The A Game: FAULT talks to one of the UK’s most versatile actors, Lee Ingleby

Typecasting is always the mortal enemy for actors, but that is a problem which Lee Ingleby doesn’t suffer. Lee is the antithesis of typecasting, sashaying from roles such as torturous serial killer in Luther, to a loving father of a five year old boy in BBC1’s The A Word. Lee’s adaptability which underpins his convincing performances in roles worlds apart from one another, has led him in to the position of being one of Britain’s most sought after actors.

8489 v2-min
Top – Topman / Trousers – American Apparel / Trainers – Clae

The A Word has been tremendously well received for tackling a sensitive issue that is too often parodied in TV and film: Autism. Written by the author of BAFTA-winning Marvellous Peter Bowker, I wondered if it was purely the writing that attracted Lee to this difficult role, or if the allure was more widespread than that.

Lee: Well, it was the writing entirely really. I got sent the script and I remember the producer telling me it was by Peter Bowker and I knew his work, of course, and I thought that if anything, it would be a good read and it really was. I think I mainly liked it because at its core, it was just about relationships and how they struggle; it is matters of the heart. There are a lot of dramas at the minute – which while great in their own way – are about crime or dragons and I love all of that, but with this, it is one of those dramas that is just about people and how they struggle.


FAULT: Certainly, and in a way, it’s often the simpler concepts that resonate with the viewer.

Lee: Absolutely, and I like that fact the script is so honest. It wasn’t set out to say “oh, look at me, please like me”. This is one story, about one family and one kid with autism. It is about how they deal with it and about how they don’t deal with it. It isn’t pretty, you know, it’s not showing how every family is, but rather how these guys dealt with it.


FAULT: That’s true; it’s as much about their failings as their successes, and that less linear approach rings more true to life.

Lee: Exactly. They aren’t an idyllic family; they struggle to communicate and they’re a product of where they are from, their time and the family circle.

8844 v2-min
Jumper – Universal Works / Jacket – Percival

FAULT: Is it difficult to prepare for roles as emotionally charged as this one?

Lee: Well, yes it is in a way as you really want to get it right. Because it is a subject that touches an awful lot of people and even though everybody’s experiences of this sort of thing will be different, you really want to make sure you get it right when dealing with this subject matter. You do have to do a lot of research but also, it was funny: we all started off doing a lot of research but then we realised that perhaps we’re doing too much. We’re playing a family who doesn’t know how to deal with the situation. So we decided to pull back slightly and let ourselves discover it through the script as the characters would because we shot it sequentially.


FAULT: Preparation for roles is a topic I wanted to touch on again. I am a huge Luther fan and your role as a serial killer in that is in one of the most intense episodes there was. Obviously, that role is worlds apart from The A Word and I notice you play roles with enormous disparity between them. Is it difficult to go from one to the other?

Lee: It’s an absolute joy to be honest. To be able to disguise yourself and do something completely different – and in the case of Luther, literally disguise yourself – it’s great. I think as an actor that’s exactly what you want: to be almost unrecognisable. You might have the same face and the same build, but one minute you are a serial killer who is trying to create a myth and folklore and the next playing a Dad who relies on his humour as a defence mechanism and by all accounts is just a normal, Northern Dad. It’s lovely to play bastards and it’s also lovely to play people with real heart and soul.

FAULT: Yes and it really is a testament to you as an actor that you don’t find yourselves in very similar roles continuously. I’m naive when it comes to acting; I’ve never really done it. One thing that I’ve wondered, particularly in regards to your part on Luther, is how you research the part to make it convincing. I mean, I don’t know many serial killers. So how do you ensure you are convincing in that sort of role?

Lee: The thing with all these films and TV shows that people remember is – although you have a great crew and director – it comes back to the same thing: it’s all in the script. Of course, you do your research as much as you can but it’s all there [in the script]. Neil Cross who wrote Luther is so good that he creates these worlds with believability and I think when playing serial killers, you have to find the human behind them. I didn’t want to be the archvillain with the eyebrow raised, because then people will just spot him a mile away. I don’t know many serial killers either, but these people like the Yorkshire Ripper… these are guys you walk past in the street; they’re seemingly normal! People are always saying things like “oh God, I had no idea!” when they lived next door to a serial killer.

8921 v2-min
Shirt – Farah / Trousers – Levis / Shoes – Clae

FAULT: Speaking of Luther, you’re currently in a show slightly closer to that at the moment which is called The Five which has its finale this week. The first thing that struck me about it, being the photographer I am, is how incredible the cinematography is!

Lee: It’s great isn’t it? Being a good looking show is quite unique for a British drama I think. They wanted it to have an edge and a different feel to it; it just brings you in. You may notice that a lot of the shots have the camera right in people’s faces; that’s exactly what the director wanted. He wanted the viewer to see exactly what’s going on in the characters’ eyes. There are these sweeping shots in this small British town because he wanted to create this grand piece because each of these characters’ lives is a big deal and that’s what he wanted to push. I think it’s brilliant; Mark [Tonderai] is a great director.


FAULT: The Five is slightly closer to Luther in terms of the type of show it is. Do you particularly enjoy this sort of role or are you happy just taking different roles as they present themselves?

Lee: I like to just see what comes in, really. Of course, I see films and I think that there are parts that are an actor’s dream and I would love to have played it. The classic roles like Hamlet or Richard III represent a challenge to an actor as you have to tackle the dialogue and create these worlds on the stage. However, I think that’s true of any theatrical part to play; you have to inhabit it and bring it to life. I get excited when I’m given a new script and I get to discover what it’s all about.

9058 v2-min
Shirt – Farah / Trousers – Levis / Shoes – Clae

FAULT: I imagine it must be exciting jumping from role to role. Is there a type of part which you prefer to play?

Lee: No, I don’t think there is really. All I do try and do is play something completely different to my last role and I do that as much as I can. Obviously you’re limited by what’s out there and what people want you to do. I just like taking on roles and seeing what I can do with them and who I can collaborate with.

FAULT: Yes, I can see how that approach can keep things fresh!

Lee: Absolutely, I suppose it’s that thing where I knew pretty early on I was never going to be James Bond. Those sort of roles that have a chiselled jawed jock… I was never going to be that guy. So I decided I wanted to play the parts that have real character – not to say that they don’t – but instead play parts that I can make my own in a way.

Jumper – Scotch & Soda / Jacket – Universal Works / Jeans – Nudie Jeans / Shoes – Clae

FAULT: What is your fault?

Lee: I find decision a hard thing… does that count as a fault? 

FAULT: Absolutely, I suffer from it as well!

Lee: I can’t deal with it! I think the grass is always greener and that’s my Achilles heel.


You can follow Lee on Twitter.


Photography Jack Alexander

Styling Felicity Gray

Grooming Shamirah Sairally

Words Robert Baggs