EXCLUSIVE: Trauma star Adrian Lester describes his acting process and offers actors tips
Adrian Lester is many characters to his fans. He may be remembered as the ambitious campaign manager in the film Primary Colours or the sly, cheeky hustler Michael “Mickey Bricks” Stone in the BBC series Hustle (which ran on AMC in the US). Some might know him as the movie star boyfriend opposite actress Tracee Ellis Ross on the sitcom Girlfriends or in Julia Stiles drama, Riviera on Sky Atlantic (in the UK) or the Sundance network (in the US).
And theatre aficionados will likely know Lester from his West End roles in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with James Earl Jones and Sanaa Lathan, Red Velvet, Othello, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street or his Olivier Award-winning role in Company.
Here the British actor takes time out of filming his current project to answer a few questions for Mandy.com to explain his approach to the roles he takes.
How would you define your character in Trauma?
I would define Jon as a self made man. I don’t think he inherited anything from his parents except the notion of hard work and self belief. He has spent many years training to occupy the position that he is in. He does his work with diligence and a great sense of pride.
Now that it’s gotten some play, do you think there will be a second season?
You can never tell with these things. Who knows?
What is your typical process of getting into a role?
I try to understand the things my character takes for granted and I never, under any circumstances, judge what they do. Helps me while playing them.
Would you define acting as intensely as getting into someone else’s psyche or is it just a simple case of studying and then doing it, like any other job?
It can be intense but that depends on how deeply you are asked to express their negative emotions. Most of the time it is study and repetition.
Describe a time when you have really switched up the process, done something different to get to the core of a character.
When I played Rosalind in As You Like It for Cheek By Jowl (theatre company), I had to do a lot of work with my physicality. Walking, sitting and general mannerisms. It took a bit of time. Psychologically though, Othello has been the hardest to get right because of the huge gaps of emotional logic that the actor playing him has to overcome with a smooth emotional reality.
You’ve been working since the late nineties or early 2000s. How much better do you think the industry is getting in hiring actors of colour? In your opinion, what still needs to improve?
Very big question. The answer to this is perhaps best left for a different conversation.
Any advice to actors that what to follow in your footsteps?
I think it’s always a good idea to work on your weaknesses. Focus on them until they get smaller. They will never disappear, just get smaller. If what makes you feel weak disappeared altogether, you’d have nothing that made you feel vulnerable, then you’d become a very boring actor to watch.
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