While it’s likely you’ve never heard of Jacob Dudman, you’ve almost certainly heard him. At just 22-years-old, the young Brit is already one of our most prolific voice actors — having leant his vocal stylings to countless audiobooks after a series of truly uncanny impressions sent him trending into the Twittersphere around five years ago.
These days, armed with affable charm and a 110k-strong-subscribed YouTube channel, the impressionist has branched out into a more visible acting world. And, today, he’s distant down a crackly phone line — doing his best impression of someone who can actually hear my questions.
“Hello?” comes Dudman’s dim voice. “Can you hear me now? How about now? Now? I’m sorry, I’m kind of in the middle of a field. I promise I’m not just buying time to work out what to say. Hold on, I’ll just stand still. Is that better?”
It is. As are Dudman’s efforts to make this interview work — most actors would hang up after the third glitch. But instead, the Surrey-born breakout is making the most of a spare hour during filming. Currently out in the wilds of Ireland’s County Wicklow, Dudman is filming a new drama for Netflix, Fate: The Winx Saga. When it hits our screens later this year, it will be the actor’s second original show for the streaming service. His first, The Stranger, drops tomorrow.
“We finished filming in July,” says Dudman of the Harlan Coben adaptation. An eight-part mystery thriller, The Stranger tells the story of a family torn apart by a secret — revealed by the titular troublemaker. Dudman plays the son of star Richard Armitage — he of Spooks and The Hobbit — and is still reeling from his first big-budget, big name project.
“It was amazing!” he laughs. “And such an amazing cast. It really was a bit mind-blowing when I got to the read-through, because I didn’t know anyone else was going to be in it other than Richard. So going into a room with Jennifer Saunders and Anthony Head was a lovely surprise!”
But this isn’t Dudman’s first television project — far from it. The rising star first stepped in front of the camera for BBC’s The A List back in 2018. Another British thriller, the show told the razor-sharp story of a summer camp hiding grisly, nightmarish secrets. “Young people are watching darker and darker stuff, don’t you think?” asks the actor.
After The A List landed on Netflix, Dudman’s global fanbase grew, and he was picked to star in the third season of Medici, a historical drama starring Dustin Hoffman, Sean Bean and Richard Madden. His career, although still only beginning, has already seen a steep learning curve, says Dudman — and not even one he ever intended to embark on.
“I became an actor by mistake, really!” he reveals. “I went to film school to be a director. That’s what I really wanted to do — and still want to do. But I went to an acting workshop to see what acting was like from a director’s point-of-view and fell in love with it. I started going to auditions instead of lectures — and then The A List came up. That was kind of like my drama school; it gave me a great understanding of how a set works.
“Of course, there was initially a sort of impostor syndrome,” he adds. “The rest of the cast had been to drama school and earned their stripes. But then I began to realise the workings of a set, and what people’s functions were. And I became aware that I wasn’t really that important — just a cog in a machine!”
If Dudman had impostor syndrome on The A List, what was it like on set with some of Britain’s elder acting statesmen for The Stranger?
“There was so much to learn from them!” he laughs. “I mean, they’re so skilled. I feel like the younger members of the cast were just in awe of them. And I think my acting got better by osmosis. I never felt like the older actors were teaching me how to act — I just feel like obsessing, or watching how they hold themselves and interact with the cast and crew is more interesting. Certainly more so than thinking, ‘Oh, that little eyebrow wiggle they did there was great…'”
“That being said,” he adds. “On The Stranger, someone told Richard Armitage that I did an impression of him as his character from The Hobbit, and they wanted me to do it. I managed to put it off until the last day, but then just gave it the full whack. He wasn’t impressed. But hey! People think they sound differently to how they do!”
Impression sessions aside, The Stranger looks set to be our early year obsession. Like last year’s Safe — brought nerve-shreddingly to the screen by the same creative team — we’re promised more twists, cliffhangers and blindsides. But what would Dudman say is the main reason you should tune in?
“I think that, because Harlan has created such a world of characters, you have time to explore their arcs, and really get to know this community of people. It’s such a good limited series — because you go in-depth, without it ever feeling dragged out.”
The Stranger streams on Netflix from tomorrow. Want to see more of 2020’s best new TV launches? Check out our definitive list here…
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