Known for his role of Junior Inspector in the popular mystery drama series Penny Dreadful, last year actor Jack Hickey appeared in Emmerdale playing Carly Hope’s ex-boyfriend Matt before leaving the show together. With the release of Mary Shelley in cinemas next week, Jack will be seen on screen playing Thomas Hogg, the friend of Douglas Booth’s character Percy Bysshe Shelley alongside Elle Fanning and Bel Powley. Meeting with Jack recently, we talk about his time on Penny Dreadful, starring in a major soap storyline and filming for the upcoming period-drama Mary Shelley.
You will be appearing as Thomas Hogg in Mary Shelley, which is heading to cinemas next week, is there anything you can tell us about the film?
Elle Fanning is playing Mary Shelley. Appreciating these things in the cinemas is one thing, but you know when you’re right in front of a performance it’s really great, and I think she does exceptionally well. It’s really small detailed work that she does to portray this character, she’s going to be wonderful. I haven’t seen the whole thing, I actually auditioned for the project a year before I heard back, I re-auditioned for a different part, so I had read the script ages ago. It’s a really great script, it’s a biopic essentially. It is the story of somebody, so miles ahead of their time, I think it will be quite impactful, so I’m really excited for it.
What was the first day on set like?
I don’t know why I’m focusing on this, but I did the audition with a big beard. I like to have a beard more often than not. For Penny Dreadful I had to shave all of that off for a teeny tiny moustache, so on the first day people just didn’t recognise me. They put mutton chops on my ears, they shaved the moustache, because obviously that looks a bit silly with that going on, so I looked completely different to what they expected the role to be, I think the first day was largely contending with that.
Was there anything that drew you to the role and where did you film?
Amy Hobbert was casting it and she’s quite a brilliant casting director. I mean, when she calls you in for a role, you do a little backflip and you scream and yell, and you go in and do it. The script is absolutely wonderful, I don’t know how much I really want to say in relation to this, but it’s quite a dark role, and when you go in for the audition and you get to do something like that, it kind of excites you. I was away in Spain shooting Penny Dreadful when I got the call and I was extremely excited about getting the role.
We filmed in Dublin. There’s a really wonderful thing about Ireland, we get some brilliant projects as so many amazing things are filmed in Ireland – Vikings, which I had a small part in, has been filming there for the best part of a decade now; Penny Dreadful, which I was a part of as well; and Game of Thrones, which I had a small role in, is just up the road. We’re a small country, we have no illusions of ourselves, and to be able to provide studios and crews and actors, to be able to provide these big American enterprises is pretty cool.
Did you know anything about Mary Shelley and Thomas Hogg before being cast?
No, well I’d obviously heard of Mary Shelley in relation of Frankenstein and stuff like that. I think Thomas Hogg is a fictional character, well I think he did exist, he was a friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley, that’s the relationship, I’m a friend of his. I certainly didn’t know anything about him because there’s not much about him to know, though he’s a writer in his own right. I didn’t know as much as I should have about her, I should have looked into it. It’s a fascinating story, and she’s a fascinating woman, I think that’s all explored in the movie to great effect.
How was it acting alongside the rest of the cast?
Really great, there are really great cast members. Elle Fanning – I think that speaks for itself, she’s great. Douglas Booth is a wonderful actor and Bel Powley is also wonderful. I didn’t have scenes with anybody else, it was either just me and Elle or the four of us. I was playing Douglas Booth’s old friend.
Last year, you joined the cast of Emmerdale as Matt, what was it like on set and how long were you filming for?
Great! I feel like nothing but immensely proud of the experience. The first day on Emmerdale was those two big emotional scenes, and that was extremely difficult, to be thrown in at the deep end like that… beautiful challenge in a lot of ways. I did know it was coming, so I definitely rolled my sleeves up and said, ok let’s get into it, I talked to Gemma (Atkinson) for approximately three seconds before we really kind of just started rolling.
We were filming for a surprisingly short period of time, so six, seven weeks. Life moves really fast on those shows. Your days are packed, it’s really quite hard work, which I suppose wouldn’t surprise anybody. It is really hard and you’re getting scene amendments the night before, and you’re going right in with new material.
How different did you find it to your previous roles?
I did two seasons of Penny Dreadful which is set in the 1890s, so I spent all that time fighting vampires etc, so I did that for a long period of time. I’ve had small parts in Vikings and Game of Thrones and things like that so I mean it was the first time I really got to do something a little closer to me which was interesting… something modern. I played a lot of characters that you really have to step into a world, Emmerdale was something where actually I felt I could bring a lot of myself into.
What was the response like to Matt’s involvement in the Carly and Marlon storyline?
Funny… really funny! I didn’t expect any of that. People get so attached to these characters, so different to everything else, the amount of emotional engagement from its audience is like nothing else. I was on Twitter, that was great fun, I was curious, haha! Some people hate you, some people love you. Some funny things I got called, there was one guy that said I looked like two short guys standing on each other’s shoulders with a fake beard on, hahaha, one said I looked like Rick Astley, and apparently there was a character on Corrie who looks really similar to me, so they were calling me like a cheap version of that guy, hahaha!
