Morgan Watkins: "I am very constructively critical of myself"
Interview by Carl Marsh August 2015
a graduate of RADA I see, you must feel at home both on the stage and screen?
I guess I do. I think training is very important for stage acting, perhaps not so much as screen. But I think although drama schools are now spending more time on screen training, the vast majority of work we did there was probably orientated towards the stage. Fundamentally, I went there to study acting. Great acting is great acting, whether on screen or stage. I haven't done a play for over 2 years now and I really do miss it!
As a trained actor, and knowing how theatre and movie critics critique, how do you take criticism?
Well... It's difficult. It doesn't feel nice if someone says something negative about you in general. We are all open to criticism and we probably should be humble enough to accept our flaws at times. Artistically, you put yourself out there, and it will feel great if someone says wonderful stuff about you, but equally upsetting if they say something nasty. You want to hug them or hit them usually, but people are entitled to their own opinion. I am very constructively critical of myself as a person and as an actor, so there is not much you could say either way that some part of me will not agree with. We all want to be loved and fear rejection, so it combines those key desires and affects you either way. I try to take it all, good or bad with a pinch of salt. Or you can just ignore it, ignorance is bliss.
What does it take to become a successful actor like yourself, especially as there must be so much competition out there now, both professionally trained and untrained?
Yeah, you get fantastic trained actors and lots of great actors who haven't trained, it varies, the competition is tough and people keep raising their standards. I think it takes complete commitment to the craft. You have to believe in yourself and work hard. You have to think about what you offer the industry. Some people just want to be 'actors' and don't really care for the craft. They don't think artistically about what it is they are doing. The characters, the script, the psychological framework of the piece and the characters in it, how to work with other actors. For me if you place your dedication in the right places you will get rewards. You have to be willing to suffer overwhelming and constant rejection. There is also a sinister side of 'who you know' kind of industry that goes on. And 'get yourself in the right parties', or 'be born in the right family' ... some people see that as part of the industry, it's not a side of it I like. You can spend time getting bitter about the politics of the industry, but you are better off working on your craft and trying to be kind and professional. Also training can help, it grounds you in 3 years of solid physical, technical and psychological training and allows you a pathway into the industry with agents seeing your showcases in the final year.
I sense that you enjoy doing interviews so that we can find out about the real you, is there anything you hate being asked though?
I like discussing stuff. Trying to be yourself and ignore the overwhelming desire to make yourself sound perfect. Nothing I hate being asked really. Not as of yet!
So tell me then, what do you love to be asked?
I love to be asked why I'm so bloody brilliant and incredibly talented. That makes me feel good! Why didn't you start your interview like that?! Eh?!! Eh!?
What’s on the horizon for you in the next year or so?
I have a few films coming out. I'm very excited about Chicken, which is on the festival circuit at the moment, I hope people get to see it. I'm also in Suffragette which is coming out in October, a great film to be part of, with some outstanding talent to work with and learn from. I also have a thing on ITV with John Hurt in November in which I play Siegfried Sassoon. I'm currently writing a film which I am very excited about... and auditioning, so we shall see!
My sole aim, as you know, is to inspire more to read and I know reading is very important to you, why though, what do you get from reading?
Reading is incredibly important to me. It is food for the mind! I compare it to how you feel after physical exercise. That rush of fitness and well being you have. That energy and nourishment you feel. You get the same kind of thing after reading, but in your brain! You've put that pink blob through a rigorous work out and it thanks you for it. Knowledge is power too, and I think great knowledge does come from reading. I didn't read too much as a teenager, but when I got to RADA there were lots of people there who had been to Oxford and Cambridge and I felt intimidated by all the words and names they would say. It spurred me on to read for myself and learn more. I must admit though that I am a big non-fiction reader, although certain novels have been the greatest experiences I've ever had.
Why should other people read more?
I think my answer above kind of covers this. It's food for the mind. It truly builds your mental capacity and imagination. It is a source of knowledge, and knowledge is true power.
Have any authors/books stood out for you?
My favourite novel is Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, I went through everything in that book, I laughed, I cried, I was arroused [sexy stuff at the beginning, try not to read on a bus!], it made me question humanity right to our very core. I have lots of political books and historical books, and I love reading books to learn about different times in history, or political and ideological perspectives.
Do you still re-read any of the classics that you may have read?
I'm not a big re-reader or re-watcher I'm afraid.
With any of the characters you have portrayed on the screen, have any of them come close to being the real you?
No. I don't play myself. I use myself, but I don't know who I am in a script. I tend to make choices and go to the character. Not the way all actors work, but it is the way I work. I'm always changing and evolving though.
What makes you sad?
Climate Change and our lack of response to it. Our childlike ignorance of it. Economic greed and lack of collective love and cohesion with nature and each other.
Dare I ask what really makes you angry then?
THE ABOVE! Ermmmm... I don't like rudeness. I admire consistency. Be nice to one and all. But don't kiss a few people's arses and then treat anyone you falsely perceive as 'below' you with disdain.
You must have plenty of tales you can tell me that have happened to you on a set or a stage?
Lots I guess. Actors love nothing more than sharing anecdotes from their work experiences. I shared a bottle of whisky with Brendan Gleeson in his trailer after a film, which was a career highlight for me. He gave me lots of brilliant bits of advice and it was a great pleasure to work and learn with him.
When growing up, what sort of youngster were you, and was acting what you always wanted to do?
I was an energetic youngster, very sporty, competitive and emotional. Probably quite difficult. Adolescence was tough and I was a very late developer in puberty. I'm the middle of 4 brothers, so I'm probably a typical middle child in many ways. Acting was what I was good at, but I was obsessed with football and wanted to play for Liverpool. When I was 15 I had a brilliant drama teacher who turned my head to acting and I realised it was a profession. So from then on that was it, I realised I wasn't good enough at football and I was going to dedicate myself to acting.
Last question, if you were an animal, what would it be and why?
Ooooh.... I love animals. I've just been pondering it and I think I'm gonna say a Huge Mountain Eagle. That way I can fly, fuck birds and eat what I want!