FAULT Future: actor Luke Newberry ‘In the Flesh’

Having worked alongside the likes of Maggie Smith (The Quartet) and Keira Knightley (Anna Karenina), at just 23 Luke Newberry has already rubbed shoulders with acting royalty. The classically trained star of the new BBC zombie series In The Flesh spoke to FAULT about acting since infancy, being on set with his idols and two exciting TV projects.

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FAULT: What made you decide to go into acting?

Luke: I grew up in a house in Devon and we had this room out the back that my older sisters would dance in. I just decided at about the age of 5 to take it over and make it into a theatre. I was a tiny little producer, actor and writer. My dad would take me to hardware shops to buy materials and he would help me build the stage up, then I would write a play. I became interested in filmmaking as I got older and I used to shoot short films in there. I got an agent in London when I was about 7 and started working as a child actor.

You went to drama school, which seems to be less of a normality nowadays – how important was the experience?

It was, definitely. I don’t think it’s necessary but I really wanted that kind of training and it really gets you fit both physically and vocally. It gives you great tools that, especially in theatre, are really essential. Weirdly The Bristol Old Vic, where I went, was always somewhere I wanted to go and its alumni, like Daniel Day Lewis, were always an attraction. I also fell in love with the big Victorian houses – it’s quite romantic.

You’ve acted alongside some huge names with roles in The Quartet and Anna Karenina – what was it like being on set with the likes of Maggie Smith and Kiera Knightly?

It was really quite surreal. I had this crazy moment where I was sitting in the sun on those fold out chairs and it was just me and Maggie Smith and she was with a parasol and an espresso and I just thought, Wow! This is strange, should I be here? But they always made me feel very welcome. Being on the Anna Karenina set with Joe Wright was amazing ‘cause he’s one of my favourite directors. I’d come onto set and there stood Jude Law and Keira Knightly – I was so nervous!

Tell us a bit about your upcoming BBC zombie thriller In The Flesh.

It’s a new script by a brand new writer called Dominic Mitchell and directed by Johnny Campbell. It’s about a guy called Kieran, who I play, who has risen from the dead 4 years before it starts in a freak uprising where everyone who died in 2009 mysteriously returns and does the whole zombie thing – eating peoples brains etc. They were all rounded up and contained in a treatment centre in Norfolk. Then the story starts just as Kieran is ready go to back to his family and his village. It’s set in this rural northern village and it’s essentially about prejudice. Kieran has to go back and try and fit into society and there are people who don’t want him around – there’s a whole vigilante group out to get rid of these imposters, as they call them. It’s zombies but the really story is about being an outsider.

Your character, Kieran, is both introverted, shy and rather human-like, and also dangerously bloodthirsty in his flashbacks – how did you master this duality?

It was strange. It was like being in a Jimmy McGovern drama. There were very normal days and then some days I would come in and put on my contacts lenses and prosthetic face and stuff so it was always extremes. It was about finding a balance so as to not make him a monster, although what he did in his flashbacks is pretty awful. It’s unrecognisable to him, which is why he can’t really understand it.



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Were you a fan of zombie movies or books before you started In The Flesh?

I don’t have a particular genre that I’m drawn to. I did grow up watching stuff like Death Becomes Her, which had that sort of living dead element. It wasn’t flesh eating zombies but more the human side of it – what it would be like to be slowly rotting, but alive. I find the whole idea about life and death really interesting.

You’re also in ITV’s new supernatural drama, Lightfields – tell us a bit about your involvement in that.

Lightfields is a story about a girl who dies in a barn in 1944 and it follows the lives of the families that lived in the house in 1944, then 1975 and then in the present day. She haunts the farmhouse through the ages and you see the ripple effect of certain events. I play Harry in 1944. She was my girlfriend and I try to figure out how she died and who might be responsible.

It’s very different to In The Flesh in that Harry is completely alive and not half alive and and it’s a period piece. Harry is a bit sweeter and quite charming, but he’s also got a bit of go in him. He’s devastated when she dies and that’s what drives him to find out who did it, whereas Kieran is very introverted and quite depressed and melancholy and then gets his fire as the show develops.

After Lightfields I went straight up to Yorkshire to film In The Flesh and the daily difference was amazing: up at 5, makeup for 3 hours and then a full day’s work everyday and night shoots too.

What has been the stand-out moment in your career so far?

I got to rap Tinie Tempeh with Billie Connolly being directed by Dustin Hoffman. I was listening to it on my iPod and then we went in for a take and I suddenly forgot the lyrics and then he did too and we just looked at each other and both sort of kept on muttering. Afterwards I said to Dustin, “I’m so sorry that was terrible,” and he was like [puts on American accent] “no it was perfect, we’re gonna use it!” It ended up in the film.

You’ve been both on the stage and in front of the camera – any preference?

I’ve done more screen stuff since I left drama school. I did Antigone at The National and that was really surreal. I had the Olivier postcard of the auditorium on my wall through drama school. It’s my favourite theatre! I was playing Haymen with Chris Eccleston as my dad – again, another nuts experience. I only realise when doing interviews the amazing things I’ve actually done!

I love the intimacy of film but then you don’t have the energy and the electric feeling you get from a packed auditorium.

Who would you most like to work with in the future?

Wes Anderson – I loved Moonrise Kingdom, it was quirky and brilliant. I would really love to work with Nicole Kidman and play her son. That would be a dream. Lars von Trier is another. And Baz Luhrmann produces visual orgasms!

Do you get star-struck?

No, not usually. I’m sure with some people I would be though. It’s strange when meet someone you’ve only ever scene on billboards or on screen. They have this otherworldly thing about them that then makes it difficult to talk to them as if they were just another person.

Any exciting plans in the works?

None that I can divulge, unfortunately.

What is your FAULT?

I drink too much tea 

Words: Rebecca Unger