‘The only responsibility I have is to do my best’: An Interview with Nathanael Wiseman

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Meet Nathaneal Wiseman, actor, writer, producer and all round funny guy. Last year, Wiseman starred in Hackney’s Finest, the latest offering from Chris Brouchard, the director of the acclaimed indie Tolkien homageThe Hunt for Gollum. Wiseman plays Sirus, a hapless petty drug dealer who gets sucked into feud with Hackney’s corrupt police force. This year Wiseman is again in the leading role for the upcoming heartfelt drama My Hero, a full length feature from his own production company Redeeming Features. With so much on the go and plenty more exciting projects in the pipeline we thought it would be a great opportunity to check in with Nathaneal for a chat.

You’ve recently starred in the crime comedy Hackney’s Finest, which sees your character, Sirus, face off against a corrupt police inspector. What is in your opinion the greatest cop film of all time and why?

 

Wow, good question! Training Day? Witness? Heat? The Departed? Beverly Hills Cop?

I like Cop Land, mainly because I found Sly’s performance just so amazing. I remember ‘Colors’ had a big impact on me as a very little kid.

If I can go UK TV, then Luther – also, the first Thin Blue Line series. Such great, tight writing. The Police Academy films! Haha! I don’t know, we’ve overdue a good new UK one. I’m all ears if anyone has a script!

 

In the film Sirus quickly gets himself far out of his depth, have you found yourself in any particularly tricky situations during your acting career?

 

Ah, bloody hell loads.

Err what’s a printable one? I often slip into accents and doing impressions, it’s never mean or anything, I just have an ear for it and really love different expressions and accents. But there’s been a few times when I’ve been caught out doing an impression of someone when they were stood behind me, which can be tricky.

I remember my old agent once put me up for a Welsh character where it clearly said ‘actor must be from Wales!’ as casting directors are very rightly skeptical. My agent knew I wasn’t but knew I could do the accent, so I basically did the entire audition and had to maintain the accent the whole time and just lied my arse off. So, where you from? Cardiff. Used a whole address from a Welsh mate, knew my school, the works, nailed it walked out the door and bumped into a director in the corridor who knew me, and he was like Nate how’s it going?’ the casting director was taking in the next person and gave the game away.

 

What kind of responses have you been receiving from friends and fans since the film’s release?

 

All kinds really! I think some people can identify with Sirus as he’s a bit of a cheeky everyman, but he also an addict and he gets way out of his depth as you say. The producers cut out a lot of stuff in the script that I felt helped explain Sirus, but they were more interested in the nasty cop storyline- as you can see from the poster!  So a lot of people ask me about that. The film is heavy on drug use so it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. I think most people find the film pretty funny, which it’s meant to be. But there is a darker side – if you see Rajan Sharma’s great performance as Asif in withdrawal – there is nothing glamorous or cool about that drug. It’s dirty, horrific and just owns you. I’ve had friends who have gone down that rabbit hole, so I was very conscious of not making him cool or heroin chic or anything. A few people have been asking if we’re going to do a sequel!

 

You are also starring in the British thriller My Hero, a film which you have also written. Whilst in the writing process did you have yourself in mind to play the role of Jake?

 

Well yes, because the film came about as I was cast as Jake in Rob – the director’s -graduation short film of the same name. I went off to do another film and just couldn’t stop thinking about the character and the scope of the situation. I was deciding on the kind of film I wanted to do next.

That’s what inspired me to write the script – as a jumping off point for a feature and then we heard an astonishing true story that kind of echoed ours.

 

Do you feel a pressure to do your own character justice, or being your own creation do you know precisely how to play the role?

 

Hmm – there’s pressure, but it’s pressure to do the best you can do. Give all you can.

Don’t waste an opportunity. I think you have to be thinking of doing justice to the overall story, fulfilling the director’s vision and serving the film.

I’m a big believer in collaboration; so it’s just about making sure we’re all trying to make the same film.

Things change on the day too. My co-star was nine years old, which I can tell you is unpredictable – any plans you have will most likely go out the window!! But I love improv so you just gotta roll with the punches.

 

Can you pitch the film to us and why it’s a must see?

 

It’s a thriller-drama based on a real story about a small time drug dealer who has to go the run with a nine-year girl after a fight in a seaside town.

 

My Hero and Hackney’s Finest mark your first forays into feature film territory in a lead role, how have you adjusted to the responsibilities of these larger projects?

 

By drinking, chain smoking…? I joke. Hopefully without sounding like a twat. The only responsibility I have is to do my best – it doesn’t matter about the size of the project.

If you agree to do something, do it with a good heart, be a pro, know your lines, don’t be hungover and just give your fucking all, or don’t bother. It’s a lot of hard work to get there, but I’m grateful for all the opportunities and just want to do it more – I love the challenges of different roles so am excited about what will come up next.

 

You are also the founder and creative director of your own production company, Redeeming Features. What inspired you to start the venture?

 

Well, I’m a strong believer in creating your own work. It can be pretty disempowering just being an actor sometimes. If you’re not careful, you can be treated like a prop that eats.

My first feature script got a big development deal when I was about 20, but then it didn’t actually end up getting made – and to be honest I don’t know where the development money went. I didn’t see it!

It inspired me to create a company to not only look after my interests as a writer and film maker in general, but to also make the kind of work that I wanted to do and work with people I trust and rate. It’s really catapulted from there. An editor friend joined, then a producer who liked our ethos, then another, then another, then we started directing adverts and forming relationships, and we now have a slate comprising of incredible films and TV, and some fantastic other writers and film makers.

 

What do you think has been Redeeming Features’ greatest achievement to date?

 

There have been loads of milestones along the way, but I think making ‘My Hero’, for sure. Anyone in low-budget film production will tell you how hard it is to get anything made. I’m immensely proud of everyone who’s been involved.

 

You’re currently very busy developing a number of new TV and Film projects with Redeeming Features, can you give us any more details about what we can expect to see from you and the company in the future?

 

Bigger films, television, video games. We have a film called “A Gentleman’s War” – a biopic of Douglas Jardine’s infamous Bodyline series we’re making with a company called Arclight Films in LA, a cracking comedy we’re talking to some exciting people for roles at the moment, and through our Norwegian branch, we are involved in a great Norwegian feature called ‘Returning Home’ which we want to bring to UK audiences at the moment. It’s an incredibly powerful story about a father who returns broken from Afghanistan and disappears in the Norwegian mountains and his sons go searching for him. Beautifully shot. So yeah, loads really, more good work with good people – watch this space. 

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Film and English student also into music and travelling.

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