Jacket and shirt worn underneath LOUIS VUITTON, shirt CHRISTOPHER KANE, trousers COS
When I first ask where his passion for the stage came from, Morgan Watkins tells me he went to RADA with hopes of “finally meeting some girls doing acting!” Luckily, I soon discover the actor’s plans were much grander than the prospect of meeting someone. “All I wanted to do was to become a great actor!” he explains.
And so his search for greatness began at a young age: Watkins was the type of kid you’d see at every school show, enjoying every second of being someone else in a parallel universe for the duration of a play. As a 15-year-old, he recalls realising that “I wasn’t going to make it as a professional footballer and what I should do is be an actor because it’s what I’m good at”. He got into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where he learned about “all the famous actors, all the famous films”, and along the way, bagged roles in many plays, TV series’ and movies of all genres. From Terry’s volatile personality The Monkey to a gangster in the BBC’s The Hour, the multi-faceted Londoner loves exploring different characters, both on stage and screen.
“Sometimes you read the script and you find the voice of the character and relate to them instantly!” Other times he says, it takes some research, as with George Gissing, the character he embodied in this summer’s The Limehouse Golem. Here, Watkins dived into the 19th century novelist’s universe to better explore his character: “I was reading his diaries and letters every single day for a month”. Regardless of the centrality of the role, the actor was resolute in bringing “some part of him to life”. As such, Morgan describes a complex psychological process. “We’re multilayered creatures, psychologically. So I access some part of me that is like my character. And even if people wouldn’t think that you’re like that in real life there might be a part of you that is like that.” And that’s how you manage to play a villain and a writer, then an outcast, and also an MI5 officer.
Watkins’ quest for perfecting his craft is such that nothing is left to chance; beyond closely investigating a new character’s personality, a voice is what he truly hopes to find. “When I read a script I always think about what the character might sound like and I always try to find his voice,” he says. With the confidence of someone who knows the ropes of the profession, Morgan explains how technique – I’ll save you a lengthy description of different tongue moves – and a good lot of instinct will perfect an accent. Growing up in North London amongst different communities also helped the actor tells me, “in a sense, I grew up in a melting pot of accents”.
Today, Watkins recalls the amazement he felt on first seeing Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront as a teenager. “I just like characters that are well-rounded, multi-dimensional and that have something strange about them,” he notes. So what is the best advice you’ve ever been given personally, I ask. Received from many high class industry talents, the reply is “it feels like name-dropping,” though he will admit to Alan Rickman once telling him that “the camera loves actors that think,” hence pushing him to always be present and commit to the thoughts of the character.
In his wildest dreams, the London-born actor would work with Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Ken Loach…the list goes on. He’d learn French too he says, to be able to work with Jacques Audiard, the director behind award-winning films A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped. But for now, he’s just trying to get his next gig, “doing bits and bobs” bearing in mind not to “judge yourself too badly”. Modest sounding, Watkins has two films on the way currently – a “top-secret politically sensitive” one – as well as a music video, plus plans to write a film himself. Looking to the future, Morgan tells me, “I just want to keep growing as a human and expand my mind.”