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‘A Book Of’ Magazine (Collector’s Issue)

Ben Barnes is featured in the latest Collector’s Issue of A Book Of magazine. A selection of photos have been added to our gallery, and a portion of the interview can be found below. A short behind-the-scenes video has also been added to our video archive. For the full interview and more exclusive photos, order your copy here. (2 covers are available.)

I want you to walk us through your start as an artist, a musician, and an actor. I know you are a musician first and then fell into acting so, tell us more about that.

I mean, that’s a very generous way to put it. I really enjoyed all the things. I really enjoyed playing music, singing, and listening to music when I was a teenager – it was sort of my passion. And I sort of had a bit of a false start-up becoming a jazz singer actually, when I was about 18 or 19, and it just sort of didn’t pan out how I thought it was going to.

It felt quite brutal in terms of how quickly you could be discarded from a project, and how people just seem to be in it for themselves. And I thought maybe I don’t have the constitution for this kind of, you know- I was still so naive, so excited, and so when things didn’t pan out how people had sort of promised me, I got quite disillusioned quickly and ended up going off to college to study literature and drama. And actually, I wasn’t quite sure which direction things would go. But yes, I think the music kind of took the sidecar as I kind of fell into doing more acting stuff.

And then I really started to fall in love with films. I mean, I’ve always been a huge consumer of films and I’d always kind of just loved watching them. They seemed like this very exotic Hollywood far-away thing that my life would never sort of touch. I really felt that all the way through even after I’d done my first couple of films actually. It didn’t feel real – that it would be something that would be part of my life. I think a lot of actors, probably if you’ve interviewed a lot of actors, you probably know most of them feel like complete imposters in the business and I think I had that syndrome in spades near the beginning because I would always find an excuse as to why they had to cast me and why. Why it was, you know, charity or oh, they need someone who looks like a young version of this actor or they need an actor who plays the drums – how many of those are there? It can’t be because I’m any good. I think it took me a very long time to sort of feel proud of what I was doing, almost 10 years probably more like I felt like I belonged in any way. And then I think as 20 years went past, I realized that this passion that I’d had for music was something very consistent. I played with a lot of musicians; music has always been a huge part of my daily life and I’ve always sort of written lyrics and worked on singing and stuff. And it just sort of came around, and like many of us, the beginning of the pandemic hit these sorts of sensitive triggers of home truths of like, what do I want to be doing with my life? What do I not want to regret not having done when I’m an old man? And the music was at the very top of that list.

Actually, it was a conversation I had with my mom about priorities. I think priorities is a really interesting word because people go – oh my priorities are, you know, this, this, this, that and the other. And I said this to my mom, and she was like, no, they’re not. Those are the ways that you like to see yourself or you want other people to see you or the things you think ought to be important. Your priorities are actually the things you actually spend your time on and you put your energy and your effort into. And I was like, wow, that’s entirely true. She said that music is not one of your priorities, because you don’t prioritize it actively. And I was like, you’re so right. And we’ve had this conversation about some other things in my life as well, that was sort of not professional. And I made quite a lot of changes based on that one conversation. Because my mom is an amazing human being.

Wow, that is so powerful.

Yes.

I mean, it only takes that paradigm shift to know what is important to you, and sometimes what’s important is not the one that gives you the money, you know?

Absolutely, the truth is your real life and your professional life are often linked in ways that don’t quite necessarily make sense. I was a very tense actor who always sort of worried about what people were going to think of what I was doing up until basically a time when my mum got ill. And that perspective slap, that kind of mortality check was something that made me kind of care less about what people might think of it and just present what I thought I wanted to offer. And that kind of “life is short” perspective can be so fleeting. We can have a tragedy befall us in our lives or something incredible, and the perspective on what’s sort of important or holding on to the things that you care about last two weeks, and then you’ve sort of forgotten about it. And, I think that’s just pretty universal but when it’s something much bigger than I think, it is something that you can shift your attitude to in the way that you do your life and the way that you are grateful for things – how thirsty you are for experiences, and how much of yourself you put into things and where you channel your focus. And for me, at least professionally, one of those things was taking a few more risks as an actor and playing different kinds of things. And also, starting to look at doing some music in a more public way and releasing songs that felt very private and personal, but actually realizing if people connect with them, how wonderful would that be?

Right?

And why does it matter if they don’t?

