As well as roles in the BBC’s The Hollow Crown and Netflix’s Black Mirror, British actor Ivanno Jeremiah stars in the Channel 4 sci-fi series Humans as synth Max, the third series of which has just begun airing. I met Ivanno to talk about the show, his upcoming film The Flood and how he’s drawn to roles that he finds a personal element in.
You star as Max in Channel 4’s Humans – tell me about him.
Max is the youngest of the Elster family and his particular character trait is to love, is to protect and be a companion to Leo Elster, his son. He is isn’t quite as naive as we’ve seen before this season though.
Were you a fan of the Swedish show Humans is based on before you were cast?
I didn’t have the opportunity to watch it before, but I am a big sci-fi fan – big Trekkie, big Star Wars fan and big Terminator fan – so what a pleasure for a role like this to drop into my lap! I was sent the script, auditioned for a different role originally and that didn’t work out. Originally Max was a very different kind of character, so they rewrote him kind of around me, I auditioned again for that new part and got the phone call from Sam Donovan saying I’d got the part.
You’re also in a film called The Flood – tell me a bit about that?
The Flood is about a guy called Haile, who escapes a pretty devastated modern-day city, which doesn’t have a free press, has very strict laws about leaving the land, so Haile gets away from there and takes a long old journey, ends up at the jungle in Calais. The film jumps between his journey to England for a better life to live how he deserves and should be, and the immigration officer and the effect that has on her and her personal life, dealing with these people seeking asylum on a daily basis. So it’s a great format from which we tell the tale of both Haile and the immigration officer’s stories.
How did you prepare for that?
It was one of those that was very hard in terms of the source material and documentaries I used to build the character and hearing accounts of what these people are willing to do to get to, you know, these “promised lands” of golden-paved streets and as we know isn’t always the case. So my main preparation was filling myself with all of that, the rest of it wasn’t that hard to achieve, accessing emotions and all of that. Considering my family is originally from Uganda, the connection there, you know, potentially bringing to life and humanising that journey was a pretty great part to play.
What do you enjoy doing most, TV or film?
I’m originally a theatre baby, having studied at RADA and BRIT school, so it’s been a great pleasure to use and experience other mediums. The audience is so much bigger on television, you can tell you stories on a bigger scale, and also you have the luxury of another take! Film is a beautiful thing I’ve been obsessed with for years, ever since I was a boy, so it’s an honour to be part of that as well.
How did you find transitioning from theatre to film and TV?
In some ways it’s not that much of a jump, because I believe story takes precedence over everything, it’s all character-based. But, the performances for camera tend to be a lot smaller than theatre demands, so acclimatising that for the first couple of jobs I did was pretty hard, you know, really focusing your thought processes and emotions for the the camera, yeah, took a bit of adaptation.
How long were you working in theatre for?
I’ve been working professionally for eight years now. Solidly for the first four years I did nothing but theatre – I worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, we were on a tour with Julius Caesar around the world, I had the pleasure of playing Anton Chekov’s theatre in Moscow, took it to America. Then on the back of that moved onto a play called The Suit with Peter Brook, a director I’ve always loved, so it was an honour to work with him. We travelled all over Asia, all over the Americas, Europe, and it was great to have international experience, you know, English-speaking or not, story-wise it was a pleasure to see that the story still related. I love theatre and always have, so it was a pleasure to share that internationally, but yeah, for now I think my energy is leaning towards screen.
Do you prefer to work on stories that resonate with you, like The Flood, both in theatre and screen?
Yes and no. I mean I love comedy and light humour and stuff, jobs where you can purely rely on craft, but I think the meat of it is when you can tell a story and really add some of yourself into it. So political stories and struggles, I love biopics, it’s a chance to really bring something, you know, slightly more informative and hopefully enlightening to the world today.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far?
I’ve fallen in love with the character I play in Humans, Max, and I’ve had the luxury of playing him for the past few years of my life, and these have been very formative years for me. I’ve been able to chart the progression of this other person alongside myself, it’s been a great luxury and opportunity, to work with a really great company, and you know, on a really big show that airs in America, to have that. So yeah, Humans, or the Peter Brook play as well. The amount of air miles we racked up! We went to Japan and Singapore and got to learn about these countries and cultures alongside presenting this small story written in the fifties in a shanty town under Apartheid in South Africa, which tells the story of a man cuckolded by his wife, and they use that story and the progression in this relationship as a metaphor for South Africa letting go of the pains of Apartheid and being able to progress. Yeah, it was really great playing this part and it meant a lot to me personally, so it’s a toss-up between Humans and The Suit.
Are there any actors or filmmakers you admire you’d like to work with?
Yeah, loads, loads! Steve McQueen does beautiful things for me, his stories and you know, just his eye, and being able to mine purely what’s important in the story is second to none for me. I love Aronofsky. It’s a shame I’ll probably never get to work with Hitchcock, but that’d have been a dream! Everyone, there’s loads, tons! It’s a hard question.
Watch Humans on Thursday nights at 9pm on Channel 4
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Photographer Joseph Sinclair
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Styling Edith Walker