Vinnie Heaven

📷 : © Jonny Bosworth

Vinnie Heaven booked their TV character debut in the new HBO series The Nevers, which premiered in May this year, where they can be seen playing young thief Nimble, and the show can currently be streamed on HBO and NOW TV, and during lockdown, they were cast in Anna Mawn’s short film A Month of Sundays for the BBC Writers Room, which they filmed over Zoom. Since starting in acting, Vinnie has had a number of stage roles, most recently performing in Living Newspaper at Royal Court, and they are the co-artistic director of Raised Eyebrows Theatre. Answering our questions, Vinnie talks about being in the cast of HBO’s The Nevers, playing the role of Nimble and being part of Living Newspaper at Royal Court.

What can you tell us about your character Nimble in The Nevers and how was it getting into character for the first time?

Nimble is an expert in breaking and entering! They are quick-witted and quick-footed, with all the charm and the innocent grin that it takes to be a successful thief at that time.

I did a lot of research into what Nimble’s life and world would have been like and I strongly relate to who Nimble is. I think the costume really reflects their style and essence and gives me an immediate shift in how I stand and move so getting into character for the first time on set was the culmination of those things all coming together.

Was there anything that drew you to the HBO series and how did you feel finding out you’d booked the role?

The show is centred around the strength of women firstly and alongside that is the theme of the unity and survival of the touched who have been ostracised by society, so it felt like an interesting and unusual thing to be a part of. I was massively drawn to playing a character in that time period who represents LGBTQ+ history! We very much existed and thrived as does Nimble and I think it’s essential to show that authentically on screen.

I had worked my whole career in theatre, making and performing so I never expected to land a TV role. I have a very physical/clowny style which is often too animated for screen work, but Nimble is the perfect host for that bouncy energy so I nailed it. To get the call that it was booked was a surprise, I knew that me and the character were a perfect fit, but it’s a big job so I hadn’t let myself think too much on it. I had that classic actor moment of not having worked for a few months so making plans to move back into more youth theatre work and then suddenly work lands in front of you and it’s always the same – cool, good timing, let’s have it! I value every job the same, the scale of it is irrelevant, whether fifty people watch in a studio theatre or a million people worldwide, you give your all to it.

How did you find the experience on set of your first period drama and TV series?

The first few days on set for such a big show are intimidating, the craft is a world away from theatre work so I had to ask for some help! I don’t feel any shame in that, I was hugely experienced in theatre but suddenly I was in a totally new environment and I wanted to do the best work that I could and meet the standard of the others. The cast are generous and kind so I had crash course lessons from Rochelle (Neil), Ella (Smith) and Kiran (Sonia Sawar) in between shouts of ACTION! It was rad! In each gap they gave me tips and tricks and by the end of day two I was all caught up. It was stuff you can only learn by actually being on set in front of the cameras. I’m grateful to them, I look forward to doing the same for another actor in the future. I think it’s important for young/aspiring actors to know that we ALL learn on the job, that’s actually part of the fun of it.

In terms of it being a period drama – The Nevers is an altered reality not bound by historical accuracies so we get to enjoy authentic sets and clothes with added steam-punk elements, for me that’s the best type of period drama to play around in!

📷 : HBO / Keith Bernstein

What is it like being part of the cast and what do you enjoy most about playing Nimble?

The cast is large so you get to bounce between people during takes or in the green room, it’s a good laugh. There are some seasoned actors in the cast and watching them work is pretty cool. There are also a handful of young actors who will be as big as the older ones I have no doubt, knowing them now and knowing what they’ll go on to do is rad.

I enjoy Nimble’s confidence the most. I envy it. They move through the world wholly happy with who they are and with no care for others’ perception of them. I admire that. I also enjoy that they throw discs from their hands!! They have a lot of bouncy energy and a cheekiness to them, days on set don’t feel heavy in Nimble’s shoes, they are joyful and that’s cool to play. It was important to me to show an LGBTQ+ character who didn’t fall in to the trope of being traumatised or full of self-hate. They love life and so they should!

How is it seeing the response to the show and your character?

The show is genre-bending and throws a massive curve-ball in episode six so people’s responses have been great! It keeps you on your toes and I’m glad that people have enjoyed that. In terms of Nimble, it’s epic. I get messages from Trans, Non-Binary and GNC people of all ages from all over the world who say they are moved to see a version of themselves on screen. It is indescribable really to say how that feels. It’s a beautiful and soul feeding feeling. I was always so desperate to see someone who lived and breathed as I do on TV and now that is happening more and more and I am mind-blown that I am joining those ranks. (That being said, there is still a lot more work to be done to represent Trans, Non-Binary and GNC people who are Black/POC. I recognise that white voices are often centred in these roles on stage and screen and I actively advocate for better and more intersectional representation as should we all.)

