Behind the mask

Despite high-profile roles in the West End production of Ink and hit TV drama Doctor Foster, actor Bertie Carvel remains enigmatic
2017-12-01
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The 40-year-old, Bertie Carvel, comes from a journalistic background. His father was social-affairs editor of The Guardian, his grandfather political editor at the London Evening Standard, and his great-grandfather editor of The Star. Although he studied English at the University of Sussex, he never wanted to follow his dad’s side of the family into journalism. He also didn’t think he was passionate about acting either, until he auditioned for a play at university and was presented with the lead role. He says, “With journalism, you’re observing what’s there and reporting it hopefully faithfully and truthfully- but what do you mean by truth? You might say acting- fiction- is the opposite of journalism, but I don’t think it is. The truth is almost impossible to get at, and I think the role of both journalism and storytelling is to make sense of the world as you see it, using facts that interest you to illustrate your point.

Somebody else doing the same job might present an entirely different version of that story.” Since graduating from RADA, Carvel has worked steadily in theatre, film and TV. In 2012, he won an Olivier for his West End performance of Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical. The School headmistress certainly has her major character flaws, much like Simon Foster, the adulterous husband he plays in the runaway hit BBC drama Doctor Foster. The question is, why is Carvel drawn to play such villainous characters?

“You need to look at them as humans first and villains later. If you can pull off the trick of taking the label off while you’re playing it and go, ‘I’m just a person; what are the circumstances?’ you end up illuminating corners of the character that people might not have expected.” One thing that’s notable about Carvel’s (exceptional) performances is that you just don’t recognise him. Which turns out to be a compliment for him. Carvel is now on stage in Ink, playing the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, which will be shown at The Duke of York’s Theatre until 6th January 2018.

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