's agonised Eddie Carbone and therefore the recipient of Stott's ironic kisses. Now Lloyd, as rent boy Alex in The Little Dog Laughed, shares several mouth to mouth moments with his co-star Rupert Friend. Could this be a coincidence?
"I asked Rupert if he'd ever had to kiss another man professionally before and he said yes, Johnny Depp in The Libertine. Second in line to Johnny Depp. That's not bad."
On the face of it, Lloyd's background is classic Establishment.
If there were still gentleman actors plying their trade then Lloyd, an old Etonian with an Oxford degree in English, would appear to fit the mould perfectly. He's also distantly related to Charles Dickens and has presumably inherited his story-telling genes. Lloyd's parents are both in publishing and so one can imagine a bookish childhood with frequent visits to the theatre, where young Lloud first became stage-struck.
"I don't have a special childhood memory of a particular production, but I do know that I wanted to be an actor from the age of eight," explains Lloyd. "I was first conscious of it at prep school when the teacher effectively auditioned us for a play. He asked us to say a line and to demonstrate which word should be stressed. I knew instinctively how to do it and I got the part."
With a certain alumnus of Slough Comprehensive likely to become the next prime minister, Old Etonians have also been making waves in the theatre, notably Damian Lewis, Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston. Lloyd is another beneficiary of what appears to be a thriving theatrical scene on the banks of the Thames - less the playing fields and more the plays on stage at Eton.
"At first, I didn't tell anyone that I wanted to become an actor. I thought it was just a children's fantasy, but the teachers at Eton were very encouraging. I still think of acting in a childlike way. I love the fun of it. It's no coincidence that we call what we do a play and I like the playfulness of acting."
In view of the family connections, it was appropriate that Lloyd should make his professional debut in a dramatisation of David Copperfield while still at Eton. He remained in the same milieu supporting Martin Clunes in a television Goodbye, Mr Chips and narrowly missed a featured role in Harry Potter. He may have lost out on Hogwarts, but by the age of 17 he'd acquired an agent and he was on his way.
Significantly, Lloyd next chose Oxford and an English degree over the obvious attractions of drama school. Has he ever regretted his decision?
"It's taken me a long time to be at peace with the fact that I didn't go to drama school," he says. "On Robin Hood I was constantly terrified that I might be let down by my lack of formal training, but I seem to have learnt the job by doing it. At the time I had to make up my mind what to do. I felt, in my arrogance, that if I went to drama school, I'd be typecast in the kind of parts which reflected my own background. I'm very pleased that I've played such a variety of roles on stage - Italian, Norwegian and now American. Somebody asked me the other day if I would ever play an Englishman again."
While no long concealing his Old Etonian status, Lloyd's accent is oddly classless. "I was once quite paranoid about the school," he confesses. "I didn't want to be stereotyped as an Old Etonian and uet I couldn't be arsed to explain that I was not what people would assume I was. In a way Oxford was a continuation of Eton and I think that part of my decision was motivated by fear - fear that I wasn't ready for the outside world. Ironically, when I compare my CV to what Gemma [Arterton] and Rupert [Friend] have done, who both went to drama school, I find that I've had a lot more theatre experience than they have.
"I quite like being tested and pushed intellectually." And for all his tousled charm and air of studied vagueness, there's plainly an analytical mind at work, especially when it comes to preparation.
"Before rehearsing The Little Dog Laughed, I flew to New York and met a guy who, like Alex, makes his living as a rent boy for a select group of ten or 12 clients. I talked to him about his work, which seems to be as much about listening as it is about having sex. People like Alex aren't bizarre - they have legitimate reasons for the way they behave. I've had a very comfortable, middle-class life and I want to play people who are more interesting than I am. Alex survives by smiling. I've never played a character who's so relaxed and I've never felt so relaxed on stage."
By the time that The Little Dog Laughed concludes its limited season at the Garrick in April, Lloyd should know if the pilot he filmed last year of the HBO fantasy Game of Thrones will have spawned a series. If so, he'll spend most of 2010 on location in Morocco and, depending on public reaction, then stardom could well be his. But Lloyd is ambivalent about paying the price of fame.
"I don't ever want to become public property," he says. "In a way, I'm very glad that I didn't end up in a Harry Potter film at the age of 15, since it would have given me a pedestal from which the only way was down. The people on my unofficial fan site don't have a real relationship with me and what they see is stuff that has been filtered through the media. The people you meet at the stage door every night, none of them really know me."
For all his protestations, however, Lloyd has hired the services of a personal publicist. He's canny enough to realise that he needed professional help - less to build his profile, perhaps, than to prepare him for what may lie ahead.
"I've now arrived at the stage where you start doing things for which you were never trained," he says. "I felt that I needed to learn how to do a photo shoot and how to give an interview. Knowing the kind of high-profile cast I'd be joining for The Little Dog Laughed, I didn't want it to be a case of '... and Harry Lloyd'. You don't want to be in denial about how that side of the business works."
Lloyd is one of a generation of young male actors who are now on a wider radar, forever floating about Soho and available to lend their presence to a launch or a premiere. He is just dipping a toe into the murky waters of publicity.
"I'm not a club person and I prefer places where I can have a conversation. I have decided only to go to events which I have a legitimate reason to attend. I've been to the odd awards ceremony and I've sat at the back, feeling like a charlatan, wondering what on earth I was doing there. Not any more."
The Little Dog Laughed continues at the Garrick in London until April 10
You know, him getting a publicist probably explains all these wonderful photoshoots and interviews we've been treated to! :)