Saturday, October 17, 2020

Interview with Andrew Richardson: Meet This British Actor Who is Making a Splash in America in A Call to Spy, Martin Eden and More; He Talks How This Happened and Where He's Headed in What Will Surely Be a Very Successful Career

By Suzanne Ordas Curry

I've got a feeling Andrew Richardson will soon become a household name. Just since I spoke to him not too long ago his film A Call to Spy is now in theaters and streaming, he just finished shooting No Human Involved  and it was announced that he got a gig on an ABC medical drama pilot named Triage. You may have also seen him in The Last OG.

It's no surprise when you see this handsome actor, hear that British accent and observe what he can do on screen, that he landed his first film role in Sarah Megan Thomas' A Call to Spy straight out of college. In this World War II film inspired by the stories of three real female spies, he plays a strong, masculine soldier, but one which he tried to make a bit more human. As the soldier is surrounded by danger, he said, "I wanted him to bring a little sense of humor and positivity to the role." 

In this exclusive article we talk to Andrew about how he went from ballet to theater, from Britian to Canada to the US (where he currently resides) and from Michigan to Hungary for his role in A Call to Spy. Oh, and he also fills us in on what he's been doing during this pandemic, aside from auditioning over Zoom.

Suzee: Let's get to know you. Tell me something about how your journey to becoming and actor here in the states.

Andrew Richardson: I was born in Canada but raised in England. I grew up on a farm in England. I was one of just a few people that have three passports!

I originally set out to be a ballet dancer I trained in London. I loved performing at the Royal Opera House. It was everything having to do with classical dance and music which I love. But, I found it quite frustrating because of the lack of opportunities dancers are given. I figured I’d pursue it more as a hobby and I was drawn towards theater specifically Shakespeare at the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was right there in London and it was phenomenal to be there that close to World class caliber storytelling.  I’m really drawn to the theater and other forms of narrative storytelling so I actually looked into studying acting in the states.

Suzee: I wasn't aware of that. 

It's typically very difficult to be an actor in Britain it’s very expensive over there. And there are simply more opportunities in America. Well they say all roads lead to Rome but for an actor or read all roads lead to America! And  specifically LA,  you know not necessarily but as a general blanket statement it is quite true. I ended up going to Interlochen Arts Academy up in Michigan and then they kind of plugged me into Carnegie Mellon. I went to University to do my BFA in acting and then very shortly after graduation I ended up doing this World War II film.

Suzee: So A Call to Spy was your first film? I had the privilege of reading the script before production and was enthralled with the story.

Andrew Richardson: Yes. I had my first job right out of school in A Call to Spy. I’ve only been out of school about 2 1/2 years now. I think I was very lucky to get it so quickly. I remember the manager called me and said they were looking for a British actor with American citizenship preferably over 6 foot. I would assume that really narrows it down for the New York base of actors, just a guess. 

It was a really fun audition. You know some are really difficult but this was really easy because as you said yourself the script was really excellent. It was original and creative. Moreover one of my favorite things happened. When I was in the audition room they asked me to improvise with the scene. And for someone like myself that comes from theater it’s kind of like being given the perfect cocktail. It was amazing to be given an opportunity to do that in the audition room,  it was a big part of falling in love with the project from the get-go.

Suzee: What was it like doing a film as your first paid job?

Andrew Richardson: The whole experience, well it was the best job for a first time actor to get not only because it was a very fascinating important story to tell but both the creative team and the cast to this day was the best group I ever worked with both in the states and over in Budapest. It was just a wonderful experience. I shot about three weeks in Philadelphia and three weeks in Budapest.

Well I was very new to the whole process and as a theater student I was off the boat and ready to go. I had actually worked with a historian before we filmed. When I was in London I met with professor at a pub to talk about it the SOE agents from England and it ended up being an ongoing conversation I had with Lydia (Dean Pilcher, the director) during the shoot. Generally I am curious and so the research before going into the project is one of my favorite parts this movie provided that. 

It was amazing showing up in Philadelphia  and then seeing how much changes when you’re on the ground you have preconceived ideas of what is going to happen. For example we had rain in Philadelphia and it starts raining but you have to keep shooting and everything changes because of it. It's not what you were prepared for so there were a lot of learning curve. But as I said before the team was very nurturing and I learned so much my first few scenes.  There wash an actor named Rob Heaps. He was one of those actors where if I had questions he would explain it and walk me through it.  It felt almost like a Masters program.

Suzee: I appreciate WW II movies for many reasons but one being that my dad served in the war in Europe. Do you have any personal connections?

Andrew Richardson: My grandfather was an engineer for the Navy, he's in England. I have to add that lately it's been tough because of Covid no one has been able to visit him. Beyond that if you’ve ever grown up in Europe you have an intrinsic connection to World War II. In America you learn about the colonies and the early politics but in England you learn about World War II. It’s the foundation. 

When you walk down the street in London there’s buildings with marks where the bombs dropped; it's a visceral history there so culturally there is a connection. It’s also shown massively in cinema as a major part of storytelling and so to be a part of the legacy of World War II and especially one that shockingly has not been told so far has been very special.
Suzee: Tell me something about how you approached your role in A Call to Spy.

