Robert Lonsdale’s career has taken quite a trajectory from his first ever acting role on the cobbles. Yes, Robert played car salesman Dan Staveley in Coronation Street back in 2002. “I was appalled by my performance,” he guffaws. “The hardest part of the job is watching yourself. I look back at that now and think, well I’ve learned something.” Well, he certainly has.
Speaking exclusively to SquareEyed.tv, the actor and musician comes across as smart, affable and determined. The 32-year-old from Huddersfield trod the boards with Mark Rylance and Joanna Lumley in La Bete, sang his heart as Private Prewitt in musical From Here to Eternity and most recently, stars alongside O-T Fagbenie and Trevor Eve in new BBC One drama The Interceptor.
The eight-part series is about a state-of-the-art law enforcement team whose unswerving mission is to hunt down some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals. The Interceptor delves into the adventures of a dedicated surveillance team known as the UNIT.
“It’s incredibly immersive,” he enthuses. “There is action but it’s also about conflicts in relationships”. Robert will play Tommy, a live wire who lives for the adrenaline of the job. He’s also dedicated Custom Officer Ash’s (Fagbenie) best mate. The pair are very close and it’s this relationship that sees Robert’s character get recruited to the UNIT after Tommy is involved in a scraper. Tommy loves the fun of Customs work, the physical side of the hunt but worries less about the big picture.
“He’s not just a maverick though,” Robert points out, “he does miss the action from the field but he needs to reconfigure his approach to work. He needs to use a different part of his personality, it’s like a personal renaissance for him, more cerebral, more practical, he just needs to grow up.
“He finds another way of getting the adrenaline rush from the investigative process and this in itself proves to be one of his strengths.”
Has he anything in common with Tommy?
“Yes, I’ve watched all the cop shows. I love being part of the action. Especially with the stunts, you get the same thrills as your character.
“You don’t get to do as much as you’d like because of insurance but it really is an art form. The stunt men are masters of so many disciplines. It’s important that you don’t go overboard. I’ve ended up with bruises up and down my back.
Anything more serious?
“I’ve been knocked out before during a performance of Twelfth Knight”.
Has he injured anyone else by mistake?
“Yes, during another performance, I’ve split an actor’s lips with a gun”. He was acting… of course.
Tony Saint, who wrote The Interceptor, says: “the underworld inhabits the same world as the rest of us”. Has working on this kind of show changed his perceptions of the real people who do this job?
“There are implications of… being so involved. It’s a labour, a passion. These are real people, they can’t tell anyone about what they do. They just have this hunger for justice.”
So what makes The Interceptor different from other crime shows?
“It’s original in a groundbreaking way, it’s action-packed, thrilling and engaging,” Lonsdale continues. “The way it’s shot as well, it’s done in a seventies style but still has a contemporary feeling to it.
“There are fantastic actors both young and old and great guest stars too.” And who did he enjoy working the most with? “O-T definitely. It’s pivotal to forge friendships on set, artificial or otherwise as it can get quite claustrophobic.”
Does working on such a frenetic set change you?
“Good question, everyone has a different outlook. You definitely become more patient, more relaxed. You learn from the older actors”.
Is there any actor from the industry you admire? “Will Smith is incredibly adept, he’s relaxed, it’s very evident”.
The modest actor (yet another one of his attributes) quips that “every job is a pleasant surprise”. “As long as I can pay the rent I’m happy. It’s not that I don’t have aspirations, you just have a more practical way of doing things. You just be more cautious.
“Drama school teaches you a mentality. I used to be a bit green about the gills. Being an out of work actor is a 9-5 job, it’s easy to languish.
“Some of the best actors I know have given up because of the harrowing lifestyle”.
Has he always wanted to be an actor?
“As far back as I can remember. I grew up on a farm, my mum wanted me to be a vet, so it’d be cheaper to treat the animals”, he laughs. “But then I joined a local amateur group, I was precocious, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
“I like being a chameleon. I really admire Joaquin Phoenix, he has such versatility. If you’re not doing something that scares you, you’re not growing”.
So a long-running role on Corrie is out then?
“I wouldn’t want to become synonymous with a character. I mean, there are some actors who have done that really well like Steve Coogan, but I’m always mindful of the roles I do.”
One of his favourite roles to date was working with Mark Rylance on La Bete, a Moliere-inspired story, set in 17th century France. “It was a fantastic job”.
Two years ago, Robert played a Geordie with a stammer in Brilliant Adventures. “Emulating a stammer was exhausting, it gave me a bad back. It definitely gave me a new understanding of what it’s like to stammer. I’ve very proud of that performance”.
Which character, alive or dead would he most like to play?
“Iago, it would be an amazing role, a huge challenge”, and who would play him in a film about his life? “Em, I’ve been told I look like Macaulay Culkin so I’ll go with him!”.
Robert wants to continue doing roles which stretch him. “If you’re not gathering tools you’re not learning. I’m in a position now where I might have to say no to certain stuff. I want to keep growing.”
If he wasn’t acting, what would he be doing?
“Something in the public domain, like what David Attenborough does. Something that involves travel. I was at the Zoo today actually… yeah I’d be a natural history presenter”.
Does he still dabble in a bit of singing and strumming?
“It’s more of a hobby but I love singing. But acting and singing? It’s incredibly hard work. Working on a musical in incredibly difficult, you need to be an athlete. I’m actually singing in The Interceptors. In my first scenes I’m singing in a car! It’s a great tool to have.”
And now for the quick fire round…
Eat a Yorkie or go to the gym
Oh god, Yorkie! I’d need to work it off after though.
Favourite person on the planet
Erm… apart from my mum… Tom Rogerson
What is the last book you read?
Someone to Watch Over Me
What’s the first thing you’d do if you woke up the only survivor of an apocalypse?
Oh god… I don’t know… cry! Find a vending machine! No, I’d ring Tom..
If you could answer only one more email, who would it be from?
Em… this is a hard one, my mum can’t email so not her… so my cat! It’s called Monty, it’s very naughty, but incredibly charming.
Wine or beer or both?
Sweet or savoury?
Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?
One of my nerdy friends would know this… Spiderman!
What would your superhero power be?
Flying, it would be useful for so many things.
Where would you go in a time machine?
Can I go into the future? 200 years in the future, I know it’s a bit obscure but I don’t think we’ll still be around.
Describe yourself in three words.
Greedy, lazy, content.
Well, we’d describe you as awesome Robert! Catch Robert in The Interceptor Wednesday night on BBC One at 9pm.