An Interview With…. Alastair Natkiel

Hi everyone! Today on the blog I’m delighted to welcome Alastair Natkiel. Alastair is an actor and singer and has most recently been on screen in BBC’s Line of Duty as OCG member Lee Banks.

I was very pleased that he was able to accommodate an interview. Read on for how he started out in the industry and his advice for aspiring creatives (actors and writers).

Over to you, Alastair…

1) How did you first become involved in the industry? Was it something that you always wanted to do? Did you have any other career plans?

I either wanted to be a cricketer or an actor. I wasn’t good enough at cricket so acting it was. Clearly I never considered a “proper” job!
I had been performing from a young age and both my parents were involved in the industry (Dad was a theatre/tv director and producer and Mum trained as an actress) so it was always in the family. I saw Les Miserables in the West End when I was 8 in the and thought “I’d like to be up there doing that”.

2) When you read a script, what do you pay attention to in particular? Does the character leap off the page for you? What makes you think ‘Yes, I want to play this role!’

Yes there are definitely characters you quickly connect with, which can be for a number of reasons. Maybe they feel close to you or have similar experiences. Or it might be you just know they will be great fun and/or a wonderful challenge to play.

I like delving into dark and difficult roles that allow me to move far away from myself, ie playing a vicious criminal like Lee Banks in Line of Duty, or Simon – my character from the play Muswell Hill – who was affected by severe Aspergers.

3) Your career has varied between film, television and theatre. Which of the three would you say is your favourite and why?

They are all rewarding in their own way. I love screen work – the subtlety that the proximity and strength of the camera allows. And being in such a hyped show as Line of Duty is incredible, especially with how it’s gripped the nation.

But then there’s something very special in the immediacy of theatre – being part of a company of actors and experiencing the audience’s reaction there and then. For example, at the end of Standing at the Sky’s Edge (a very special show I did at the Sheffield Crucible) we had 1000 people on their feet, giving us a standing ovation every night. There’s not a lot that can beat that.

4) You run an acting workshop for up and coming actors. Where did the idea for this start and what does the process involve?

I love teaching and have taught group classes for years.

I had been thinking of starting 1-1 sessions for some time and when Covid hit, it was the perfect incentive to get them off the ground.

Everything is done on Zoom and actors of all experience come to me to work on screen acting and audition skills/preparations. I’ve really got a lot out of it myself and is a venture that has kept me busy (and sane!) through lockdown.

It’s going to be something I continue over Zoom but will also be introducing in-person sessions when I’m allowed to.

5) How did you find your current agent? Would you say that the process is the same for a writer seeking representation? For example, a submission reel and cover letter or show invite is the equivalent of sample chapters from a manuscript?

I have known my agent for a long time and when it wasn’t going well with my previous representation, we went out for lunch and chatted about me making a move to her.

However that’s not necessarily a normal process and I’m sure it’s very much the same as for a writer. You email with your Spotlight profile (which includes headshots and showreel etc) and hope you might be what they’re looking for.

I’ve had times where I’ve written out and had absolutely nothing back, then other times when I’ve had lots of interest. You need a bit of luck for your submission to land in their inbox at the right time.

6) How have you been coping during lockdown? As an actor, how has lockdown affected you?

Well as I said, The Actor’s Coach venture I set up has kept me busy.

And I’ve kept up with partaking in acting classes myself – a weekly screen workshop with Mixing Networks (who I also teach for) and more recently restarting sessions with Scott Williams at The Impulse Company, who teaches the Meisner Technique, and is someone I love working with and have done so for the last 15 years.

And I was lucky to have a couple of acting jobs, including Line of Duty, and some voiceover work through the lockdown period too.
I also run a Saturday stage school for kids where we took the lessons online and had the idea for “Gig in the Garden” where I went directly to people’s homes to sing and entertain. I launched that over Christmas and am doing so again for the summer.

So I’ve definitely kept myself occupied!

7) I am currently really enjoying Line of Duty. You play Lee Banks, one of the OCG members. How did your part in LoD come about?

I did a casting director workshop with Gordon Cowell – one of the casting associates for the show – who encouraged me to write to Jed Mercurio, who created the show. I had recently done a police based feature film so had some very relevant footage.

Jed very kindly replied and said they’d bear me in mind. My agent then submitted me for Lee, pushed for me be to considered, and got me a self tape. I sent that in and the rest is history! I actually heard back two days after I’d submitted my tape, which was a much quicker outcome than I expected. I was subsequently told I was very quickly everyone’s first choice for the role, which was lovely to hear.

8) During the pandemic, what have you missed most about the day to day routine of your job?

I’ve missed the variety it brings. I’ve loved keeping busy with online ventures, but my work is normally so different from week to week that it’s been hard to not have that element to it.

And I miss being part of a company. I was due to do a big theatre job from November last year through to April this year, in a theatre I’ve always dreamed of working at, so to have not been able to do that was gut-wrenching. Hopefully it will still happen at some point soon.

9) Are you currently reading any books? Between fiction and non fiction, do you have a favourite? Do you have a favourite genre?

I’m terrible for reading fiction. I should be much better but start novels and never finish them.

I read plays, books on acting and both actors’ and sporting autobiographies. I also read a lot of personal development books to keep working on a positive mindset, which I find key to the development of my career and my overall mental health.

10) In preparation for a role, do you sometimes listen to music to get you in your character’s mindset? I find certain pieces of music very helpful. Have you been missing live music during lockdown? Do you have a favourite band or artist you like to listen to?

Yeah sometimes. I do a lot of visualisation work to really get into the world of the character and music is often a part of that.

I actually don’t go to that many live music gigs but that’s one of those things that I’m keen to rectify once life gets back to normal.

My brother has been a huge influence on my musical taste. He used to be a full time DJ and music producer and still writes tunes along side his “proper” job (he eventually got one, whereas I didn’t!).

So anything from techno to Oasis, to swing music (Frank Sinatra is one of my idols) and whatever else in between. I’ll kind of listen to anything!

Thank you for your time this afternoon Alastair, it has been a pleasure to interview you!

Bio: Alastair trained at the Manchester School of Theatre and continues in further training with the Impulse Theatre Company.He is best known for his role as Lee Banks in the BBC’s hit drama, Line of Duty.

Other television credits include: Casualty, Hollyoaks, Coronation Street, Machines That Built American, Basil Brush and The Marchioness Disaster.

Theatre credits include: The Merchant of Venice (Stafford Shakespeare Festival), Standing At The Sky’s Edge (Crucible Theatre), Our Boys (Edinburgh Fringe 2018), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Playhouse, West End), Strangers on a Train (Gielgud Theatre), Shrek the Musical (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane), The Go-Between (Trafalgar Studios).

After the Blue (Jermyn St Theatre), Muswell Hill (White Bear – nominated for Best Actor, 2014 Off West End Awards), Laughter in the Rain – The Neil Sedaka Story (UK No.1 Tour), What Every Woman Knows (Manchester Royal Exchange), The Importance of Being Earnest (Baron’s Court Theatre), Dangerous Corner (Landor Theatre).

Films include: Mad To Be Normal (Gizmo Films), The Innocent (White Jacket Productions), Make Aliens Dance(Annex Films), and Two Sides (Mixing Networks Productions).

Alastair also works regularly as a voice over artist, including recording a number of episodes of Silver Street – a radio soap opera for the BBC, and as a singer, which has led to him performing in prestigious venues all over the UK and Europe.

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