Melting hearts and dishing out brooding stares as Hardin Scott in the After movie franchise, Hero Fiennes Tiffin has earned his place as a generational bad-boy-heartthrob. But as the film series starts to wind down, Fiennes Tiffin and his dedicated legion of fans are eagerly anticipating his next move – and it couldn’t be more different. The Woman King – a historical epic starring Viola Davis and John Boyega – sees Fiennes Tiffin cast as Santo Ferreira, a coloniser in The Kingdom of Dahomey, an African state in the 18th and 19th century.
The film focuses on the Agojie, an all-female warrior unit, and co-stars Jordan Bolger, who clicked with Fiennes Tiffin even before getting to set (and it sounds like a pretty epic set…) Now, back on home turf and ahead of the film’s release, the pair reconnect for a HERO cover conversation.
Jordan Bolger: What’s going on my brother?
Hero Fiennes Tiffin: I’m good. You did this same thing with Tati Gabrielle [Jordan was featured in HERO 27, and was in conversation with Tati] when we were in South Africa, but you were getting asked the questions by her.
JB: Yeah, I like it! It’s way more relaxing. It’s someone you know on a personal level so it’s like, “I love this about you, so I’m going to push you to speak about it.”
HFT: It’s also a double-edged sword because we could start talking how we talk, and about things we talk about, but we have to adapt that for the rest of the world to understand! Speaking of which, we should talk about the first time we met, which was on Zoom. We knew our characters in The Woman King were going to be in the majority of scenes together, they grew up together and were close. I remember Gina [Prince-Bythewood, director] put us both on a Zoom and introduced us to each other and we immediately started talking for like three, four minutes straight and she hadn’t said a word. We were like, “Oh sorry Gina, we’ve just been chatting,” and she was like, “I didn’t understand half of what you just said, but I’m comfortable that you guys are going to get on very well.”
JB: It was the first good sign, it was like a chemistry meet to see if we were going to vibe.
HFT: As soon as we started talking I knew we’d be good friends, and then we met for the first time in person when we stayed on a safari for The Woman King. The accommodation was literally on a game reserve.
JB: It was ridiculous, the fact anything could come to our front doors… bar elephants, giraffes, but lions… fam.
HFT: We were literally told, “Don’t walk to each other’s room, even though they’re right next to each other. Call us to come with the golf buggy because there could be a lion outside your door.” And we were like, “What’s the golf buggy gonna do?”
JB: And what did we do every night?
HFT: We didn’t call a golf buggy [both laugh]. We took risks, and we prospered. That was an insane experience. The first couple weeks there, any time I had off, I was like, “Yeah, let’s go on a safari.” There’s not much else to do, but there’s not much else you want to do when you have that opportunity.
JB: Yeah we did a month there in KZN [KwaZulu-Natal], and then we went to Cape Town.
HFT: We got so lucky with that job because A, we get along so well, and B, we had a lot of time off to explore, we did a lot of hiking.
JB: You know what was a great perk, and what really changed it for me, was having a bit of a home on the job. That’s what I think we had, because we get on so well and we’re from a similar place. We were able to be out in Africa, completely new, foreign lands, but in the evening, we got to have an hour or two off, feeling like I’m at home, I’m with my boys. It gave it some normality, it kept me sane. It was a challenging job, even to be in that environment was challenging for a lot of reasons. How did you find it?
HFT: I’m actually glad you said that because I agree completely. When I’m away on set, I spend a lot of my free time – even though you don’t get much of it usually – FaceTiming my friends and watching content from back home, because that’s what makes me feel relaxed and comfortable. To be able to walk to the door on the other side of the hallway and chill with you for a couple hours and hear what my friends sound like and hear what I’m used to from home was really nice and comforting. Someone from where you’re from, who knows what you know and has similar interests, that made it a lot more enjoyable. All the rest of the cast members were great as well, shout out Lashana [Lynch] and Sheila [Atim] and everyone else. I’m almost scared to talk too much about The Woman King because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I’m so excited for everyone to see it. But the process, the time we had off, the fact that neither of our characters needed to necessary be too big or toned, physically, but we were put on the same meal plans and strength training schedule as everyone else…
JB: I was in the best shape of my life.
