Josh Dylan

British actor Josh Dylan dives into the 1870s and flexes new muscles as he stars in Apple TV’s latest hit show, The Buccaneers.

Although British actor Josh Dylan wasn’t initially a lover of period dramas, starring in The Buccaneers has changed his mind. You might recognize him from his beloved standout performance in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again where he starred as the younger version of Bill Anderson, who’s older version is portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård, or his roles across critically acclaimed series and films, like The End of the F**king World and Noughts + Crosses. But it’s his latest role that truly feels like he’s reached a new level as an actor.

Playing Lord Richard Marable in Apple TV’s hottest new show The Buccaneers, a period drama that introduces a group of young American girls to the debutante scene of late 19th-century London. And although it’ll have comparisons to other period dramas that have more modern-retellings, like Bridgerton, there is something uniquely special about The Buccaneers, likely because of it’s source material — the novel penned by Edith Wharton.

Following the news of The Buccaneers season two renewal, 1883 Magazine speaks to Josh Dylan about all things Lord Richard Marable, what initially drew him to the script and what he’s got coming up in the new year. 

Hi Josh, how’s it going? 

It’s been good, nothing major to report. I’m actually not feeling too well. I’ve got a bit of a husky voice and it’s been so annoying because I was away in New York, I got back last Saturday. I was doing some press for The Buccaneers.  It’s just the most annoying thing, I was so happy to be there. Then as soon as I arrived there, I was just feeling really, really bad. I’m still recovering, basically!

That’s just classic, isn’t it? You go somewhere great and then you’re ill, right? 

I’d been really looking forward to it! I had all these things that I wanted to do.

Oh god. Get better soon! I was actually in New York last week as well, it was incredibly busy so I’m not surprised you caught a bug. But exciting that you went there for press stuff. So obviously you are starring in The Buccaneers, as Lord Richard Marable. So, first of all, what drew you to the role before you got cast? 

Well, the scripts were very good and I remember they sent me about three episodes before I went to audition. It was just really, really well written and very, very exciting and it was unusually good. I just flew through it and I thought the role was really interesting and I really wanted to know what happened next. So, by the time I got into the room with Susanna White, who directed the first block, and Katherine Jakeways, who is the writer, I was genuinely quite excited to see them and to talk about it. The role is quite an unusual one, there’s quite a lot going on. It’s quite a complicated arc storyline, some of which sort of is in the series, some of which we sort of spoke about before, and not all of it was included in the end. He’s quite an interesting character — he goes through quite a lot of things, he has this romance with an American woman, but also has to deal with a lot of a lot of trauma that comes up. You’re not quite sure what that is initially, but it gets unpacked as the series goes on, which is quite cool and quite fun to play. Such an exciting series, for sure.

It is a great series! I think period dramas are becoming more and more popular these days. Have you always been like a fan of them?

Not at all, if I’m being honest. I never, ever watch period dramas, it’s not my cup of tea. I don’t know why that is. I think I get a little bit frustrated with the formality of period dramas distracts from the reality and I don’t believe what people are saying. I switch off. I think with this one, I was quite struck. When I spoke to the director and the producers and the writers, I think they were going for something that was much more contemporary and grounded in the kind of way I find interesting. It’s a fascinating time period. I don’t know why people are so obsessed with it. I think it’s maybe the formality that we don’t have anymore and it’s a beautiful era as well. There’s a real structure to it, the formality of how people have to speak to each other. But underneath the surface, a lot is going on. What do you think people like about it? 

I do think that series like Bridgerton has put it on the map a lot more than usual. I feel like ever since that came out, period dramas have increased a lot more in popularity. It’s immersing yourself into a different world. 

No, I think you’re definitely right. I just think it’s so different from the times we live in now and people can crave something about the essence of it. But they have to find a way for it to be contemporary without being naff and without being gimmicky. 

Very true! It’s a fine line. So, for The Buccaneers, as it’s based on the novel, did you read that at all before you started filming or how did you prepare? 

I didn’t read it, which was quite a conscious decision. I was familiar with Edith Wharton, the writer, and I knew about the novel, but I thought I would plan to read it after it came out. I knew they were changing it a lot. I sort of thought I would just focus on these new scripts because, sometimes, personally I can get a little bit overwhelmed and become obsessed with the book and with the material. That might stress me out. But it didn’t help that my mum was reading it and she kept calling me and texting me saying, “I’m in chapter whatever in the book and your character is described as being very short and very ugly!” I’m like, “OK, thanks, mum.” And she would ask me what scenes I would be doing that day and she’d say, “Well, that doesn’t happen.”

Oh my gosh [laughs]. That’s just typical mothers, isn’t it? 

