Over the past several years, Bart Edwards has been turning the heads of UK audiences with a plethora of high profile roles. Known throughout Europe for his indisputable talent, charming disposition, and the dynamic characters he brought to life, Edwards is now making the jump to screens in the States. Fans can catch his U.S. debut in season three of Lifetime’s critically-acclaimed, award-nominated drama series, “UnREAL” alongside Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby. The series gives a fictitious behind-the-scenes glimpse into the chaos surrounding the production of a dating competition show called “Everlasting.” Edwards is a scene stealer as Jasper, a successful, handsome, Wall Street investment banker who is vying for the heart of Serena, the first ever female suitress on the show. Season three of “UnREAL” will premiere February 26, 2018.
While “UnREAL” marks Edwards first foray in American television, he’s not a stranger to life on the set. Over the past few years, he’s begun carving out a unique resume featuring lead roles in some truly noteworthy projects. Best known in the U.K. for starring as Joe on “Peep Show” and as Olly Greenwood on “EastEnders,” his additional television credits include: “Stan Lee’s Lucky Man,” “Fresh Meat,” “Leaving” and “Call the Midwife.” This year he will light up the screen in the Norwegian series “Lykkeland,” which follows four young people in the midst of an oil rush in Norway that began Christmas Eve in 1969. It’s also important to note, that Bart Edward’s work isn’t limited to television. He will soon star in Millennium Films’ highly anticipated horror flick “The Dare.” The spine-tingling thriller follows Jay (Edwards), a young, workaholic father whose quiet evening takes a brutal twist when he wakes shackled in a basement with three other prisoners (release date TBA). Additional film credits include appearances in “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,” “The Man with the Iron Heart,” and two indie short films directed by Mark Lobatto: “Silent Treatment” starring opposite Lily James and “Blue Borsalino” appearing alongside David Warner.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Bart Edwards to discuss his journey as an actor, the projects that have helped to shape the dynamic actor we see today, his current projects, and what the future may hold for him in the years to come!
Tell us about how you got involved with the creative arts.
It all started with me taking karate lessons in my local village in Norwich, England. It got canceled one day and my sister used to take acting and singing lessons next door in the town hall. I ended up going in and watching. It was then that the teacher said, “Do you want to join in?” I said, “Ah, screw it! I’m OK.” But, by the end, I was hooked! That’s literally how I started getting into acting. I was also a huge, huge comedy fan so I started to watch a lot of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eddie Izzard, Monty Python and all that kind of stuff! I guess that kind of seeped its way into my psyche!
When did you decide to pursue your passion for acting professionally?
I think my first paid gig was for a school program, like when a teacher puts a video on for a class. I was doing a theatre group in England. They chose a few of us, put us in those weird little boiler suits and we got to run around on morning TV. I think that was the first thing I did, ages and ages ago! I think I was around 12 years old at the time.
What went into finding your creative voice as an actor?
I did a lot of theatre. I used to do quite a lot of musical theatre as a kid. I did Internationals Music Theatre in the UK. I went some incredible places with that. I even went to Japan on tour with some shows. Theatre is where it all started. It didn’t kick in properly until I did a small part on “Eastenders” in England. That’s really when I started getting the real buzz of like, “Yes! This is what I want to be doing!” Both of my parents were incredibly supportive of me wanting to act. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a musician, standup comedian and private detective. I had been slowly trying to form those three into some kind of career since I was a kid! [laughs] The people I used to watch a lot, Eddie Izzard and Peter Kirkland, anything I could get my hands on I would watch. I would repeat, repeat and repeat. I would put little performances on with friends just to see if we could make other people laugh. That had a huge, huge influence on me growing up.
You have a big year ahead in 2018. The first thing I want to focus on is your role on “UnREAL.” How did you get involved?
“UnREAL” is a banger! I, as most English peeps and actors over there do, get a tape over. It just all rolled off quite nicely! I was a massive fan of the show prior; I think I had seen Season One at that point. It all kicked off about a year ago, which is when we started filming. That process was a few taped auditions and testing for that. “UnReal” was a joy and we can’t wait for you guys to see.
The show is well written. What did you bring to the character that wasn’t on the original written page?
I play a guy called Jasper Hunt, who is a too big for his boots entrepreneur, finger in too many pies, Wall Street type banker. What I wanted to bring, because I knew in Season One they already had the Hugh Grant-esque English dude, which I loved. I loved Freddie [Stroma] in that but I wanted to do something other than the Brit-take on being stuck in a house with a load of contestants. Originally, the character was going to be American. I auditioned American and it was all U.S. and I think on the day they realized that since we have guys from all over the world, they kind of liked the United Nations take a bit more.
What was the biggest challenge for you with this project?
It’s strange how you slightly feel you are actually in the reality show. It’s such an intense period because you are getting episodes done in a week and a bit. It’s almost a free-for-all of who is going to go and who’s going to stay. It took me a good couple of weeks after finishing to “Everlasting” and “UnREAL,” for that matter, from my brain! [laughs] It just took a few weeks to shake the feeling I was being filmed from every angle! [laughs]
You also have a horror flick headed out way later this year with “The Dare.” What can you tell us about the project? From the description I read, it sounds intense!
Oh, yeah! This is an insane horror movie! I spent about two months in Bulgaria with a great group of people — director Giles Anderson, Richard Short, Alexandra Evans and a few other people! “The Dare” is a full-on, in-your-face, popcorn horror/psychological thriller! It’s a genre that seems to continue growing, growing and growing in popularity with things like the “Saw” franchise, “Hostel” and that kind of stuff. I think what “The Dare” does a bit differently is that it has the psychological part as well and it’s not all about whose hand is going to be cut off! [laughs]
What’s your process for bringing a character to life?