HFT: Literally. At first I was like, “Why do I have to be doing this?” And then I was like, “Hold on, if I’m getting a meal plan and PT sessions, I’m making the most of it.” So me and you, instead of doing all the boring cardio, strength training, fat burning stuff, we were saying, “Teach us how to hit the pads, how to do kickboxing.” We were just using all the perks of the job to our advantage, which was great fun. It’s funny, I was so jealous of all the girls who got to do so much martial arts training. They all had these combat sticks and were doing all the choreographed movements. I think one time I picked up a broom in the background, and I was trying to copy what they were doing, that’s how badly I wanted to be involved in the fighting stuff. But what they did and the amount of work they put in to achieve what they’ve achieved is insane, I’m proud of all of them and I can’t wait to see the film.
JB: It looks crazy. I think it’s necessary for so many reasons.
HFT: One hundred percent. I think this is the kind of film people see and go, “No way, you’re in this?” Films like this should’ve been made a long time ago and it’s sad that they haven’t. I’m just so proud and honoured to be part of a film that tells these kinds of stories about the history of Africa, which is so rich. I’m so gassed to be a part of it. The first thing that made me excited was hearing that Viola Davis was on board… and then I heard that John Boyega was involved, and I met yourself, Lashana, Sheila… I mean everyone on the job was amazing. Great people.
“Films like [The Woman King] should’ve been made a long time ago”.”
trousers by CELINE HOMME by HEDI SLIMANE FW22; boots by ALEXANDER McQUEEN FW22
JB: This project, compared to what the majority of people know you for, is very different. Where do you want to head after this, what kind of things do you want to do?
HFT: It’s interesting, I’ve said this before and I still stand by it: I think later in life I’ll find my niche and I’ll be able to hone in a bit more on exactly the kind of projects I want to do. But I always want to do something different from the last [project] and so far I’ve been so lucky to do that. The other category of film I’d like to work on soon – like I was saying about the girls and their specific marital arts training on The Woman King, specific to the Agoji way they would fight – I would love to do a film that requires some specific martial arts training, or sports training, or any kind of new skill, or even body transformation. I’d love to work on films where I have to learn a new skill to be able to convincingly play a character who’s a master of their craft. Some physical talent. I feel like we’re both smirking because we talk so much so personally… it’s such a weird dynamic to talk to someone you’re so close with in a formal interview!
JB: [laughs] I remember watching you a bit when we first met, we were spending a lot of time prepping with each other because our characters are very different to us, very far removed. How do you generally approach a project or character, are there certain things you do, a certain mindset you have to get into?
HFT: It definitely varies job-to-job. Research is important, especially for something like The Woman King, which is historic. You need to read up on where your character comes from and what people from that place at that time were like – and you can’t draw so much from life experience because it’s a period piece, removed from your own reality. So that was a bit more of a challenge. Also, we were speaking Portuguese for the majority of the film, which was a massive, massive challenge for me, Portuguese is not an easy language to speak. But Joe Vaz helped us out massively, he was our dialect coach out there. I’m so nervous to hear myself back because I’ve travelled to Portugal since, and hearing the Portuguese accent has just made me remember, “Oh gosh, I hope I haven’t butchered this.” But one of the best things about acting is being pushed outside your comfort zone and learning new skills. I know a fair bit of Portuguese now, the only problem is I can only recite things my character said, and he doesn’t say the nicest things! So I’m not too keen to recite any of the lines I had [laughs]. But I pick up on a few words now in Portuguese because of it, which is nice.
JB: Yeah, I’ve got a Portuguese friend and every time I see them I recite my opening lines from the film [both laugh]. In our industry, who do you admire? Or who in general inspires you, motivates you?
