Gershwyn Eustache Jr: ‘If acting is what you want to do, no one should stop you’
After beginning a career in accountancy, Gershwyn Eustache Jr took the leap to pursue acting full time in 2011 and hasn’t looked back. He tells Giverny Masso about his role voicing the giant puppet of Stromboli in the National Theatre’s Pinocchio, and his upcoming role in the Sky TV series Britannia…
What was your route into acting?
I did an accountancy and finance degree, but in secondary school I was always in the school plays. I worked in Bath doing accountancy and after a year I came back to London, doing accountancy by day and attending Identity Drama School part-time for three years. Initially, I was thinking pragmatically that I needed to do an accounting job, but acting was always a passion and when I came back to London the opportunity opened up and it allowed me to see how I felt about acting.
How has performing in Pinocchio been?
It’s been interesting playing Stromboli and getting used to working the puppet. As an actor, even if you are not feeling 100% you know you can work around certain situations, but working with a puppet you have to put all your energy into bringing it to life. It was about getting the confidence to match what I’m doing vocally and physically. We are in a team of four, so it’s about working the space together. We have choreographed movements, but there are also areas where you can play around with the movements.
What kind of projects would you like to do in the future?
It is inspiring being in the same building as Barber Shop Chronicles [by Inua Ellams]; I’d love to be a part of works such as that. More of this type of work should be put on all over the country. There is an audience for all types of theatre and all voices are important. In this time, when we have so much more information on the internet, in terms of different cultures, it is important to stick with theatre because it is an avenue for people who don’t know about a culture.
How have you found the experience of filming for your upcoming role in Britannia?
This is the first time I’ve been involved with a project such as this from the start, where I don’t know how it will land with audiences. It was filmed in Prague, and I got there two weeks before to practise horse riding and archery – I had only ridden a horse twice before.
What is your advice for younger actors?
Read through plays you wouldn’t typically. Practise monologues that might not relate to you, to broaden your horizons. Go to a drama school. It’s about building confidence; find teachers and actors who challenge you. Some people may think about the money and the fame, but there is a lot of work and if you have a passion hold on tight. Whatever humble beginnings you come from, don’t lose them. If acting is something you want to do, nothing or no one can tell you to stop.
CV: Gershwyn Eustache Jr
Training: Identity Drama School, London (2009-12)
First professional role: Mercutio and Friar Lawrence in a tour of Romeo and Juliet with Custom Practice (2011)
Agent: Artist Rights Group
Pinocchio runs at London’s National Theatre until April 10. Britannia is released on Sky on January 18