Draped in a silk shirt and paisley scarf, Harrison Osterfield is shivering his way across a brisk Regent’s Park. But he’s not complaining. Why would he? After all, the 24-year-old has dealt with worse. In his latest television series alone — Netflix’s The Irregulars — he’s tussled with demonic crows, paranormal serial killers and even the occult. So a little nip in the air? Nothing to worry about.
“I do have my eye on that jumper, though,” beams Osterfield from behind a bold pair of sunglasses. I don’t blame him. It’s a chunky-knit, funnel-neck number from Connolly, and the next piece of clothing lined up for this al fresco photoshoot. But, for now, the young actor must grit his chattering teeth — and continue striking willowy poses in that billowy shirt.
And those poses are turning heads. Dog-walkers, taxi drivers and tourists are all picking up on Osterfield’s energy; a coolly British blend of big grins and bouncy enthusiasm. He swings from a lamppost! He dances through daffodils! He feeds the pigeons! NW1 hasn’t seen this much action in months…
And we’ve come to Regent’s Park for obvious reasons; Baker Street snakes down from its south-west corner. And, on that famous thoroughfare, sits the fictional digs of Sherlock Holmes. But The Irregulars, a supernatural-tinged drama named for Holmes’ gang of trusty street informants, wasn’t shot in London. Rather, it was filmed on the authentically old streets of Sheffield and Liverpool — the same cobbles walked by the Peaky Blinder boys. So this, Osterfield grins, is a fun opportunity to see the real thing.
“All of the rest of the cast,” he admits, “are really big Sherlock fans. I’ve never really read any of the Sherlock books. I’ve seen maybe one Robert Downey Jr. film? So I was very new going into it.”
Today, then, will be a crash course. Because, after we get Osterfield out of the park (and into that jumper), we’re heading to the Holmes Hotel for a coffee and a catch-up. It’s a relatively new hotel just off Baker Street, decked out with knowing nods to the world’s greatest detective. There’s a bronze bulldog guarding the door, pipe-patterned wallpaper and signature cocktails at the sadly-closed bar (anyone for a ‘Case Closed’?).
But, though there are only suggestions of Sherlock in the Holmes Hotel, Osterfield explains that they’re even subtler in the show. Because The Irregulars, in a nutshell (wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma), sidelines the sleuth, and shifts the focus onto Osterfield and his fellow gang members. The actor plays one of the show’s leads; frail runaway nobleman Prince Leopold. All sullen glances and broken bones, his story is the heart of this first season.
“And it’s been a long project in the making,” says Osterfield, noting that filming on The Irregulars began almost two years ago. “That’s quite daunting. When you’ve spent that much time on something and you’ve got no idea how it’s going to turn out?
“It means that, now, it’s crunch time,” he continues, face creasing with mock-worry, “and I have no idea how people are going to react. But I’m really proud of the work, and that’s what I’m taking away from it.”
The Irregulars may be Osterfield’s first lead role — but he’s been acting for years, popping up in several short films and the George Clooney-directed adaptation of Catch-22 before Netflix took notice. His first role came at 11-years-old, when he was cast as Tiny Tim in his school’s stage production of A Christmas Carol. “It’s funny, actually,” says Osterfield, “because it’s quite a similar physicality to my role in The Irregulars”.
“But that’s where it started,” he continues. “And the real reason I got into acting was because there was this girl in the drama class who I really liked. I thought, if I joined up and impressed her, I could take her out on a date. That didn’t happen. But, although she wasn’t interested at all — the acting seems to be going okay!”
“It’s crunch time — and I have no idea how people are going to react…”
It certainly does. But, like actors all over the world, it’s been a very slow year for Osterfield. He returned to set in September to finish filming the Netflix show — but the rest of his lockdown was eerily, cannily familiar to everyone else’s.
“I went back to my home in Kingston,” he nods, “where I was living with three of my best mates who are also actors. Quite a few of my friends are in theatre, and they had a really tough time of it — not knowing what was going to happen next. I was very lucky, knowing that I was going back to finish something”.
