1883 Magazine

Although he is best known for his role in BBC’s Dickensian, Oliver Coopersmith is not one to be typecast. At 21, he has already lent his talents to both theatre and film starring alongside some household names- playing a variety of roles. His latest Sky Atlantic project, Tin Star, does not disappoint; it has seen him take on the role of a gritty and complex character. Coopersmith may play an uptight character well, however he is anything but. Instead, the real Oliver is relaxed and charismatic.

It is amazing to see how much Oliver has achieved, but whilst his career is taking him to great heights, his feet are well and truly on the ground.

How did you get into acting?

When I was about twelve, I did a play at the Donmar Warehouse called the Cryptogram, which was a three-hander with Kim Cattrall and Douglas Henshall and that was the first job I did. I went to a local drama school and they were linked with an agency, that audition came through and I got the job so my first job was theatre and I was lucky enough to keep going alongside school. I did my GCSE’s and A levels and the school would let me take time off whenever a play came up. I mainly did theatre and that’s how I got into it!

I’ve been to the Donmar myself, it’s such a different theatre because there is no real stage the audience are part of the play itself…

Yeah I know it’s very close and a very intimate theatre but I think that that appeals to a lot of actors. They get so many amazing actors at the Donmar and I think it’s because the audience is small and contained and its right there. It’s a special theatre.

What made you transition from theatre to TV?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision really; any auditions that came through I would go for them. I just wanted to keep working! I didn’t do telly until I was 17 or 18, a show called Grandma’s House, the difference was massive to me. They are the same job but difference in style or the technique is massive. I’d go into TV auditions giving a theatre performance- just way too loud and way too big. It took me a long time to adjust to the screen and once you do that, you can understand the rules. But yeah, it did take me a while to try and get on the wavelength of a TV Director.

Talking about techniques, what skills have you picked up along the way? What comes naturally to you and what is taught?

Interesting! When you’re acting as a kid you don’t actively learn, you’re picking stuff up for subconsciously, you’re a sponge. I think a lot of the things that seem to come naturally to me now are probably because I was doing it when I was young. But the thing is now, being older and being more conscious, you do actively learn. You go, ok I need to learn this about the character and learn that about the character and you start to bring all those things in so I think main thing is just working a bit harder when you’re older. You know there’s a lot more to it and your eyes are open to a lot more stuff so that has been a big change.

Do you feel more conscious then as an adult about the roles you accept and the preparation that then comes with it?

Yes, definitely and actually overall. I think I was a much better actor as a kid because you don’t have any inhibitions. You don’t think about it, you just do it and it is as pure as it can be. When you grow up, when you’re 17, 18 and there’s stuff going on in school and there’s girls involved you start to over think things and you become quite self-conscious so you have to lose that again in order to get closer to what you were as a kid. It’s a weird thing!

You’re best known for your role in Dickensian, how did you get that role?

I think I did a tape for Dickensian, a sales tape came through, I read the script and thought it was such a great idea, getting all of these Dickens’ characters in one universe, one coherent world and then did a tape. Actually there was a scene where I had to build a snowman for Martha Cratchit, the girl I love, obviously when you are doing a tape you don’t have fresh snow to hand, so from a piece of paper, I made a daisy chain of snowmen and then revealed that at the end of the tape! I mentioned it to the director and I think it might have been one of the reasons I got the job! I was like yeah that was such a good idea, I’m glad I did the snow men! 

You went back to your primary school days then?

Yeah that’s exactly it, well there was actually a scene where we ended up cutting up snowflakes out of paper with the younger kids, it was great.

You made that scene…

I’m not saying they included that scene because of me, but they put it in because of me, come on!

Tin Star is doing so well, it’s everywhere at the minute and you have a role, can you explain the show and your character?

Tin Star is a revenge thriller basically. A British police chief moves from England to Canada for a bit of a quiet life, a peaceful future with is family. His past catches up with him and an event happens in the first episode which spurs the remaining nine. It becomes about Tim Roth’s character’s want for revenge and my character’s want for revenge. I play a guy called Whitey Brown, who is kind of a weirdo! A bit of a psychopath at first and he’s very aggressive and wired, has one purpose and a plan, but when that doesn’t come off and things happen to him which he doesn’t expect; he becomes this vulnerable lost child. It’s been a good role to get my teeth into to be fair, it’s difficult but everyone seems pleased with it so overall, I think we’re all happy.

You don’t strike me as a psychopath…

You don’t know! Do you know what my nan said to me when I got the job? I said I’m playing a bit of a psychopath nan, and she went oh well, you’ve got the face for it!

Is your nan trying to tell us something?

I don’t know! Maybe my nan’s seen too many sides to me! It was very funny!

How did you get into that head space, how did you relate to this character?

Do you know what, it sounds really weird to be like, there was something about this character that made sense to me because he is a psychopath and he did kill a 4-year-old boy in the first episode. I don’t know what made me understand this character, but for some reason I just sort of got to grips with it. I think it’s a testament to the writing, Rowan Joffe, has written such a good script that it was just all there on the page. I also had to do a bit of training for it, they got me a personal trainer and I had to be strict with my diet and be really lean and as a consequence that made me a bit of an arsehole! I was just wasn’t a very nice guy because I had to cut out sugar and chocolate.

Were you hangry?

Yeah, honestly I was the worst, when I’m hungry I’m horrible! So it kind of helped, I was angry and frustrated at everyone that it fed into my weird character. Bit dangerous really but it worked out in the end!

So what is next for you?

What is next, do you know, I don’t really know. That is what I love about this job, you don’t really know what is round the corner. I mean it can be really depressing when you sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring thinking, oh God I haven’t worked in a while, but actually part of it is that something amazing could be around the corner. You just have to be hopeful! So yeah, I’m just kind of enjoying myself doing the publicity for Tin Star and then hopefully, something in the near future will come up for me.

With your down time what do you like to do?

I play a lot of football! I played for a team in Essex so I go back to Essex every Saturday, I play in an eleven a side and I play in a five aside team on a Monday.

Do you win?

Not always! Although I scored the most unbelievable goal last weekend, I’m not even ashamed to say it. Best goal I’ve ever scored! So yeah that’s what I do, sometimes I read plays because I didn’t go to drama school, I’m trying to actively learn again and educate myself. I just like to keep busy seeing my mates, going to visit my family, all that sort of stuff!

Right, amazing actor, scored the best goal of your life last week, 30 seconds… three fun facts about yourself?

That’s actually really tough isn’t it! I can do a good handstand and I’ve got one kidney smaller than the other.

How did you find out about that?

Well it was a problem when I was a kid as a consequence of it one is much smaller than the other but I mean, they still work! I’m fully fit and whatever but one is smaller than the other, I’ve actually seen a scan of it! Looks really weird on a scan! Third fun fact, I don’t know if I can think of one.

I’ll save you from this task then, what would you be doing if you weren’t acting?

Good question, I think I’d be doing something, I mean if I was good enough I’d probably be a football player; I’m not good enough. Something to do with people or … no actually I tell you what I would like to have done, something athletic and be the best at something. That’s what I would have wanted to do, dedicate my life to gymnastics or something like that.

Dedicate yourself to being permanently hangry?

Yeah, exactly. Actually that probably wouldn’t be a good thing because if I was an athlete I’d have to eat well all the time and would just be hangry all the time!

Oliver Coopersmith can be seen on ‘Tin Star’ every Thursday at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.

Interview Hannah Shin

Photography Yoshi Kono

Styling Tamara Borodaneva

Grooming Evan Huang

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