Emun Elliott has made a name for himself as the gravelly voiced, dashingly dishevelled lothario of some of the most innovative and unorthodox projects in television and cinema. One of his most recognisable roles is the intriguingly damaged, sole male character in daring lesbian drama Lip Service, along with a softer but equally unusual stint in BBC sitcom Threesome.
Now, with parts in the shield-shatteringly successful Game of Thrones and the cosmically massive Prometheus, he’s swashbuckling, smirking and snogging his way to the top in a string of increasingly adventurous and challenging roles.
1883 met him in a dusky pub near West London’s Little Venice district, where we sipped strong coffee and talked blood, sweat and spaceships.
What got you interested in acting?
I think it was English, reading and books. I went to university to do English Literature and French. I got involved in plays and things like that, but never really saw it as a full time profession. I realised though that I could do whatever I wanted to do – I didn’t have to go to university and follow the yellow brick road. I just wanted to do something that made me happy. So I packed uni in after a year, went to drama school, got an agent and started working.
What was it like working on something as vast as Prometheus?
Well when you get over the staggering part of being offered the job, you know you’re going to be working with Ridley Scott and that’s the first thing you have to overcome. Things like this can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you let it get on top of you, it could ruin you. Being daunted by a person, or a type of film, or a budget can be a hindrance, so you have to savour these moments when they come along. When I got offered the job it took a bit of time just to get my breathing back.
What’s the best set you’ve ever worked on?
It has to be Prometheus! I don’t think I’ll ever be somewhere that bizarre again in my life. On that set you really are on another planet, or in a spaceship, or wearing a spacesuit. When you walk onto the sets, there’s actually not a huge amount of green screen being used, a lot of it has just been built. It’s got Ridley Scott written all over, and that’s what he’s good at, creating worlds.
Do you actively seek out controversial roles?
I’d be lying to say I wasn’t drawn to interesting characters, I’m sure every actor is. But it’s just what comes along to be honest. A mistake you can make as an actor is trying to carve out a career for yourself. Really what you should do is make the best of what comes along.
Your character Jay in Lip Service is really interesting…
It was a great script, I’ve never read anything like that before. Jay certainly has a bit of edge to him, which is always exciting to play. Essentially what I was employed to do was go on set everyday and create as much mischief and trouble as possible, so he was a lot of fun to play.
What do you have coming up in the future?
A film called Filth, based on the Irvine Welsh novel, which will probably be out in 2013 at some point. I’m working on a new BBC drama called Paradise. It’s set in 1875, so Victorian England. It’s a corrupt tale of capitalism and lust. It’s a sexy Victorian drama.
There’s also Labyrinth, a TV project I shot in Cape Town that’s being produced by Ridley Scott, which comes out in November this year. It’s a big sprawling epic tale, based on a novel by Kate Mosse - that’s the author not the model. I play a French chevalier called Guilhem du Mas. I basically go around just killing and making love to everything I see.
It’s definitely got a bit of edge. Lots of horseriding and swordfighting. Lots of blood and sweat.
Did you do your own stunts?
As much as they would let me, but for the really hardcore stuff they had to pull someone in.
Just to put you on the spot, what’s your favourite film?
One of my favourite films is The Talented Mr Ripley. You have to love Matt Damon’s character, but Jude Law puts on an amazing performance.
What’s the best thing about being an actor?
That’s a good question! As an actor it kind of feels like you can constantly step in and out of different personas, different lives and different worlds. I could go from being an astronaut, to a school teacher, to a junkie, to an Italian shoemaker in the space of a few months, and that’s the most exciting thing. That’s what keeps it fresh. It great for someone who enjoys change and variety. It helps me to remember that I’m alive.
Prometheus is out now and Labyrinth is set for release later this year.
Words by Dylan B Jones
Photography by Inga Liningaan Langkay