KarenJeanne: The first thing people who have not seen your work before comment on is your versatility as an actor. Your range is displayed impressively on your showreel (CLICK HERE TO SEE). Can you explain what got you hooked on acting in the first place? Where and when did you first feel the attraction?
Bryan: I always try to choose work that challenges me and allows me to show a different side to a character with each role. But before I started acting, I had a void in my life for a couple of years. I had left body-building and didn’t know what I wanted to do vocationally. There was nothing I was passionate about. I thought of joining the police before turning to acting. Then I saw Robert De Niro in the movie Taxi Driver and it had such a powerful impact on me because I could relate to the principal theme of enduring loneliness. De Niro embodied Travis Bickle, a drifting soul searching for purpose with dreams of being Somebody, and that strikes a chord in all of us. He has the potential but lacks the outlet to make a difference. Man, that movie is responsible for changing my life...
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KJ: So that’s when you decided to explore acting as a vocation. Of course, no one becomes an actor overnight. What training have you had?
BL: I attended Langside College in Glasgow and studied theatre for three years learning Stanislavski’s method and then Meisner acting technique and briefly some acting for camera courses. I think it’s important to immerse yourself in all kinds of disciplines. To see what tools are there that can prepare you for your career. I acted in my own films, which was the foundation of my screen training. Making films became my own film school and helped me enormously as you can make mistakes there before you get out of the gates and into the big bad world. I never did join the police force, but I’ve run into them every now and again, even playing cops and villains alike. I’d much rather be playing cops than being one!
KJ: We are also glad you’re an actor and not a cop. [Laughter]
KJ: What is it about acting that draws you? What gives you joy? It's not an easy life--why do you do it?
BL: In the beginning, I sought out a local drama group. Took a few classes. From my first improvisation exercise I just knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was a euphoric moment. I finally had a voice, an outlet for all the pent up frustration, the emptiness. This might sound pretentious, but I felt an overwhelming sense of purpose to be a storyteller. It was all about channeling my creativity towards that. I have seen this hunger in young actors and it instantly takes me back to when I fell in love with being an actor myself. It's as alive in me today as it was back then.
KJ: You fell in love with acting—can you explain that?
BL: The best way I can explain it is to simply say that I see the world around me with great analytical detail and feel deeply about human beings. People make me curious. Their behavior, habits, lies, loves and hates, their secrets…and I want to know what makes them tick. What makes them kind or evil. Figuring all of that out is what I love. An individual might behave like this or that, you know? That's an infinite playground for an actor. It's a hard life, yes, but the rewards are so worth it.
KJ: It’s such a rush! I can relate to what you are saying about feeling alive when you are acting.
BL: I think some actors lose touch with that and they stop developing, stop risking, play it safe, and do what they trust themselves to do. What audiences expect from them.
KJ: Acting requires risk-taking. Playing it safe just kills the part of performance that makes the audience sit up and take notice.
BL: I don't personally know many actors today who surprise me. I can see most of them acting a mile off. When I feel myself going through the motions I hit a mental reset and try to remain present and hold onto the eyes of the other actor. It happens now and then when you are shaping a scene with another actor and the director is “adjusting” your performance.
KJ: I always ask this question when I meet an actor: Theatre or film—which would you stick with if you had to give one up?
BL: Well if it was down to simplicity I’d choose theatre for two reasons. Firstly, it’s where my love for performance was born. You can jump right into a live performance with a group of actors and do a play right now. Get it on its feet and open to an audience within a week. But film and TV are closer to real life. It’s a different discipline and I love that about it. It's closer to me. My instincts.
KJ: You've also made your own films. You write and direct. Let’s explore that experience a bit. Has filmmaking become a preference for you, or would you rather be acting?
BL: I started writing and making films because I was curious about what makes a memorable performance and because there was no formal film training available to me at drama school at the time. For the most part nobody taught me how to act on camera, so I had to do it myself--I had to teach myself. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I don’t think acting can be taught. Technique, yes-- but acting is about “being”. It’s about the mind, about behavior, and nobody can teach you how to feel. You have to draw it out, so to speak. Being a good actor requires many things, and I see the same qualities in the good ones. They understand human emotion. I learned this when I first directed actors. Directing is about finding the language that engages actors, inspires them. That grew into a passion for the entire filmmaking process. I don't think I'd have progressed the same way as an actor if I hadn't had that outlet.
