During his screen career so far, Oliver Zetterström was most recently seen on TV in White House Farm as Michael/William Eaton, and in the award-winning Sci-Fi drama War of the Worlds on FOX as Theo. Oliver’s other work has included an episode of Britannia, The Romanoffs and playing lead character Tom in TV movie The Midnight Gang, an adaptation of the popular David Walliams novel. Having started his acting career on stage, Oliver made his West End debut as Gavroche in Les Misérables, and he also has radio experience, which saw him voice Young Tom Sullivan in BBC Radio 4 drama The Mill on the Floss last year. Talking with Oliver, we found out about playing Theo in War of the Worlds, starring as Tom in The Midnight Gang and his time as Young Simon in The Romanoffs.
Can you tell us about playing Theo on the FOX series War of the Worlds and what is it like on set?
It was really enjoyable to play Theo because he is a sensitive character and traumatised having lost his parents. Having to be brave at the same time, especially when being chased by alien robots in the French mountains.
How did you feel booking the role of Theo and do you remember the moment you found out?
When I heard that I got the role of Theo, I was, of course, really pleased as I always am whenever I get a part. Then I just want to do the best I can. My agent Michelle called us with the good news at the end of January 2019, shortly before I started filming in February.
What do you enjoy most about being in the cast?
Because the part of the story that I was in was set in France, I worked mostly with French actors who were all so friendly and I got on very well with Emilie de Preissac who rescued Theo.
What was it like filming your episodes of White House Farm as Michael/William Eaton?
I remember filming in the middle of a summer and it being really hot!
Playing Michael was a smaller part because a lot of my scenes ended up getting cut, but that is just how it goes sometimes. However, it was great acting with Gemma Whelan (who played my mum) and also meeting Amy-Jayne Leigh (who played my sister) for the first time as we’ve done radio plays together since then.
You filmed for episodes of Britannia and Chimerica, what were these like to do?
Well, Chimerica was good because I got to do an American accent.
I had the best time doing Britannia though because I had the experience of having a full body cast of me made because I came to a nasty end. We also filmed all my scenes in incredible nature in Somerset. And I had such good fun with Tom Rhys Harries and Archie Redford, who played my brothers. I also got to act with Mackenzie Crook and Julian Rhind-Tutt, which was a real privilege.
How was the experience filming for The Midnight Gang and working on a David Walliams adaptation?
The Midnight Gang was a real highlight for me because it was a lead role but fun to be in a gang with children of my age since I have mostly worked mainly with adults. I liked being in a more light-hearted story where I got to run around and do more physical comedy together with Alan Davies and David Walliams.
This marked your first lead role, how was it seeing the finished film for the first time?
I saw it for the first time at the British Film Institute on the big screen. Seeing myself on screen, I was partly preoccupied with not criticising my performance but I really enjoyed the end result and seeing all the other actors. Yep, looking back now, I am very proud to have been in it.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time playing Tom?
I liked playing Tom because he had always been the unpopular boy at school who got left out and then going to hospital, even though it was run by a mad Matron, he found friends. My favourite scenes were between him and Sally as I think they were really touching moments. I also absolutely love doing anything physical so the scene when I was running around the ward being chased after by The Headmaster and the sliding down a shoot was a fun day.
Can you say what it was like playing Douglas in Mrs Wilson and Young Simon in The Romanoffs?
Playing Douglas was amazing because I got to work with Ruth Wilson again, even though it was just one scene.
Young Simon in The Romanoffs was a bigger part than I realised and I liked the challenge of playing a more complex character who lost his mum in a fire, who he loved so much and suspected that his father’s new wife did it. He really held a grudge! Matthew Weiner, the director, was really helpful and taught me that sometimes just being still while just thinking about what you’re seeing or feeling in a scene can read well on screen. Definitely one of my favourite roles that I have done so far.
Your first screen role was as Young Faraday in The Little Stranger, how was this?
In order to look more like a young Domhnall Gleeson, I had to get my hair dyed, but it was worth it! I was very excited to be on a film set for the first time, seeing all the cameras and crew with big sets and going to different locations. I was ten when I had my first lucky break so will always be so thankful for getting to play Young Faraday.
You’ve had radio experience, most recently in The Mill on the Floss for BBC Radio 4, can you tell us more about this?
I love doing radio plays because it feels like a really laid-back environment. I have worked with the director Tracey Neale a few times and she gives such constructive feedback and direction. I like going to the BBC and chatting with the other actors in the green room beforehand. When I did The Mill on the Floss, I had a really sore throat and was worried that I was going to sound awful, but luckily it was alright.
What was Gavroche like to play in Les Misérables and how was it making your West End debut?
Playing Gavroche in Les Misérables was an amazing experience! I remember having to wait a few days after the audition and I was so hoping I had got it and so happy when I heard I did. The whole experience from being on a revolving stage, running up and down on the barricades to the fantastic music was all incredible. I loved being Gavroche because he was cheeky and brave, and doing my dying scene, I could hear the audience go “aww”. I will always remember the amazing response from the audience at the bows. The two girls that played Little Cosette and Young Eponine with me have become friends for life.
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
My very first experience getting into acting was when I was in a production of Madame Butterfly at The Royal Opera House. My dad sings there and he asked me if I wanted to audition for the role as they always used a blonde young boy for the role of Sorrow. The loud singing close to my ear put me off at first during rehearsals, but I got used to it and I loved doing it. I remember the stage there is huge and I loved taking the curtain call with Madame Butterfly. I was only eight and kept jumping up and down like a loon. So, really, I came into acting by a happy chance.
What do you enjoy doing away from acting?
Like any typical teenage boy, I love gaming, especially during lockdown. Other than that, I really love being active like dirt bike jumping, parkour, MMA and Airsoft. I am definitely a bit of a daredevil!
We understand you’ve been filming for future projects, how has this been going?
I can’t give away anything yet but it is a really meaty role and I am working with an amazing cast and crew. I also have had to learn to horse ride. So far, I am absolutely loving the experience.
Follow Oliver on: