Dean-Charles Chapman chats with DA MAN about his upcoming movie “1917,” the lessons he learned during filming and much, much more.
Dean-Charles Chapman, best known for playing Tommen Baratheon—the doomed king in the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons of HBO’s most-watched drama series “Game of Thrones”—is a young British actor that started on his career path pretty much from his early days. In fact, Chapman started his career as a child actor and has been part of various TV commercials, feature films, plays and TV series. It all began with the award-winning West End theater production of “Billy Elliot: The Musical” where he became the second longest serving cast member and also the longest serving Billy Elliot.
Moving on to the present, the year 2019 kept him busy with four movies. Of particular note, the two that were completed is “Blinded by the Light,” and “The King,” a historical drama. The remaining two movies are in different stages of production: “1917,” a World War I movie is set to hit theaters at the end of 2019 while “Here are the Young Men,” an Irish-American drama, is still in the post-production phase.
DAMAN caught up with Chapman before the release of both of his upcoming films to discuss the lessons he learned during the filming of “1917” and preparing for “Here Are the Young Men.” We also talked about the biggest differences between performing in front of a camera and in front of a live audience, as well as what’s to come beyond all this.
DAMAN: Hi Dean! Glad to have you with us. Since it’s almost a new year and all, how was 2019 for you?
Dean-Charles Chapman: 2019 has been a cool year for me. It’s been pretty much filled with hard work, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve learned a lot this year!
DA: Which reminds us, your latest movie, “1917,” will be out in theaters this December. In a nutshell, what was it like shooting that one?
DCC: Filming “1917” truly was an experience like I’ve never had before. It felt new, fresh and completely different compared to other projects I’d been a part of. We were filming it in one continuous take and I’d never done anything like that. I was learning so much every day. I felt like I really could throw myself into the role and dig my teeth into it. I just fell in love with the script and the character after the first reading of it and was so excited to work with Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins. “1917” was dream project for me.
DA: Can you tell us a bit about your character and your role in this movie?
DCC: The film takes place during the First World War. My character, Blake, is a lance corporal. He hasn’t been there very long, but is good with maps and navigation. Blake and another soldier called Schofield get sent on a mission to deliver a message and stop an attack on 1,600 men’s lives. Blake’s brother is among the aforementioned 1,600 soldiers, so for him it’s not just an order. It’s a very personal mission for Blake.
DA: What was it that drew you to this character in the first place and how did you end up being cast for “1917”?
DCC: “1917” came about like any other audition, really. For my first audition, I went in and read with the casting director. On the second audition, I met Sam [Mendes], and the third audition is when I met George [MacKay] to read together in front of Sam; just a couple of scenes, and that was it! When I found out I had the part, I was over the moon! I think, more than anything, I just loved how beautifully the script was written. I was honestly on the edge of my seat. Every single word just sucked me into the story. I’ve never had a script that made me feel like that. I simply love this story and the journey we follow these two characters on. Aside to that, I also found Blake very loveable. He has a strong character to him that I would love in a real person. I think he and I would probably be best mates in real life.
DA: What kind of training did you and the rest of the cast have to go through before shooting began?
DCC: We did a lot of training. We started six months before shooting in order to prepare ourselves, which is a long time for a film. We worked with a brilliant military adviser, who would teach us how to salute, crawl, stand and just behave as a soldier. Any detail we needed or wanted to know, he would help us out. He was amazing. We had armory training, where we would work with the weapons, rifles and flare pistols. We also had a personal trainer and we worked with the stunt team to rehearse our stunts. Almost every day we were either rehearsing or training. George and I would even wear the soldiers webbing, so we were used to the weight of it before shooting started.
“It’s kind of hard to explain to people about the experience I had because not many people have gone through the experience of filming a one continuous shot movie.”
DA: Aside from the training, how else did you prepare for the role?
DCC: In order to play this character, I really wanted to find something that I could relate too, on a human level. In order to be able to understand what it must’ve been like and what was going through these men’s heads and how they must’ve felt. So, doing the research for this was interesting because there are so many journals and things that these men actually wrote. George and I also went out over to France and Belgium on a research trip, which was really helpful to me. There are amazing things to see from the First World War out there. Preserved trenches, museums, the soldiers’ graves, bomb craters—it was incredible. I just soaked up as much as I could, to be able to understand how these men felt, so I could bring that into Blake.
DA: Did you find shooting this movie particularly challenging?
DCC: Every day was a challenge. There never was an “easy” day. We had to be so technically aware of what’s going. The flow between the camera and the actors is like a dance. It’s all choreographed and planned out inch by inch. The details in making this film had to be so precise in order to pull off these long takes. And on top of all the movement and choreography of a scene, we had to act, too. During a take you end up thinking about 100 different things; but at the same time, you have to forget all of those things and let happen whatever comes out. By far, “1917” is the most challenging thing I’ve done.
