In Conversation with Alfred Enoch

A face many will adore and recognise, Alfred Enoch has grounded himself as one of the most prominent actors of Generation Y.

Making waves after appearing as favoured Gryffindor Dean Thomas in the colossal Harry Potter franchise and heading ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder as Wes Gibbins with Viola Davis, Enoch is back on home turf to perform in Talawa Theatre Company’s rendition of Shakespeare’s illustrious King Lear.

Talawa are the UK’s best and biggest POC touring theatre companies currently touring with King Lear with the likes of Don Warrington (Death in Paradise) and Miltos Yerolemou (Game of Thones). Alfred and the cast are currently preparing for opening night at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Away from heavy schedules, tech and rehearsal, the HTGAWM star chats to HISKIND to talk all things Viola Davis, American accents and, of course, what it was like to work on Harry Potter. After discussing the woes and pains of university exam stress, Enoch gets to the point:

I had a very lucky time at university, in the fact that we didn’t have exams until the final year essentially. I went to Oxford and nothing counted until the last year. It was pretty manageable until the last year. It’s good for me though. I’m rubbish at coursework. I’m rubbish at being disciplined. No one likes exams but it suited me more. I’m so disorganised and leave everything until the last minute so it was better to have that mad last year.

So you’re currently getting ready to open King Lear with Talawa Theatre Company here at Birmingham REP. How’s it all going?

We’re in tech now and just reconfiguring it for a new stage with new entrances. We’ve been doing it for five weeks now at the round in Manchester. It’s a really nice theatre here.

Well you’ve had some pretty good reviews so far?

Have we? I try to stay away from that all which requires all my willpower.

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Do you not read reviews?

I mean, I cant say I’m not because up til now I always have but occasionally I’ll be like “I’m not going to read the reviews” and then I will because I always want to know what people think about what I’m doing but I’m being disciplined this time. I’m going to wait until we finish and then I’ll read them.

And of course, you’re most known for your role of Wes Gibbins in ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder and as Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter franchise

I was scared about what you were going to say then *laughs*

And of course, they’re both different mediums to the stage. What’s your favourite to work on out of stage, television and film?

Difficult one. They offer you different things. On stage, having an audience is the most exiting thing you can have when you’re working. You have people to tell the story to, it’s storytelling. Having that direct relationship is fantastically exciting. That is the wonderful magic of theatre. With theatre, there’s nothing in between and I love that. And of course, you get a nice rehearsal period and that was my first experience of acting. My dad’s an actor and it was the first thing that stuck massively in my head. I went to see him in the opening season of the Globe and he was in Henry VI and I took such an interest in what my dad was doing. It was fun. It was really special to me so theatre has always had a really nostalgic feeling to it. It’s so fundamental in how I became an actor. But, you can do things on TV you cant do on stage. The details are vital on stage but you cant give everyone a massive close up of your face. The dream is to work is as many mediums as possible and they all inform each other. I would be happy if my career from now was just theatre or just TV or just film.

How have you found the transition from How To Get Away With Murder to King Lear, because, I mean, there’s quite a distinct difference between that and Shakespeare.

Yeah, a little bit different. The thing I did before How To Get Away With Murder was a production of Coriolanus so the transition from Shakespeare to How To Get Away With Murder was probably more difficult than the transition from How To Get Away With Murder to Shakespeare again. It was working in a way I had never done before. Everything was so fast. Sometimes you’d get a script two days before shooting. It’s all on the go so it’s an incredibly difficult scenario. With Shakespeare, you’re not waiting for the script. It’s been around for 400 years. To go from accessing a script like that to working on an episode of How To Get Away With Murder and the script for the next episode lands is a completely different thing. That was really challenging and it wasn’t something I was used to. The time between an episode airing and working on the next gets shorter and shorter and the speed of it all can be so exhausting. That’s the fun of it all though.

How To Get Away With Murder had such a great set of actors. Obviously with the likes of Jack Falahee, Viola Davis, Charlie Weber, Aja Naomi King et cetera. Were there any filming highlights for you?

