- C4's Somewhere Boy
Since graduation, the Scottish actor has been building an impressive CV with TV roles in BBC’s ‘Shetland’ and ‘Silent Witness’, and Channel 4’s ‘Deadwater Fell’. He’s soon to be seen playing the lead role of Danny in C4’s dark comedy drama ‘Somewhere Boy’.
We were delighted when Lewis took a break from filming an episode of the upcoming Apple TV+ WW2 mini-series, ‘Masters of the Air’, to chat to us about being bitten by the acting bug at a young age, his desire to play the main stage at The Citz and landing his first lead TV role.
Born and bred in Glasgow, Lewis trained at Clyde College for two years before graduating in 2019 with a BA Hons Acting for Stage and Screen from Queen Margaret University.
He tells us how he was only seven years old when he first fell in love with acting after joining youth drama classes at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow,
"I had a very active imagination as a child. I was one of those kids, who was always playing different characters. It wasn’t something I did to entertain other people, just something I did for myself."
"My Mum thought it’d be a good idea to take me along to a drama class and connect with other kids. And, I loved it. It was great, being in a creative space with other kids who enjoyed using their imagination as much as I did, pretending to be different characters from different worlds, and devising and making plays. I stayed with The Citz until I was 21. It was like my second home. I’d love to perform on the main stage there one day, that’s a goal."
As well as growing up as a member of the Citizens youth groups, Lewis studied drama at secondary school. He then, continued with his drama training at Clyde College, gaining an HND in Acting and Performance. Eager to further his acting studies but very keen to stay in Scotland; Lewis was thrilled when offered a place to study the BA Hons Acting for Stage and Screen course at Queen Margaret University and Edinburgh Napier University. He explains what drew him to the course,
"I really liked that the skills training was for acting on stage and screen. I’d heard of QMU’s reputation too. I’m a huge Trainspotting fan, and I knew Kevin McKidd had studied at Queen Margaret."
Reflecting on his time at QMU, he reveals that one of his most memorable experiences was in a movement class,
"We were blindfolded and asked to imagine ourselves as if we were about to escape from prison. Many of my classmates did a metaphorical thing as if they were escaping from themselves, but I thought, mmm, I’ll be a serial killer, a psychopath/sociopath – that was my interpretation. So, I did a very physical performance, running around, punching at anyone who came near me. I remember lots of people laughing."
Lewis goes on to say that what he enjoyed most about the course was the opportunity and encouragement he got from his lecturers to think about acting on a deeper level. He describes,
"So, along with considering the different acting methods and techniques, and remembering the importance of active listening, we were urged to truly think about the character’s backstory and our own objectives - what did we want to achieve in the scene, how were we going to perform it, and in what way did we want our performance to affect the others characters and the audience."
However, Lewis considers the most significant thing he learned at QMU was the importance of being an effective collaborator,
"You need to be flexible when working with lots of different people. We were taught the value of keeping an open-mind, seeing it from other people’s perspectives, being honest but also being confident in expressing our own opinions."
By the time Lewis arrived to study at QMU, he had already tread the boards in stage productions at the Traverse Theatre and the Citizens, as well as working with the theatre company, The Attic Collective. His time with The Attic Collective proved pivotal for his acting career, being signed by an agent who saw his performance in 'Lysistrata' at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.
While studying at QMU, Lewis developed an attractive CV. Cast in several roles for short films and features films; he believes this gave him a slight edge and prepared him for the world of work. Lewis explains,
"It definitely gave me more insight into the industry. I already knew what Spotlight was, what it was like to go to castings, do audition slates, how to prepare for scenes and camera techniques. It was good gaining that experience during uni although it did feel strange at times. I was at uni to study and learn the trade, but was fortunate to be cast in roles while still learning. It was a bit of a weird balance."
