FAULT Focus: Gwilym Lee, rising star of screen (Midsomer Murders) and stage (Peter Gill’s upcoming play ‘Versailles’)


With World War One centenary events commencing this month, FAULT caught up with Midsomer Murders actor Gwilym Lee to talk about his upcoming role as Leonard Rawlinson in the Peter Gill play Versailles.

FAULT: You’ve been away from theatre for a year working on the show ‘Midsomer Murders’, why have you chosen to return to the stage?

For me it’s something I always try to do each year. TV work allows the time for me to be able to come back to theatre. I take so much pleasure from it. I always try to do theatre once a year because it allows me the time to go back to school and learn my craft. I can reconnect with what it was that made me want to become an actor. Usually in TV you’re so rushed and you don’t have much time to rehearse and you have to make choices quite quickly and commit to them, as quickly as you can. However with a play you can really investigate the part and investigate the world in which the play is set. So for instance Versailles is set at the end of the First World War and I have a great interest in history. The theatre allows me to explore the world that you might not get the opportunity to do when working on a television production.

Do you see any risk in juggling both jobs?

The reason I became an actor was to not be doing the same thing over and over again. I don’t want to be in the same medium or playing the same part my whole life. I wouldn’t say it was a risk, for me it’s a necessity to keep challenging myself and to keep doing different things and to stay out of my comfort zone, rather to just settle for one thing and one character. It’s scary, not having been on stage for a year and then not just to be doing a play, but a new play. It’s a bit of a leap of faith! Again, the theatre allows you to explore the part so that you have the confidence to go and share it with an audience.


Tell us about the part you play in Versailles.

I play a character called Leonard Rawlinson. The play is set in 1919; it’s in 3 acts. All the characters are dealing with the fallout of WW1 and how it’s affected them in different ways. A character dies during the war and he so happens to be my secret lover from a repressed gay relationship. All of a sudden I have this dilemma and crisis about how I’m going to go to Paris and do what I have to do. This deceased character and lover keeps coming back to Leonard and it constantly makes him reflect on issues such as; the waste of life, what was it for, and what have we learnt through it all? It asks the questions in 1919 but they can still be asked in 2014. It’s a great opportunity too, when there will be so many centenary events, it really is a a great time to reflect on where we have come – if anywhere… The issues that emerged after the First World War are still issues that we deal with today. Especially looking at Palestine and Iraq which were born after WW1 by people like my characters who sat at a desk with a map and rulers just redrawing the world, so it’s a great significantly timed play.

As you said its almost 100 years since the start of the World War 1 and many eyes will be focused on events and plays like this one. Does that put pressure on you as an actor working on such an important production?

I don’t think so, you can never get something right, you can just try and show the audience what attracted you to the play and what moved you about it. It’s about showing your passion for whatever that may be. Bare in mind that the audience is different each night and especially in the Donmar Theatre, the people change every showing. I don’t feel pressure I just want to be able to move people, I don’t want to prescribe what they should be feeling, I want them to know why I’m passionate about the play. I might only move one person in one show and many in the next, but my true goal is just to show my passion regardless.

What is your FAULT?

I think I appear too serious at times. I’m a big frowner and I pontificate too much…oh and I play with my face a lot.

‘The Killings of Copenhagen’ is made in association with DR (Danish Broadcasting Corp) with support from the Copenhagen Film Fund; thanks to the Oresund Film Commission. Location services in Denmark are provided by Deborah Bayer Marlow at Copenhagen Film Company.

Versailles starts its run at The Donmar Warehouse on Feb 20th.

Words: Miles Holder
Photography: Nick Haddow