In the theme of your new series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – since everyone will be asking you about the mysteries you’ve solved – what is a historically significant or famed mystery that you find completely uninteresting… or, likely possesses the least intriguing solution?
An enduring mystery lies around Shakespeare. Did he really write all of those plays…?!?!
Yep. He did. Mystery solved.
What moment in your life did you feel the most like a tourist?
I visited the giant bronze Buddha at a monastery on Lantau island. All the monks there were silent and dressed in their orange robes and I was there with a bunch of people, all of us in our shorts and flip flops, baseball caps, cameras out snapping away. Every day the monks provided free food for every single person who visited. The juxtaposition of peace and capitalism felt extreme.
If you had to pick a character/ scene from a film to do a reading from, what would you pick? In the same vein of a singer covering a song.
Toni Collette has a brilliant speech in The Hours where everything you think she is gets turned upside down as she completely cracks open whilst trying to hold it together. I’d like a go at that. It’s a superb blend of acting and writing.
What is your proudest moment as an actor that wasn’t onscreen or onstage?
It was being at the Tony Awards in 2014, nominated for Best Actor. I was surrounded by friends and sitting next to my partner and I knew I wasn’t going to win so there was no pressure and I was just happy to be there. I also felt in some way validated as I had been nominated before in the supporting actor category so it felt like it wasn’t a fluke the first time around because it was happening again!
What do you love or enjoy more than the majority of people you’ve met?
The mannequin challenge. Ridiculous, right? But I find it fascinating. More than most people I’ve met. I don’t know why it thrills me so much. I keep watching them online.
What is your favorite film poster of all time?
Trainspotting. Because it has THAT speech on it.
What is the last bad habit that you’ve ridden from your life, or, what is the last good habit you’ve integrated into it?
The last good habit that I’ve integrated is meditation. Everyday. Whether I want to or not.
What is a piece of technology or innovation that blew your mind?
I still find it unreal that we can fly. I get it technically. But it still freaks me out.
Who was one of the most challenging but rewarding performers you’ve acted alongside?
I’m not gonna name names, but I’ve worked with a few challenging performers, all of them challenging for different reasons, and I’ve learned something invaluable from every encounter, either directly from the person in the form of a skill, or something about myself as a person and as an actor. It’s interesting what happens when challenges come up. I’ve learned to step up. Challenging performers are often brilliant, so the choice is either to try to come up to their level or get lost in the background.
Was there a specific period of your life where you felt that you made the most artistic/ creative progress?
Actually it’s in the last 6 years since I did a play called The Whisky Taster. I followed that with a one-man show, two female Shakespeare roles, Penny Dreadful and now Dirk Gently. All these roles have been very different from one another, challenging in their own ways and requiring something new from me each time, sometimes difficult and immensely rewarding. I’ve been so lucky to get to play a variety of roles and I’ve learned something new from each one because each one has been a challenge, particularly the one-man show and the Shakespeare which I had never tackled before. It has felt like a creatively rich few years and I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love.
Want more? Watch our behind-the-scenes film.
Samuel Barnett can be seen in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, available now on Netflix (UK).
As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Creative Director & Photographer: Jessie Craig
Stylist: Christopher Preston
Grooming: Oliver Daw