DA: In this movie, you played together with Colin Firth, Richard Madden and Benedict Cumberbatch. What are some of your fondest memories from working with these actors?
DCC:We had such an amazing cast! Everybody who came in just brought so much to the film. One memory that stands out for me is working with Colin Firth and just watching him bring so much detail into his performance, which made it brilliant. The small details made such a big performance. I really could have watched him act all day. Perfection!
DA: So, all in all, how would you describe your experience working on “1917”?
DCC: Incredible. It’s kind of hard to explain to people about the experience I had because not many people have gone through the experience of filming a one continuous shot movie. But I can honestly say that every single day felt special. There was a buzz of excitement in the air on this film, and everybody was just so happy to be a part of it. I’ve never felt energy like it on a set, and that journey I will never forget.
DA: They say that with every role, you learn something as an actor or about yourself. So, what was it that you took with you from your experience on “1917”?
DCC: I think “1917” has given me a great insight on the war. I just think how lucky we are to live in the world we live in today. We’ve come a long way. It’s taught me to not take things for granted and to not take the people around you that love you for granted either.
DA: Not too long ago, we saw you playing Thomas of Lancaster in “The King.” Can you give us a short primer on what the movie is all about?
DCC: “The King” follows Prince Hal, which is played by Timothée Chalamet. It’s about a boy being thrown into a position of becoming king and navigating his way through politics and war, while constantly questioning the trust of those around him.
DA: So, what was the biggest lesson you learned from this movie?
DCC: Never wear a real armored suit in the middle of Hungary! It. Was. Hot.
DA: Besides “1917,” you’re also set to appear in “Here Are the Young Men.” Can you give us a short breakdown of what to expect from the movie?
DCC: “Here Are the Young Men” is set in Dublin, 2003. This story follows Matthew, Rez and Kearney, a group of mates who just graduated from school then took spiral down a hole of drinking, drugs and falling into shocking acts of transgression.
DA: What kind of preparation did you do for this movie?
DCC: Well, I play the role of Matthew; and for this I had to learn the Dublin accent, so I worked with a dialect coach before we started shooting. Also, my character takes some heavy drugs throughout the film. I’ve never played a role before where my character is on drugs so I had to do some research on what the drug effects were. They play a big part in my characters’ journey through the film.
DA: By the way, have you always wanted to be an actor? When was it that you realized that this is what you wanted to do for a living?
DCC: I actually started acting at the age of four! At that age I was doing TV commercials, and then when I was seven years old, I was cast in “Billy Elliot the Musical.” I played three roles in that show: Small boy, Michael, and then Billy Elliot. But it wasn’t until I left the show when I was 14 that I realized I wanted to carry this on as a career. My love for acting grew when I played Billy. I had one of the best times of my life on that show. And if it wasn’t for that, I probably wouldn’t still be acting today.
“Even though mistakes can happen, with theater you just have to carry on”
DA: What would you say are the biggest differences between performing in front of a camera and in front of a live audience?
DCC: Well, with working on camera you have the advantage in having multiple takes. You can go again and again until it’s right. Whereas in theater, you’ve only got one shot. There’s no room for mistakes—it’s a live performance. Every show is in front of an audience and they are paying to see the show. Even though mistakes can happen, with theater you just have to carry on. Whereas in film, if you make a mistake they just call “cut” and you start again normally. Case in point: With “1917,” it was more like filming a live play, where the takes were so long you would just get lost in what you were doing. That’s how it feels in theater: You can just get lost in it. It’s a beautiful feeling.
DA: Will we see you again on stage in the near future?
DCC: I don’t know. Maybe. I wouldn’t mind going back to theater again. It all depends on the project for me. If the script and story is right, I’ll do it.
DA: Last but not least, what are your current long-term career goals?
DCC: That’s a hard question, because I just live in the now. It’s hard to see what’s in the future for me, but my goal at the moment is just to keep working on projects I really love: Working with filmmakers that I look up too, playing different characters that I find interesting and as far from me as possible. Just to keep on working, doing what I love and I hope I can do it forever.
PHOTOGRAPHY MITCHELL NGUYEN McCORMACK
STYLING MONTY JACKSON FOR SWA
GROOMING ANNA BERNABE AT THE WALL GROUP FOR BUMBLE & BUMBLE AND YSL BEAUTY
VIDEOGRAPHY MITCHELL NGUYEN MCCORMACK AND JONATHAN D’AMBROSIO
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