Q&A: Josh O’Connor at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival

WHERE? BFI & Radio Times Television Festival

WHEN? 13/4/19 The Durrells airs on ITV at 8pm on Sundays, finishing 12/5/19

Josh O’Connor plays Prince Charles in the next series of Netflix’s The Crown and if he met the royal he would want to compare ear stories.

  • Read on for reasons including what happened when O’Connor auditioned for the film version of Les Miserables

‘I don’t think I’d be worried,’ he tells the audience at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival in London, ‘I’m sure it would be lovely but I’d definitely want to know how it’s been for him having those ears. For me, it’s been great.’

O’Connor has much to be thankful for not least playing opposite stars he’d grown up with including Olivia Colman, Charles Dance and Tobias Menzies. ‘I got to test stuff out and it felt so safe. It was really exciting and was like a playground for a young actor.’

He researched Prince Charles but commends writer Peter Morgan for his skill in taking the viewer behind closed doors to shed new light on characters they are already familiar with.

O’Connor started work in film in 2011 and won the Empire Award for Best Male Newcomer for God’s Own Country, which won our monsta for Best Film in 2017. He played Johnny Saxby, a Yorkshire farmer saved from binge drinking and random sexual encounters by the Romanian migrant worker he falls in love with.

‘This was a character who had a fairly bleak existence although he wouldn’t think of it like that. You just feel like shouting at him to pull himself together. Hope and forgiveness is something my real life dad is big on and it’s important for me and that’s what I think the film’s about.’

Asked about accents, he says: ‘I find some accents really hard. I don’t think I’ll ever play someone from Newcastle.’

O’Connor starred this year as Marius in BBC1’s non-musical version of Les Miserables, again with Oscar winner Colman, and it was a role he 1st auditioned for in the 2012 film shortly after he left drama school. ‘I had to sing and halfway through I thought there are a couple of actors who might be better.’

He praises screenwriter Andrew Davies for delving deep within the original novel and finding the heart of the material, recognising the Brexit comparisons the story draws.

The 6-episode series 4 of The Durrells is currently showing on Sunday nights on ITV and finishes 12/5. Says O’Connor: ‘I never really knew if people would take to it but I definitely had a good feeling about it.’

His next film is titled Only You and is out in July. It is about a couple who meet on New Year’s Eve, start a relationship but have problems conceiving. O’Connor is currently shooting Emma based on the Jane Austen novel directed by Autumn de Wilde and opposite Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy and Miranda Hart.

On the stage, he has appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company in The Shoemaker’s Holiday (2015) and Oppenheimer( 2015), at the Donmar Warehouse in Versailles (2014) and at Southwark Playhouse in Farragut North (2013).

O’Connor hasn’t trodden the boards then since 2015 but he’s keen to return to them: ‘I’d definitely come back and do some stage work. It’s not a conscious decision not to. It’s just worked out that way. I’d love to do some plays. Hopefully I will although I’ve nothing planned at the moment.’

O’Connor says he can still do normal things: ‘I can still go to the pub and I still do.’ The next series of The Crown, due to air on Netflix before the end of the year, just might change all that.

  • Picture by Neil Durham courtesy BFI. Tickets for events like these
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