He’s 17, Louis Partridge; although you wouldn’t know it. He’s certainly more sensible than I was when I was 17. More reserved, too. And the wisdom? God, the wisdom! When did teenagers become so bloody enlightened? The young actor is so sharp-witted and clear-sighted that I refuse to believe he’s still studying.
And yet he is. This particular Partridge, to all intents and purposes, is but a spring chicken. Still, when he says stuff like “I’m focusing on school”, it’ll knock you for six.
“I’m still focusing on school,” shrugs Partridge, “so I don’t have that classic actor’s problem of waiting for the phone to ring. It has been difficult in the past, though. I remember sleeping in the car on the way to meet director Harry Bradbeer and Millie Bobby Brown for rehearsals — having already done 3 GCSEs that same day…”
Bradbeer and Bobby Brown, if you weren’t aware, are Partridge’s partners-in-criminology for Netflix’s latest British-born mega-hit, Enola Holmes. You likely know of it, you’ve probably seen it — it’s been No.1 on the streaming service since it landed this Wednesday. Partridge plays the titular Enola’s dashing young love interest, ‘The Viscount Tewskbury, Marquess of Basilwether’ — and he’s being hailed as the breakout star of the production.
“Throughout the whole audition process for Enola,” Partridge tells me, “I was revising hard for exams. I actually found out I’d got the part just before I went into my English literature exam. I went in absolutely over the moon — got the worst mark out of any of my exams. But that doesn’t really matter, does it?”
It certainly doesn’t. Not when you’ve got a global mega-hit on your hands at an age when you still can’t buy a pint. But this is far from Partridge’s first rodeo. The bright young thesp has been acting for years — beginning with a bit-part in BBC sitcom Boomers at the age of 11, before he honed his craft in shorts including Second Skin, About a Dog and Beneath Water.
“Beneath Water was the first time I got properly involved in a project,” recalls Partridge. “I remember wrapping, and dreading going back to my comparably dull school week. I just got the greatest buzz from being on set — something I hadn’t ever had before.”
But he’s had it since. A couple of times, actually. Partridge cropped up in the fuzzy-feeling Paddington 2 for a couple of scenes, and has been playing a gran maestro of Florence in historical drama Medici since 2019. Enola Holmes, with its gunfights and mysteries and train chases, is just the latest time Partridge has felt the ‘buzz’ of acting. And, working alongside fellow teenager Millie Bobby Brown, he also had the chance to learn from one of the youngest, most sought-after performers in the industry.
“I learnt how to balance having a laugh and joking on set from Millie,” nods Partridge, “while also getting on with the actual serious work. I also learnt how helpful it can be to really get along with who you’re working with. That can give you complete freedom to try new things and not feel embarrassed when they don’t go right.”
See? Wise beyond his years. In fact, it’s no wonder Partridge has been so readily cast in period pieces — something about the actor’s manner and proper deportment gives him the air of a young man from years gone by. He even admits that he’s at his most comfortable when wandering around a manor house or palace, dressed to the nines in 19th century stitches.
“It’s easy to detach from yourself then,” Partridge says of the elaborate, extravagant outfits of costume dramas, “because it feels real enough anyway.”
There are few modern teenagers who could pull off wing-tip collars, cravats and brass-buttoned cloaks — but Louis Partridge is one of them. And the young man’s old soul extends beyond his work. On Instagram — admittedly a modern obsession, but bear with us — Partridge commonly shares his musical tastes and favourite tracks. And they’re not what you’d expect of a 17-year-old’s Spotify.
“Yeah,” he laughs, “I’ve recently — and quite randomly — got into the doo-wop genre of the 1950s and 60s. That’s all since stumbling across ‘In the Still of the Night’ by Fred Parris and The Satins on Spotify. Those songs are just so simple and usually don’t have great lyrics, but just feel warm. Other than that, I’m a big Shazammer — and take no shame in whipping my phone out in a restaurant to discover the name of a song.”
But, while Partridge — who admits his older sister also has a marked influence on his music tastes — may use Instagram to share his favourite music, he also uses it to post the requisite unflattering photos of friends and pictures of his breakfast. Somehow, he’s missing a blue tick — despite having almost three-quarters of a million followers. But he’s happy to hold onto a scrap of anonymity for now.
“Social media is a blessing and a curse,” he reasons. “So far, I’ve been glad of the opportunities it has brought me. However, I feel like it’d be easy to become completely wrapped up in numbers and likes and all of that.
“It’s still all relatively new to me,” he continues, “but I imagine, after a while, the novelty wears off. I’ve never been one to put my entire life out there, and I don’t think that will change. But, so far, all I’ve received are sweet comments — touch wood…”
Partridge is in something of a blessed position. His young cohort of actors and celebrities may have to contend with social media — but there’s now a whole generation above him who had to do it first. When James Norton covered Gentleman’s Journal, he called social media “a double-edged sword” and, to echo Partridge’s exact words, “a blessing and a curse”.
“I’m a big James Norton fan,” Partridge reveals. “I saw him a while ago in a play called Belleville, at the Donmar Warehouse, and I thought he was great — and the play was very powerful. He also does seem down to earth, and clearly loves what he does. Like Matthew Macfadyen. I’m currently loving Matthew Macfadyen in Succession, and I’m wondering why I’ve never seen him in anything before.”
Partridge’s viewing habits are as unpredictable as his music tastes. And, what’s more, the 17-year-old seems to long for the halcyon days of ‘event TV’ — especially when compared with the ‘box-set-in-a-day’ culture that has developed over the last decade.
“I think a weekly release of episodes is great,” he says. “It has an added layer of mystery and suspense. But, then again, who can complain about a good old binge? I’m actually relatively good at restraining myself, but I have a very long watchlist — one that’s ever-growing. I’ve actually just started a French series on Netflix called Call My Agent!, in the hope that it’ll help with my upcoming French A-Level”.
There it is again. Knocked for six. After discussing the inherent dangers of social media and modern mechanics of streaming with someone, you don’t expect them to suddenly pivot to talk of A-Levels. And yet Partridge makes it look easy. He’s an enigma; one with floppy hair, a phone full of doo-wap playlists and the best years of his career ahead of him.
“It’s all very exciting and a little scary,” he considers with a smile. “But I’ve always got my mates at school — and I’m sure they’ll be willing to lend a hand when I need knocking down a peg or two…”