Andrew Richardson: Sure. I play Alphonse. My favorite part about him personally and something I had discussed with Lydia and Sarah (Megan Thomas, writer/producer), was that  in spite of being a typically masculine spy which is often how it’s been portrayed I was very curious to bring a sense of humor to him and positivity to him.

Despite how brutally terrifying it was to have that job as a spy during wartime there were still  moments of camaraderie there. There were a few scenes that we had and I realized that if Alfonso‘s character had one purpose in the scene it was to make the protagonist smile. 
And I figured if I could do that in a scene then I’ve done my job. 

Even though the nature of the narrative was very serious. Spoiler alert - he is shot at the end - to play that kind of lovable character that was placed in a very dangerous circumstance in a very dangerous job and with very few friends to me that means I just had to portray the little love and happiness that was there. And so that is what I intended to bring to the table whether or not that came through or not I’m not sure. 

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Suzee: Much of the film was shot in Hungary which increased it's authenticity. What was that like?

Andrew Richardson: All of the crew were Hungarian and they were absolutely fantastic to work with. They were incredibly and efficient and kind. Filming is always difficult and what was different from filming in American was the landscape. As soon as we landed you can see it was just brilliant,  the landscape we were in, we were walking past war monuments. We were there on the streets where things happened. That's where we were filming. Again I think the proximity to the history and the aesthetic was massively influential and very exciting for everyone.

Suzee: Tell me about the airplane scene, which showed just how difficult it was to get people into specific areas. 

Andrew Richardson: There was one scene in particular when an airplane lands and drops someone off and pick someone up. And when we got to the field and I saw the airplane and they had the cars from that era… there was something very real about it. We were given the real world artifacts of the time. It was as it was exactly where we were now. All of this plugged us into an agency that really facilitated the film and the creative process.

Philadelphia really worked well for the interior locations but there is a lot to be said about being there it’s about as realistic as you can get.

Andrew Richardson by David Noles
Andrew Richardson                                 Photo by David Noles 

Suzee: Isn’t it fortunate that this was all filmed before the pandemic struck? 

Andrew Richardson: I think that filming movies post pandemic is going to be vastly different than what it is now. I don’t think necessarily all those changes will be bad. It forces people to scale and to be highly more specific. In the past it helped to just throw money at a problem to increase the visual scale but now you have to be more creative, which is where I think truly great work comes out of.

But independents often have small casts in small locations and work with skeleton crews. Now other filmmakers have to bring out the creativity as I can see in some of the projects I’m currently working on It's’s far more focused and far more educated which I appreciate. It will be interesting to see how everyone adapts. I think it will bring a new wave of talent..

"While historical male figures have been continually represented on screen since the birth of Hollywood, we finally find  ourselves at a time in which the extraordinary women of history can be celebrated. I hope this movie and others like it continue to inspire filmmakers, and educate audiences."
     - Andrew Richardson on filiming A Call To Spy

Suzee: What kind of projects do you have in mind for the future?

Andrew Richardson: A project I was working on right before everyone went into lockdown I would say is probably my most commercial job. Overall, I think actors leaving school have an idea of what they want to do in the industry and then the industry puts them in the exact opposite. I don’t think you have much of an option over it. I know when I left school I thought I was going to move back to England  to go to the Royal Shakespeare Company and that would be my career and instead it’s plugged me into film even more than TV.

Tthe world of film and independent absolutely fantastic because I think it is the by far the most interesting thing and closest thing to theater you can get.

It makes you feel like you’re meeting everyone, new filmmakers, new producers many at the very start of their careers like myself.  The thing about film is you’re giving a character everything you have for the time you are filming, then you move to another. The constant curiosity and change is immensely filling for an actor so I am looking forward to my next role be in theater or film or TV. I can imagine getting a role on a TV series will provide a whole new set of opportunities and that you get to explore another person so in depth. I can also imagine if you get on a TV show that lasts the character never leaves you. 

Suzee: Tell me about your new lead role.

Andrew Richardson: I also recently finished another called called Martin Eden (Note: Directed by Jay Craven). It was my first major lead in a feature film. It's a book by the author Jack London that's just been released into the public domain about a year ago. We filmed out on Nantucket Island which was a lot of fun. 

Suzee: How are you spending your time during the pandemic?

I have been doing a lot of auditioning in my home. It is sometimes hard to audition in my house. I also watch a movie every afternoon. I sit down with my little notebook and I write down what I like about it and what I don’t like about it and I’m creating my own idea what a film should be. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to express it someday.

Suzee: Give me off the top of your head your five favorite films: 

Andrew's Five Favorite Films

There will be Blood
The Square
The Favorite
Rust and Bone
Moana (his neices love it)

To Connect with Andrew:

For Info on A Call to Spy:

Editor's Note: Attention Hugh Grant fans - Andrew asked me what my favorite films were. They all had Hugh Grant in them, so he suggested I watch A Very English Scandal.