Following roles in Liam Neeson’s latest action thriller The Commuter and the BBC’s hit crime series Happy Valley, Chorley-born actor Adam Nagaitis stars in AMC’s new supernatural drama The Terror, based on the best-selling 2007 novel of the same name about a doomed Naval expedition and executive produced by Ridley Scott.
I talked to Adam about the show, what he learnt working with Neeson and his experiences in New York theatre.
Tell me a bit about The Terror – were you aware of the story that inspired it before?
I’d never heard of the expedition, never read the book. I just got the first few scenes of it and what drew me to it was, I started to read the book and I realised how interesting my character was, and it’s a really rare story to get to tell, how they’d added a supernatural element to what was already a really interesting expedition. When I read the first script it was clear that it was something that everybody wanted to do.
You co-star with Jared Harris, who’s a great actor – what was he like to work with on this?
He’s the loveliest man, he was someone I was interested in learning as much from as possible and he just made the whole environment comfortable and lovely. It can be intimidating, people that are that skilled and established and respected, you don’t want to mess up, but I enjoyed it a lot and he made it really easy.
What was the actual shoot like?
It was six months on a soundstage in Budapest, which was all greenscreened and they had two to-scale ships built, which were accurate. As well as that we had two months filming in Croatia, which was all exterior, which is the latter half of the series. It was cold in Budapest and hot in Croatia, but it was fantastic, the sets that they built were the most impressive things I’d ever seen
You’ve also worked recently with Liam Neeson on The Commuter – what’s he like?
A pleasure, what you’d expect of someone whose that amazing and kind and considerate. He’s a classic lead actor, you know, he’s someone who you learn a lot from by watching how he deals with the enormous amount of work that he has to do, not just in the fight choreography and the action scenes, but in his manner – how he conducts himself. He’s brilliant at his job.
Which actors do you think you’ve learnt most from?
It’s difficult to narrow them down, but Ewan Bremner who I worked with on Banished, I remember learning so much early on. And Jared, I spent a lot of time with Jared. You sort of just gather little bits from people you work with and I’ve been lucky to work with people I admire, non-stop pretty much. Specifically during The Terror I had a lot of scenes with Jared and Paul Ready, I learnt a lot from those two guys, and Ian Hart.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on – what have you enjoyed the most?
I think, in terms of enjoyment, for the memory, I think The Terror’s probably the most enjoyable thing maybe I’ve done in my life! It was such an experience and a challenge, and the people I got to work with and meet, you know. It’s difficult to top that.
Has there been anything else you’ve done on that kind of scale, away abroad for several months?
Yeah, Banished, Jim McGovern’s series, which was in Australia for ten weeks, and we shot the interiors in a studio in Manchester for another few months. That was also one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had, the people I worked with on that.
What about in the future, do you want to keep doing TV or film, what do you prefer?
I’m happy to do a variety of things that are, as long as the scripts are exciting, well-written – the medium wouldn’t really determine whether or not I do a job. I do enjoy film and would love to do as much of that as I can – it’s what I was sort of raised on. But the quality of television these days is right up there, so yeah, both.
What about writing and directing yourself?
Yeah, eventually! When you see the quality of writing I’ve seen and worked on, you think to yourself, it’s a life’s pursuit, it would take me a lifetime to even begin to do something I would consider worthy of someone else reading. Writing is an incredibly difficult thing, one of the most difficult things to do well. Directing, I have the same opinion about directing, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t try my hand in it one day, we’ll see.
What made you want to begin acting?
It’s really the only way I’ve ever been able to spend my time. I forget about it as a job, if I wasn’t spending my time doing it I’d go mad! It’s really the only thing I’ve ever had as a release, to keep me going. So I don’t look at it as a choice really, it’s my outlet.
How long have you been acting for?
All my life, I think. I used to live in New York and I graduated from an acting school over there a few years before I went to RADA, and I worked in New York a bit and started a theatre company and stuff. It’s something I’ve always done, but this level of film and TV I’m doing now I’ve only been doing for the past five or six years.
Have you done much theatre in the past few years?
I did a lot of theatre when I was there, I trained at RADA, directed theatre, ran a theatre company, but for some reason ever since I came out of RADA I’ve been doing film and TV. The first sort of six, seven months out of drama school I auditioned for lots of theatre, but once I started getting the film roles and TV stuff – which I love doing – I just got carried away. I will find some theatre to go and do at some point, but I haven’t yet.
Who would you like to work with – actors and directors?
There’s lots – if I had my dream list, Paul Thomas Anderson, that’d be the name at the top of the list in big letters. Actors, there are many actors I’d like to watch, see how they behave on set, Paul Giamatti is one of them. Stephen Graham is an actor I massively admire.
Have you worked with anyone you’ve really wanted to?
Liam Neeson, I couldn’t even begin to explain how, you know, I’ve watched him my whole life and admired everything he’s done. When you see his manner, when you see his work ethic, and the small bits of advice he’d just throw at me – “do this”, “try that”, and he’d allow me to take credit if it went well, especially comedic things, he’d encourage me to ad-lib or riff on things.
This interview was originally published by 1883 Magazine. It has been reposted here for posterity.