The professional roles that Lewis performed whilst studying included Stevie in the BAFTA Scotland award-winning ‘LIMBO’ and Duncan in the Amazon Prime indie film, ‘Get Duked!’ (Boyz in the Wood), which opened the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2019. Talking about his Opening Night Gala and red-carpet experience he recalls,
"It felt very cool and crazy. From arriving in a car, walking the red carpet and then sitting in the audience looking around and seeing other Scottish actors like Jack Lowden and Gavin Mitchell watching it."
Soon after completing his studies in 2019, Lewis started filming the role of Dylan in C4’s intense drama, ‘Deadwater Fell’. Other TV roles in BBC crime dramas followed, Simon in ‘Silent Witness’ and Fraser in ‘Shetland’. But it’s the role of Danny in C4’s dark comedy drama ‘Somewhere Boy', which is due to be released later this year that he’s most excited about. He reveals,
"I tend to be drawn to slightly weird roles, something that’s dark and emotional so playing Danny was a dream for me.
Danny’s very naive and a bit odd. For the past 18 years, he’s been locked away by his Dad to protect him from the outside world. He’s grown up happy listening to Benny Goodman records and watching old 50’s movies with no sad endings.
But when’s he’s 18, he’s reborn into the modern world. He discovers a new world with the latest technologies, social media, and social cues and interactions. He also learns the truth about his Mum’s death and the lies his Dad has told him.
"It’s definitely the furthest I’ve been pushed as an actor. It was a challenging role; one I had to be the most emotionally vulnerable for but I loved it. I feel I know myself more after playing Danny. I’m really proud of the role."
There was a lot of pressure that came with the role; it being a lead role and performing my first accent. But, I’m really excited about it although I’ll probably freak out when it gets closer to screening!"
In just a few years, Lewis’s career has gone from a 10 second uncredited role in Danny Boyle’s 'T2:Trainspotting' to playing a lead role in an eight-episode series but he doesn’t take his success for granted. Lewis explains,
“The industry is so changeable. I’ve gone from playing a small role in three episodes of ‘Shetland’ to playing the lead character role in eight episodes of ‘Somewhere Boy’. It’s mental.
There’s a lot of rejection that you have to deal with too and sometimes luck needs to play a part. I feel that just breaking into the industry is my biggest achievement. But, I love what I do. Even if I had to support myself as an actor with a part-time job, then that’s what I’d do.
"Acting allows me to escape and pretend to be different people. Every character is going through a journey and it’s never the same. It’s an adventure."
I also love meeting and collaborating with different creative people, and being able to travel is awesome.”
Talking about his career and hopes for the future, he names the film ‘8 Mile’ with the rapper Eminem and the actor Adam Sandler as influences,
“For me, the key message in the film is about the importance of respect. All Eminem’s character, Jimmy 'B-Rabbit' Smith Jr. wants is respect from his peers for what he does. Not fame or fortune, just respect. That’s what I hope for, respect for what I do as an actor, as an artist."
Loving Adam Sandler’s versatility as an actor. Lewis says, “He’s known for doing comedy but he’s also gained recognition for dramatic roles in 'Uncut Gems', 'Punch-Drunk Love' and 'The Meyerowitz Stories'. He’s not who people think he is as a performer.”
Lewis tells us that he’s keen to try different roles, perhaps another comedy like ‘Get Duked!’ or maybe even a romantic comedy playing, “a romantic character who’s a bit weird!,” he laughs.
More theatre performances is another aspiration, with dream roles in military plays such as ‘Black Watch’ by Gregory Burke, ‘Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme’ by Frank McGuinness and ‘War Horse’ by Michael Morpurgo due to his interest in stories about soldiers, battles and war.
When asked what advice he would give to current acting students and new graduates starting out Lewis suggests,
"Stay open-minded and be a sponge, take in as much as your lecturers are teaching you. Find the techniques that work for you to help you give authentic performances. And, don’t put pressure on yourself with timelines. Work hard, continue to learn and enjoy it."
Since our catch-up with Lewis, he's been selected for the first-ever Rising Stars Scotland. The new talent programme is a joint initiative by Screen Scotland and Screen International, which supports 11 up-and-coming Scottish actors and filmmakers.