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Jack Falahee ‘Playing Connor | Finding Jack’
Words: Miles Holder
How To Get Away With Murder first appeared on our screens in 2014 and is to this day one of America’s most progressive and expertly written television dramas. Oscar award winning actress, Viola Davis stars as the powerful, female, African-American lawyer without a defined sexuality nor reason to explain one. As an African American female actress, she will no-doubt have faced similar prejudices to that of the character she plays; however the same can not be said for the whole cast. Enter, Jack Falahee. Despite years of training at prestigious acting schools, it was the role of a homosexual college student, Connor Walsh that would provide Jack with a clear and untilfiltered glimpse into the LGBTQ community. It’s a credit to Jack’s skills as an actor, that Connor’s character and his sometimes turbulent relationship with his HIV-positive boyfriend have created strong discussions within and outside of the LGBTQ community. With that in mind, I sat down with Jack to find out what the character that means so much to so many different people – means to him.
You’ve got an impressive resume – you’ve studied so many different acting methods, what is it about television and the screen that mean you’ve gone down that route?
When I was at NYU I was originally admitted to study musical theatre but when I started hanging out with kids who had grown up with ballet classes and vocal coaches, I quickly realised I was a bit out of my depths. If I felt that way in a class of forty students, then going to an open audition for a broadway show was going to be a nightmare; and it was and I was cut very quickly.
I went to Amsterdam and studied the experimental theatre and then Shakespeare in the States but when I got into television acting, I was really inspired by the technical side of it. I grew up enjoying movies but when I started studying it I became aware of angles, what “the shot” was and just everything that is done to make a screenplay come to life. That really fascinated me and will likely lead to me producing and directing in my future.
What period of Connor’s character resonated with you the most?
Fundamentally he and I are very competitive and also very jealous people – it’s something which I’m personally working on but I don’t think Connor is! I grew up with 3 siblings and 2 brothers who are all wildly brilliant and whilst it was a house full of love, it was also incredibly competitive so I definitely relate to Connor in that way.
When you first got the role, did you think the show would have such an impact?
Frankly, you’re not thinking about that when you’re a struggling actor; you’re thinking about getting a job so you can pay rent and survive so I never really sat down and considered I’d be spending years of my life on the project.
I’m still not over how the much of an impact the show has made and a lot of that is Connor’s character and his importance to fans. It’s emblematic of my straight privilege, but I never thought his character would be so important to the LGBTQ community. When the finale came out and Oliver proposed to Connor, seeing the Twitter reaction was so overwhelming and I was just overjoyed at how meaningful the character is to people.
What are the best lessons you’ve learnt from your fans?
100% opening my eyes to the LGBTQ struggle and I can’t stress that enough. Going into this, it was never written on the page that “Connor Walsh is a homosexual”; so when it came to the first love scene I just thought, “wow this guy is willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead” and now I know that was the heteronormativity in my mind back then that was rationalising this whole aspect of his character. It wasn’t until Pete Nowalk was like “oh no, Connor is gay” that I’ve been really trying to become a student of the history of LGBTQ rights and learning more about the struggle of those in the past and in the present day. I asked Pete and my friends for a reading list on LGBTQ history because one of my favourite aspects about being an actor is that I’m continually having to learn about things I’ve been very uneducated on in the past. I’ve grown up with friends and family who aren’t straight white males so it was important for me to do Connor’s character justice. The outpouring of love from the fans was so gratifying and humbling for me. Receiving messages from fans saying “Connor & Oliver helped me come out to my parents” is deeply rewarding and to be any small part of the courage needed to come out will forever be a blessing to me.
Are you comfortable with your sex symbol status?
No! Well, it depends [laughs]. I go back and forth on this, on one hand, it’s a great boost to my confidence but on the other hand, it’s a very vulnerable thing to be. Women live their lives being objectified and reduced to just their bodies every day and it is awful so I’ve been discussing it with the women close to me. I obviously can never understand how women can go through life that way but I can see a glimpse of what that experience might feel like and it’s not a nice one.
Nine times out of ten, it’s all good fun and nice things are being said but that 10% of the time when people disregard my space or my wellbeing is not okay. People tell me “that’s what you signed up for” and I really don’t think it is! I was this chubby, awkward kid and now I’m a sex symbol with the help of great makeup and lighting experts making me look a certain way on tv and magazines.
What is FAULT?
I think that there is a part of me which is always seeking validation which is very informative of why I’ve become an actor; regardless of what might happen, I think I’ll always be seeking approval.
Starting at the beginning, where did the idea for Ladybeard come from?