Typical mothers indeed. But I would read it now, maybe over Christmas. 

I kind of understand your decision not to read it because maybe that would have biased you a lot more.

Yes, there is something about just being really present with the script because otherwise you just get caught up in so much detail. I’ve done other book adaptations before. I did a show called Noughts and Crosses which I did read when I was younger. I think the experience I had from that is, sometimes as an actor, the best thing to do. Do your research but use the scripts as a Bible. Otherwise, you can get sucked into a deep hole. 

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense! So, how did you channel your character? 

I think I just tried to focus on his humanity. I know that might sound a bit generic, but I tried not to think of him as a stuffy English lord. I think there’s a preconception of men, and I’ll only speak about men, because I’m not a woman. There’s a preconception of men in these shows which is that sometimes men who are high status, like Lords, in these stories seem to sort of wear their privilege easily. I felt like with Richard, my character, he was, somewhere in his soul, very uncomfortable with that. I found that very interesting and I think he’s an incredibly sensitive character. He is caught between his head and his heart. That, I found really interesting.

Instead of focusing on him being a swashbuckling, charming Lord, and the perception of that, I tried to ground him in his sensitivity. I thought about what it would feel like to be a man in the 1870s when expressing yourself emotionally and going against the grain of what’s expected of you would probably be really difficult. I kept just going in that direction and trying to focus on his heart, his emotional character… And I think it’s fair to say that my family in the story are completely different. They’re really difficult. They’re very stuffy. Their expectations are everything to them. So, it was really fun to play against that. I think Richard, as the eldest son, completely defies convention.

I love that, he sounds like such an exciting and unique character. I also feel that when you are portraying someone in a film or a series, they kind of become a part of your life. Is there anything you’ve learned from your character Richard?

I think that’s true, although I’m not always entirely sure the way a character rubs off. I think it’s something that I have noticed happens over months when you’re shooting a TV show, particularly because it’s longer, it’s really funny actually. Some of the emotional state of the character definitely finds its way into your life. I found that with this. I became very thoughtful last year and quite introspective and I wonder how much that had to do with just living in his headspace. I definitely learned things, but I can’t quite put it into words. 

That makes total sense. I guess it’s also quite subconsciously probably. How long was the whole filming process? 

It was quite long, it was seven months. We were filming in Scotland for seven months. Well, we started in the early summer, and it went through till Christmas. 

That sounds very intense! So you’ve got quite a few popular shows and movies under your belt, what kind of projects are you looking for next ideally?

I’d like to do a film this coming year. I would love to do some theatre again. I feel like after last year doing seven months on this show, I was just craving to do a play. I would love to be in a rehearsal room again and to explore that dynamic again — where you’re working with a company of people and building something together and you can’t hide and there’s a continuity to it. A big challenge of filming is you have so much energy and focus, but you have to sustain that and you might be only filming for like half an hour, do you know what I mean? Whereas when you’re on stage, once you start, you can’t stop. And so there’s a sense of continuity and inhabiting a character over a sustained period. I would absolutely love to do that again. It would be a real antidote to the filming, so I feel like that’s something I need to do soon. Then I’ve got a film that I’ve been developing it for quite a while now. It’s a film that I’ve written and I’m going to direct. I’ve got an amazing producer on board called Gabby Tanner who’s done some wonderful projects. I’m excited to see what happens with that next year. That’s the most exciting to me for sure, it’s the thing I care about most in the world. 

That sounds super interesting, though how did you find writing and directing as opposed to acting?

I haven’t directed it yet, just to say. But that’s the plan. The plan is to direct it and in terms of the experience of writing, I love it. It’s like the most incredible thing. Partly because I’m just in love with this story and this idea and the world of it, but also because I find that I can let my imagination run. It works in a completely different way. If I’m thinking about acting and approaching a role, I always find there’s a lot of fear attached to that. Whereas when I’ve been writing my film and thinking about it, I’m able to be much more objective and to explore things, knowing that I’m never going to have to act them. It liberates me so much. The idea of it makes me really happy and excited. I find I can kind of go deeper into things. 

That sounds super exciting. Are you planning on wrapping it up next year, and can you unveil which actors you would love to star in it? 

We are just developing it now and hopefully soon I’ll send it out to actors and we’ll take the next steps. There are some people who I’ve got my eye on but I haven’t spoken to them about it. There are a couple of my close friends who are actors who I’d quite like to talk to about it. But yeah, that’s all to come.

The Buccaneers is streaming now on Apple TV.

Interview Antonia Künzel
Photography Pip
Styling Fabio Immediato
Grooming Justine Jenkins

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