When we chat with actor Henry Lloyd-Hughes, it’s immediately after England’s cricket team just won the semi-final to bring them into the final for the first time in 27 years.
Although he’s passionate about acting and his other projects, he’s really keen to talk about his love of cricket, his devotion to fashion and how he’s been able to combine the two with his (not so) new label, N.E. Blake & Co. The label, which was founded in 1926 by his grandfather, and the label’s archives were inherited by Lloyd-Hughes in 2017. With his passion for men’s style, Lloyd-Hughes decided to continue on the family business and create a line of classic styles that can be worn as both a nice piece of tailoring or to play sport in, all while giving a nod back to the designs his grandfather created back in the day.
When he isn’t combing through his family’s archives, Henry is seeking out his next role. He prefers to keep things interesting and tends to lean towards any character with complexities that differ from the last person he was able to pretend to be for a few months. Lloyd-Hughes just finished his role as sociopath Aaron in Killing Eve (which just so happened to be created by his childhood pal Phoebe Waller-Bridge)and is currently filming a new period piece about football for Netflix called The English Game. 1883 had a chat with Henry about all of the colourful characters he’s had the pleasure to play, what it was like working on something his childhood friend created, and more about his men’s sportswear line.
You’ve been acting professionally since 2004. How do you think you’ve grown and developed as an actor since then?
A lot of it is practice, in which I mean a large amount of hours of being on set and making lots of different types of work by trying out different genres, different directors and types of approaches. All of it has helped me be adaptable which is the significant development. When you start, you often only have one way of doing things because that is all you know. One of the things I felt helped me in the many years I’ve been doing this is being able to chop and change, whether it’s changing genres or flavours or textures or whatever. Just being able to branch out into different directions has helped me grow as an actor.
You’ve really tried to branch out—you’ve done a mix of everything! Film, TV, theatre, and even voice acting for video games. Do you have a preference?
No, not at all! Like you mentioned, voicing for the video game World of Warcraft series was actually super fun and I wasn’t expecting to have that much fun. It was a really positive experience for me. The character was super entertaining and it was a fun thing to squeeze in with everything else I’m doing. The great thing about film and TV is the rehearsal side of it; I love to experiment creatively and I always feel my happiest when I’m on set or on the side of the set just watching people go about their work, it’s a real team sport and I love that aspect of it. I love working with so many different people who all have different skill set and we are all trying to work together to get this thing created. It gives me a real buzz!
With voice acting in particular, since you’re just using your voice and there is no physical aspect to it, did you feel like that was something different or a learning curve for you?
There was a physical aspect to it, weirdly enough. If your character is in peril and getting chased by monsters or whatever it is and therefore you have an opportunity to act out, using your voice, physicalities. It was much more experimental and collaborative than I thought it would be. Not to say that you rewrite everything, but you work with amazing directors who will change lines and work with you to make something better and bring it to life a bit more. Just like I said, I’ve always loved the opportunity to expand my skill set and working in slightly new ways and that’s the great thing about acting in anything: there are always new writers and creatives working in new ways. It’s exciting and slightly challenging.
When you’re seeking out to your next role, what normally draws you to a script? Is it the plot, the character, or who’s attached to it?
Normally it’s how different it is from the last thing I did, that’s a major factor for me. You can easily find yourself doing the same thing; someone can see you in something and they think, “Oh, okay, cool, let’s get him to do that in this!” But I try to work against that, by which I mean I’ll try to err on the side of things which are different than what I last did, which isn’t always the case. Now, with the way things are released with streaming services like Netflix, which release things more arbitrarily and with the old fashioned film release schedule you can end up having projects released right next to each other but you filmed them two years apart. It’s hard to predict, but ideally you want to try to experience and release contrasting pieces of work.
Speaking of contrast, your character Aaron in Killing Eve was very intense and a bit dark. How do you prepare yourself for a role that is, to put it bluntly, somewhat of a sociopath?
That’s probably a fair thing to say! [Laughs]Obviously try to unlock some sort of humanity, even if it’s just internally, and try and work out what makes this person tick. He’s a super smart guy and there’s lots of people, especially in kind of tech world and really big companies, that have that kind of power he has, then you take that career backdrop and then you put on top of that quite a weird personality. But I also think there was a sense of a public and a private life with Aaron which was, in a way, quite freeing; the person he is with his sister was a completely different person with the very, very, very small world of his family. It was kind of combination of this corporate identity, a weird, controlling personality quirk, and then on top of that you’ve got this family dynamic where he is still controlling. It was the parts with his family where there was a chance to try out some colours and have a bit of fun and then in the other side—the public side—is more controlled.
What was it like joining and working with the Killing Eve cast?
I was scared before I got there! It’s quite unusual to come into a show that people have actually seen and absolutely taken into their hearts. So, you know, I didn’t want to be the bum! When I arrived on the set, everyone was just so friendly and very low-key and laidback, which was great because that meant I could put all of the stress of being the new guy to one side. Since I was playing a character who is very unfriendly and the opposite of a touchy-feely type of person, so on my first day I’m trying to be the opposite of him! The minute the cameras turned off I desperately made sure people knew I was normal, unlike my character.