Ladybeard was borne out of a frustration with the mainstream – we take underrepresented and misrepresented topics and open them up to fresh feminist perspectives.
Launching a magazine (especially a print magazine) in the past decade has been risky business. What drives and inspires you to keep creating?
Ladybeard is purely driven by passion – we make it in and around our full-time jobs. Sometimes it’s hard to see the sense, but it always feels worth it once the magazine is made. We are driven by the need for thoughtful, interrogating, inclusive reportage that stimulates people – while there is still a need for this, we are inspired to carry on with the magazine.
Ladybeard is a glossy magazine however you’re a far cry from the “How to keep your man” “how to be thin and nothing else” titles on newsstands. What thought process in particular led to you choosing the glossy format for Ladybeard?
We love the way a glossy feels, looks, its weight, its texture. The abstract qualities of a glossy – its luxuriant, covetable, personal qualities – very much inform the format of Ladybeard. We don’t, however, like the harmful and narrow messages it so often perpetuates.
What would you say was the main goal of Ladybeard?
To reimagine topics that so define us, but that have been reduced to simple, white, cis, exclusionary forms, like ‘sex’ and the ‘mind’ and in this way offer something exciting and interesting to readers. Something that better reflects their world and their experience of the world.
Can you talk us through your thought process when choosing your issue themes?
In some ways sex was obvious: it permeates all media, in particular the pages of women’s glossies, and dominates feminist discourse. So we started there, with something explicit, controversial, and present. In contrast, there was a distinct lack of discussion surrounding the ‘mind’ when we chose it for our second issue. The move from ‘sex’ to ‘mind’ was a move inward, to something more introspective and intangible.
In late 2016 you released your Mind Issue which (by our interpretation) challenged the notion of binary thinking. However people need to be willing to be enlightened before they can reflect on the issues raised in the magazine – is it hard tackling the “ignorance barrier” many erect when faced with new ways of thinking?
Perhaps it’s a case of preaching to the converted, but we have only received positive messages to the issue. We try, as far as possible to encompass a multitude of voices and experiences, rather than force a particular agenda on our readers. Yes, the magazine as a whole challenges the notion of binary thinking, but we don’t feel that to be the most challenging thing in the magazine – over the recent years, we’ve seen a huge cultural shift in our understanding of the self and gender. Binary thinking is more often rejected, and constantly held up to scrutiny.
With your issues selling out and events receiving rave reviews, it’s easy for an onlooker to say that Ladybeard is enjoying a lot of success. However, on a more personal level, how do you define a successful issue?
It’s difficult to say, we’ve only made two issues and they each took a year! From the outside it may appear that Ladybeard enjoys traditional standards of success, however we make no money from the issues, and for 6 months of the year work nights and weekends to pack it all in. It sounds clichéd but what really matters is the magazine – as long as we are honestly happy with everything that has gone in, then we feel it’s a success.
What can we expect to see from Ladybeard in the coming months?
Another snail-paced race to make a magazine – this time our theme is beauty.
*What scares you about the year ahead?
Ha! Aside from the disintegration of safe spaces for any marginalised community and the implementation of divisive, repressive policies on a global scale, we feel a little scared about doing the issue all over again, about making it work, about growing up.
…and in contrast, what are you excited for in 2017?
Making another issue, seeing where it takes us.
Could you pin-point a single book, movie, talk that impacted the way you saw the world?
A lot of people on the team would say Susie Orbach’s ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’ – reading that while still a teenager was incredible formative.
What are your FAULTs?
We’re impatient and critical and never satisfied.
Words: Miles Holder
Read more about Ladybeard on www.ladybeardmagazine.co.uk
As we gear up for the launch of our ‘Made In America’ issue which chronicles all the popular artists who have managed to excel despite growing racist, homophobic and sexist sentiment in the land they call home, we’ve been keeping our ear to the ground to find more creatives/events who highlight and embody this role. Today that comes in the form of “Stand Up for EU Nationals”, a celebration of, and show of solidarity for, EU nationals who (for now at least) call the UK “home”.
As Article 50 is triggered with no guarantees for EU citizens in the UK, this event celebrates their contribution to our community.
In the first half Ian Dunt, author of Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? and the LSE’s Philippe Legrain will reveal the facts about immigration to the UK and how the press fail to report the enormous economic, cultural and social contributions newcomers make to our country.
In the second half, comedians Shazia Mirza, Sindhu Vee and Grainne Maguire will give their hilarious take on what it’s like to live in Brexit Britain.
The event will also feature an EU citizen picked from a crowdsourcing campaign, who will talk about what it is like to live in the UK, both pre- and post-Brexit.
