The actor talks his new film County Lines and the conversations he hopes the film with start.
Conrad Khan is living a double life. After a gap year, he has started a university degree in film studies, while also staying committed to acting — and his role in Henry Blake’s new drama County Lines could very well be his breakout.
Khan plays Tyler, a teenager groomed into a criminal network, and his compelling performance shows wisdom beyond his years. Indeed, although this is his first starring role, the 20-year-old has been making his name known as one to watch in the industry, from appearances as the young Eric (Chris Hemsworth) in The Huntsman: Winter’s War, to Netflix’s hit Black Mirror.
Ahead of the release of County Lines, in cinemas and streaming digitally from 4th December, Khan sat down to discuss his approach to his character, navigating difficult scenes, and the conversations he hopes the film will start.
Check out the interview below…
Were you familiar with the real-life stories that inspired County Lines?
I knew about county lines, but mainly as a phenomenon through rap music, particularly a genre called drill. All these rappers kind of flaunt their county lines, and they glamorise it to a great extent, which is kind of horrible. And I think this film was an opportunity to show the other side of what teenagers usually know about county lines. I don’t think the really terrible side of it is known.
Were there any aspects of your character that you related to personally?
I think there are a few emotional links that everyone has if you’re playing a good character. For example, I think struggling with school, or loneliness, or wanting to have some sense of place — those were things that I could draw on for the character. But in terms of really building up who Tyler was, it was very important that I had Henry [Blake] there to really inform the character in ways that I couldn’t.
What is it like to film scenes with such dark and serious elements to them?
There were a lot of really difficult things to pursue. I think even a full-grown adult would have found what we did on set difficult. For example, the fight scenes were really tough to shoot and there were scenes when I had to be exposed, completely naked, in front of the camera, which is something I’ve never done before. But the crew on set were really my rock, in particular the hair and makeup department. Over the intensive month that we spent filming, I found it so helpful to have people who were so kind and caring on set. So when I finished filming, I could go and just gab with these people and just chat. Something Henry said to me to kind of combat the challenges was that this is just a story. It’s a film and I’m an actor and it’s my job, but there are people who are going through exactly what I’m acting in real life and they don’t get a ‘cut’. They don’t get to go home at the end of the day to a warm house. So I always had that in the back of my mind.
Is there anything that the film deals with that you think people should be more aware of?
I wasn’t totally aware about these Pupil Referral Units and how hostile they can be as an environment for young people. That’s something I wasn’t really aware of before, and after having made the film, I think that’s an issue that needs more thought. There are so many kids in London today who are vulnerable and I think something needs to be done. This film is not going to do that, but hopefully, it might open a door to a conversation or might change people’s perceptions.
County Lines is released in cinemas and digitally on BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema on 4 December.