“I had massive stage fright while I was at school, to the point where I couldn’t even ask to be in a play,” says Cornwall-born actor Royce Pierreson. “So I watched them and I wished I could be in them, but I thought there was no way.” It came down to mind over matter, Pierreson recalls of one of his first monologues. “It was fight or flight – you basically stood there, committed to it, or you sat down and you went home. I forced myself to stand there and get through it.”
After three years at a performing arts college in Plymouth, he went on to graduate from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2011. In only a few years, his career quickly flourished, from appearances in a variety of BBC One dramas to a role as a student in Marvel Studio’s Thor: The Dark World. He was eager to learn everything he could about TV and film, he says. “I love working out camera angles and how things are edited together when they are shot out of sequence. I would live at the cinema if I could, I am absolutely obsessed with it.” Pierreson doesn’t just study the process of film, he experiments with methods. “When I watched myself on screen early on, everything was too big and too much.”
By the time he took on the lead role in Murdered By My Boyfriend, the 2014 BBC drama about domestic abuse, he had reigned in his grande gestures. “The best acting to me is when people look like they’re not doing much or they’re not trying, and that’s what I want to achieve,” says Pierreson, whose idol is Daniel Day-Lewis. “I am a very fidgety person; I am still a very nervous person in myself. I think most actors are. They don’t like being themselves and it’s good to hide behind a character.” Following his role model, in Murdered By My Boyfriend, which is based on a true story, Pierrseon delved deep into preparation to play the character — who is serving a life sentence. In order to “differentiate between Royce the actor and Royce the human who has taken this story to heart,” he says, he forced himself spent a lot of time alone — isolated from other people’s anxieties and emotional baggage.
It it is his self-reflection that perpetuates this artistic growth. Starring as the paediatrician Dr Jamie Cole in the second season of BBC One’s Our Girl, Pierreson “hopes [he has] developed a bit more. If I haven’t, then in my next job I’ll work harder.”