PHOTOS: JACK ALEXANDER
TALENT: FREDDY CARTER
STYLING: GARETH SCOURFIELD AT ONE REPRESENTS
SET DESIGN: VICTORIA THOMAS-WOOD
GROOMING: JON CHAPMAN AT NYLON ARTISTS
stylist ASSISTANT: DYLAN WELLER
INTERVIEW: OLIVIA COOKE
PRODUCTION: Jasmine Perrier AT Studio J•T•P
This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.17, available soon in digital and print worldwide
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Freddy Carter is breaking out as one to watch with his on-screen work and skills behind the camera. After appearing in projects such as Pennyworth and Wonder Woman, the actor hailing from Somerset is poised to steal the show with his portrayal of beloved gang leader Kaz Brekker in Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, an eight-part adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse fantasy book series. In real life, Freddy has an air about him that is easy-going and gentle. A week before the highly-anticipated release of the show in April, he connected with his fellow British friend and actor, Olivia Cooke, for a playful and laid-back talk. They chatted about their experiences of entering the industry, the challenge of working on adaptations, and why we should stop comparing ourselves.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
OLIVIA COOKE: So, we know each other because our mutual best friends, who I knew first, went to drama school with you.
FREDDY CARTER: They did.
OC: We’re going to start with Somerset. Your dad was in the army.
FC: He was in the army for 30 years and he retired when we were living in Somerset. But I was 16, so basically I moved around from place to place my whole childhood.
OC: What about your mom?
FC: She [worked] in whichever school we were in, wherever we were.
OC: So when did the drama bug take hold?
FC: I think I was very lucky. My school had always [been] pretty good at drama and the arts — at least good at encouraging people to get involved. So I got involved when I was like in year four. I did my first school play, I was Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk and I genuinely haven’t looked back since.
OC: When you auditioned for drama school, which ones did you get rejected from?
FC: I got into [The Oxford School of Drama’s] Foundation Course the first year I tried. But I got rejected from all of the big ones that year as well. And that was quite hard. Did you not get into all of them as well?
OC: Well, I only auditioned for RADA because I was like, “Let’s aim big.” And also, I had an agent at the time in London, who was a bit like, “You’re working, why would you be auditioning for drama schools?”
FC: I think there is a kind of snobbery in this country where people feel like they have to go to drama school. When you’re 18-19, you’re like, “I’ll just go because that solves the problem of how I’m going to break through and get noticed.” I definitely think [going to drama school] was the right thing for me, but actually, so many brilliant people don’t train.
OC: I was lucky enough to come along and see your showcase. Do you want to talk about how that prepared you for stepping out as an actor away from the comfort of drama school?
FC: You’re right — at drama school, it’s comfort, where everyone is on the same team, and you all want the best for each other. And really quickly, at some point in third year, you cease to be that and you are an individual entity going into a business. That was the hardest thing for me to get my head around. Everybody is telling you the showcase is the big deal [and] if you are like me, you put an incredible amount of pressure on yourself. [But] if you’re going to recognize quickly the fact that the showcase doesn’t decide if you work as an actor or will be working as an actor, then you can have a really nice time with these people. That’s the thing I’d like to impress upon third-year students. Because I left without an agent.
OC: From an outsider’s point of view, I feel like your whole three years are built towards essentially this one assessment, where a handful of you will get plucked from obscurity with agents. And that’s just not the reality. It’s so many different journeys you can go on. It’s a lot to take on for someone who’s in their early twenties.
FC: It left us all feeling that was our shot, and we missed it. But we were very fortunate to have this lovely group of people at Oxford. A lot of us are still very close and we have come through that together. Loads of really talented people are now working, all making their own brilliant work, or still in the creative field doing incredible stuff.
OC: Do you have any embarrassing audition or meeting stories after you came out of drama school?
FC: [Laughs] The principal of Oxford when I was there, George Peck, told us that we always needed to take a 10 by 8 headshot with us to every audition. For a good couple of weeks, despite people being like, “You don’t need to do this,” I’d always go and hand it to these people who were like, “What do I do with this?”
OC: Did you sign them as well?
FC: No, I had a sticker on the back with my email address, just in case [laughs].
OC: I remember visiting you guys in Oxford and being so jealous because it sounded like you were having the best time ever. What about being in Oxford (the drama school, not the university) inspired you to be the actor you’re today, if it did at all?
FC: I think there’s something about being totally out on your own in the middle of nowhere, which basically is a good preparation for the industry. And I also think that they teach you about making your own work which is so important. Because even if you don’t go on to make your own work, it means that you cultivate this sense of taste and what you like and don’t like. I think it does teach you how to be… an artist.
OC: How do you feel about being called an “artist”? I don’t mind being called a “creative,” but I do feel like we’re given too much rope.
FC: Yes, I know. “Artist” doesn’t sit right with me. But then, “creative” doesn’t also quite work for me because that’s so broad. What would you want to go for, Liv?
OC: Just Liv [laughs]. I like “actor,” but I think ‘‘creative’’ also makes me feel like I’m not in a box. Whereas you have [proven a wide range of skills] — nice transition from me. You did a short film called No.89 and you’ve got plans to do other short films. What has being a director taught you about working as an actor on set?
