By the time Jack O’Connell was 12, he had undertaken a series of lurching career changes and hit upon his final profession as an actor. Initially, he was on track to be a footballer. Growing up in Derby, he played every weekend for a team called the Alvaston Rangers, and attracted academy interest. An unruly child, his parents also sent him boxing and to the cadets in the hope he would learn some discipline, and for a while, he thought he wanted to join the army. But he put his sporting and military dreams aside when he took a drama class at school and discovered he had a penchant for acting, too. It would be just a matter of years before Michael Caine was declaring him the “star of the future” on the set of thriller Harry Brown, and Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown was conspiratorially imparting industry advice: “Don’t be nervous—have a purpose.”
Despite being projected, pretty stratospherically, into Hollywood, O’Connell heads back to Derby as much as he can. “Some of my favourite people are still in Derby. Mainly my grandmother,” he says. “And my Mum. Bless her.” Now, he is returning to the West End stage, to star alongside Sienna Miller in Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in which he plays aptly-named Brick, an aloof, embittered alcoholic.
Read the full interview here.