Come for a night of celebration and laughter, as we refuse to despair in the face of Brexit or give up on our friends and neighbours.
Tickets just £8 (concessions), £12 and £18 for a celebratory night of information and comedy.
Adapted from Maylis de Kerangal’s internationally acclaimed 2014 novel Mend the Living, Katell Quillévéré’s Heal the Living opens with three teenagers deploying their surfboards on a deserted beach at dawn, throwing themselves into the curls of deep blue waves. Pure sensation is the order of the day, and a prelude to a tragedy in their lives. Before long, a fatal car crash takes one of them.
Upon arriving at a hospital in Le Havre, 16-year-old Simon (Gabin Verdet) is pronounced brain-dead. Doctors broach the delicate yet urgent matter of organ donation to his distraught parents Marianne (Emmanuelle Seigner) and Vincent (Kool Shen). Here, Quillévéré steps back—let’s consider the enormity of the situation—and shifts her attention to the peripheral hospital staff: a disheveled surgeon (Bouli Lanners), a mousy organ donation coordinator (Tahar Rahim), and a put-upon new nurse (Monia Chokri). Meanwhile, Simon’s misfortune opens up the possibility for the continuation of life for another. In Paris, middle-aged mother Claire (Anne Dorval), whose degenerative heart condition is worsening, is put on a waiting list to receive a potential transplant.
Heal the Living is a meditation on human suffering, both literally and figuratively embroidered around hearts: the rhythm of our lives and a sound box for our emotions. Quiet human details, like parents’ farewells whispered into the ears of unconscious children, are magnified with soaring visual and sonic acumen—Tom Harari shoots, Alexandre Desplat scores—and it’s life affirming.
The César-nominated filmmaker spoke to FAULT about her big career lessons, discovering newcomer Gabin Verdet, and her dazzling elegy to life Heal the Living.
Could you describe your first encounter with Maylis de Kerangal’s novel?
It was somewhat accidental how I made contact with the material because it was actually David [Thion], one of the producers on the film, who introduced me to the novel. He had already put the idea in his head that it should be made into a film. When I first read the novel, I was already working on an original screenplay, so I wasn’t particularly interested in adapting it. But it was so powerful. I could see that there was something special there, so I made it a point to meet with Maylis. It was over time in the writing process that I really came to understand my intimate connection to the novel. It conjured up my memories of loss in the hospital and it replayed in my mind. Sometimes when you’re making a film, you confront and deal with things like loss, as well as desire. I hope this is the same kind of experience people take away after watching the film.
Was this a very cathartic experience looking back?
Yes, and I think that’s the essence of what cinema is. It should have this cathartic effect, both for the people making the film as well as for the people watching it. If you think back to the start of cinema and the whole fairgrounds thing, it was a way for people to confront fear, laughter, tears and even some danger, but at the same time, with a bit of distance from it all.
The film centers on Simon, then his parents, then the hospital staff, and then Claire and everyone in her orbit. This feels deliberate—underscoring the interconnectedness of us all.
You’re correct in your analysis because the movie is all about the human link. There’s no direct translation for this from French to English, but it’s almost like the film is in a relay where each character passes the torch on to the next person. That’s how this film was conceived. As you said, it begins with an individual, broadens out to include a larger community, and then society as a whole.
The opening moments with the surfers are absolutely breathtaking. I understand it was quite difficult to pull off. Why was it important that we see them at sea before tragedy strikes?
This was the most difficult thing to shoot. The water, the sea—it’s very powerful and something you can’t control. It was important that the film begins in the sea because it’s where all of humanity began. The idea of showing surfers at sea is a way of referencing the start of life and the end of life. It’s a metaphoric image when we see the surfers inside the waves. It’s almost as if they’re inside the mother’s womb. When the sea ejects the surfers, it’s as if a mother ejects the child during birth.
There are moments of fantasy that make scenes explode. The road the surfers are driving on turns into ocean waves, for example. How do you know when to indulge and daydream?
It was a challenge to achieve this kind of subtle balance between dream and reality. I found that, by striking this balance, it provided access into what is very profound in the film. On one level, the film is medical. On another level, the film is very physical. But then we’re also dealing with a film that’s metaphysical. To experience all of them and to have this trajectory from the trivial to the sacred when you’re watching the film, I needed to find the balance that you’re talking about. I think that’s what we’re really striving for in cinema. In life, you have the life you’re living, the life you’re perhaps afraid to live, and the life that you would like to live. I think cinema unites these three different ways of looking at life, which requires that balance between fantasy and reality.