Is there a role that you would love to play or a musical or play that you just wish they would re-stage, you know, you can do?

I mean, there are lots that I love. There are so many that I love. When I was a kid, I wanted to play Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls. I wanted to play Tony in West Side Story, but I’m too old now. So sad.

You can still do it.

It’s so sad when you think about these dream roles and these characters are supposed to be 20 and you’re like, oh my god, they could be my children.

And what is your process like, though, when you prepare for a role? I could see you as Tony for sure. You can definitely do it.

I did a really cool photoshoot with Vanity Fair, it’s West Side Story, and I was Tony. And it was a bit of that sort of who had things coming out that year and that was the year that Prince Caspian came out. But it was also the year that Robert Pattinson got cast in Twilight, and he’s in those pictures and JLO is Anita in those pictures and Chris Evans is Riff and Rodrigo Santoro is in and I forget who else but the pictures were really cool. They were really cool pictures. I would love to do more stuff like that. And that’s the kind of stuff that hasn’t really like happened for me a lot since that kind of time. It was a bit of a sort of dream time now.

Is there an actor that is alive, that you feel you want to reference their work or, is there someone that you feel you admire their body of work?

I mean, I admire literally thousands of actors’ bodies of work. I’m a huge fan of actors in general, I think. I just watched the other night The Banshees of Inisherin.

Oh my gosh, so good.

And I look at all four of those kinds of principal actors in that film. Just so idiosyncratic and charming, and melancholy and interesting and committed and just brilliant. I feel like that kind of dark humor slightly odd but connectible project is something that I mean, I just love that kind of style of acting. So, I would say all of those actors in that, you know, like at this very present moment that I’m just going wow, I admire that.

Let’s talk about the Darkling. Tell me more, what can we expect from your character this season?

So, I think we’re jumping back into the action, fairly close to where we left it off. I think there’s been a big shift for him in terms of, he’s presented for so long, maybe centuries with this charm aspect to try and manipulate his agenda. Which is actually, you know, he could stand up and argue the virtue of his agenda in terms of safeguarding his people and protecting people like him, which is a very fine line in history between protecting your people is very noble, asserting the agenda of only your own people above and/or over other people. And there’s this sort of, gray area in between. And I think, obviously, the Darkling falls into the villain category, there’s no way around that. But if you’re charged with portraying that character, you look for the comprehensible, you look for that character’s reasoning, you look for that character’s motivation to be able to employ it and assert it. And I think a lot of interesting villains you look at like Killmonger in Black Panther, or whatever, you look at those characters you’re like, often it’s a kind of a similar agenda of I just believe I’m right and I’ve gone about it other ways, and it didn’t work. And so that was sort of in the first season. He believes in his agenda, and he’ll do what it takes to get there, even if that involves killing, even if that involves manipulating, lying, etc. My thing in the first season was like, try not to have him tell too many lies, try and understand a little bit of where he comes from. And then in the second season, I was like, why? Well, now we can dispense with all the bullshit because the cards are on the table, everyone knows who everyone is. Most people think I’m dead. So, you can be a bit more explicit about the things that he wants. He doesn’t have to tell any lies anymore.

Because what does it matter? So, it’s much darker, it’s lonelier. If he does have a pull or an ache to connect with people, where is that stemming from? If he is feeling lonely, why? Is he not, you know, and I think after all the hundreds of years, that humanity still tugs at him from deep within somewhere, but also, there is anger coursing through his veins. He feels betrayed by all the people that he kind of took a chance on as well. You know, Alina, his mother, everyone around him essentially abandoned him as well. And, absolutely, of course, they should have, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect him. So, I think he’s sort of swirling in quite a sort of murky emotional zone, which I think is actually dangerous. In the first season, he’s weaponizing fear and charm. And in the second season, he almost doesn’t have to because he’s that powerful and that angry and that sad, you know?

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW IN PRINT

Gallery Links:
029 x Magazine Scans > A Book Of Ben Barnes | Collector’s Issue
015 x Photoshoots > Sessions > Set 054

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Comments

Tibby said:

Des photos magnifiques et une interview comme seul Ben Barnes sat offrir.

March 23rd, 2023

LondonGirl1981 said:

Very excited – have ordered my copy and really looking forward to receiving it! Ben looks amazing in these shots,

March 24th, 2023