Young, good-looking, multi-talented and an immensely promising actor, Sebastian Croft has made a name for himself among Penny Dreadful fans as “Creepy Vampire Boy” after his season 3 addition as The Boy Familiar. With 2016 slated to be a breakout year for Sebastian with his appearances on Penny Dreadful, ITV and FOX’s Houdini and Doyle and Game of Thrones as the Young Ned Stark, he will next be seen in Stephen Fry’s The Hippopotamus and Martha Coolidge’s Music, War and Love. We caught up with Sebastian for his first ever formal interview as he prepares for his first ever Shakespeare play King John as Prince Arthur at the Rose Theatre in Kingston, to talk about working on Penny Dreadful, observing and working with Eva Green and his hopes and dreams for his young career.
Your first professional role as an actor was in the UK National Tour of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ (2009) as Toby, at the young age of eight. How early on did you decide that you want to perform? What drew you to acting in musical theatre, and how did you get your first big break?
I was actually 7 when I started in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’! Apparently my parents say when I was very young I used to love doing little shows, magic tricks and dressing up in costumes. I started going to Stagecoach when I was 6 and from there my lovely teacher Julia Howson gave me the chance to audition for Chitty and so I was cast in my first professional production! I knew from that first show that I wanted to keep performing, I loved it so much. It’s difficult to say what my first ‘big break’ was, as every new job I get I feel is my big break. I got cast in Penny Dreadful and Game of Thrones around the same time last year and that was a major shift that I had been working towards for some time. Musical Theatre is a great way to start as a child actor, as it gives you an excellent grounding in all three disciplines. It wasn’t a game play at the time, but I am so glad I had have that early experience. But I knew a couple of years ago that I wanted to head towards film and TV and was incredibly lucky to be spotted by Curtis Brown (now my agents) who really helped me transition into TV and film roles from early 2015 onwards.
You have an established career as a theatrical actor on the British stage. From Gavroche in ‘Les Miserables’ in 2011, to touring the UK in the title role of ‘Oliver!’ for Cameron Mackintosh, to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘Matilda The Musical’ in London’s West End. This past year, you portrayed the title role in the musical version of ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾” at the Leicester Curve! What is your favorite aspect of being in professional theatre?
It’s hard to pinpoint, but I really like trying to figure out people and situations. I am told I have a high EQ which means I can read emotions well, and I like the puzzle of figuring out why people are the way they are and do the things they do. So I think being able to portray characters through acting feels like a natural thing to do for me, if that makes sense? I really love the roles where I can help originate a part, and have some input into building the character. This was really the case on Adrian Mole. It was a brand new musical, where all the lead roles were played by teenagers, and we were working very closely with the writers and directors. They allowed us to contribute a lot to developing our charaters. There was something really magical about that show, and we have all remained great friends since. I am back in theatre at the moment working on my first ever Shakespeare play, King John. It’s one of the lesser known Shakespeare plays but Arthur (my character) has some amazing scenes. It’s being directed by Sir Trevor Nunn who is one of the best Shakespeare directors of all time. I am just soaking up every bit of knowledge I can from him and the other incredible actors I am working with. It truly is a masterclass and I feel very privileged.
By Stuart Jeffries
The star of gothic fantasy Penny Dreadful talks about the risks – and pleasures – of acting on the dark side
Only very beautiful women and, perhaps, motorcycle couriers can get away with leather trousers. Detective Saga Norén in The Bridge? Just about. Ronan Keating? Not so much.
These thoughts occur as I’m introduced to Eva Green at an apparently select members’ club in the gothic revival St Pancras Renaissance hotel in London. She’s wearing black boots, black leather trousers, tailored black singlet, has long, dyed-black hair and lots of black eye makeup.
“I am a vampire,” she laughs, as we retire to a sofa in a darkened corner, “and I never expose myself to the sun. I have very fine skin, you see.” She daily applies suncream (factor 30 or 50) under her makeup.
Green is drawn to the dark side in other ways. The 35-year-old French actor is in London to promote her role as gaunt, statuesque, demonically possessed, cheeks-sucked-in-so-much-it-must-hurt-after-a-hard-day’s-shooting clairvoyant Vanessa Ives in Sky series Penny Dreadful. The drama is a gothic mashup of Dracula, Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, steampunk aesthetics, vampires, werewolves, diabolical possession and obsolete alienist psychiatry. When I reviewed the first episode in 2014, I found it as impossible to take seriously as Ronan Keating in leather strides, notwithstanding all the impressive acting talent on show, including Rory Kinnear, Simon Russell-Beale, Helen McCrory, Billie Piper and Green herself. But the Victorian-set drama, whose third series starts this week, has since garnered decent ratings and won awards, so what do I know?
One day, Green whispers to me confidingly in husky, French-tinged, but nearly over-articulated English, she was in her trailer in Ireland. She was getting ready to film a scene in which Ives becomes demonically possessed and speaks in voices. In preparation, she was listening to a recording of the voice of a young German woman called Annaliese Michel. You can hear Michel’s ostensibly demonically possessed voice on YouTube, before she underwent Catholic exorcism rites in 1974. It is disturbing listening, and made all the more so thanks to hindsight: Michel died the following year, after which her parents and two priests were convicted of negligent homicide. “As I was listening to it,” says Green, “my makeup artist came in, heard these noises and said: ‘Oh my God, I’m getting out.’ And she ran off. I can understand why. It feels as if it’s contagious.”
by Roslyn Sulcas
As Vanessa Ives in the Showtime series “Penny Dreadful,” the French actress Eva Green has been possessed by demons, spoken in tongues, fallen in love with a werewolf and defied the Devil. What on earth can happen to her character next? Something scarier: therapy.
