Performances at the Young Vic and the Royal Court won Kyle Soller the Evening Standard’s Outstanding Newcomer award last year. He is currently making his West End debut in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. Kyle talks to Matt Trueman about being an American actor in London…
Eugene O’Neill is sometimes referred to as America’s Shakespeare. Are you pleased to be getting a crack at his work?
I’ve wanted to be in one of his plays since I started reading them at college. Something just clicked. He just wrote about stuff that no one else was writing about: these epic responses to the American worldview. Long Day’s Journey into Night is on a lot of people’s lists of the greatest American plays ever written. It changed American theatre in the 20th century. Everything was different afterwards.
What are the challenges of going overseas as an artist?
Money, first off. I had a huge debt to my parents, because they picked up the slack on my RADA fees. There’s a pressure to succeed and prove you’re a good investment. You’ve also got to figure out whose opinion to trust and you’ve just got to fight really hard, because you’re competing against people from that country and they will probably get the jobs before you.
There’s a bit of seasonally affective homesickness. It’s weird; I miss America at the most random times, but they’re selling Fruit Loops in Budgens now, so that helps.
You’d been out of RADA for three years before the Evening Standard award. How important is it to bide your time?
It depends how much you value your integrity, really. You can work, but I think you need to work on things you believe in. That sometimes takes a while, but its more rewarding when you get there. “No” is a great word. People should say no more often.
But then “yes” is an awesome word for the right things and a bit of momentum can breed opportunities. Capitalising on something that you’re in is always good, but it definitely helps to be patient.
How do you prepare for an audition?
Lots of red wine! No, if it’s theatre, you’ve got to read the play. With TV, you might not need to. Sometimes the audition comes in the day before and sometimes you don’t get the whole thing. Working from sides [individual scenes] is really hard. Generally, I ask questions and trust my instincts, but then just try to make quick decisions and play them really intensely.
Onstage, you’ve taken some really physically exhausting roles and still found huge energy. How do you sustain that for a run?
During Government Inspector, I found a secret: a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a double espresso over the top. I had one after every matinee performance and probably couldn’t have done the evening show without it. Mainly, if I’m tired, I just look at the old actors that are still doing it. I’ve got nothing to complain about. My legs still work and I’m really luck to be doing what I want to do.
Long Day’s Journey into Night is at Apollo Theatre, London, until 18 August. Book tickets.
Image by Johan Persson.
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