Screen and stage actor Oliver Llewellyn-Jenkins portrayed Bobby Moore at the Bristol Old Vic in the production World Cup Final 1966 and more recently played the role of Jonathan in The Play That Goes Wrong at London West End’s Duchess Theatre. Oliver has worked on the soon-to-be released Disney film Christopher Robin and a few months ago finished filming for a TV movie. Catching up with Oliver, we find out about his time in The Play That Goes Wrong, filming for Leprechaun Returns and making an appearance in CBBC’s The Story of Tracy Beaker as Wilson Stokes.
What can you remember about your first TV appearance?
I was about four years old and S4C wanted local children for their next Welsh Rugby advert. All I had to do was count to five on one hand but I just remember being really happy to be out of lessons for the afternoon.
Can you tell us about your time on The Story of Tracy Beaker as Wilson Stokes?
I remember it being a lot of fun. The majority of the cast were all around a similar age so we just ended up having a great time on set. A lot of the storylines involved us getting up to no good and pulling pranks on each other so naturally that ended up carrying over once ‘cut’ was called. The show reached audiences worldwide which was amazing, and even though I was only in a few episodes, I feel really lucky to have been part of it.
How did you first get into acting?
When I was seven, the senior school was doing a production of Bugsy Malone. My drama teacher wanted the smallest primary school boy to play “Babyface” which just so happened to be me. I hadn’t acted before but I’d played a lot of sport and I loved the buzz of competing. I ended up doing the play and I found that I got that same buzz from performing. I was kind of hooked from then. I also found that the two best ways to skip lessons at school was to either play a sport or to do drama. So I ended up playing for every team and performing in every drama production till I left school.
How did you find your time in The Play That Goes Wrong?
It was a blast. Initially I was apprehensive about doing a play for a year as I hadn’t done a run of that length before. However, doing a show as funny and silly as The Play That Goes Wrong was great. Spending six days a week with everyone over such a long period of time means you all become a family. It made the whole experience even more enjoyable. Being able to play around on stage with your mates, and in the process make people laugh, is a pretty great “job”.
Who was your character Jonathan?
Jonathan was one of the more inexperienced actors of the Cornely Polytechnic. Yet what he lacked in experience, he made up for in enthusiasm. He continued to give 100% regardless of how many things were going against him, which I think makes the audience really empathise with him.
How long were you in the cast for and when did you start rehearsals?
We had a four week rehearsal period and then ran for a year in the West End. I think by the end of the year we’d performed the show around 360 times.
As with a lot of long-running shows, there was an option to extend our contracts but after doing a part for eight (sometimes nine) shows a week for a year, it was time to move on.
How different was it performing in this play to others you’ve appeared in?
It was hugely different due to the level of audience interaction. It meant that with us having to improvise in every show, we as a cast were constantly kept on our toes. It’s also a hugely physical show, so finding the stamina to perform it for so long was a challenge in itself.
What was it like playing Bobby Moore in the theatre production of World Cup Final 1966 at the Bristol Old Vic?
It was very special to play such an iconic sporting figure, even if I got a bit of stick from my older brother, as we’re Welsh.
I hadn’t heard of many theatres growing up but Bristol Old Vic was one I had heard of, so it was fantastic to get the chance to perform there. The show ran during the 2014 World Cup, so everyone seemed to have a bit of World Cup fever as well, which was lovely to be a part of.
What was the Batman Live Tour like and where did you get to perform?
It was one of the best experiences I’ve had, both personally and professionally. I’m still a kid really and I love the comic book genre. So, to be lucky enough to graduate from college and go straight into a Batman show was, for me, just ridiculously cool. Also, to have the opportunity to see a lot of America (whilst working) made the experience even better. We officially opened in LA at the Staples Centre which was amazing. The whole experience was a six month glimpse into what life must be like for those at the top end of the industry.
Is there anything you can tell us about Leprechaun Returns?
I don’t think I’m allowed to say an awful lot, but I saw some footage whilst doing ADR recently and it looked great.
Have you finished filming yet, if so, how long were you filming for?
Yes, we finished about two months ago. We were out in South Africa for just over four weeks. It was my first time there and because we were mainly on night shoots, it meant we saw more of Cape Town. It’s a beautiful place, I’d love to go back again.
How long were you on the set of Christopher Robin?
The shoot was about four months over Summer/Autumn last year. We shot predominately on location which was exciting, even though the “British Summer” did wash out a few days.
What is your role in the movie?
I’m credited as Tigger (Reader). Usually, someone just reads in the lines of animated characters but Marc Forster was very keen to not lose any of the chemistry within the scenes. So he wanted to use actors to perform with Ewan and Bronte. We weren’t only saying/improvising around the lines but puppeteering very expensive stuffed toys of the characters. Also, we worked closely with the Animation / SFX department as a point of reference for their work. I hadn’t done anything like that before but it was brilliant to get that amount of time on set watching and learning from some of the best in the industry.
What was it like working on a Walt Disney production?
It was pretty surreal. I, like a lot of my generation, have grown up watching Disney films. To then have the opportunity to work on one alongside a creative team, both cast and crew, whose films I also grew up loving, was pretty amazing. I tried really hard not to geek out but I spent most of the time thinking “You’re standing in a field next to Obi-wan Kenobi”!
Can you tell us about the workshops you’ve appeared in at the National Theatre?
I had worked with John Tiffany and Steven Hoggart on a play a few years earlier and I got a call asking if I fancied doing a couple of workshops for Pinocchio with them. I think they’re both brilliant, so I jumped at the opportunity to be in a rehearsal room with them again. Having the freedom to explore the script without the pressure of a ‘performance’ at the end was really liberating. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the show as I was working on Christopher Robin but I heard it was excellent.
Apart from Leprechaun Returns, are there other roles you’re preparing for?
I recently had some reshoots for Christopher Robin but other than that, no. I’m back to auditions at the moment which is actually quite nice as it means I can get back to Wales more than usual to see my family.
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