FC: That’s a very good question. I think it reminded me that you’re a very small part of something much bigger, you know? Sometimes you just need to do what they are asking and make that work for the person who’s juggling ten thousand things in this moment, to tell a story in the way that they want to. I hope that I’m easier to direct now having given it a go.
OC: Do you have plans in the future to direct feature films?
FC: I’d love to. The thing I can’t imagine doing is directing something that I’m in. What about you? You’ve produced stuff that you’re in so you have a taste of that.
OC: I felt it very hard to be the actor, but then also in a role where I was making decisions, or at least in conversations.
FC: I can’t see myself doing that. But yes, a small goal that I set myself is to do a feature in the next 10 years, I think. It feels doable but you only get to do your first feature once, so [it has to] be the right story. Someone said to me, “It needs to be a story that only you could tell, or only your way of telling it is the right way to do it. And until you read that script, or someone proposes that idea to you, you should hold off.”
OC: Let’s get to Shadow and Bone, shall we? How did [it] come about and what drew you to it, apart from the handsome Ben Barnes?
FC: Yes, it’s important to say that it was mostly Ben Barnes [laughs]. You know, I’d heard about it and there’d been a sort of round, when people are auditioning for stuff and you’re like, “When am I going to get that?” I think I came to it quite late in the casting process, and because of that, it all happened really quickly like a whirlwind. I was away on holiday, got the tape through, did the tape on holiday, and then flew back early to come and meet the showrunner [Eric Heisserer]. I heard nothing for weeks and then, I had a very lovely call and immediately got a lovely email from Leigh [Bardugo], the author. I felt welcome into the family very quickly.
OC: [It was] amazing that you’ve got the writer of the books on board as well.
FC: Yes, it’s really nice because she wrote these characters 10-ish years ago. And since then, they had been on the bestseller list and there’s a big fandom for them so I think it was quite a big deal for her to hand them over to people.
OC: I watched the show over the weekend. I can see you were typecast again as the gang leader, Kaz Brekker. He’s got his fingers in a lot of dirty pockets — is it hard playing yourself?
FC: Yes, that is so close to me. The red mist is ready to descend at any moment [laughs].
OC: [Laughs] You’re so different in this. You did such a good job. But how did you prepare for that?
FC: I genuinely loved the books. There’s a preexisting fanbase for the books and they are all very excited about the show. I wanted it to be right so I read and re-read the books, making sure that I’d got everything, and then, I had these conversations with the author and the showrunner. I do like doing the book work on my own and studying the script, but I get so much more out of conversations. Luckily, the team on Shadow and Bone was just lovely and always up for that. They were also more than happy to geek out over the books at any given opportunity. Have you done an adaptation? Apart from Vanity Fair.
OC: Ready Player One. It was amazing but so different I thought from the book. But yes, don’t read comments and stuff like that because I feel like whenever you read a book, and you’ve been so invested in it, even if it’s made by the most incredible people in the world, some people just won’t be happy. Are you like, “whatever,” about that?
FC: I wish I could be a bit more, “whatever,” but as you know, I’m not that kind of person. And I think I’m glad I’m not because it means I care about people. A lot of the actors I know who are very empathetic people, and want to listen to people, also find it difficult to read reviews. It’s tricky because I really loved the books and I was genuinely surprised and excited when I read the scripts to see what they had done with it. They had taken the best of the books, made it better in many ways, and brought things to life that the books could never do.
OC: It felt like you were filming in Budapest for forever. Because the last time we were at a party, really, was when you just got back from Budapest. Did you and the other Crows take it by storm?
FC: Good knowledge! [Laughs] I loved Hungary. We spent most of our time in Budapest which is such a good city.
OC: So you completed a production, you went back to England, and then lockdown happened. Usually, when you finish a job, you get to mourn it for a couple of weeks. But you had a whole year. What did you reflect on the most about that job?
FC: That’s a really good question. I hadn’t been involved in something of that scale from the beginning. I’d been on bigger things but I’d popped in for a week or a couple of weeks. So, to be involved in full pre-production, to be involved in these conversations about costumes, and even see the sets before they’ve been built, it felt like a greater sense of ownership over the whole thing that I hadn’t experienced before. Because I was more invested and I’d more fun on that job than I’d had on anything else, I suppose I did mourn it but I also felt very grateful, and very excited that I could feel like that about a project that I hadn’t written [or] directed.
OC: And also, you could take that time to be like, “Ok, what do I want to do now?”
FC: [During] the first month of lockdown, I was just really glad to not have to think about anything, do anything. It felt like a nice holiday from work and the industry. It was the first time in five years that I stopped comparing myself [to what other people are doing].
OC: I’ve spoken about that as well — how last year just felt like a relief for me. For once, we were all just, “Let’s celebrate what we have.”
FC: It was a blessing, that relief that we all felt to some extent when we slowed down and stopped comparing ourselves. It’s nice to be reminded that you actually don’t have to care so deeply about every tiny little thing, when there is no worry about what’s next. I’d personally like to hold onto that. It’s okay to slow down and look after yourself. If we all did it, we wouldn’t be comparing ourselves all the time.
OC: Going forward Freds, is there anyone’s career that you admire?
FC: It’s tricky territory isn’t it? I love people like Jim Cummings, he’s incredible. People with singular visions like Greta Gerwig, Olivia Wilde, are the people I admire.
OC: You’re special, Freds. I’ll have to see you again soon.
SHADOW AND BONE IS NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX
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