Earlier this year, Jack Bardoe appeared in the Channel 4 comedy series SCREW, playing trainee prison officer Toby Phillips alongside a cast including Jamie-Lee O’Donnell (who plays Rose Gill). Jack booked his first regular screen role as Charles Pope in the 2020 TV mini-series Belgravia and, the following year, he was in The Canterville Ghost, a modern retelling of the Oscar Wilde short story, in which he played The Honorable Cecil Canterville. Also having a stage career, Jack made his professional debut as Lieutenant Yolland in Translations at the National Theatre in 2019, and he will be returning to the National Theatre for their upcoming production of Othello, where he has been cast as Roderigo, with the show opening 23rd November and running into the new year. Whilst training at RADA, Jack’s stage projects included A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Philistines. Answering our questions, Jack chats about playing Toby Phillips in SCREW, booking his first screen role as Charles Pope in Belgravia and his time at the National Theatre with Translations.
You play Toby Phillips in Channel 4 series SCREW, what is it like on set of the show?
SCREW was a really interesting set to be on. They built the entire interior of the prison inside Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, which was an incredible thing to behold in and of itself. It really felt like stepping into a different world from the streets of summertime Glasgow into this incredibly realistic British prison. It got fairly sweaty inside as the air circulation wasn’t the best and they were intent on having my character wear a jacket in most scenes! So I’m very grateful to the makeup department for all the dabbing sweat off my face between takes! But you definitely got a strong impression of how oppressive that setting is – which was incredibly helpful for the acting. I still remember my first day walking onto the main corridor looking up at all the supporting artist prisoners staring down from the corridors above thinking… wow, this is terrifying – in the best way!
Can you tell us about your character and was there anything that drew you to the role?
I play Toby Phillips, a grad trainee prison officer who transfers to Charlie Wing early in the series. He’s the new kid on the block, very motivated and idealistic about the job they are doing. He’s a really good egg and rubs a few people up the wrong way initially with his super keen attitude to prison officer life. I’d say the writing of the whole series generally drew me to the role. Rob Williams really captured a wonderful humour without making it farcical and still maintaining a very dark and tragic feeling to the prison world which made it feel very honest. I liked that Toby came in as the new guy after a few episodes, it’s nice to have the feeling that all the characters and the audience are trying to figure out what kind of person you are at the same time. I loved being the ‘unknown’ element!
What is Toby like to play and how was it seeing the viewers’ response to the series?
Toby was lovely to play. It was really nice to explore how unapologetically committed he is to do the best job he can. He has a real vocation for what he does which initially irritates his colleagues but eventually inspires them. It’s great to play somebody who really is such a good egg. The very genuine friendship that forms between him and Rose was a real pleasure to develop in their various scenes. In terms of the viewers’ response – I was glad to hear people had a similar reaction to me when they found out what happens to him! Not to give anything away…
Do you have any stand-out highlights from filming Series 1 of SCREW and working with the rest of the cast?
I’d say the stand-out moments for me were doing some of the office scenes with the other officers early in shooting. Tom Vaughan really fostered a wonderfully playful environment for us to explore the various relationships – it felt like being on stage in a little play! Also, the various scenes which involved a lot of the supporting artists, like the riot or the prank on Toby. It was incredible to have all those people on set really adding to the realism. There must have been around 50/60 actors filling up the whole prison, yelling and screaming – really felt like you were there.
Last year, you appeared in The Canterville Ghost as The Honorable Cecil Canterville, can you tell us about this?
This was great fun – a whole world away from SCREW. The Canterville Ghost is a modern retelling of an Oscar Wilde short story, a bit of a family romcom set in these lavish English country homes and castles. There was a lot of riding horses in the Malvern Hills and long days spent shooting at Ragley Hall and Eastnor Castle – wonderful fun with a really lovely group of actors. It’s about an American family who move to live in a haunted castle in England and I play the love interest for the daughter. Very English, very cheesy, very fun!
How much did you know about the Oscar Wilde short story before booking your role in the TV series and what did you enjoy most about working on The Canterville Ghost?
I didn’t know the story at all before booking the part, but I read it once I did. Always lovely to read something when you already know you’re about to play a part in it. I most enjoyed all the scenes in the fancy dress party. They put us in some amazing costumes which were great fun to spend a few days shooting in, we had a really great laugh – almost forgot we had scenes to do at times.
Do you remember how you felt booking your first regular screen role as Charles Pope in Belgravia?
