Martin Delaney has previously starred in BBC’s Robin Hood and has been cast to star alongside Dave Franco and Daniel Radcliffe in Now You See Me: The Second Act. With Neil Patrick Harris pointing out at the Oscars that almost every nominee was white and middle class we catch up with Martin before the release of his new film, Amar, Akbar and Tony which boasts an extremely culturally diverse cast and roles covering multiple religions, races and sexualities. It seems we’re finally seeing a real world representation in cinema.
What drew you to your role?
MARTIN: I thought Tony was a really interesting character. He has one goal in life, which is to find the Asian girlfriend of his dreams and he’s very ‘route one’ about it. I found him really funny and entertaining on the page and I hope that comes across.
Do you feel like the film industry struggles to represent the real modern age and often lacks diversity?
MARTIN: Well there’s certainly a lot of talk about diversity at the moment and rightly so. Of course that transcends more than colour and culture, but also gender and sexuality, which inspired me to produce and direct my own short film last year – Queen’s Mile. In terms of struggling to represent the modern age, I hope that Amar Akbar & Tony goes someway to dissolving that opinion. One of the things I loved about the piece when I read it was that it represented multicultural London in a very honest but also positive way. However, it was able to do that without dwelling on that as a theme. Ultimately, AA&T is a fun movie and it focuses on universal themes like love and friendship.
What for you are the biggest issue facing actors within the movie industry?
MARTIN: I’m not sure I can really identify the biggest issue currently. There are multiple issues facing actors, however, I do my best not to dwell on them. I think acting and the business, as a whole, is a lovely business. I have always enjoyed whatever it has brought to my life and that inspires me. The most important thing I can do is enjoy what I do, and I really do. My close friends within this industry are not competitive or jealous types. They are incredibly supportive of each other’s careers and I’m very grateful to have that around me.
Do you feel like films still largely lack diversity of race and gender?
MARTIN: If I’m honest, it does really frustrate me with certain film projects when I see a lack of diversity in casting – and it is commonplace. I can also see the challenge within certain projects. I believe it’s a complex debate. I heard a young female commissioner recently discussing the dangers of quotas, in terms of affecting editorial. As a black woman, people in the audience wanted to raise the question with her and she was dead against quotas, as she felt like “positive discrimination” was still discrimination and therefore dangerous. Her thoughts were more geared around people in her position being able to champion certain projects that previously hadn’t had a voice, leading to more support and opportunity. I think where it personally bothers me most is in reality TV. I think reality TV on the whole is cast poorly. Certain cookery shows, or indeed reality business shows are supposed to represent society, and I find it hugely insulting seeing one black or brown face for every 10!
Do you feel as if your gender or race should hold you back from a role and do you feel like this is the current situation in the film industry?
MARTIN: No, not necessarily but it’s a hard one to gauge, especially when you are trying to convince the audience of something or be incredibly truthful. Every project will be different and producers and directors will always have varying views on it, especially when it becomes a business choice, as most projects are aimed at specific audiences from the genesis of the movie.
Speaking of diversity Cate Blanchett one portrayed Bob Dylan and Eddie Redmayne is now taking on the role of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl portraying a fictionalized account of someone undergoing gender reassignment surgery. Do you feel like it is these roles that is breaking down boundaries and working towards a more real representation of the diverse population?
MARTIN: I thought Cate Blanchett playing Dylan for that moment in his life was genius; again I think it’s related to business choice. It was a particular film that was able to go towards doing that. I love what Eddie is currently doing. I’ve met him a few times and he is a completely genuine and lovely chap, but of course, regardless of that – an incredible talent. If you know you can rely on that individual to deliver that performance, that is what matters most and I’m positive Eddie can.
Do you feel like you could ever portray a woman?
MARTIN: Yes, I think it’s possible. I’m not sure there would be any point in asking me to portray a woman when there are so many incredible actresses out there already who can, and should be doing that instead of me. I think it’s different from the example you’ve given regarding Eddie where he’s playing a transgender role. It all comes down to script and level of appropriateness for the piece. I currently can’t see it ever being more appropriate for me to play a female role over another female.
You portray Irish Catholic Tony, did you research the religion to be able to portray someone of that faith and what did you find out if you did?
MARTIN:Well I had some elements in common with Tony, in that my father, like Tony, is Irish and I was also brought up a Catholic. The faith references in the movie are an homage to Amar Akbar Anthony– a 70s Bollywood classic. I think with our movie, Atul Malhotra our director, wanted to capture the spirit of that film. He was keen to give an example of different cultures living successfully side-by-side which is largely accurate in multicultural Britain. So in terms of research, I didn’t need to do any for the role as there was little reference to my character’s background in that respect. Also, in part, because I’d lived it myself.
What exactly about this film makes it so different?
MARTIN: I think what makes it different is that it’s a very positive look at British Asian culture. There’s not an arranged marriage in sight and no clichéd over-bearing fathers! Atul wanted to celebrate British Asian life and this movie does that. It’s a movie that feels like other British comedies and British Asian comedies you’ve seen before but from a fresh perspective. It’s like lifting a Bollywood movie and placing it in London in that it shares a mix of genre. For me, it’s like watching a Brit-Asian movie made by someone like Working Title. A British film with an Asian heart.
Martin, if you don’t mind me saying we’re currently quite familiar with your face now, as you’ve starred in everything from Family Affairs to Robin Hood to Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. So far what has been your most rewarding role and why?
MARTIN: Well, I learned a lot from all of those projects you mentioned. It’s been a pleasure to be part of them. I’m very proud of working with Directors like Clint Eastwood and Kathryn Bigelow on their movies, which both earned Oscar nominations as well as various wins. I think there’s always something to be gained from working on various projects. You learn something or challenge yourself in a completely fresh way and that’s great. I recently worked on a British Asian themed short film called Two Dosas directed by Sarmad Masud & produced by Rachelle Constant, and it’s done very well at festivals but most importantly, I loved working with everyone on it. So it’s never really about size of project, there’s always something worthwhile. Soap was challenging, I learned a lot during my 3 years in Family Affairs. I was grateful to receive a number of soap nominations and to see hard work appreciated. It was long hours and the fastest of line learning. I have a lot of respect for those who are able to do that job for a long time.
You’ve just been cast in Now You See Me: The Second Act, alongside Dave Franco and Daniel Radcliffe, can you tell us anything about the film and are you nervous to be starring with two such high profile names?
MARTIN: Ha! I’m afraid I can’t say much about that at all just now. However, it’s an incredible film to be involved in, I loved the first one. I think audiences will love it.
Is filming for a movie different from TV and in what ways?
MARTIN: Generally TV was always faster, however, these days, films are being made cheaper in order to help the business survive. Making money from independent film is always hard, as it’s never stacked in the filmmaker’s favour. I think a good film always stands the test of time and that’s what I appreciate about film. I remember watching old movies when I was a kid and thinking about how these people, some 30 years before, had such an effect on me. I still love that about film. To me, they’re both still such enjoyable processes, and as long as they stay that way, I’ll carry on wanting to do them.
We’re almost finished now I promise, what makes you proud to be a part of this film and why?
MARTIN: I’m proud of this movie because it’s positive, it’s fun, and despite everything stacked against it, here we are in cinemas across the country!
Finally, do either of you have any hidden talents that come in handy with acting or any odd skills?
MARTIN: None that I can mention!