What was your favourite memory from filming?
We got to go to Rome, so that was pretty awesome. A lot of the time when you watch TV shows you assume they just do everything in front of a green screen, at least I assume that anyways! But one of the nice things about the show is they really go to all those places, like Rome and Amsterdamn, and it’s always the real place. I was pretty buzzing to be out there and have that huge house to swan about in. One of the perks of the job is that you get to pretend to be someone who lives like that!
I heard somewhere that you knew Killing Eve’s creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge from when you were younger?
Yeah, it’s crazy.
And you both ended up in the same industry! What did it feel like to be working on a project created by someone you knew as a kid?
I was chuffed to bits. I’d seen her in-between because we actually did a play together in our early twenties. She’s so talented and funny and brilliant and now the whole world knows that. I sent her a very gushy text when I found out I got the role [of Aaron] and I said I was so proud of all of the stuff that you’ve created. It’s great because not only is she successful, but she’s successful for doing really cool, interesting and thought-provoking things people absolutely love.
Your next project is Netflix’s English Game. Can you tell us a bit about the show and what drew you to it?
It’s about the birth of professional football in England at the end of the 1800s. It’s kind of like football as we know it now in the kind of sexy World Cup way, but taking it way back beyond what people are aware of and talking about the history of the game and the people who made the game what it is now. It’s written by Julian Fellowes, who wrote Downton Abbey, and it’ll be in that mold. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan but the one thing that you wanted was a bit more football, this is your dream show!
Is that what the moustache you’ve been sporting is for?
Yes! It’s astonishing how often facial hair is discussed between people! Everyone thinks it’s all about auditions and scripts, but I think show business it’s just people finding the time to discuss what beard you’re growing or what haircut you’ve got!
English Game is a period piece. Are you enjoying going back in time to create a period piece?
Yeah, it’s weird because I haven’t done much, a lot of it has been very contemporary. Like with everything, once people see you do a lot of contemporary work they might not see you in a period landscape. Once they’ve seen you do it, they think Oh, yeah, I think I can see him with a moustache! [Laughs] The problem is now that they’ve seen me with the moustache, they are going to want it in their TV show as well!
On the topic of sports, you recently launched your own men’s cricket fashion label which is really exciting.
Yeah, that’s right.
Why did you decide to create your own label? What is the inspiration behind it?
It came out of necessity and need more than anything. I’m a real cricket nerd, I’ve been playing for decades as well as running the team. Since I’m such a clothing geek, I was always the honorary kit man so I had been sourcing jumpers, caps and all sorts of kit for years. At the same time my family’s business on my mother’s side was doing sportswear. The business was started by my great-grandfather and inherited by my grandmother. When she died a couple years ago, I inherited the archive of the business and everything in relation to it. I thought about how I was already making vintage inspired sportswear and why don’t I try to do it for some other teams as well, so that was the combining of those two passions. It’s great to do stuff that is in keeping with the family history and all of archive materials in terms of the logo, the brand, and the design. The nice part is all of the stuff we’re designing is stuff that belonged in the original archive. It’s really nice to be able to tell that story.
Are there any certain traits or unique signifiers on the clothing that would give a nod back to your family’s line or other cricket icons?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s just the style that is quite old fashioned sportswear. With sportswear these days most of the time you’re sitting in a combination of fabrics and lots of high-tech gizmos, whereas ours is a much more classic 1960s style where you can wear something that looks like a beautiful piece of tailoring but you can also play sport in it. The signature of our pieces is they look like beautiful clothes but you can also play sport in them. At the moment it’s a classic cricket white and hopefully we’re going to branch out and do some women’s wear and maybe even branch out for a few different sports as well. But at the moment is just cricket, which is great. As of half an hour ago, England is in the cricket World Cup Final for cricket for the first time in 27 years! We’re all celebrating here.
I’m sorry to pull you away from that!
Oh no, it’s okay! We’re all done now.
It’s okay, it’s my last question! Besides acting and cricket, what are some of your other passions?
Those two take up a lot of my time so this will be hard! Obviously looking after my kids. I’m a huge fan of menswear, I’m a fashion geek so I always have a keen eye on what’s happening, especially for the cricket sportswear angle. I have a little bit of passion for doing a bit of gardening. I also, on occasion, am lucky enough to DJ with my cousin which is awesome and something I used to do before the acting and the kids and everything else! I have a full plate, but I enjoy all of the bits in equal measure.
The final episode of Killing Eve airs on Saturday 27th July, 9.15pm, BBC One. All episodes from series 1 and 2 are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
Interview by Kelsey J Barnes @kelseyjbarnes
Photographer Yoshitaka Kono @yoshitakakono
Styling Krishan Parmar @krishanparmar_
Groomer Lynda Darragh @lyndadarragh using Tom Ford
Location St Paul’s Hotel, London www.stpaulhotel.co.uk