Tom Ellis gets candid on his bi-continental acting career with Sam Heughan

PHOTOS: Allegra Messina
TALENT: Tom Ellis
STYLING: Warren Alfie Baker at The Wall Group
GROOMING: Lilly Keys at A-Frame using Dermalogica and Kiehl’s
INTERVIEW: Sam Heughan
TRANSCRIPT: Parker Schug
PRODUCER: Jasmine Perrier

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide

Hailing from Wales, Tom Ellis has been in the film industry for the past 20 years. Building a path to the leading-man status can be immediate for some, take a lifetime for others. Starting out on British television, he viewed the United States as an opportunity of getting the parts he wasn’t going up for in his native country. With his natural charisma and on-screen presence, the role of “the Devil” on the critically acclaimed series Lucifer lauded him as an esteemed actor of his generation. In real life, the Welsh actor is kind-hearted and shows a great sense of humor — just like his beloved on-screen character. Part one of Lucifer‘s fifth season premiered August 21st on Netflix with its surprises and sparkles, and the popular show is already renewed for a sixth and final season.

Illustration: Jenny Sorto (@unblissfull)

When we asked Tom who we should contact to be our guest interviewer, he suggested his “buddy” Sam Heughan — who has been leading Starz’s hit drama Outlander since 2014. Both originally from the UK, we discovered that the two actors first met in their twenties at the Royal Scottish Academy in Glasgow — now called the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland — before each of them became the lead of a successful show gathering millions of fans across the world. Therefore, we figured we would make our own Lucifer and Outlander crossover happen. Tom caught up with Sam over Zoom in June to recall the earliest memories that brought them together twenty-two years ago at drama school, and break down his bi-continental career.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. This is only an extract.

On getting into acting… 

Acting was something I came to relatively late — but once I came to it, everything happened really quickly. I didn’t start acting until I was doing my A-Levels. I was never good enough at the sports I played to pursue them professionally. But I was working towards doing sports injury and rehabilitation, where I could run on the pitch with the magic sponge, and still have the adulation. […] Then my old English teacher came to me and said, ‘I know you’re looking for a subject to do. I’m running the theater studies course and I need some boys. I’ve got 12 girls and one boy at the moment.’ […] Within a couple of weeks, I would really enjoy this. I did National Youth Theatre, which is a summer course after that first year of A-Levels. That’s when I decided to go to drama school.

On his memories from drama school in Scotland… 

“My most early memory of being around you was when you were hitting a play at the Traverse. It was funny because you were referred to as ‘Handsome Sam’ at college [laughs]. […] Me and James [McAvoy] were in the same year, and became great mates — and still are. I ended up doing my first professional gig in third year with James at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy. It was Beauty and the Beast. James got the part of Bobby Buckfast, and I played the Beast and the Prince [Sam laughs]. I earned money, and that’s what paid my first rent in London when I left drama school.

On the evolution of his career…

“I had a very fortunate arch in terms of working, because there’s really only been one tiny period I had to do something else other than acting to earn money. I was two years out of drama school. I did start working early on, and I have been very lucky. I’ve made a slow progression over those years. Then I was waiting for the leads to start happening, as you know a guy doesn’t really happen until your thirties. […] My acting career took off when I was allowed to start having stubble. I spend an extra half an hour in the makeup chair on Lucifer these days to cover all the grey bits.

On reaching America and his transition to Hollywood…

“There used to be a stage where there would be pilots and certain casting directors in London — you would put something on tape, and then hear nothing. For me, that was the first six years of pilot audition experience. Weirdly, I auditioned for one, went away on holiday, and when I got back, my agent said, ‘I’ve been trying to get a hold of you. They saw your tape in America and want to fly you out.’ I didn’t get the job, but it was my first coming over and meeting people. Also, because Miranda was becoming so popular, people were having a hard time seeing beyond Gary. What was nice about coming to the States was that if they don’t know you, they assume that you’ve just started. […] It changed my attitude about auditioning and I worked harder on my auditions. There’s no accident between the correlation of hard work and success in my story at all, because I’m inherently quite lazy.