“UnREAL” was me binge-watching a hell of a lot of reality TV! I found it fascinating people’s demeanors and the things they choose to show when they think they are on or off camera. I watched a lot of, just for my own satisfaction, “Judge Judy,” “Jeremy Kyle” and “Big Brother.” I actually watched the first season of the UK “Big Brother” on YouTube. This was back when they truly believed that this was just a social experiment and not ever-so-slightly trashy TV! [laughs] It was fascinating how much reality TV has changed since then. The reality TV genre has almost become a parody of itself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed that just as much but they are definitely not what they started out to be. With something like “The Dare,” the preparation for that was a bit different. I remember writing out a list of pain. I don’t want to give anything away but in this film there are a number of things these guys have to do and be part of that are really pretty gruesome.
Tell us more about getting in the mindset for some of these gruesome scenes.
Do I do any emotional recalls? [laughs] Certainly, I would dread to think what the emotional recall would be for some of the things that go on in this movie. [laughs] We spent a lot of time in one room. There are only four or five of us in the movie and we are quite confined in a certain space. I went back and watched a lot of the genre making versions of these films like “Saw” and that kind of stuff. I wanted to see what I believed or I would buy if someone had a hammer to the hand and how much they would use that hand for the rest of the movie, if you know what I mean. I wanted to know how much suspension of disbelief were we allowing in this world. I found it fun to have my brain tickled during the film process?
Were you are fan of the genre before taking on the project and doing the research?
I drop in and out. I’ve definitely watched quite a few. I think there is a very fine line between something that is just gore for gore’s sake and something that’s quite thrilling. There is one that really stands out to me and you may have seen it. It’s about a guy in a house … that doesn’t help! [laughs] He’s also blind.
Oh yeah, “Don’t Breathe” with Stephen Lang and Jane Levy.
Yes, that’s it. She is absolutely spot on! It’s like I was saying, a film like that really shows you the different levels of fear, so you have somewhere to go by the end. I think that film absolutely smacks it! It’s a great film!
When you look back on your projects, which had the biggest impact on you and what are you most excited for in the future?
I’m excited for “Lykkeland” to hit next year! That’s been a fun project in Norway. It’s a story about how they find oil there in 1969 and how they changed the world with the largest find of oil in history. I’m really looking forward to that because I haven’t even seen ADR shots of that yet. In regard to past projects, I was really proud of doing “Peep Show” because I was a huge fan of the show and then to go on with the guys on that was a complete joy. I was a huge fan of the writers, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, with their work on “Peep Show” and “Fresh Meat.”
How have you evolved as an actor through the years?
I think by doing more and more TV, you realize how much of a different beast it is. In essence, it’s the same thing you are doing onstage but there are nuances with how you conduct yourself on the shot from floor, depending on if it’s a stage or someone else’s shot and you need to be there for them. It’s that kind of stuff that I’ve always found fascinating and learning day by day. Doing more and more TV over the years, you also see how different people conduct themselves. Coming from theatre, there’s such a huge family that is created from beginning to end through the rehearsal process and that’s what I miss most about doing theatre or musical theater. When it comes to TV, it’s notoriously fast paced and things that understandably won’t be able to happen because there’s just not the time in the day. I’ve been pretty lucky actually. “UnREAL,” “Lykkeland” and “Peep Show” were all joys to work on with people giving you the time of day to play and make some entertaining stuff! I am also starting another film with a good friend of mine, Mark Lobatto. We had done a couple shorts a few years ago and we’ve been looking to turn this into a trilogy. We did a thing called “Silent Treatment” about two years ago, so I’m looking forward to kicking that off! Bucket list-wise, I’ve always wanted to play Philip Marlowe from the Raymond Chandler books. I don’t know if that is from being a kid and loving that type of Noir-esque thing. He was pretty much the pioneer of that! I would absolutely love to play Philip Marlowe! I know, I know! Another Englishman playing an American icon! [laughs] I don’t know if it would go down too well but I would absolutely love to play that role!
You’re building a tremendous body of work. It’s not an easy road to go down. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
That’s a big question, man. A big question! It’s a bit early in the morning! [laughs] It’s not an easy road to go down! I think what I’ve learned on my very short journey to where I am is the respect for the other people and looking after yourself while working. I was unemployed for a good amount of time after I graduated and you always want to fight for what you want to do. So, once you are there, really savor it and respect the people you are working with and go into every day with your A-game. I’m sure in another 20 years I will have other pearls of wisdom! Even tomorrow maybe! When I get to work I might give you a call and say, “This is a great one!” [laughs] But for now, I think that’s the strongest piece of advice I’d be able to bestow on somebody who is choosing to go into this industry!
I look forward to checking in with you again, sooner than 20 years of course, to see where this road takes you!
Before I let you go, are there any causes close to your heart we can help shine a light on?
Yeah, at the moment, a beautiful one is Era 50:50. Check them out! It starts out with equal representation between people in the performing arts but it’s so much more than that. It’s a message that speaks to things that are happening right now that are wonderfully in the forefront of everybody’s minds. Definitely check them out, donate and spread the word!
We definitely will! Thanks so much for your time today, Bart! I wish you continued success!
Thank you, Jason! It’s been a pleasure! You have a lovely day!