My memory is so bad. I would struggle to tell you what happens in Season 2 of How To Get Away With Murder. Well, I can tell you the broader thing. I met someone the other day who was saying that he really enjoyed it and was like “this scene in episode six” and I was like “pffffffff I have no idea”. It was so fun. It was a blast. We had such a good time together. We get on very well and it’s so nice to work with good, committed people. It’s a dream right across the board of cast and crew.

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER - "Hi, I'm Philip" - Philip makes a threatening move and ADA Sinclair may have figured out a way to take down Annalise. Meanwhile, Catherine and Caleb are forced to make a life changing decision, on "How to Get Away with Murder," THURSDAY NOVEMBER 12 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Tony Rivetti) CHARLIE WEBER, VIOLA DAVIS, JACK FALAHEE, BILLY BROWN, KARLA SOUZA, AJA NAOMI KING, ALFRED ENOCH

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER – “Hi, I’m Philip” – Philip makes a threatening move and ADA Sinclair may have figured out a way to take down Annalise. Meanwhile, Catherine and Caleb are forced to make a life changing decision, on “How to Get Away with Murder,” THURSDAY NOVEMBER 12 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Tony Rivetti)
CHARLIE WEBER, VIOLA DAVIS, JACK FALAHEE, BILLY BROWN, KARLA SOUZA, AJA NAOMI KING, ALFRED ENOCH

Are you missing America?

*Laughter* no no no. I’m there seven months of the year. I’m missing London all them time. I miss England all the time. It’s a bit of a weird place, LA.

I heard you stay in an American accent when you’re out there.

Yeah. I had never done the accent before. I had never worked in the states. I haven’t even done the accent for a student show or a school play. I didn’t have an American accent down and ready to go so it was good practice. And before it was for an American audience they’re going to know if my accent is off.

Did they?

Well no, apparently not. For the most part people think it’s good. I have a really good dialect coach and I wouldn’t want something to go if it didn’t sound good enough.

And of course, you worked with Viola Davis who is such an adored and admired actress. What was it like working with her?

I cant quantify what I learned from her. She’s not didactic in that way. The best way of learning is working out how it works for you by doing it. Working with good people affects you. Working with her affects you. That’s the fun thing about this job, you’re learning. You’re always learning.

Were you intimidated by her at all?

Erm, yeah. I probably knew how much of a massive name she was because I knew who she was. I don’t know who anyone is. I’m so bad. She’s so friendly and nice and it was such a great opportunity. She wasn’t going to put any more pressure on me than what I was already putting on myself. Working with 2 time Oscar nominee or someone working on their first job, that doesn’t affect my expectations of my work. It was an opportunity to work with someone, in her case, is fantastic.

When she picked up the SAG award, she spoke about how How To Get Away With Murder is so diverse and breaking through with representation.

It’s about not marginalising anyone, that’s not the issue. It’s the political socio-norm.

Yeah, and what makes it so great is how it has that diversity without making it about the diversity.

Yes, I think that’s important. It just presents what is real. What is real in most societies is that you get people from different sexualities, different races, different beliefs and different backgrounds. We identify as those.

And Harry Potter. How did you find growing up with that. Obviously it was your whole childhood and you were very young when you started there.

It was fun because that was a dream job. I went to school and then I’d be in Harry Potter. It didn’t completely change my childhood. I wasn’t on set everyday. To a certain degree it was normal but it wasn’t too different to my mates at school. Harry Potter was just this gift away from school. From a young age I knew I wanted to be an actor so it was such a great opportunity.

Did you know it was going to be as big as it was?

Yeah, it’s funny because people so many of the others say they didn’t. I was 11 when I started on that. I was the target demographic. I had read the first two books before I got in it. Somehow it just picked up and everyone bought it. It was the first time I stayed up all night reading. I was reading the Chamber of Secrets under my blanket with a torch just like in the movies. It was a massive thing for me. When I saw they cast Dan, Rupert and Emma I was like “that’s going to be massive” because that was massive in my world.

Catch Alfred in King Lear at Birmingham REP from 19th-28th May. Tickets available here.