November 1-3, 2019
It was the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick that inspired a young Toby Stephens (Black Sails, Lost in Space) to embark on a career in acting.
“It seemed at the time there was a lot more films on TV – classic movies – and I grew up watching all of the classic movies,” Stephens told our Supanova TV host, Bec, while in Melbourne.
“I loved movies and I loved movie stars.”
After graduating from drama school, Stephens cut his teeth as an actor in theatre, to give him “the best grounding in the profession”.
From there, he found himself doing dramas at home on the BBC, utilising what he’d learnt while studying, and onstage for his various onscreen roles.
“[Transitioning’s] not that hard if you know what the dynamics are – I learnt quite quickly,” he said.
“It’s not hard because if you are an actor, you should be able to do all kinds of different things, and that’s the kind of actor I wanted to be. I didn’t want to just be a movie star, because movie stars are wonderful and fantastic, but they only play themselves, just in a different formulation of character.
“In one film, Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western will be a cowboy and in another one, he’s a single dad, but it’s always Clint Eastwood – you’re never going to see Clint Eastwood play anything other than himself. I didn’t want to be one of those sorts of actors because I’d become bored of playing the same thing.”
“People often say to me, ‘You have such a varied career – goodies, baddies, comedies,’ and I go, ‘That’s what acting is all about for me.’”
He took that mentality to his role as Captain James Flint in Black Sails.
“In Black Sails and other things, I’ve had to do various forms of fighting,” he said.
“I’m not a particularly aggressive or violent person but I’ve had to pick up all kind of different forms of fighting, whether it’s fencing or bare-knuckle stuff or martial arts.
“I remember doing an Indian-British co-production and I had to learn speeches in Hindi. I had no idea how to speak Hindi, but I had to learn them phonetically.
“You’re always picking up stuff and that’s one of the best things about the job; you’re constantly in new situations, working with new people, working with new characters in a different style of writing, learning different skills.”
Keep an eye out for the full Toby Stephens Supanova TV episode
Lead image by Steven Yee