Interview with actor Hainsley Lloyd Bennett

Hainsley Lloyd Bennett

My greatest achievement so far is working with Colin farrell and Ray Winstone on my first feature. They’re both great actors and examples of humility and hard work. I’m proud I played Othello which was a milestone for me.

Hainsley Lloyd BennettTell us about yourself
I’m an actor with experience in film, television, theatre, voice over and modelling who recently played Othello in London theatre and is currently part of an independent film called white awake which was funded through kickstarter. I have had many big auditions from the US recently including Luther and American Crime Story the OJ Simpson case. My next aim is to move to the states and realize my dream.

Who are you inspirations
My main inspirations in my life are people who i consider to be mavericks. Self starters who were different and played the game by their own rules and persevered. Russell Brand, Robert Downey Jr, Stephen Fry. My inspiration as an actor is Leonardo Dicaprio who inspired me with his performance in This Boys life with Robert Deniro and has pretty much astounded me ever since. I’m generally inspired by art in all forms and creating.

What do you have to offer the industry or the US market
There’s been such a huge influx of black actors to the US over the last few years and we all know that Hollywood is the Mecca of acting. I believe that what i can bring and have as a performer is a vulnerability as an actor. We have many tough guys and alpha males and i get cast a lot as soldiers, doctors and lawyers but i offer emotional depth. Id also like to be able to do comedy but bring my British sensibility. Brits have a great dry sense of humour that i never see in black actors in the states and id love to be able to do that in my own accent as it doesn’t translate the same in a US accent. If it comes down to it I’m also not averse to using whatever physical attributes i have, hit the gym and take my shirt off..i know the US love all that – haha.

Acting training is hugely expensive. How much emphasis do you place on training vs natural talent
This is a huge issue currently in the UK as we have a history of theatre and our industry is built fundamentally on institution. Basically did you go to the best school, which will then lead you to the best acting agency which will then lead you to the best acting opportunity. Its a huge financial commitment and doesn’t allow for any other progressive route for success. Its very hard here as the average cost of full time acting education is £9,000 per year ($11,000) which means only a certain demographic can achieve that level of education and that’s very much reflected in our films, opportunities and people receiving awards.

What i love about the US is training is important and it never stops but your casting directors care very little about how the actor got where they are. They only care that you can do the job they want. I believe that attitude and concept is the most important entity. Can this person deliver? it shouldn’t matter if they went to RADA or had personal tuition or community training. If somebody is good they are good. So yes train and be a skilled practitioner of your art and use your talent to progress your skill definitely. I just want casting directors in the UK mainly not to judge how a person got there just the talent.

Hainsley Lloyd Bennett

What would be the perfect role for you
Wow. that’s tough. I think actors sometimes like to think they can play it all. Knowing your strengths is important. With that in mind id love to do a really good British action comedy with myself and another ethnic person as a lead just because I’ve never seen it. Very often being of colour we get asked to play societies views of our ethnicity rather than just people so id love these two guys just to be normal guys. complex and dynamic. Other than that a good indie drama in the vein of Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind or Blue Valentine would be great. I love the simplicity and truth of films like that and again id love to play a character with that depth. A person just going through something essentially simple as love or loss but still profoundly complex and compelling.

You mentioned race and perception. what are your thoughts on the current re imagining of a potential black bond and black human torch.
Now you’ve done it. Haha. well il be honest originally i was against the idea of changing a characters ethnicity to progress some sort of PC agenda. I still feel that way to some degree as i feel doing that doesn’t fundamentally fix the issue of black actors not getting to play enough lead characters that aren’t rooted in their race or social perceptions. The only time i get to see my favourite black actors as a group on film are in films about slavery, civil rights movements and generally struggle. I feel we should focus on fixing that problem before we start handing out old roles and making them black. However in certain instances i can see that in and of itself its a sort of progress and its better than nothing. It is a harder pill to swallow with some characters more than others. A black Bond is a tough sell cos as a secret agent he’s supposed to be able to blend in disappear and move amongst the politicians and dictators he’s supposedly taking down who are predominantly white. A black guy will probably have a tougher time doing that.

We’ve heard a lot about you’re views and acting. How would your friends describe Hainsley the person?
First and foremost i like to discuss ideas and laugh. Humour is very important to me and id like to think I’m hilarious..obvs. So fun. Im very organised and methodical and love to figure out how things work so I’m pretty good at giving advice and generally helping people. Im very creative, writing, directing, acting, photography, modelling, fashion. Ive got friends in all areas of the arts and they all come to me and ask my opinion. I think i have a good eye for what works and what doesn’t. You’ve probably noticed i like to talk as well haha..

Whats your greatest achievement
Id say my greatest achievement so far is working with Colin farrell and Ray Winstone on my first feature. They’re both great actors and examples of humility and hard work. I’m proud I played Othello which was a milestone for me. A huge challenge as an actor as the character is hugely complex with an amazing arc from an honourable man of upstanding and trusting nature to a bewildered, jealous and neurotic entity. I realized that fear motivates me more than confidence as an actor and the role definitely scared me. I’m also hugely proud of my work on White Awake. Another role I put a huge amount of emotional and physical energy in to. The early feedback from it is hugely positive and i can’t wait for everyone to see it. Tearjerker for sure.

white awake

Tips on breaking in to the industry
Id say obviously focus on your craft. Be the best you can be and never stop training and learning. Beyond that id say a huge point people miss in the arts or show business is understanding the business and getting that right. As an actor and business what is your brand? What roles are you selling to casting directors. Get great head shots and build your showreel slowly. Research and get each section right as you progress and your hard work will bear fruit. Never go for the quick fix and truly love every aspect of what you do. Having knowledge and understanding gives you confidence and and allows you to work smart. Its so easy to get lost in all the constant noise so save yourself that trouble.

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