British actor Will Poulter has established himself as one of the great young actors of his generation through his work with many of the best filmmakers in the business. This year will see Will’s MCU debut in James Gunn‘s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’, which is set to release globally this May.
Will, next up you’ll be starring in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘, which is premiering this May. How excited were you when you got cast on this film and became a member of the Marvel family?
Really excited!I think in the first instance, I was pretty nervous. As a fan of Guardians, I expected the set to be intimidating and because of the size of the franchise I had built up this idea in my head, but it was really such a lovely surprise and such a welcome realization that it’s truly a lovely, laid back, friendly set. All of the things that I thought would be really intimidating, sort of fell away because everyone was so welcoming. And James Gunn as a director set a really nice tone on set, there was no reason to be scared and it freed us all up to have fun and enjoy the process.
In the film, you’ll play Adam Warlock, a powerful artificial being created by the Sovereign to destroy the Guardians. Tell us more about your character and his story.
It’s kind of hard to talk about anything in relation to the film at this stage, without getting into spoiler territory. But what I can say is that Adam is in his infancy at this stage. You are seeing him having recently emerged from his cocoon and I think it’s fair to say that he emerges underdeveloped in certain respects. He’s quite immature and he’s trying to find his way, orientate himself and craft out what kind of person he is, what side of the line he is on as far as good and bad is concerned. And that was a fun exploration engaging as Adam.
How was working on a project like this? What are the challenges of working on a Marvel film, for example green screen and creating a universe?
There are some unique challenges. The physicality of it was really intense. It was a lot of stunt work and that’s something that I haven’t done a lot of before. But our stunt team was unbelievable, our stunt coordinator was absolutely incredible and her whole team was so talented. And Ben Jenkins, who actually doubled me, is an incredibly talented stunt person. Between the whole team, I felt really taken care of. As I know, they’re some of the best in the world at what they do. They made me look a lot better than I was able to make myself look when it came to stunts.
There was a noticeable body transformation for the role. Can you share a little more on how you went about this?
There was a good amount of physical work that went into the preparations. I was very lucky that I worked with a really talented team of people in that respect. Dr. Ben Caraway designed my training programme and headed up my team, which was comprised of two other people alongside my nutritionist, Aaron Deere, and trainer, Daryl Richards. They allowed me to do all of the physical preparations to the best of my ability in a way that was safe and natural, and that also safeguarded my mental and physical health through the process. And that was really important to them, and me.
You had such a diverse and varied career, starting with ‘Son of Rambow’ in 2007 and gaining global recognition for your role in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ in 2010. How has it been seeing yourself grow up on screen?
I definitely feel very lucky. When I reflect on my career, I feel very grateful that I’ve had so many great experiences. My beginning was characterised by ‘Son of Rambow’ and ‘School of Comedy’. Those two projects were such wholesome, friendly starts to working in this industry. The people who gave me my career really are Laura Lawson, my drama teacher who created ‘School of Comedy’, and then Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings, who were my film dads on my first project. I’m really thankful that that was my introduction to what I do now for a living. And now, 19 years later, to be 30 and doing what I love, I feel very thankful.
Did you ever think that you would be working in films such as ‘The Revenant’ alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and with directors such as Katherine Bigalow and Lenny Abrahamson? Was that always the dream?
I never expected that I would do that. And that was, in many senses, a dream come true, to work with a cast of that nature. I don’t know quite what the dream is, per se, but I feel incredibly lucky to be doing what I love for a living and hopefully brightening up some people’s days. I think when it comes to ‘Guardians’ for example, we really want to put something out that satisfies the fans and delivers on the expectations and the pre-existing standards, but also just potentially cheers people up as well.
For your role in ‘We‘re the Millers’ alongside Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, you received major critical praise and also won the BAFTA Rising star Award. Any award is a huge milestone for an actor, but what do the awards for your work mean to you personally?
It’s really flattering to be recognized in that way, but I guess you can’t really afford for it to be too much of a focus, because the work is separate from that. And if the awards or recognition comes, that’s a really lovely bonus. In ‘Dopesick’, we all felt like that, especially with the themes of the show, that are so much greater than us or anything else that might define its critical success. I think the metric for a show like that was not just whether it resonated with people, but also helping people who struggle with addiction or other people who have been impacted by addiction through losing a loved one, or having a loved one who struggles with it.
For me, it’s been more about thinking about the social application of the work as time goes by and trying to think about how it’s going to sit and function in the world as a piece of media without sounding really inhumane.
Last year you were nominated for an Emmy for your role in Hulu series ‘Dopesick’ about the opioid crisis and you seem to be involved in a lot of charity work. Do you purposely pick projects with a social conscience? What is your modus operandi on choosing your roles?
I think the modus operandi has evolved over time. To be honest, I think I’m kind of learning exactly what that looks like. As I get older, I really do gravitate towards projects with a socio-political angle. Just because I feel there’s a real opportunity with the job that I’m in and with the people that I work with, in the role of storytelling to reflect on society and hopefully impact people’s perspective, and in a positive way motivate progressive action. But then again, I’m also conscious that I’m an actor and I’m not an activist. If I was an activist, I’d quit my job and commit to activism full time, and that’s not something I do. I don’t know if I’m cut out for that, but I am really fortunate to have a certain platform that comes with my job. And I think that I’m lucky to be able to use it for what I hope will be good, wherever possible.
Your parents both come from a medical background. How did you end up developing your passion for acting?
I think I just didn’t inherit enough of their genes, but I was very lucky to have full support when it came to performing arts. They were always very supportive of me. As I said, Laura Lawson and Simon Parker, my drama teachers who are incredibly passionate and talented, were my mentors and they gave me a lot of opportunity in the way of performing. At school, I always gravitated to the arts and extracurricular activities. I think it’s so important that those kind of things are continually furnished for young people, because not everyone gravitates towards academics. I had learning difficulties when I was a young person. If I reflect on my school years without drama, without performing arts, I would have been really stuck. I would have been really lost indeed, as I was until I found drama.
Which actor or actress would you describe as your biggest inspiration for your career, now and then?
Robin Williams. I think he always was that person for me, both in terms of drama and comedy. I always looked up to him as being one of the best actors around.
After ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘, where will we be seeing you next?
I’ve just finished filming in LA. We were shooting the on-screen adaptation of ‘On Swift Horses’ with the director Daniel Minahan where I play the role of Lee.
Talent: Will Poulter
Stylist: Douglas VanLaningham
Groomer: Kristen Shaw @ The Wall Group
Location: Be Good Studio
Editor: Timi Letonja
This interview was done for Numéro Netherlands by Alba Diaz & Jana Letonja.