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Joshua McGuire is eating an orange. It is a small orange, but he’s keen to stress its significance nonetheless. ‘Vitamin C,’ the actor says, eyebrows raised as he waves the peel knowingly in my direction.
It is late February, and tomorrow McGuire begins his two-month starring stint in the 50th Anniversary production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. With such an important job in from of him, the actor tells me, this is not the time to get ill.
‘You have to stop your body falling apart at this point,’ laughs McGuire, ‘which means oranges, vitamin tablets, giving up drinking and trying to be good about what you eat. You’re in late, up early. It’s hectic.’
But McGuire is no stranger to the bustling world of theatre. His acting career began on stage and, whilst the 29-year old reveals that some screen work can feel disjointed and isolating, he feels theatre is an incredibly communal experience.
‘Especially when it’s a play of this calibre,’ adds McGuire, gesturing dramatically around the small back room of the Old Vic in which we’re sitting. ‘I was expecting a knockabout, farcical romp set in the wings of Hamlet when I first read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. But I couldn’t have been more surprised.
‘The characters don’t know who they are, why they’re there, or what their names are. They’ve just been created, fully-formed by Shakespeare – and they don’t know what’s going on. It’s about existentialism, meta-physics, theatre, the human condition. It’s mental.’
After six weeks of technical rehearsal, McGuire is ready to dive into the run – buoyed by the source material and the guidance of Sir Tom Stoppard himself.
‘It’s fascinating, having the writer in the room,’ says the actor. ‘He first got it published when he was 29, actually – and that’s how old I am now. Isn’t that mad?
‘And he’s such an incredible writer. He’s so polite and intrigued, but in a complete unegotistical way, about his own play. He’s been changing bits and adding bits even now, half a century after he first wrote it.’
The production, which runs at a length of two and a half hours, sees McGuire play Guildenstern, one half of a double act with Daniel Radcliffe, reuniting the two after they briefly shared the screen in Sky 1’s A Young Doctor’s Notebook. But the pair’s connection runs deeper than that, McGuire tells me.
‘We’re actually really good friends,’ reveals the actor. ‘I’ve visited Dan in New York, and when a play I did a play at the Donmar Warehouse called Privacy went off-Broadway, Dan played my part. So, after all that zig-zagging and dove-tailing, we’re finally together. And I’m glad, because you certainly couldn’t do this play if you didn’t get on with the person you’re doing it with – you’re so intertwined.’
Friendship clearly plays a big part in McGuire’s work. From sharing the stage with Radcliffe to filming for the screen with many of his close friends, the young actor is clearly personable – and doesn’t make professional contacts as much as professional friends.
‘I do a series called Lovesick for Netflix, and I actually live with one of my co-stars, Antonia Thomas, up in Glasgow when we film that. I met Antonia on Misfits years ago, and we’ve remained friends ever since.
‘After this run finishes, I’m actually back off to Glasgow to film the third series of Lovesick – and I couldn’t be more excited! Any excuse to work with your friends, and you should jump at the chance.’
It seems that McGuire leaves every production or project with fresh friends, attracting new acquaintances on everything from About Time to Mr Turner. But it was The Hour, BBC’s Mad Men-aping newsroom drama, where the actor starting to seriously build his circle of performing friends.
‘I was so lucky to get something of that quality – and it filmed in London as well! The whole cast still keep in contact, and we go to see each other’s plays. That was a wicked experience. It’s really nice, when you have a good experience, to repeat it – be that with a television show where you get a second series, or a play that moves location or has a revival.’
But, whilst friendship is important, the actor doesn’t let it influence his professional decisions. In fact, McGuire is baffled by those who approach their careers with any sort of game plan at all.
‘I always find it weird when people talk about ‘their move’ into television or film. Why don’t you just do good work? It doesn’t matter if it’s film or television. Sure, if you want to buy a house quicker than everyone else, do more films. But, if you have the luxury to say, ‘okay, I’ll do a play now’, why wouldn’t you? Mix it up.
‘On stage, and this is generalising, I tend to play horrible, intelligent people, whereas on screen I usually play nice, unintelligent people. It’s almost reverse-tyepcasting, such a range. But I love that.
‘So would I call myself a comedy actor? I would be cautious about describing myself as anything. Look back at what I’ve done, and comedy is definitely there. But I don’t really know what a dramatic actor or a comedic actor is.
‘Surely that’s just laziness and trying to put somebody into a box? And, if there’s one thing I want to avoid,’ he says, popping the last orange segment into his mouth, ‘it’s that!’
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is at The Old Vic until 6th May