KJ: So you adopted these additional roles for yourself just because you were curious?
BL: I am not one for waiting on the phone to ring. I hate procrastination. I hate laziness and idle hands. So making films has kept me busy and kept my passion alive while I have been out of work over the years. I also really like the process of working as an actor and director. You get to see everything.
KJ: True. The director has a bigger picture of the whole production. You’re also in on the whole filmmaking process.
BL: I think it's made me a more disciplined actor and given me a perspective a lot of actors don't have. Writing and directing have also taken me to places that have led to more acting work, so for that reason it's been great as well.
KJ: And along the way you’ve ended up with a long list of credits—all interesting characters (CLICK HERE TO SEE). Short fangirl moment here: I’ve really enjoyed watching you! Do you enjoy watching you? What previous work makes you most proud?
BL: I am proud of everything I have done. I don't spend any time in my own head thinking about how chuffed I am with achievements. I learned early on that it's not all about you. It's a collaborative process. I am proud to call myself a collaborator and a facilitator of someone else's vision. When I make my own films I try to give everybody an opportunity to do their best work. I take pride in that.
KJ: You are an extremely busy guy! That’s great because you want to be working. But what about the rest of your life? What do you do when you're not acting or working on a script or even just being creative?
BL: I try to keep my mind and body in balance. Without it I’d most likely be an emotional wreck! [Laughter] My friends and family mean more to me than anything and I’m lucky to have them in my life. I like to travel. I like to read and love to meet new people.
KJ: OK, your family--Let’s talk a bit about your background. You were born in Glasgow, Scotland; your mother was a midwife and your father worked as a police officer in the Royal Air Force. At a young age you started lifting weights and won several championships as a competitive junior Scottish bodybuilder (CLICK HERE TO SEE). You are a working-class guy. Acting school must have been a real leap. What troubles or difficulties do actors from your background face?
BL: There has been a decline in the opportunities for actors from less affluent backgrounds over the past decade. Actors who have trained at the top drama schools in London are becoming the obvious choice for work because they have a pedigree training and are generally regarded as better, more likely to succeed. And they deserve to be where they are. They have had the support from parents, grants, and other sources. But it has become such an over-populated profession. Many actors have been pushed out of the business. It's really killing careers. Some of the best actors I know have had to give up because they can't even get an agent or an audition nowadays.
KJ: So it’s become too financially draining to stay in the career?
BL: Only a handful of actors from my background can keep going, often taking two day jobs just to get by.
KJ: It’s the same in the US—takes a combination of luck and perseverance to make it. The stereotype of the starving actor isn’t all fiction. Many great young actors just give up.
BL: There are many reasons why actors leave the business. The competition is so tough nowadays. You really need to stand out and have a great agent/manager team behind you to get anywhere.
KJ: What’s the solution?
BL: I think the key is to build your own network of creatives and produce your own work. I'd like to see more actors taking some control of their careers and filling their free time making their own projects. Stage a play, make a film, be original, and just get yourself out there instead of complaining about what you have no control over. It's not an actor’s job to book a role. Bryan Cranston, who many people will know from the TV series Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle, put it beautifully. It's your responsibility to audition as best you can. It's someone else's job to decide if you get the job.
KJ: I’m going to switch gears a bit here at the end of our interview…You are working with a group of Outlander fans on a charity fundraiser for UNICEF, focused on helping children in violent and difficult circumstances. Why is this important to you?
BL: There is nothing more important to me than protecting the life of a human being exposed to any kind of violence or trauma. Especially innocent lives. I have been fortunate to have been able to mentor children who have been exposed to such traumatic events--children who have a lack of love or direction and who are crying out for a gesture of kindness and guidance. The actor David Hayman, who runs Spirit Aid in Scotland, is a role model. He's a humanitarian and a gifted actor. He embodies kindness, and he is one of the few people I know who genuinely cares and does something about it. In my own way, I hope to give something back and help even just one child. That would be enough for me
For more information about Bryan’s charity please watch for official announcements this week and check out #TheLarkinatorGivingBack and Larkinators.com for more information.
Facebook: Bryan Larkin
See his latest announcements on his website
Links to other work and profile here:
Reel (CLICK HERE)
UK Spotlight (CLICK HERE)
IMDb (CLICK HERE)