The actor says it was strange being locked-down with fellow performers. With sets closed around the country and curtains falling on theatres, it was one of the first times they had all been at home together. But, even with the additional pressure, he says there were no problems. And there never have been, according to Osterfield — as it’s rare that he and his friends ever compete for the same role.
“We’re all very different castings!” he laughs. “Which is good. It’s a mixed bag, really. But it’s very useful when you’ve got to self-tape an audition and there’s another actor literally upstairs. Also, we’ve all known each other for ten years, so we’ve grown up together and, luckily, know when not to push each other’s buttons.”
With no work, Osterfield spent most of his 2020 getting stuck into lockdown. And he shamelessly tried every self-isolated stereotype. He binge-watched every sports documentary from Drive to Survive to Last Chance U. He upped the frequency and intensity of his workouts. He even tried his hand at cooking. He tried everything.
“I did try everything!” the actor laughs, fizzing once more with that lamppost-swinging, daffodil-dancing energy. “Really! I think I went though every lockdown activity there is. I gave baking a go for two weeks — that didn’t work out. I made a banana bread and that was it. I’m not going to be delving into that any more…
“We were quite lucky, though,” he adds, “because we had an outdoor space. We built a homemade golf net in our garden, by putting up two wooden poles and hanging a blue screen we had left over from filming. That kept us entertained most days”.
But, despite the failed banana breads, closed-off golf courses and Irregulars anxiety, Osterfield says that the worst thing about lockdown was missing his family.
“Because we’re a very close family”, he explains. “Massively so. And, usually, we’d have family gatherings every other weekend – my whole family are in East Grinstead and closer to Brighton, so real countryside. I’m honestly just looking forward to the day, with summer on the horizon, that we can do some good barbecues outside.
“I think I went though every lockdown activity there is…”
“We even tried family Zoom quizzes over lockdown,” he adds, “and they all figured out that I’m not that clever. The rest of my family all seem really, really intelligent. I don’t know if they were just revising beforehand, but I was definitely last a couple of times…”
And Osterfield’s most inspiring family member — not to mention the most irregular — is his 89-year-old grandfather. Despite the young actor upping his own fitness levels during lockdown (“I started doing handstand push-ups. That’s my new skill!”) Osterfield’s grandfather put those athletic achievements to shame.
“He’s fitter than me!” laughs Osterfield. “He’s been kept at home for most of the time and, as a family, we’ve been quite worried about him. But I struggle to keep up with him. I’ll ring him up and ask how his day’s going and he’ll say ‘Oh, hi Harry. Can I call you back later on? I’m just doing some exercise’. So he’s doing better than okay!”
But the exercising, Osterfield says seriously, has been a real lifeline. It’s kept both him and his mind busy during lockdown — and has motivated the actor to pursue more physical, active roles in the future. If he can look back at a body of versatile work, measured out in marked body transformations, he says he’ll be happy.
“I’ve been doing a lot of bodyweight exercise over the last year,” he nods. “I thought it would be quite cool, while in lockdown, to break a world record for something — so I’ve been trying lots of fitness challenges. I’m very close to getting the most burpee chin-ups in under a minute. I’ve got to knuckle down on that.
“I also tried to eat an apple in under 38 seconds,” he laughs. “Which sounds like a long time, but it’s actually quite difficult. And, with apples, I eat everything. Even the middle bit. Even the stem. I just chuck it down. I’m a big fruit bat, so I eat everything apart from the seeds.”
There’s that bouncy energy again; that fun-but-utterly-sincere enthusiasm. It’s an odd thing for an actor, to be so happily unabashed by everything — but the 24-year-old is as animated when talking about his acting as he is about his apples. And that’s nice to see. He’s clearly relishing every opportunity to better himself, and just getting started with what promises to be a very exciting career. Harrison Osterfield, it seems, takes every bite of the apple — literally. Talk about irregular.
With thanks to Ryan Grimley for art direction, Marc Abe for image retouching and Rosie Watling for additional styling
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