Henry Lloyd-Hughes brings a ready swagger and insolence to the part of Dimitri, the rude, moneyed Greek boy in Posh, Laura Wade’s hit West End play about an assemblage of posh Oxford undergraduates behaving very badly. In real life, Lloyd-Hughes, 27 next month, didn’t go to college and is not Greek, though he is both charming and articulate—as Broadway.com found out one recent afternoon when the fast-rising actor held forth about male bonding on and off stage, acting posh, and doing his bit on screen in the Harry Potter saga.
Your character in Posh is pretty flash, with a lawyer on speed dial, a private jet and money dripping from every pore. Just like you in real life?
I wish! [Laughs.] Speaking as the most moneyed character [in the play], I hope you won’t be incredibly disappointed to hear that I’ve never even seen a private jet in the flesh. I always feel with this play that audiences would be underwhelmed if they knew just how un-flash we all are!
OK, but surely you whiz around town on a 1962 Triumph Thunderbird motorbike, just like Dimitri?
I have to say I do ride a vintage motorbike, which I suppose is a highly embarrassing addition to my life since I did the play the first time around [at the Royal Court in 2010]. I didn’t realize the extent to which I might be in the process of becoming a parody of myself!
When you read the play, was it then immediately evident that you would play the lone Mediterranean character, Dimitri, even though you are English?
Actually, I went in and read for something like five different characters. They said, “Pick whichever ones you want,” and I just picked the ones I wanted to do with the bits that I quite enjoyed saying. But I do have these dark features, which I guess are both a blessing and a curse. One of the good things is that it can work in my favor with something like this play when in fact I have zero Greek heritage myself but it can also work against me when someone writes a character who is English and is made to sound like I do and then I walk into the room and they say, “Well, it isn’t how I imagined ….’’ There is definitely a rogue gene in my family somewhere; let’s just say there are a few holes in the family tree. Who knows: Maybe soon you'll be seeing me play Che Guevara? [Laughs.]
Maybe you should play Che Evita.
Hey, listen, why not? I’d love to do a musical, but that seems like quite a closed world. This is the terrifying thing about the job that I do: There is no logic to it, no algorithm. Yes, one thing leads to another, but it’s often not so much about steps up as it is about going sideways.
What’s fascinating about Posh is the way these upper-class swells in play’s so-called Riot Club have to charm the audience in Act One before turning the knife on them in Act Two.
Absolutely. It’s tricky, and different audiences require different amounts of seduction—not that you can ever pander to an audience’s needs. Sometimes you feel the audience going, “Oh, all right, I know these guys are fucking dicks,” and they won’t budge; it’s like, “You’re dicks,” and that’s that. Other nights, you go out there and people are warm and fuzzy, which can almost be more distracting with the audience loving you too much when you think, “Hang on, you’re supposed to be repelled here."
That’s a testament to how likable the cast is, no matter how extreme the antics of the characters get [including trashing a restaurant and beating up its owner].
That’s nice of you to say! And you know, honestly, I went to an all-boys’ school for 10 years [St. Paul’s in London] so I know something about the dynamics of guys in a room together. There’s a lot of macho posturing in this play. But it’s actually crazy how nice everyone is, and I mean that genuinely: You would be hard-pressed to find 10 more humble guys.
You mean there’s no competition—with all of you more or less the same age, chasing the same jobs backstage on the phones to your agents?
You would think so, but it’s hard to imagine just how uncompetitive it is. I’m not a competitive person anyway. It’s almost as if we’re all different flavors of ice cream, and the careers we have are all so splintered and so varied, it’s kind of like everyone is doing their own thing.
Tell me about your experience working on Harry Potter and the Goblin of Fire. [Lloyd-Hughes played the small part of Roger Davies, a student a year or two ahead of Harry.]
God, that was seven years ago! Weirdly, I spent loads of time on the set but I’m not actually in the movie very much because that’s just showbiz. But I was 19 or something like that and it was like being a kid in a sweet shop: I would turn the corner and there would be a giant! It was really cool.
And you’re in the forthcoming film of Anna Karenina with Jude Law and Keira Knightley?
Yes, I play a member of the Russian secret police who’s always sneaking about causing problems and spreading suspicious rumors. I don’t know yet whether that’s going to lead to a whole spin-off Russian career for me to go with my new sideline in Greeks [laughs].
Look at it this way: You could be the next Alfred Molina.
I would love that! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Alfred Molina and he is a great actor and a total gent. If I could have half the career he’s had, I would be deliriously happy.