HFT: I’ve said I wanted to work with John Boyega before getting this role. So, in terms of the industry, that was something I was really proud of and an accomplishment, a checkpoint. I spoke something into existence and it come to fruition. I look up to my friends a lot, I’m so lucky to have such a good group of friends. They’re the ones who motivate and inspire me when I come back home. I’m so lucky to travel so much, but whenever I wrap a shoot I’m always so excited to get back home and recharge. My friends and family are the people I look up to most. It’s important, your head can get a bit big, you can get lost in the sauce when you’re away filming all the time. It’s always good to come back down to Earth, back to the places and faces that made you who you are. There are definitely so many people in the industry I admire, but ultimately it’s my friends and family who made me who I am, so I’m always going to keep looking up to them.
knitwear and belt both by KENZO FW22; trousers by DRIES VAN NOTEN FW22; necklace by A SINNER IN PEARLS
“It is generally hard to put into words how much After changed my life for the better.”
JB: Yeah Bro, real stuff. Artistically, creatively – are there any pieces of art, film, music that have inspired you, that made you realise things?
HFT: Music definitely, we have a very similar music taste, we bonded a lot over that. I feel like we’re in slightly different eras of the same generation, how old are you again?
HFT: I’m 24, so that’s only three years different. I remember you were showing me Kano, and, what was that freestyle?
JB: The Boy Better Know freestyle where there’s a load of them on it?
HFT: Probably was, and obviously I know JME, Skepta and all these, but I think I came a tiny bit later. But the freestyle London scene in general, how rich that is in talent and how driven these people are. Growing up, when I put my headphones in, it was the old SB.TV, Pacman TV, GRM daily, terrible production quality, but just heart and good lyrics. If we’re talking about things that motivate me and things we have in common, definitely [listening to] the London rap scene on the bus to school has got to be up there.
“The opportunity to come back and play the same character for such a big fanbase, multiple times, is such a blessing.”
JB: Nice. So you were involved in a huge franchise [After], and that changed your life in ways I can’t even fathom. How is it now, where are you at in that process with that franchise, how’s it changed and what’s your perspective now?
HFT: Massive. I find it hard to even put it into words because my whole life changed drastically since the start. It’s been a learning curve. Every year I think, “Ah, I’m over it. That was overwhelming,” and then the next time I realise I wasn’t complete in my journey or transition. I feel like life’s always gonna be like that; whatever life throws at you, you’re constantly learning more about yourself and growing. But the opportunity to come back and play the same character for such a big fanbase, multiple times, is such a blessing and it’s made me grow so much in confidence, my ability to act, to deal with people – and so much more. It is generally hard to put into words how much After changed my life for the better. Big up the After fans, worldwide.
JB: Okay last question to round it off. What is something you want people to have from you? Whether that be a quote, advice, something you say to yourself – something that you use that has a positive impact on your life?
HFT: My brother has always told me that there is balance with everything, balance is the most important thing. Anytime you feel yourself going too far left or right – or you feel like your scale is a bit off – remembering how important balance is gets me through a lot of things. One thing I’ve learnt recently – I know it’s a cliché – but when I’m at home and I’m preparing for a role, I can’t wait to get out there and shoot. And when I’m away shooting sometimes, I can’t wait to get home to the family. Then I take a step back and realise all I’m doing is waiting, and as I get older I realise that’s not the best outlook to have. You have to live in the moment, appreciate now and embrace every single second. Because, you never know when you’re gonna turn around and be like, “How the fuck am I 70 already?!” [both laugh] So enjoy every moment.
HERO 28 :SEARCHING IS OUT 6TH OCTOBER ’22
grooming BRADY LEA at PREMIER HAIR & MAKEUP using GHD for hair and BOYDE CHANEL and NO.1 DE CHANEL REVITALISING ESSENCE LOTION for skin; photography assistant TOM PORTER; fashion assistants JAY HUDA and DIARMUID RYAN