We were given the opportunity to interview Edward Akrout for Shakespeare Magazine this month. Below is the “Director’s Cut” of the interview with more questions and answers. We hope you enjoy learning more about the dashing Dauphin of The Hollow Crown: Henry V as we did!
If you’ve seen The Hollow Crown: Henry V then you’ll doubtless remember actor Edward Akrout’s portrayal of Louis the Dauphin. Stage versions rarely allow us to see inside the heart of Henry V’s villain, but The Hollow Crown was different. As Louis, Edward conveyed all the scorn and contempt expected of the role, but also embodied the heavy weight of impending battle and the heartbreak of defeat and personal loss. It was a performance that saw the French-born actor winning over Shakespeare fans in England and beyond – one that even made us feel sympathy for the Dauphin’s fate at the Battle of Agincourt.
Born in Paris to a British-Franco mother and a Tunisian father, Edward can truly claim to be a man of the world. He lived in several different countries while growing up, studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris and trained in acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). He graduated in 2008 and four years later, in the Cultural Olympiad year of 2012, he joined the cast of The Hollow Crown.
When did you decide to pursue acting as a career?
When I was a child my uncle, who was an artist, made me discover how to grow up without never stopping to play. He made me discover painting and acting.
How was your experience training at LAMDA?
It was wonderful because I was completely new to London and LAMDA became like my family. I have made wonderful friends there and we are still very much in touch. It was such an immersive introduction to British culture history and literature that it made me British by adoption. The training itself transforms you, your body, and your mind; you learn a technique that becomes so deeply ingrained in you that you carry it then for the rest of your life.
Did you tackle any Shakespeare plays while training?
Yes. I was very lucky to play Richard III directed by Aaron Mullen one of my dream parts. It was a real rush. It made me an addict.
What was the first exposure you had to Shakespeare’s work? Did you enjoy his work right away or grow to enjoy it over time?
I think my first exposure was Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V at first like any boy I watched it to see the fight scenes, I wanted to become a knight then. But then I felt more goose bumps listening to his pre-battle speech than by the battle itself. It was like nothing I ever experienced before, I was thrilled and moved by language.
What was the first production of Shakespeare you were in?
It was Richard III at LAMDA. It’s the closest feeling there is to being a musician. You learn the part and then you play it. The language itself tells you what to do.
Did you have any mentors (such as teachers, directors, fellow peers) that helped you appreciate and learn about Shakespeare’s language and stories?
Yes, my grandmother. She is a born actress but never pursued a career. She can read Shakespeare in perfect English, Molière in perfect French and Goethe in perfect German. She taught me the joy one can find and share with words.
How did you first hear about The Hollow Crown? Were you asked to audition? Tell us about the process of joining the production.
I remember they were a few rounds of auditions and I eventually met Thea Sharrock. I was so happy when I got the news. On the first day we had a reading with the whole cast. I was trying to hide as much as I could but I was just in awe of all the actors sitting at that table. John Hurt, Richard Griffiths , Anton Lesser, Paterson Joseph, Tom Hiddleston, Lambert Wilson. I was a big fan of all them and couldn’t actually believe I was sitting at the same table with them.
How was it working with director Thea Sharrock and actor Tom Hiddleston?
Thea was wonderful very helpful and very passionate about her work. Richard Griffiths was so sweet, he use to call her mum on set. They were very close and have worked many times together. Tom is a great actor but also a wonderful company leader. He really fueled the entire set with his energy and inspired everyone to give their best. He was very much like Henry V himself .
How did you feel about some of the Dauphin’s great lines being cut from the final version of Henry V?
It’s always a hard decision to make but you can’t keep everything. Thea has a real love for the play the language and all the characters I knew straight away that if she cut something it was always for the benefit of the story.
They say history is written by the victors of a war. As a Frenchman, how do you feel about how the French are portrayed by Shakespeare in Henry V?
Originally those parts are very satirical. They are almost supposed to be funny. Thea wanted to show the atrocity of war and made all the French parts real, that is also why some lines had to go.
Do you have any humorous anecdotes or stories from the set of The Hollow Crown?
Driving to set at the back of a Land Rover on a bumpy road with both Stanley Weber and I crashing into each-other in our full armour. It doesn’t get any funnier than that.
You had some fantastic costumes for Henry V. Do you have any favorites? How much does the costume influence how you play a character or a scene?
My favourite was the full armor with the sword of course. I always dreamt to have one as a kid. No acting is required then, you don’t need to gild the lily.
What upcoming projects do you have that audiences can look forward to?
I have two films coming out next Year: Sword of Vengeance where I get act with my cousin of Orleans again (Stanley Weber) and also The Devil’s Harvest. Deadly Virtues is coming out this august during the Fright Fest in Leicester Square.I also joined the cast of Mr. Selfridge recently, which will air in January.
You can read the full issue of Shakespeare magazine here: http://issuu.com/shakespearemagazine/docs/shakespeare_magazine_04#