You somehow managed to cobble together many of my favorite French-speaking actors into one ensemble, from Anne Dorval to Finnegan Oldfield. What was your approach to casting?
I can tell you that nobody came first. I really tried to build a team and think about it as an ensemble—something closer to a symphony. This is my first film where the casting felt like roulette. Prior to this, I had always thought about the person who came before and after in the casting process. I considered the physicality of actors, the emotional boundaries of actors, and also diversity. I wanted a diverse cast to reflect society. So I was interested in pulling actors from different kinds of movies and actors of different origins. I really wanted true personalities to encompass this story.
In order to experience the magic of seeing a transplanted heart beat again in a stranger’s body, you need the trivial details as much as the sacred ones.
I’m very curious about Gabin Verdet. Did you find him through street casting?
Yes, Gabin is an actual surfer. He had never acted before this film. It was a long casting process to find him and his friends. We saw like 200 surfers. I was always convinced that the person playing Simon would have to be an actual surfer because I wanted to shoot him at sea. It had to be real. Simon had to have the body of a surfer, which is very specific in its own way. [Surfing is] also a state of mind, so I really needed someone who had that special relationship to the sea. When you’re a passionate surfer, you risk your life. Gabin is a really passionate guy. He really wakes up at five in the morning every day to surf. [Laughs] I think you can feel that on his face, in his smile, and everything. I loved that he had a limitless potential. I didn’t have much time to warm this young guy up to the audience, so it had to be really strong while it lasted. And it had to be really lively.
There are other technical wonders: How did you film the painstaking open-heart surgery?
We spent a long, long time working with real surgeons to make it believable. There are many reasons why I wanted it to look exactly like reality. First of all, the science behind transplants always fascinated me and I wanted to do it justice. The idea of getting all the protocols and requirements correct on film excited me. Also, I’m convinced that the more realistic you are about capturing life on film, the more magical things become. In order to experience the magic of seeing a transplanted heart beat again in a stranger’s body, you need the trivial details as much as the sacred ones. Triviality is totally related to scared life. One doesn’t work without the other.
Heal the Living marks your third feature as a director. What are some of the more important things that you’ve picked up over the years about the key to making a very good film?
One of the important things that I learned is that, to have a successful film, you really need to start off with an excellent screenplay. You really have to work on the writing so that it’s really good before you start anything else. Also, once you have the solid foundation of a good screenplay and you’re ready to make the film, you have to be open to whatever might happen. You have to be able to deal with the weather, with suggestions that are made from other people… It’s really this line between mastering and controlling the script, and being open to what might happen once you begin shooting. This is extremely important and difficult. [Laughs] Controlling, and then letting it go.
Can you recall an early memory where you decided you wanted to become a filmmaker?
The earliest image I can recall is watching The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when I was three years old. I remember being fascinated by these two guys playing hooky. They were really unique and left an impression on me. I wasn’t at all programmed in an artistic way. I don’t come from a family of artists. I didn’t know people from the arts. My way of playing hooky became cinema.
Heal the Living was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the César Awards in 2017. The film is set to open across UK cinemas on April 28.
Despite not legally allowed to drink in the UK until last week, Sonny’s voice is filled with the rich tones of the jazz singer whose spent years perfecting his craft in smoky jazz dens. His debut single entitled ‘Princess’ oozes with soul whilst containing elements of folk and jazz all rolled up in a modern pop ballad for contemporary audiences.
“My first release ‘Princess’ is a very personal song about a challenging relationship. It’s a little tongue in cheek but I’ve tried to be as honest as possible and I hope that shows throughout the lyrics in this song.”
Produced by Rum And Bug, Princess is taken from Sonny’s upcoming EP, ‘Hopeless Romance’ that drops on the March 24th. (Preorder available HERE)
We wanted to find out how a young performer could be imbued with such old-school soul and what better way to find out than to have Sonny curate this weeks FAULT Playlist below!
Stevie Wonder – He’s misstra know it all
This song has always been a big part of my life, it’s one of my Mums favourite songs and artist. I’ve been influenced by Stevie Wonder from such a young age but out of all of his songs, this one really stands out for me. It’s quite a serious song until he lets loose at the end and adds in some really fun and jokey vocals. Only Stevie could do this! It’s really iconic.
Drake – Hold on we’re going home
This song was when I first discovered Drake, and it’s the song I’ll always remember him for. It’s quite different to what he usually does but the melodies are so catchy and powerful. He is always very understated yet powerful at the same time. This song makes me want to get up and dance.
Paolo Nutini – Loving you.
