SUPRISED SUCCESS. English actor Sean Teale talks about being part of hit TV show “The Gifted” and how his continued success baffles him
This December sees the conclusion of a new season of yet another superhero TV show, “The Gifted.” Among the many new elements that the show brought to the genre is Eclipse—a completely original character developed exclusively for “The Gifted.” And playing this exciting new character is English actor Sean Teale.
Having started acting in 2010, Teale rose to prominence the very next year when he landed a lead role in the award-winning drama “Skins.” In the years to come he would play in a wide range of productions, from short films to hit drama series “Reign,” last year’s (unfortunately) short-lived “Incorporated” and eventually “The Gifted.” He even tried his hand at voice acting earlier this year. Naturally, such a prolific actor has quite a tale to tell.
DA MAN: Hi, Sean. awesome to have you with us. how are you doing?
Sean Teale: So glad to be here! I’m great, thank you. Just wrapping up on a show here in Atlanta so things are currently crazy—in the best possible way.
DA MAN: By the time the magazine is out, we’ve come to the last couple of episodes of “The Gifted.” What is it like for you to see the first season of the show coming to a close?
ST: We’re shooting the series finale as we speak and we’re hoping it sets things up really nicely. it’s been so much fun and we’re such a close group that, to be honest, I feel we’ll all be sad to leave. Most of our year has been “The Gifted”-orientated, admittedly; so, it’ll be nice to see London again. We just hope everyone enjoys it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.
DA MAN: Now, this question might come off as a bit of a cliché these days, but do you think that being in a superhero show—especially one connected to a larger universe—is a mark of success that will open up new opportunities?
ST: I think every job that you do, every project that you jump on board of, has the potential to create new opportunities. as far as the concept of it being a mark of success goes, I couldn’t tell you. It is a privilege to be a part of the Marvel Universe with its fantastic content and built in, passionate fan base—as well as a history as dense and cared for as the X-Men world. But, you can’t ever presume success will come of it— there are simply no guarantees in this industry. I don’t feel that this group is focusing on that as much as we’re focusing on doing the material, fans and universe justice.
DA MAN: For the past several years, we’ve essentially been inundated by superhero movies and TV series. In your opinion, how does “The Gifted” differ from the rest?
ST: There’s no denying the sheer volume of superhero content being made at the moment. It can be overwhelming. It was certainly something I had to ask myself before joining the show. But our series doesn’t look at its characters as superheroes. It’s sort of a street level view of the X-Men universe, with ordinary people having to go through extraordinary circumstances. We haven’t shown spandex-suited, omnipotent superheroes flying around in space ships with expensive gadgets. These are normal people having to fight for their lives in a grounded world—being ostracized, punished and persecuted for being nothing other than themselves. We try to make the problems these people face as human, relevant and relatable as possible—something the X-Men have always done. Sometimes superhero shows can lose those human elements.
DAMAN: Throughout the year, we also saw you in “Incorporated” along with “B&B,” and you also lent your voice to “Voltron: Legendary Defender”— that last one being quite a surprise. Of these three, which one has been the most memorable?
ST: “Voltron” was such a fun gig! However, in relation to these three, the most memorable would have to be “Incorporated.” It was an amazing opportunity and such a special experience. It was a great new challenge, and I was working in Toronto at the time—one of my favorite cities— playing multiple characters with some incredibly talented people.
DAMAN: Looking even further back throughout your entire filmography, would you be able to pick a favorite title? Or perhaps a role that you really enjoyed working on and gave you the most satisfaction seeing it appear in cinemas and/or TV screens?
ST: again, it would have to be “Incorporated.” I hadn’t played the sole lead on a show before, so that was a daunting but exciting challenge for me. I put more literal blood, sweat and tears into that show than anything previously. I slept fewer hours than ever before which was already not that many. That gave me an immense amount of satisfaction. But as far as seeing it on screen goes, that’s not the case. I’m never happy with the result. That’s just my nature and I tend to not watch anything I work on other than what I’m made to. But I was satisfied with the efforts we’d made to get the best possible result on set at the time. It’s testament to how enjoyable “The Gifted” has been to film that we actually often get together and watch the episode airing as a group. I think that’s a first for a lot of the cast – I’ve certainly never done it before.
DAMAN: If we went for significance instead of personal satisfaction, which role (or roles) do you think was it that really put you on the map?
ST: It would have to be “Skins,” solely for the fact that it was my first major role on a show before and as a series that show was always referred to as a springboard of sorts for the actors involved. It was such an invaluable learning curve: as a cast of young, new, relatively inexperienced actors it was the best training we could have had. Some of the best parties too.