It felt genuinely absurd. I think every actor probably feels the same before something like that.. you never honestly think you’re actually going to get the part when it’s your first one, it seems like that kind of stuff is going on in a different universe. It didn’t feel real at all – it was a ‘pinch yourself’ moment. I had to call my agent back a few times to check they hadn’t made a mistake and that I’d heard them right.
How did you find the experience filming the series and playing Charles Pope?
It was an amazing adventure and a huge learning experience. I had never done anything like that before, one week I was halfway through third year at drama school and the next I was on set with Dame Harriet Walter. I didn’t really have time to overthink anything as there was a lot to do, which was actually quite helpful. I just tried to keep everything simple in my head and remember it’s still just acting. It was such a privilege to be involved in as a first job and I learned a huge amount from those incredible actors by getting to spend so much time shooting with them. It also took me to some beautiful locations – it just felt like a magical summer.
What are some of your favourite memories from being involved with Belgravia?
Again, some of the days with very large set pieces and lots of supporting artists were highlights for me. In the gardens at Hampton Court with what felt like hundreds of SAs around you and horse-drawn carriages etc, or on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The Art Department are such geniuses building the entire world for you to act in. Those days really make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, makes you feel incredibly lucky that you get to be there for your job!
In 2019, you booked your first professional stage role at the National Theatre as Lieutenant Yolland in Translations, how was this?
This was a real dream come true for me. I had visited the National Theatre countless times growing up and it has always had a special place in my heart, as it does for so many people. To be cast there at all was so special but especially in a play like Translations with Ian Rickson directing and all the actors we had involved. Theatre is the reason I first fell in love with acting and at the National you do feel like you’re stepping on holy ground!
What was it like performing at the National Theatre and how was it being part of the cast?
I truly had the time of my life performing Translations. It’s an incredible play and Yolland is a wonderful part to be given. I felt incredibly fulfilled as an actor. The Olivier is a magical place to perform. I couldn’t have really asked for a better professional debut, to be honest. The cast were great fun – there was a huge amount of experience and knowledge among them to soak up and they made me feel very much at home.
Was there anything that encouraged you to train at RADA and how was your time there?
I didn’t really know anything about drama school when I was coming to the end of my time at school. I had always intended to go to university but I knew I loved acting and that it could perhaps be something I pursued afterwards. My mum put an application form to RADA’s one year foundation course on my desk at home so I thought ‘why not?’. I ended up getting in and really caught the acting bug over the next year. I then went to study Theology at Oxford after the foundation, but I think I had already decided deep down that acting was what I wanted to do – so I dropped out of university during my first year and returned to RADA to do the three year degree course. RADA is a really special place to train. Similar to the National Theatre, it feels like holy ground for acting. It’s quite hard work while you’re in it, with many classes often asking a lot of you emotionally and physically, but the training is incredibly valuable. I look back on my time there very fondly, it was a formative experience for me.
Can you tell us about some of the shows you performed in at RADA, which included A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Pride and Prejudice?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the first show I performed to the public in. At the end of second year, your year group put on three Shakespeare plays and it’s the first time you perform to anyone besides another student or teacher since you started. Always a special moment for anyone who has been through the training. Then, I’d say my favourite shows I performed in were The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by Matthew Xia, where my agent first saw me playing Sigmund Freud and a five-year-old boy! Then Philistines by Maxim Gorky, directed by Donnacadh O’Briain, felt like a bit of a rite of passage as an actor to do some heavy Russian realism!
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
It developed gradually I’d say. I first got involved in acting around the age of 12/13, I was quite a shy kid in many ways and my mum thought it would be good for my confidence and public speaking to go to the local youth theatre, the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford. It was something I kept up as a hobby through the years and it gradually became more important to me as I realised I was actually not bad at it and would have so much fun doing it. A turning point for me was being in the chorus of Les Mis at school aged about 16 and just feeling like I’d never been happier. I remember thinking how amazing it could be if I could actually do this every day for a job – I couldn’t think of anything better.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
There are so many, it’s hard to say and it changes all the time but recently I started to think Denis Villeneuve is my favourite film director, especially Icendies and Arrival. Some of my favourite films have always been foreign, like Little White Lies and The Lives of Others, recently I absolutely loved The Worst Person in the World. I think my favourite TV shows are Succession and Peep Show. On stage, anything directed by Robert Icke or Rebecca Frecknall.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for your career?
A full schedule!