Paolo has such a distinctive voice and I love it! So I had to buy the album. After a few car journeys I stumbled across this tune and never looked back. It was so relevant at the time because I was in a really happy place.
Penny and the Quarters – You and Me
This song featured in a movie called ‘Blue Valentine’. I fell in love with it instantly, it’s so old school and soulful. Right up my street!! With one female vocal accompanied by several males, I found it really unique. I love the story behind this song and how it was discovered.
John Martyn – May you never.
I was introduced to John Martyn by my Dad who is also an acoustic guitar player/ singer. He would teach me how to play it and then I added it into my set list! Its really folk and a different type of songwriting which I liked.
Coldplay – Everything’s not lost
Coldplay have always been one of my favourite bands. This song is typical Coldplay! A slow build up throughout the whole song and then a big finish. It helped me out through a tough time, I would just sit and listen to it on repeat. It’s from the album ‘Parachutes’ which I feel really defined Coldplay and is kind of my favourite albums.
Sonny On the web
Despite still being very much within its infancy, Camila Cabello‘s solo career has already been rather unfairly mired in rumours surrounding her choice to split from her former girl group, ‘Fifth Harmony’. From the day Camila announced her departure, wild speculation and venomous allegations flew through the airwaves with no comment of ill from either party; seemingly the narrative of five bickering women proved more newsworthy than that of them respecting each other’s career choices. Nevertheless, Camila moves graciously through the attempted adumbration of negativity into the spotlight and onto our issue cover. With an AMA, VMA and countless other awards under her belt as part of Fifth Harmony and seldom mentioned co-writing credits for acclaimed artists Machine Gun Kelly and Shawn Mendes respectively, the sky is the limit for Camila Cabello. With that in mind, we sat down to find out more about the pressures and pleasures of going it alone.
Words: Miles Holder
Hi Camila, what’s been the scariest part of transitioning to a solo artist?
I think the scariest part about it is leaving a successful project to pursue a new dream with a path full of questions of self-discovery that only you can answer. But even when I feel so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of my former group, expressing myself as an artist became a necessity.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to have to get everything perfect?
I’ve always felt pressure to get everything perfect, and I’ve never gotten there, but I think that’s what keeps me growing, and keeps me frustrated with myself and keeps me reaching. I think if you’re ever comfortable and think “wow. This is it. I’ve figured it out.” , you stop trying and you stop growing.
What should fans expect to hear from your new music?
They are going to feel who I am. They are going to get a chunk of my heart, my experiences, my fantasies and everything in between.
What do you have lined up musically for 2017?
We’ll be touring worldwide for the rest of the year.
If you could describe the sound in 3 words, what would it be?
I couldn’t possibly boil it all down to three words but it will be me in sound form.
It feels like you’ve been working non-stop for the past 5 year, where did you find the time to prepare for your solo career in that time?
I was always writing, not necessarily for myself, but just because I really wanted to be a songwriter. I think as I was writing I found my own voice as an artist and as a person, and I’m discovering more about it every day.
What’s been the best part of the solo journey so far?
Working with so many talented writers and producers and following my own musical vision. I love the ability to create something out of nothing altogether.
You’re a young artist and it’s a very tough industry, where is your happy place when it all becomes too much?
My family and movies.
If you could give any advice to you younger self, what would it be?
Everything has to happen the way it’s going to happen so that other things can occur. And also, don’t be so hard on yourself.
There’s a lot of pressure on young artists (female performers especially) to be forced by the media to act a certain way or become bullied into dressing a certain way. What’s something you would never apologise for?
I think it’s important to make your own decisions about what feels right to you and follow your inner voice. Never compromise if it doesn’t feel right.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Everything is temporary and life has seasons of its own. Just like flowers don’t bloom all the time, there are moments of sadness and happiness, struggle and joy, and being human means feeling all of it, even in the bad times, so that you’re that much more grateful for the good times when they come.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
I hope to release my first few songs before summer and then go from there and hopefully an album in the Fall.
What is your FAULT?
Overthinking, worrying about things that may not be in my control and not being present. I am sometimes too hard on myself and I get frustrated with how sensitive and emotional I can get, but I’m learning to love myself a little more during the times when I am sad or insecure, and I just remind myself that feeling those emotions is just a part of being human, and we have to love all the parts of our humanity, because they’re not there to hurt us, they’re there to make us understand ourselves a little better.
Photographer: Charl Marais @ Kayte Ellis Agency
Fashion Editor: Kristine Kilty
Grooming: Kristina Vidic using: Mac cosmetics, skincare Dr. Hauschka
Photography Assistant: Lotti Brewer-Gmoser
Model: James Magee @ Select