DAMAN: You’ve been acting professionally for about seven years, right? What, in your opinion, is the most important skill or attitude to have to make it in the filmmaking industry?
ST: Yeah, for around seven and a half years—can you believe it? Time flies. How do people keep hiring me? There are so many skills and traits that can help you in this business and none that can guarantee “making it.” But I’ve found that having a desire to learn and not thinking you know best is an immensely important one. If you come in to work or the audition process with the desire to work hard and to learn, then so much good comes of it. Thinking you know best or that other people around you aren’t hugely valuable sources of knowledge and experience will only stunt your growth. Removing yourself of that ego and just having the desire to learn more will help you progress so much more. It also allows you to forgive yourself for not getting everything right all the time, which no one does, and allows you to grow. Thinking that there’s nothing you can do to get any better is just dangerous and harmful.
“I guess my biggest achievement is tricking people into thinking I can do it”
DAMAN: As the story goes, you started getting into acting and drama in school. When you compare those early days to where you are right now, what has changed and what has stayed the same?
ST: What’s stayed the same I guess is my desire to grow—my hunger to learn more and to experience new challenges. In a literal sense I’ve stayed the same, my relationship to the industry and my job is different. I still live in London and spend my time with the same loveable idiots I did before I worked abroad—fortunately alongside the new friends I’ve made over the years thanks to my profession. But your relationship to the industry and the people in it changes over the years and hopefully it’s progressive, positive change—purely down to more time spent in it and the experiences you go through. My work ethic is the same but how I prepare for shows, how I get myself to a camera-ready place, has changed throughout the years. The more you work the more you find out what you need to do to get yourself to the right place, what techniques and methods you require to handle things best. Basically how you operate. And because of all the talented, creative people around you there are always new things to try out and maybe adapt your way of doing things. I say all this but I’m still probably just as useless as I was when I started.
DAMAN: What was the biggest surprise that you had to overcome during those early days?
ST: The concept of rejection and the pressure to get things right. I had as many insecurities as anyone else my age would, but I was really surprised by how the difficulties and pressures of this industry exacerbated those issues and created brand new complexes entirely. It’s hard to not take things personally and I’ve always been my harshest critic. But there’s a difference between self-criticism driving you to do better and just straight up harming yourself. Stopping these anxieties and insecurities from actually hindering my work and personal life was something I had, and to some degree still have to, overcome.
DAMAN: Have you ever thought about delving into other aspects of filmmaking? Producing, writing or directing, perhaps?
ST: I have thought about it, and think about it often. I should probably get the acting part down before I move on to other mediums, but I do write when I’m in the right head space. I would love to direct. Hopefully in the future I’ll find the right opportunity to do so.
DAMAN: What are your long term goals at the moment? What are some of the milestones—personal or professional— that you want to tackle next?
ST: I would like to still be employed—that’s my long term goal! In all seriousness, professionally, I’d like to maybe be creating content alongside just acting in it. I have a few close friends that are looking to do the same, so hopefully when we’re not all over the planet doing different things we can sit down and make this more of a reality. Personally, settling down and building a hub in London to come in and out of would be nice down the line. I’m happy to have a few more years of fun before that happens, though!
DAMAN: What do you consider as your biggest achievement ever?
ST: My biggest achievement … I learned how to tie a bow tie at a pretty young age? Eaten an enormous burger in record time? I’m kidding. That’s an interesting question. There’s so much to still achieve, but I don’t often sit back and reflect on the goals I’ve set and whether I’ve achieved them. Because I’ve normally set more without looking back. And considering something I’ve done as impressive enough to write here is strange. But something that I’m proud of, and at the same time to some degree cautious of, is that I’ve never trained as an actor. I had to study drama as a subject at high school, but that was predominantly essay-based. Having fallen into acting as a profession without really meaning to, I’m glad and a little confused as to how I’m still working having never gone to drama school or ever taking a class or meeting with an acting coach. So, I guess my biggest achievement to date is tricking people into thinking I can do it?
DAMAN: One final question: What was the best piece of life or work advice that you have ever received?
ST: “Money speaks, wealth whispers” is something that always resonated with me and it can relate to how you take on or hold yourself through so many different aspects of life. At the risk of sounding like a ridiculous British actor stereotype, when I was younger I read one of William Shakespeare’s plays “All’s Well That End’s Well.” In it he writes: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” And although I trust a lot more than a few, that idea says it all for me.