Russell Tovey Discusses The Sister In FAULT Magazine Covershoot and Interview

Russell Tovey X FAULT Magazine

Photography: David Yeo


Interview: Miles Holder

To know great British TV and cinema is to know the name, Russell Tovey. With a career spanning over 25 years, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen one of Russell’s projects be it on stage or television. While the global pandemic may have forced the film industry to come to a standstill, Russell Tovey’s has been keeping busy with his podcast Talk Art.

Talk Art is hosted by Russell and gallerist Robert Diament and sees the two interview the likes of Sir Elton John, Billy Porter and Edward Enniful on all things art-related. Somehow the two have managed to make interviewing the worlds most exclusive stars, about the world’s most exclusive industry, feel homely and inviting. At a time where the art world is as inaccessible as ever due to pandemic restrictions, the show is a comfortable viewing window into a world often closed off to the masses.

With new show ‘The Sister’ hitting ITV later next month, we caught up with Russell to discuss his career, his Podcast and of course, his FAULTs. 

What’s something new you’ve learnt about yourself during the lockdown? 

Russell Tovey: It forced me to slow down. I’d been going going going before lockdown, and it’s been a really amazing opportunity to reassess everything. I’ve learnt I’m also good at being proactive with my Podcast and writing. It’s given me a chance to do charity work, delivering food to vulnerable people and it’s amazing because you get to see the effect you can have on other people. 


The art world feels inaccessible to many people, but Talk Art is doing so well, what do you account this success to?

Russell Tovey: I think if someone is enthusiastic, it’s hard not to listen to them. There are people who feel shut out from the art world, but because we find it fun and exciting, we’re giving people an access point and a backdoor into an art museum. People have commented that it’s like overhearing a conversation with friends which for me is the best compliment. The people we interview come up with such interesting answers to our questions that you can’t help but feel inspired by their stories. 

Mainstream stars such as Beyonce, Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz have made their love of collecting art very public in recent years, do you think this has helped spur interest among people who otherwise wouldn’t care too much for it?

Russell Tovey: Visual art crosses all mediums, and the best thing about it is that so many people think they don’t have any interest in art until they listen to the show and realise that they actually recognise a lot of the pieces we discuss. It could be from a poster they’ve seen or from their parents’ houses, but they suddenly realise they do appreciate them. Sometimes it’s just the setting of a gallery which can make people feel shut out or like an idiot but what we’re saying is “you can go to a gallery and like nothing, and that’s fine.” You might only see one piece of work that makes you say “I like that” and that little change is a gift. 


You recently gave an impassioned dance performance in Fabio D’Andrea’s ‘Something Left to Love’ music video, what’s something you look out for when prospecting new projects to work on?

Russell Tovey: I love a challenge and being pushed and doing characters that I haven’t done before. When I got asked to do the music video I was like “no way it’s not my comfortable place “, but as soon as I started working on it, it was cool. I’m a yes person, maybe at times I say yes too many times, but I like saying yes to things that I’m unsure about.

Tell us about your upcoming show, The Sister?

Russell Tovey: It’s a four-part drama about a guy called Nathan who is a very normal lad, and then something happens in his early 20s which ruins his life. It’s a story about what happens when you paper over the cracks, and it comes back to haunt you. It’s terrific; it challenges you because you fall in love with Nathan, and eventually realise what he’s done. It’s an interesting story about human experience and about how good people can do bad things.


What’s a role you’d love to play, even if it’s already been done?

Russell Tovey: The Goonies for me as a kid was one of the most inspiring movies. If I could have been one of those kids that would have been the ultimate dream. Dead Poet Society was also one of the movies that made me want to be an actor. Robin Williams will always be my hero, and the fact that I never met him or got to work with him is a great sadness of mine. 


What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome to take your work to the next level?

Russell Tovey: As I get older, I’m a lot more method in my work which doesn’t mean I stay in character all the time, but I do take that character home at the end of the day. That’s something that has been affecting me when I’ve played certain roles. One of those would be Angels in America at the National Theatre; it was my dream job but emotionally the hardest. It threw me, I didn’t know what my emotions were doing, but I wasn’t myself, and I am very proud of what I did in that show. I loved it, and I had to be in it, which made it emotionally challenging. 

Another hurdle I faced was while I’ve always been playing to my strengths, and I loved playing the embarrassed crush but I got to a point where I wanted to be eligible for the other roles. What I ended having to do was doing weight training to push myself into a different bracket, and by doing that, it opened a whole other wing of opportunity. 

The industry, especially for female actors, likes to typecast based on body type, having to alter your body to come across as believably desirable must have been a lot of pressure on you?

Russell Tovey: I think with pressure is once you’re in that bracket, you now have to maintain it. I felt like once you’ve made more work from changing your body, and get the roles which require you to be undressed you think “sh*t, I’ve got to get to the gym!” The hours filming were non stop, and I remember thinking “how am I meant to work all day AND have a buff body”, it’s insanity. 


What is your FAULT?

Russell Tovey: I’ve gotten a lot better, but I definitely used to have social anxiety, I would get into a loop of going to a party telling a joke having no one laugh and just overthinking it the next day. Especially I’d go to a casting and feel all the eyes on me when you get to a point in your career, there’s an expectation of you, and I felt like I never reached it. I have a dip where I feel like they’re never going to cast me and it’s only the last few years that I’ve realised it’s all in my head. It reminds me that no matter what level you get, you still have imposter syndrome.