On Man in an Orange Shirt and his catalogue of complicated characters.
(LEFT) Top BLOOD BROTHER, trousers LOUIS VUITTON
(RIGHT) Jacket GUCCI
Julian Morris is one of those rare talents that is hard to come by, having found fame on both sides of the Atlantic (not exactly easily done), thanks largely to his roles in the US dramas Pretty Little Liars and 24. Enjoying a steady rise to success – that seems to be continuing in an exclusively upwards trajectory – work is coming in thicker and faster than ever before.
Appearing on both the small screen and the big, take a look at his career and you’ll see that Morris is most experienced in darker roles – he has a knack for the slightly unhinged, double-crossing male protagonist. With appearances in the likes of British horror Donkey Punch and the cult movie Sorority Row, he has fine-tuned the traits needed to portray a number of nightmarish characters, with further stints as everything from a sexual killer to a murderer who slaughters college girls for kicks tapped; alongside Tom Cruise he even played a Nazi lieutenant in the big-budget picture, Valkyrie. In reality however, he is nothing like these sadists (thank god), a sign simply of his envied acting credentials.
Appearing more recently alongside Liam Neeson in the blockbuster The Silent Man (due next month – he portrays Bob Woodward, the journalist who helped uncover the Watergate scandal), it’s new BBC drama, Man In An Orange Shirt, in which he plays Adam, a man facing the unnecessary trials of being in a homosexual relationship, that is perhaps his most exciting project to date. As we found out below.
(LEFT and RIGHT) Shirt LOUIS VUITTON
(CENTRE) Top BLOOD BROTHER, trousers LOUIS VUITTON
So what initially made you want to get into acting?
I think I’ve always liked telling stories.
And career highlight so far?
Man in an Orange Shirt is certainly one: the experience of making it was wonderful, its themes are timely and powerful, and the film as a whole is one I’m hugely proud of making.
You’ve been cast in a lot of ‘darker’ roles – why do you think this is?
If by darker you mean more complicated, then certainly – I’m naturally drawn towards those characters and their profundities. The challenge of understanding a role, and revealing who that person is, excites me.
Are you ever apprehensive about the characters you play? Victor in [Kieran Evans’ 2014 picture]
Kelly + Victor for example, must have been pretty hardcore?
Any fears I had about what I anticipated would be a graphic and intense shoot were immediately dissolved by Kieran Evans. He is a singularly talented filmmaker, and I felt safe in his hands. I knew that what he would make would be provocative, moving and special. I felt it was so right that he was awarded a BAFTA for his work.
How do you gear yourself up for a day of shooting?
By preparation. I prepare enough so that I’m released from the words, and the emotion is as genuine as it can possibly be.
And for something likeThe Silent Man, where there is a certain level of history involved, what’s the prep like?
Again, as much as possible. The historical context was vital of course, but more than anything I wanted to understand what it would have been like for Bob Woodward – a young man at the time – to go after a person of such power, and what qualities he would have needed in order to do so.
(LEFT and RIGHT) Jacket GUCCI
(CENTRE) Top BLOOD BROTHER, trousers LOUIS VUITTON
What was it like to work with Liam Neeson?
Oh amazing. Every second of it. He’s an exceptional actor and is incredible in the film. He’s got a forceful quality, and yet remains vulnerable; the look of both the hunted and the hunter. Outside of work, he’s friendly and very funny.
So what’s the most difficult role you’ve played?
With Adam in Man in an Orange Shirt I felt a responsibility to the character like I don’t often feel. I knew his story would be close to so many gay men and women who have felt shame in their lives that to tell it truthfully was very important to me.
Do you like to get involved on projects that explore a deeper topic and theme (such as Man In An Orange Shirt)?
Always! Ideally you want something that can entertain meaningfully. Such are the films that linger in our memories and move us the most.
You started very young, in theatre – how does that compare to television?
The similarity – and the reason I’m so grateful for the experience – is that the company teaches you to be a team player. Whether on stage or set, it’s a collective effort, and to do it well means respecting that.
Is theatre behind you?
I would say it’s behind me for now. I’m passionate about filmmaking in ways that I’m not about theatre. I love the alchemy of words, pictures and sound in film. How the moments of story you chase towards on set literally become light.
You’ve just been filming in the UK – how did it compare to the US?
I loved being back in London. It was immediately familiar and made for some lovely weekends catching up with family and old friends.
Where do you feel at home?
Anywhere I’m with those I love, preferably with a glass of something neat.
Finally, what else have you got coming up?
You mentioned A Silent Man which is released later this year, and I’m currently filming an adaption of Little Women with Emily Watson, Michael Gambon and Angela Lansbury.
Brady Lea at Stella Creative Artists