On shaping the character of Lucifer…

“I am attracted to those characters that are deplorable and reprehensible, but lovable. […] People have a lot of expectations about the character of Lucifer. I wanted to approach him as a character, as opposed to the Devil. That’s a much more interesting story. I’m super proud of the show and that arc of Lucifer, because he’s really evolved as a character — all credit to the writers for that. […] I genuinely had no idea it was based on a comic book, until I read that on Deadline after I got the job. […] Then it wasn’t specified that he was American or anything, but I read it in American and I was like, ‘It’s not working.’ […] I wanted to make a differentiation with this character, that he was from somewhere else — not necessarily the UK, but it wasn’t from Los Angeles.

On his next ambitions…

“I’d love to come and rock a kilt on Outlander [laughs]. Now that I’ve been producing on Lucifer, that’s a direction I enjoy. At the moment, I’m developing something with Jason Bateman’s company and a writing friend of mine. My wife is a fantastic writer and we work together as well. I always want to do something different than what I’ve been doing. I love the theater and I need to go back to it at some point. […] It’s all the things that I fell in love with in the first place. You don’t get to do a lot of them on a TV set, because it’s a very different process. I really miss that. […] I’d love to work on a Broadway musical.

On paving the way for a better tomorrow…

“I hope that people are managing to stay positive. We will get through this, this won’t be forever. And at the moment, it’s really important over here to continue saying that Black Lives Matter. This is an ongoing movement, it doesn’t stop after a couple of weeks. I will be continuing the support and everything to do with that. And I will very much be encouraging people in this country to vote in November.

Full conversation and story appear in Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16. Purchase your digital or print copy!


17 thoughts on “Tom Ellis gets candid on his bi-continental acting career with Sam Heughan

  1. Marta H Ferreiro 2020-08-22 — 16 h 47 min

    Please,I want to receive note about this interview


  2. Dinorah Escudero 2020-08-22 — 18 h 49 min

    Muy buena entrevista, desconozco al actor, vere su serie Lucifer, aunque el nombre no es de mi agrado. Que lo haya entrevistado
    Sam un viejo colega, fue muy buena idea, compañerismo. 👋👋👋💯🇲🇽🇵🇷


  3. Enjoyed the excerpt from Sam Heughan’s interview with Tom Ellis would like to read all of it when available. Well done.


  4. Nelleke Tervoort 2020-08-22 — 20 h 00 min

    Would love to read the whole interview!
    I hope it will be possible cause i live in the Netherlands.
    It is very promising love to read the rest!


  5. Mary DiRenzo Spinelli 2020-08-22 — 21 h 06 min

    Nice interview! BTW, until ALL lives matter we are all just spinning our wheels!


    1. of course all live matter, but black lives need our help most right now.


    2. When someone says “save the whales,” do you say we should save all fish? Focus on what’s important right now – BLACK lives matter.


  6. Carol Rooney Hart 2020-08-22 — 21 h 20 min

    Well done Sam! I would love to read the complete product! LUCIFER Is top notch!


  7. Barb Sherfinski 2020-08-22 — 21 h 27 min

    Looking forward to the full interview between Tom and Sam!


  8. Want to read entire article 😎


  9. Amo a Sam Heughan the best 💖


  10. Would love to read the entire interview. It’s very funny I am an outlander fanatic and love Sam to death. I also love Lucifer did not realize the two guys were friends but I can see that. Both guys are great at their craft and having one interview the other was great. Just watched the new season of Lucifer in one day now I’m gonna be missing it again like I am missing outlander. Oh well I do love both shows and both men are phenomenal.


  11. Would like to read the entire interview. Two of my favorite actors and two of my favorite shows!


  12. Loved the article. Would love to read the entire article. How can I get a printed copy of your magazine? I live in Michigan USA.


  13. Would love to read the entire interview. Two great actors trained in their craft in the wonderful Royal Academy of Music and Acting. Now RCS. You both miss performing in live theater. Would’nt it be great if you could both do a tour to Cape Town’s The Art Scape or Baxter theater?


  14. 저도 끝까지 인터뷰 기사를 읽고싶어요 전 한국에있어요


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