Why would you recommend watching The Nevers?

It’s a mix of feisty, punchy and tear-jerking, what’s not to like?

📷 : HBO / Keith Bernstein

Last year, you appeared in short film A Month of Sundays, can you tell us about it?

Anna Mawn wrote a hilarious script about a Sunday book club moving online during lockdown and I loved it. It was for the BBC Writers Room and they clearly recognised Anna’s massive talent so it was cool to be a part of what will now be one of her early scripts I guess. I think any actor who managed to work a bit in lockdown savoured every minute of it and I was the same. It was strange to film on Zoom, it makes that human connection we are so used to replicating a lot harder to achieve authentically. It was a real challenge. The hardest part was not laughing, I genuinely found it hilarious. I think some of the lines had to be edited out to make it fit within the allocated time, it was even funnier unedited!

In April, you were part of Living Newspaper at Royal Court, what was it like returning to theatre and being part of the project?

The Royal Court handed over Edition Seven of the Living Newspaper to young people aged 14 to 21 and treated the young writers exactly the same as the professional writers who had worked on the previous editions. The result was an edition that spoke boldly and brilliantly to this moment in history and it was one of my favourite ever jobs. I worked on a piece called Lars:Ulcers written by Sam and directed by Vicky Featherstone. Me and the other actor (the incredible Sam Crerar) were rehearsing on the stage and had been working for about five minutes when my brain suddenly shouted, YOU’RE ON THE MAIN STAGE AT THE ROYAL COURT! I stopped the rehearsal because my brain had exploded and we all just stood for a second and looked out at the seats. The empty auditorium had lights on it, illuminating dust settling that hadn’t been disturbed for a year. It was ridiculously emotional. I think we all felt it. I could have cried a little bit but the writer was cool as anything and I didn’t want to be mocked by a fifteen-year-old or judged by Vicky F so I just swallowed it down and carried on, haha!

Being back in a theatre building for a few days was a good reminder of why as actors we hadn’t given up. The Royal Court, in my opinion, was progressive in its commitment to actioning changes that had been screamed out for by industry freelancers during the pandemic. I think it was 300+ freelancers that had been employed across the project and the care they took of each one of us was faultless. It isn’t easy to step back into work after a year away, the staff knew that, they named it and we all worked as a slightly dazed team towards the end goal. I’m glad my first job back was under Vicky but it’s a lot for other venues to live up to so we’ll see if they can step up…

We understand you are co-artistic director of Raised Eyebrows Theatre, what is this like?

I am! We are dormant at the moment as myself and the other AD have work commitments but I’m sure we’ll be back. The last show we made, which I wrote and directed, toured nationally and was really well received. We were lucky because we had a team of creatives who all added to the show’s creation and who took it out on tour and cared for it as though it were their own. It was a show for families about identity and finding the courage to say who you are. It was the show that I needed to see when I was a kid and I am proud to have put it out there. So far we have only made family shows but who knows what the future may bring.

📷 : HBO / Keith Bernstein

Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?

It started when I was eleven and was in the school play, so cliché, but true. I felt like an outsider as a kid, I wasn’t sure where I belonged or who with and I felt quite small. I stood on stage and felt fireworks going off in my body, I felt my pupils get wider and my chin get taller and I just knew. There are so few moments in life that fill your whole body with electricity so when you experience one you cling to it. I found somewhere to fit and I’ve spent my career helping other young people realise that they have a place too. I don’t know who I am without theatre, it hugged me and applauded me when I was eleven and now we can’t be without each other. It’s been the place I spoke my truths, aired my grievances, bled out my vulnerabilities and the only place that I laugh so hard I snort. Rehearsal rooms have been therapy rooms, the start of love stories and safe places in a sometimes-frightening world. I’ve never loved anything like I love making shows. I think maybe it was just meant to be.

Do you have any favourite TV shows or films to watch?

YES! We Are Lady Parts is currently my favourite TV show, it is incredible! The performances, the style, the freshness! It’s all I talk about. If you’ve already seen that then I’d go for my next favourites being Lupin and I May Destroy You, both of which I don’t really need to explain, one is a French thief and the other is a masterclass in TV hands down.

My favourite film right now is Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, it’s beautiful.

What are you hoping 2021 brings for your career?

I didn’t expect to work in TV if I’m completely honest but now I’m here I’d like to try and blag a film role! To tick that off my career list would be rad. I’d also like to write another show this year if I can find one in the back of my brain, it would be cool to return to theatre with my own words again. I also aim to work with young people as often as I can so there will be more of that in 2021 I hope!

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