You can’t tell from his youthful face, but Jack O’Connell is a veteran. The Darby native has honed his talents on television and screen for over a decade, and it shows. From humble beginnings on cult favorites like Skins to big-budget period pieces written by the Coen Brothers, Jack has proven himself to be a capable actor, regardless of the demands. Jack O’Connell meanders about his past with The Laterals and provides insight on two feature films due out this year.
Tell us a little bit about Derby, and what it was like to grow up there?
Darby is a lovely, humble place. It's not big, there's not many people. It's about 300,000, but what I like the most about Darby is the people. I find the people to be very grounded, incredibly funny, just a lot of characters. And, just great to be around, so Darby is about good people.
What motivated you to turn to acting?
I guess I was lucky because it was the school I was going to. They tend to prioritize the arts, and drama was a course. I was quite fortunate because I didn't go to a drama school. Our Catholic school actually made drama compulsory, which was rare, and probably even more rare these days.
You have a rich history in television with roles in Skins, The Runaway, and more recently Godless. What are some of the differences in production and preparation you have experienced within that span of time? Moreover, what was it like acting in Skins compared to appearing in Godless.
I don't tend to compare the shows. It's hard to compare because they are always such different shows, and different times of my life. They use better cameras, but that has a lot to do with the budget and a lot of other factors.
Unbroken was a terrific film, and a lot of the scenes in that movie seemed natural to you. Was that because of the script, your experience, or the talent you were with?
What helped me a lot was meeting Louis, the prisoner of war turned Olympian. While talking with him I felt that I had his blessing, and I was able to envision the younger version of him. I mean, I met him when he was 96, so speaking to him gave me a chance to understand what he was like in his youth. I got to know his family a little bit too, and I felt like I got their blessing. Meeting Louis and his family contributed immensely to my confidence in the role.
What was it like to go from television to a big-budget movie such as Unbroken, with a script written by the Coen Brothers, and produced and directed by Angelina Jolie?
I may had two or three big budget experiences that might have helped me comprehend the enormity. I did 300, and that was a big budget with a big crew. It was a really ambitious piece, so Unbroken didn't feel totally alien to me. But, there was definitely a newness. We were on such a massive, not to mention expensive, filmset.
What are some differences between budget pics and blockbusters?
It is definitely another style. Typically, I like the low-budgets because it's like a trial by fire. It allows me to take risks, and often the cinematography is governed by the action. Whereas a big budget like Unbroken has a very detailed storyboard, so a lot of the shots are predetermined even before the actors film. So, acting for a big-budget is like learning a new discipline.
You follow up Unbroken with a couple of movies, and then you’re in Money Monster with George Clooney. Did you know anything about stocks and trading before the film?
Nah, and I still don't.
Godless has been very well received, and again we see you in a period piece. This time it is the western frontier and you are an outlaw running away from your boss. What parts of this series were exciting and fun for you as an actor?
I loved the horse riding. I liked all of the quintessential cowboy stuff, like the gun-wrangling, the horse riding, and there was just a lot of fun to be had on the set. The set was all custom built and it was all heavily detailed. We had full and complete buildings and not just facades. There were times where I felt like I was walking the wild west. Maybe a small village or main street. So it was very fun, and great for my imagination.
In 2019 you have a couple of flicks and in Against All Enemies you get a birdeye’s view of the FBI in the sixties. What are some things that you learned from this picture?
I got an idea of the things the FBI can get into. Particularly interesting were the gadgets they had access to during that time. They had a lot of technology for the sort of espionage they were doing. In fact we were shooting in LA and it was fun to do go through the training there.
Besides Against All Enemies you start in Jungleland opposite another British export, Charlie Hunnam. The film has you as a boxer. What sort of training did you have to endure?
Just keep up with the boxing, which was something that I enjoy doing in my own time. I like boxing for fitness, but for this I was knuckling down. I tried looking good for the camera, but would be useless in the ring against the real dudes. I learned that it is one thing looking the part, and another actually walking the walk.
If 2019 is any indication you have become a very busy man. What are some ways you unwind and relax?
I really like to keep busy. And that might mean reading material, watching stuff, or following actors I appreciate. I also like to detach myself completely and travel.
With films across the pond and in the US, where do you call home now?
Probably London. Darby is where I am from, and that will always be a home. But, for now I reside in London.