The award-winning veteran actor is back with his new film Oranges and Sunshine — based on the true story of the deportation of thousands of children from the UK to Australia after World War II
HOW HAS A TRUE STORY ABOUT A GROSS INJUSTICE LIKE ORANGES AND SUNSHINE AFFECTED YOU ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?
It didn’t happen to me, so in a way it’s not personal. However, I do try to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes — I try to illuminate the character to make it come alive. But then again, as an actor I’m affected by almost everything, as we’re constantly learning.
IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO PORTRAY A REAL-LIFE CHARACTER?
The challenge lies in the psychological investigative work. I have to almost mimic the character and explore why they’re like that. However, in the end it’s the same process, whether it’s a real-life character or not.
HOW DID YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH EMILY WATSON?
It was absolutely delightful. I love her work — Breaking the Waves was the first film I’d seen from her many years ago. She’s warm, smiley and sensitive, with an easy strength about her — and she’s a brilliant actress.
AND DAVID WENHAM?
I only have one small scene with David, unfortunately. However, we did have a couple of nights out on the town! I’m also an admirer of his work.
WHAT WAS A TYPICAL DAY ON SET LIKE?
Jim Loach is a calm, sensitive and intelligent man to work with. The material was raw and very emotional, but it was easy to accomplish. I spent one day in Nottingham, and five in Adelaide, but the actual work on set was just very easy. It’s just a joy and privilege to work with Emily and Jim.
OUTSIDE OF ACTING, WHAT RELAXES YOU?
I like to read a lot, but really, my primary focus is my family. I also love travelling.
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO TAKE ON THE ROLE OF JACK, ONE OF THE NOW GROWN-UP CHILDREN?
The script arrived, and I took notice when I knew that Jim Loach was directing, as I’ve been a huge fan of his father’s films. It was a combination of the right script, director and an incredibly moving story.
HOW DID YOU RELATE TO JACK?
Well, it’d be quite hard not to relate to the story. You’d have to be inhuman. It’s an incredibly sad story, about someone whose life was almost destroyed.
WHAT DID YOU USE TO FLESH OUT AND INFORM YOUR PERFORMANCE?
I met the man on whom the character of Jack was based, who’d been sent out as a child from England at the age of 10. It was very easy to understand his pain. My own mother was taken away from her family during the war, when she was only four. If you’re a child who is taken away, you miss the love and nurturing that you should be getting.
Oranges and Sunshine is in theatres from 9 June.