Lucian Charles Collier’s recent role in director Alex Taylor’s debut feature Spaceship led him to explore the peculiar realm of misfit teens. In the case of this particularly trippy film, it’s one consisting of fantasy and dreams, unicorns, rainbows, black holes and extraterrestrials.
Having literally stumbled into dancing when someone suggested the career path after seeing Collier drunk dancing at an underage party, the 26 year-old actor studied at dance school before finding himself drawn towards acting when he was cast in Petros Silvestros’s award-winning short film Mike.
Following the release of Spaceship, the young actor’s taste for the strange and otherworldly drew him towards another offbeat film, Lords of Chaos, based on the early 90s Black Metal scene in Norway and starring Sky Ferreira and Jack Kilmer. Now based in LA the sunny, laid-back atmosphere is a world away from his native North Yorkshire. We got Collier on the phone for a quick chat about RPG games, fantasy worlds, and Johnny Depp fanboying.
Aïsha Diomandé: So you’re currently in LA at the moment – how is it compared to London?
Lucian Charles Collier: I think the biggest difference is that you don’t really see people that much in LA. In London, if you go down the street, there’s a multitude of people, whereas LA is so spread out.
Aisha: Any culture shocks?
Lucian: I guess It’s not really a shock, but the idea of California, SoCal chill… it’s true, literally everybody is. Nobody is ever in a rush to be anywhere.
Aïsha: That’s beautiful!
Lucian: I know! Like, I’ve got a meeting at twelve, and people are leaving at ten to twelve, and you’re like, ‘The meeting is in ten minutes, right?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah it’s fine.’ But then you know that you’re going to sit in traffic for 45 minutes as well… and then yeah, nobody is ever like, ‘You’re late!’ I’ve been here for just over two months, and I’m still adjusting, it doesn’t feel as foreign to me anymore. In some respects, London seems to feel more foreign just because it hasn’t been on my mind, so I think going back to London now would in some ways feel more strange.
Aïsha: Can you tell us a bit about your background and where you grew up?
Lucian: So I grew up in North Yorkshire in a town called Harrogate. I was sixteen, and I started dancing… I sort of fell into it by accident. I got drunk at an underage party and just started dancing on the dance floor, and somebody came up to me and asked whether I was a dancer. I said no, but he said that I should go to dance class. So I went to the dance class and it kind of snowballed from there. I took more classes, I took ballet and then I applied to go to dance college, and I got in. I really enjoyed it at the college I went to, but I left that and went to a new one. Halfway through the course I had an interest in acting. Acting became more of a gravitational pull when I was dancing. So I sort of veered off and started focusing on that, to the point that when I graduated I did very few dance jobs before I fully abandoned it. It sounds like a negative thing, but my time at dance college served its purpose, it filled that need in me to the point that I decided that I didn’t want to do it professionally. I like doing it as an intense hobby, but as soon as it became professional, it was something that didn’t sit right with me. Looking back at it now, it has come into play as well in Spaceship, I had dance scenes in it because [director] Alex [Taylor] found out that I danced, he was like, “Oh cool, let’s put that into your character, and let’s make that a thing.”
“I think that the blueprint for actors now in 2017 is so far removed from what it was, even five years ago. With the accessibility of digital content and different avenues, I think that you have to change and adapt.”
Aïsha: So when did you make that initial move into acting?
Lucian: Essentially, as soon as I graduated really. I was still based up North, and I got an agent there. I got cast in a short film called Mike, I didn’t know what was going to come of it. Then about a year after we filmed it, we found out that it was going to the Berlin Biennale film festival. The film ended up winning the Crystal Bear award for Best Short Film, and it was the first British film to win that award.
Aïsha: That’s great!
Lucian: Yeah, I was like, “This is cool, I can do this!” I had this trepidation that I had come into acting too late, and that my training hadn’t had been as formal – I didn’t go to RADA and I didn’t go to any of those big colleges. Having that little bit of validation was great, and it sort of snowballed from there. Shakyra Dowling who cast me in Mike, she was the one who then cast me in Spaceship a year after. So it kind of came back to her, she’s kind of like my guardian angel.
Aïsha: Who do you look up to in terms of acting?
Lucian: I really admire Michael Pitt, I feel that he’s managed to become wildly successful whilst still maintaining his desire to do small independent films that are personal to him. I’m a huge Johnny Depp fanboy as well, so I definitely have a lot of admiration for him. One of my absolute role models is a girl called Felicia Day, who started off as an actress and then kind of paved the way in the online community through new media content. She created her web series called The Guild, based on her addiction to an online RPG game which consumed her life. She turned things around, and she was being typecast a lot, and decided that she didn’t want to be the ‘quirky girl next door’ anymore. I think that the blueprint for actors now in 2017 is so far removed from what it was, even five years ago. With the accessibility of digital content and different avenues, I think that you have to change and adapt.
Aïsha: How do you prepare yourself for an acting role?
Lucian: I guess for Spaceship and Lords of Chaos, it was a case of making sure that I surrounded myself with things appropriate for each character in some way. For both of them, they were heavily influenced by rock music, so I would curate my music taste to be reflective of that. Every tiny thing that you digest in life has a more compounding effect, which makes it easier when you go into character development mode. You’re already in that habitat. I think a lot of it for me happens on set, almost immediately before shooting, I read the lines a lot, and make sure that I know the lines. I think a lot of it comes collaboratively as well, which I think is something I have definitely learned in Spaceship and Lords of Chaos, they’re both centred around the fact that we’re a group of friends and we spend a lot of time on the set together.
Aïsha: Did you hang out together off set too?
Lucien: Yeah, we would go around London in character, and do things that teenagers would do – which was strange, as there is such an age difference between myself and the two girls in Spaceship. It was never noticeable, and it was never an issue. I guess it transposed onto set – it wasn’t a distinct difference; the lines became blurred. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘Method,’ because I don’t think it was! But there were elements of that, as we would stay in character and improvise for an hour.
Aïsha: So, I recently saw Spaceship, where I got the sense of teenage escapism and fantasy, contrasting with reality – how did those themes resonate with you?
Lucian: It definitely resonated with me. A lot of the things were more of a distant memory because I’m older. The day-to-day of teenage life was a bit of a hazy memory for me, but it was something that I could still access. I guess the whole idea of escapism… whether you are a teenager or whether you are an adult, everyone is looking for an escape, whether through social media or binging on a new series on Netflix. In terms of Spaceship, for me it was easy. I play video games, I’m a big video game fan, especially RPG. That whole element when you go into a massively creative world… there’s a guy in the film who talks about the first time he emerged from a dungeon in the game and just the infinite possibilities that were there.