Profile: Jack O’Connell, rising star of Starred Up
- Emma Simmonds
- 13 March 2014
The actor can also be spotted in Skins, '71 and 300: Rise of an Empire
1990, Derby, UK
O'Connell grew up with ambitions to be a footballer, completing trials with Derby County as a teenager. He later turned to acting, with roles in Doctors and The Bill followed by film work, including This is England, Eden Lake and Harry Brown. He's best known for playing James Cook in TV's Skins.
What's he up to now?
O'Connell takes the lead in Starred Up – the story of Eric Love, a volatile 19-year-old transferred to an adult prison where he's reunited with his estranged father (played by Ben Mendelsohn).
On working with director David Mackenzie
'David's approach was sympathetic and in rehearsals he encouraged me to add complexity to a character who might normally be written-off. I wanted to justify how Eric behaves, to show how he's a product of his environment and give him a level of maturity because I think it helps us empathise with him. I wanted to show him as a boy trying to be a man – in some cases succeeding and in some cases not succeeding.'
On understanding Eric
'The part of the world I come from isn't so different from Eric’s. I've known similar figures and have this understanding of what it's like to find yourself behind bars, though thankfully I've never served any custodial sentences.'
On going a bit method
'I had this process prior to recording where I'd swan about just like Eric. It's all about keeping the character nearby.'
On co-star Ben Mendelsohn
'He's an amusing character and was really supportive and quite paternal with me and I'd find myself craving that. Although I knew who he was, I hadn't seen his work, so benefitted from just seeing him as a father figure.'
His grandfather, Ken Gutteridge, was a professional footballer and manager.
Starred Up is on general release from Fri 21 Mar.