Yes, in Season 3, now underway, the impenetrable Miss Ives visits a “mentalist,” who bears a strange resemblance to a character from Season 2. “I always think, no, it can’t get darker,” said Ms. Green, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role. “But, well, you don’t know with this character whether it’s all in her head.”
The show, set in Victorian England, incorporates characters from classic British novels of the era — Dr. Frankenstein and his monsters, Dorian Gray and Dracula — to creepy, head-spinning ends. “I love playing a character from those repressed times who is so nonconformist, it’s very jubilating,” Ms. Green said. “Being possessed, sometimes, it’s very freeing.”
Ms. Green, 35, grew up in Paris and worked in theater before making her screen debut in 2003 in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” later appearing as the double agent Vesper Lynd in the 2006 James Bond movie, “Casino Royale.” Later this year, she will appear in Tim Burton’s “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”
In an interview at a hotel in London, Ms. Green, dressed all in black, was warm and, unlike Vanessa, smiled a lot. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
When you were cast as Vanessa, did you know you’d have epic sequences of demonic possession — projectile vomiting and mowing down men and furniture?
I love all that! I prefer doing it to light stuff. There is something very physical about it, which is fun. But it’s true that it’s really intense, like a drug, or a sport. Sometimes, after shooting, I go home and lie on the sofa with a glass of red wine and can’t move.
Is it hard to speak in tongues in that scarily deep voice?
The first season, I was very serious about it. I learned some Latin, Arabic, German and Lingala, a Congolese dialect. But then some linguists created the Verbis Diablo for Season 2. I was very good for an episode. Then I just made it all up and took my voice down an octave or two.
French is your first language, but you’ve mostly worked in English.
I have only done one movie in French, and it was terrible. I’d love to do another, but I’m scared. Playing in another language means you get out of yourself somehow. I worked really crazily to sound British when I did the Bond movie, but I’m a nerd like that.
When did you decide you wanted to act?
I was very shy — I still am actually — and my school forced me to do a theater class when I was 12 because they thought it would be good for me. My mother was an actress, but she stopped when she had children, and she would always tell me it was a cruel business. I went to drama school but thought I wanted to become a director. Then I started to act and really felt alive. And here I am.
What are some of your career goals?
I would love to do something with Jacques Audiard [“Rust and Bone”]. I once wrote him a letter, but perhaps he doesn’t think I’m right. People often see me as sophisticated, or put me in the supernatural box.
What was it like to work with Tim Burton on “Miss Peregrine”?
He was really lovely. The film is about lots of strange children with unique characteristics, and I’m the guardian who protects them from the outside world. There is some darkness, but it’s very fanciful, crazy, with funny moments. It’s very poetic, very Tim.
What’s in store for Vanessa in Season 3?
Vanessa has lost her faith, but deep down there is a longing. She meets Dr. Sweet [a zoologist] in the first episode, and she will fall in love, but it’s weird. It’s a “Penny Dreadful” kind of relationship, what can I say?
by Ed Gross
There’s always been something betwitching about Eva Green, and that quality is on full display in Penny Dreadful, the John Logan created series that has just begun its third season.
The show, set in Victorian England, brings together many of the characters from classic Gothic literature – among them Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and, this season, Dr. Henry Jekyll – in an ever-growing canvas of storytelling. Green portrays Vanessa Ives, officially described as “poised, mysterious and utterly composed.” Vanessa is “a seductive and formidable beauty full of secrets and danger. She is keenly observant – clairvoyant even – as well as an expert medium. Her supernatural gifts are powerful and useful to those around her, but they are also a heavy burden. Her inner demons just may be more real than emotional, and they threaten to dextroy her relationships, her sanity and her very life.”
The actress’ credits have included such films as Ridley Scott’s Kingdom Of Heaven, the James Bond film Casino Royale, The Golden Compass, Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, 300: Rise of An Empire and the forthcoming Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. She had previously been drawn to television and the role of Morgan in the short-lived Camelot.
Empire conducted this exclusive interview with Green shortly before the premiere of the new season of Penny Dreadful.
Given a career made up so largely of film, what was it about Penny Dreadful that made you willing to commit to it?
The role is so meaty. It’s quite rare to find something so rich. John Logan really insisted and insisted and at first I was, like, “Oh my God, I can’t commit to TV. I don’t know if I can.” But then he really kind of talked me through the several seasons and the arc of the character is absolutely beautiful, so I couldn’t say no. So many things to explore as an actor; it’s a gift.
You mentioned the arc. How would you describe Vanessa’s evolution over the course of what we’ve seen so far?
Sometimes she goes back and forth. At the end of season two, she loses her faith, and faith was absolutely everything to her, so she’s most of the time in the darkness, but is somebody that aims towards the light. There’s a lot of turmoil… she’s someone who becomes almost like a Joan of Arc, but there is something very pure about her.