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God’s Own Country star Josh O’Connor: ‘I’ve dated the Johnny type in the past’

The 27-year-old is up for BAFTA's Rising Star Award.

By Will Stroude

As the award-winning gay film God’s Own Country hits DVD, Blu-ray and video-on-deman we chat to the film’s breakout star, Josh O’Connor, to find out how the film has impacted his career, being nominated for BAFTA’s Rising Star Award and singing in the shower…

God’s Own Country has been a huge hit with critics and audiences alike. Looking back on the experience, how has the film changed your life?

I’m not sure it has changed my life as such. Obviously, the response has been monumental and way beyond anything I could have ever dreamt of, but in terms of the way I go about my life not a lot has changed. One thing I always find with any job, but certainly felt it more viscerally with God’s Own Country, is that you take something of the character with you.

I was so touched by the character of Johnny Saxby and care for him so much. I know I’d dated the Johnny type in the past, emotionally inarticulate, unable to love and be loved, and I’ve found, through the process of playing Johnny, some kind of peace and hopefully a greater understanding and empathy. 

You and Alec had quite an intense relationship on screen and have been touring this film all over the world. So, are you completely sick of each other now or are you still mates?!  

Absolutely not sick of each other… I don’t think! We have the strongest bond with Francis [Lee, the film’s director] too. I think the process of making the film actually informed the strength of our friendship now. We first met to do a chemistry read. Alec was sensational, obviously, but after that day we all decided we would keep us apart. We wanted to keep a sense of separation between the two of us until we first meet on screen.

This would help keep the hostility that Johnny feels towards Alec’s character. It would also allow for our friendship off screen to develop as it was on screen…but with less mud and pot noodles!

Your role has seen you nominated for an EE BAFTA Rising Star award — how does that feel?

It’s very hard to articulate to be honest. I can honestly say I never even dreamt of attending the BAFTAs in my life, let alone be nominated for one! It’s truly an honour.

This is the only BAFTA voted for by the public so how can people get involved?

Yes, it’s the coolest thing, in fact just two years ago I was longlisted for an NTA for best actor, it was a public vote to narrow the longlist down to nomination stage. I came home over Christmas only to discover my own mother had voted for Cilian Murphy because “darling he’s so handsome!” So, if you would like to vote in my mother’s place you just have to follow this link.

We heard that you’re set to star in a TV series of Les Misérables as Marius. Most people are familiar with Les Mis as a musical — will you be singing in this version?

Luckily for anyone and everyone who watches the show I can confirm that I will not be singing. I love singing in the shower in the morning but I’m almost certain that’s where it should stay.

In the recent film Marius was played by Eddie Redmayne — do those feel like big boots to fill?

Yes, of course. I think Eddie Redmayne is extraordinary in that film. I think, though, the only way that this adaptation would work is if we are offering something new and fresh from the film or the theatre production. So, whilst I am so in awe of Eddie’s performance I certainly won’t even begin to attempt to replicate what he gave.

We’re also about to see your handsome mug all over a new Loewe Menswear campaign, how did that come about?

As I understand it Jonathan Anderson [Designer and Creative Director of Loewe]saw God’s own Country in the summer and decided he wanted to do a campaign… it was kind of that simple. I’ve been a fan of his for a while so was thrilled and it’s been completely brilliant so far. Working with the likes of Stephen Meisel and Duane Michals, idols of mine, I have to pinch myself. Not to mention some of the beautiful threads they throw on me!

What else is in the pipeline for 2018? Will we see you rolling around in the mud again anytime soon?

There are a few films lined up for the summer, unfortunately all top secret for now. But very exciting projects with some real idols of mine. As for mud rolling, that will, I’m afraid, stay as a hobby, as and when I can find time!

Vote for Josh O’Connor for the EE BAFTA Rising Star award here. God’s Own Country is on DVD and video-on-demand now.