BWW Interview: Andrew Gower On Playing Winston Smith In 1984
Actor Andrew Gower's credits include Monroe, The White Queen, Being Human and Outlander. He's currently starring as Winston Smith in the third West End run of 1984, Robert Icke and Duncan Macmilan's lauded adaptation of George Orwell's novel.
How did you get the acting bug?
The acting bug came rather late (and suddenly) during my A-Levels - the realisation was that I wasn't good enough to make it as a professional footballer, and after giving up completely I was then inspired by a drama teacher to sign up to a school play. It gave me the same buzz (if not better) than playing football. And then the next year I surprised myself by getting into drama school.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Oxford School of Drama.
What was your first professional job?
My first professional job was a Pete Bowker series for ITV called Monroe. I played a Junior Cardiac Surgeon called Mullery.
How would you compare working on TV versus stage? Do you have a preference?
I have absolutely no preference on TV or stage. Every job I take or that I audition for all comes down to the quality of the script. And I've been very lucky to work with some very good writers, therefore great projects. The actual medium requires a different type of stamina I guess, and maybe physicality too, but the fundamentals of acting stay the same.
You've done some beloved dramas, like Being Human and Outlander. What's the fan response been like?
Yes, both Being Human and Outlander are known for their loyal fanbases. The beauty of both of those jobs was that the characters were very removed from me. So I've been lucky to get off scot-free, without any strange encounters. The wigs, blood and strange onscreen faces/voices - they haven't found their way into my day-to-day life. Yet.
What tempted you back to theatre for 1984?
I didn't need tempting back to the theatre. It's always been something I'd wanted to do again and again and again, but with every job you can only take what's in front of you or what's offered. And I was lucky enough to be offered a play written by Duncan Macmillan and Robert Icke...and to play Winston Smith in 1984. So no tempting needed.
Were you familiar with the novel and/or the play already?
I had never read the book and hadn't seen the original production (on tour or at the Almeida, or even in the West End). That said, I was aware of its success and of George Orwell himself, studying Animal Farm for GCSE English. It actually made it all the more exciting, approaching the script and novel with fresh eyes, with no preconceived ideas or versions in my head.
What would be in your Room 101?
Room 101 for me is crisps. Though my explanation as to why would take up this whole interview. So I won't go into detail. But that's my Room 101.
What themes really spoke to you? Do you view anything differently after your experience of the play?
The theme from the play that jumps out to me, especially playing Winston, is the search for identity - whether that's through hate, love, fear, science, religion or war. Britain so recently voting to leave the EU, with bold phrases like "Take back our identity", "Take back the power", "Make Britain how it used to be". Take back the power from whom? What is our identity? How did it used to be?
The masses are very angry with today's politicians. We are being lied to on a daily basis. So, in a nutshell, the play is more relevant than it has ever been. Orwell had a very accurate foresight of today's dystopian world we live in. If only he was around to see it...
Any dream future projects?
Dream projects are always a funny thing to label. I guess just more exciting scripts in my inbox. Maybe an exciting script about John Lennon.
And finally, any tips for budding actors?
My tips for any budding actors would be to go out and see as much as you possibly can. Find the people you want to work with and be READY to hopefully make them want to work with you.
1984 is at The Playhouse Theatre until 29 October
Photo credit: Manuel Harlan