You know him as cheeky footman Jimmy Kent in Golden Globe and Emmy-winning show Downton Abbey, but with four more films set to be released by 2016, we are about to see a whole lot more of the talented 26-year old – and in several different capacities as well.
I catch him in a break from the set of Remainder, a gritty British indie in which Speleers is co-starring Tom Sturridge. Elsewhere, Speleers is taking on the lead role as a working class train guard (Howl), a member of the aristocracy in Tudor England (Wolf Hall, a six-part series is based on Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker prize-winning novels) as well as starring alongside Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway in the Disney’s Alice in Wonderland sequel, Through the Looking Glass.
TGJ: Ed, there’s so much to talk about with all the projects coming up. Where do we start?
ES: It’s never really happened before now, having so many varying projects lined up, so I’m over the moon and looking forward to getting my teeth into them.
Is it difficult jumping from one role to the next?
I think it’s more about preparation than anything else. The roles differentiate to an enormous degree so that will help but I think the costumes, setting and the people you are surrounded by, all lend their assistance to very different characters.
No-one does costumes better than Downton Abbey. You joined in Season 3 when the show already had an enormous following in the UK and the US, with that in mind, how did you approach the role?
I was very much aware of the success of the show, but it’s enjoyable getting yourself ready for something like that. I’d never played a working class Yorkshire man in the 1920s, so there was so much to research and get my teeth into. Learning the accent meant a lot to me as my grandfather is from Yorkshire. When you think about the pressures of the scale and success of something, that’s just going to mess you up. Your best bet is just to concentrate and enjoy the work.
Are you still surprised by the incredible reaction in the US?
I’m more surprised that there are so many other great shows that come out of this country that haven’t gained the plaudits they deserved!
You’ve got so much work coming up. But we’re especially excited that you’re about to start shooting Howl soon, can you tell us about your role?
I’m playing a blue-collar man called Joe who has a slight self-confidence issue – he’s had a few knocks in his life. He finds himself on a train doing a late shift, which he really doesn’t want to be doing, when the train grinds to a halt and everyone’s stuck in the middle of the woods. No one knows what’s going on and everyone is turning to Joe [for guidance]. Then there’s a werewolf and others that start tearing everyone apart. So he has to show some real inner strength and goes on a journey.
Horror is a new genre for you, what motivated you to try it?
I’ve never done a true horror before, but I do think it’s really important to be taking in a versatile range of roles. I’ve been talking to Paul Hyett, the director, and the focus is on trying to keep the characters very real. I was excited by Paul’s vision; he’s a genius and legend within the prosthetics world.
Through The Looking Glass, another of your projects, has a big cast and another big director, do you enjoy that sort of film?
Yes, it’s James Bobin who did the Muppets films who is directing it – I’m excited to be working with him. I haven’t done a big studio picture for a very long time so I’m buzzing to be part of it and have the chance to work at such a legendary place as Shepperton Studios, surrounded by wonderful actors.
You’re a busy man, what else have you been up to?
They’re shooting at the moment and I’m joining in towards the end of June. I’m playing Edward Seymour, who’s part of the Seymour family, and the family name is in disgrace because of something my father’s been up to with my wife. Our house is also in rack and ruin, so I take the opportunity to push my sister in the direction of certain people to better the situation of my family, better my standing and earn more money.
And you’re currently shooting Remainder, how’s that been going?
I’m out in Berlin at the moment and I’m loving it. It’s very art house and we have an amazing director, Omar Fast, who is a visual artist. It’s quite a strange story; it’s stuck in a sort of loop. But I’m having a great time with it.
How would you describe your personal style?
I was trying to define it the other day. I guess it’s quite classic, but always with a modern twist. I love a lot of Paul Smith’s clothes, and Burberry, but then I also like Nike Air Maxes, Lacoste polo shirts, leather jackets and smart trench coats – a right mix of things! I think [fashion] is a lot more interesting if you try a little of everything. I like to have as broad a style as possible. It’s weird, if I put on a pair of Edwin jeans and a jacket, I’ll be completely different from who I am in a really smart suit. Clothes make you hold yourself in so many different ways; the textures, the tailoring – it’s a very personal thing.
Wolf Hall is due to commence on BBC Two in early 2015 and Through the Looking Glass is set for release in 2016. Before all that, you can see Speleers in the 5th season of Downton Abbey on ITV every Sunday evening.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Aline & Jacqueline Tappia Reynaud
STYLING: Holly Macnaghten
HAIR & GROOMING: Jo Coletta using Unite & Go24.7
GROOMING ASSISTANT: Josh Roper