When you auditioned, did you know how many episodes it would be for and what the outcome would be?
Yeah, I knew. I think it was important for me to know how long I was going to be on it. I think if I was signing up for a long period of time, it might make one seriously reconsider, because it’s a long time to be working on anything, it’s a life decision. Did I know what was going to happen at the end? I can’t remember, I think I must have, I think somebody must have told me that because I might have played it differently if I didn’t know I would eventually get to run away with her.
You played the Junior Inspector across Series 2 and 3 of Penny Dreadful, what was it like to film?
Best experience of my life. I had a very small part but I was there a lot. I was playing the assistant to the cool Sherlock Holmes guy, who’s played by Douglas Hodge, who’s maybe just the best actor I’ve ever seen in life. He’s Tony Award-winning and just an incredible, intelligent, brilliant man. I was in every scene he was in. I worked on it for two seasons, so it was quite a large chunk of time even though I wasn’t necessarily the driver of any of the scenes.
Do you hope it will come back for a fourth series?
I think it’s over. I think they decided to end it, which is a shame because there was so much more to do I think, but it came to its natural end as far as John Logan was concerned. I loved it. I was a fan before I was in it. I’d auditioned for the first season, I didn’t get the part and then another part came up in the second season. I was kind of glad I didn’t get that part because that was a tough one. I love that kind of thing, gothic and kind of creepy, amazing writing and all my favourite actors – Rory Kinnear, Douglas Hodge, Simon Russell Beale… these guys are just the top actors. I wish it was coming back, but it’s not.
How long did it take to film your role?
It was serial, so like two years. We went to Spain to shoot for a month and that was great. I remember it really fondly.
What was the experience like going into Game of Thrones as a guest?
It was a very small part. It was really cool obviously and I’m a big Game of Thrones fan, I think everybody is. I had a great time, it was amazing. It’s such a big show with lots of big stuff going on all the time. It’s a big project, it would have been extremely consequential if I had messed it up. You do go to yourself I had better not mess it up, this is an extreme and immensely professional enterprise, I had really better not mess this up and I didn’t, haha!
How did your acting career start and what can you remember from your first role?
My experience of acting started very young. My mother was an actress and she was in the Abbey Theatre company for twenty years, my father works in film and my sister used to work in theatre. My mum encouraged me to look towards drama classes because I was a shy kid and I think she saw this as the best way to open up and socialise.
I’ve no idea what my first role was. I did drama classes in my primary school and we did plays like David Copperfield and Cinderella, so I’d imagine it was something like that.
Is there a genre of production that you’d like to appear in but haven’t done so as yet?
I don’t know about a genre of production, just in the sense of wanting to do a bit of everything, I think all actors want to be trying their hands at all sorts of different things. In terms of what my ideal thing to do would be, maybe a trepid young journalist in a thriller of some kind, that would excite me a lot. I haven’t done any comedy really, I mustn’t be very funny, but I suppose I don’t audition for a lot. I think I strike people as a dramatic person, hahaha. I’m open to anything in principle!
Do you have a technique for learning scripts?
That’s a really good question. I think that feeds into, “what’s your process for approaching something?” and I’ve tried all sorts of different things. I think you have to keep banging it out, and keep reading it through. There’s an app called LineLearner – I record my part and somebody else’s part, I then remove my part from it and just have the other person talk, so I walk around London with my headphones on doing the lines over and over again. You try and do that recording as neutrally as possible so you’re not putting a colour on the line, or a flavour on the line that you then can’t get out of your head so then you can only deliver the line that way, or if you don’t deliver the line that way you’ve forgotten the line, haha, and that’s not useful to anybody!
Do you watch all your roles back?
No, sometimes it’s not helpful. It depends if you feel like you need to know something specific on the day. If you’re asking, “have you enjoyed an episode of Penny Dreadful after that first season when you weren’t in it?”, then no, because you’re in a totally different frame of mind in terms of when you watch it, so no, I don’t. I did watch Emmerdale though. You need to be objective when you’re watching, so do I watch it? Sometimes. Do I enjoy it? Never, haha! You’re just hoping to learn something you can take onto the next project, so when you do watch something it is about something specific you did on that day, out of curiosity, but do you enjoy it? No never, it’s torture!
What are your upcoming acting plans for the rest of 2018?
I do a lot of voiceover stuff now, so it’s really great that it’s taken off. I’m flying back to Dublin to do a bit of that. In terms of acting, it’s back at the audition carousel, and hoping something takes. The voiceover work has been really great though. I’m doing Mini next week and I’m doing Sky, it’s nice stuff ticking over. I’m doing writing as well, so you keep yourself ticking over until the next opportunity arrives, then you hope you’re in a position to grab it when it does.
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