Interview: Tom Hopper Talks Acting, ‘The Umbrella Academy’September 3, 2019
Recently, we had the chance to talk with Tom Hopper during a media roundtable, while he was in Toronto attending Fan Expo Canada. He talked about his acting career, including his role as Luther on the hit series The Umbrella Academy.
Media: I loved Merlin, thought it was great. Has there been any talk about rebooting it, doing it all again?
Tom: You mean rebooting the whole thing? I don’t know, I didn’t say a lot in Merlin so I might be taking a step down maybe to go back. (Laughs) One reason I would do it again is that I had the best time with all the guys on there, we became a close group of mates. They could always do a one-off as well, like a movie or a two-hour special. It would be great to do like one big magical adventure and make the most out of it. I know a lot of fans weren’t happy with the ending of the show, so it’d be nice to give them something that gave them a bit of gratification, in terms of the ending. It’s always a bit sad when fans don’t enjoy the end of the show.
Media: Did you keep anything from the show?
Tom: I’ve got a few different little bits…I’ve got my sleeveless chainmail, which is completely redundant as a piece of protective chainmail, I’ve got a few props from the set as well. Eoin Macken, who played Gwaine, he’s got like a full sword that he took home, he just sort of nicked it on the last day, so I’ve got a few mementoes, yeah.
Media: Throughout the season of The Umbrella Academy, Number Five does a lot of time traveling. If you had the opportunity to travel to any place, anywhere at any time, where would you go?
Tom: Well I’m a massive fan of Back to the Future, particularly the second movie because I love that future. The 2015 that they created was my sort of future, with the hoverboards, the flying cars so I would like to travel to that future, where that is when that is, but if there’s hoverboards there I’m game.
Media: How many times did you watch the film?
Tom: Oh god, I watched that trilogy over and over. Ask my mom, when I was growing up, hundreds of times, probably. For two years straight I used to watch that film every day I reckon.
Media: On The Umbrella Academy you play a character, Luther, who’s a very tragic character, he’s been through a lot. Do you think what drives him is more him looking for acceptance from his father or just looking to be seen as his true self by someone?
Tom: Yeah, I think it’s a bit of both, really. The tragedy comes from he wants acceptance from his father, and now that his father has died he’s never going to get that. He’s constantly looking for that, he’s tried his whole life to have that acceptance, to have that approval from his dad and he’s never really had it, or he thinks, I’ve got to do this to get that and now that his dad had died he’s never going to get it. Then when he realizes that everything he has been doing to try and achieve that was for nothing…yeah, as you say, it’s tragic. He puts so much weight on himself and from an outside perspective it’s like man, take it easy on yourself, you’re being too hard on yourself, but for him it’s real. There’s a lot of self-pity I suppose, he thinks that he’s had it pretty tough. It was interesting to hear the fans reactions…some fans were, I’d just wish he’d shut up and get on with it, and there’s a part of me that agrees with that because you know, like me as a person, I think c’mon, toughen up but then I think he’s gone through an element of trauma really, so there are two ways of looking at it.
Media: When you play a character who is dealing with that much trauma, is that taxing on you? Do you have to go to some dark places?
Tom: You do, yeah, and it’s important to let it go as soon as you leave the set. You can go as dark as you want on set but it’s important to me, especially because I’m a family man, I’ve got a wife and two kids at home, when I go home I’m not carrying that crap with me. To make it real yeah, you’ve got to feel it, feel what it’s like. The way I see it is, your brain is forcing your body to experience it and even though it isn’t real, you’re making your body go through it, forcing your body into that kind of traumatic state, then do the same thing back, force your body to go, this is reality, that is not.
Media: In season one you have to wear that big, bulky bodysuit. How hard is it fighting with that on?
Tom: Yeah, it’s pretty cumbersome. It was a whole new skill learning to fight in it, because I was doing the choreography without the muscle suit, and then when I got on set and started doing it with the suit it was like oh my god, I can’t kick or punch who I want to kick and punch, it’s so restrictive. I will say we made some improvements to the suit this year, which has helped a lot.
The GCE: You picked a tough business to make a career out of with acting. Was it always acting and nothing else and was there a moment where you said yes, this is my career, I know I can do this?
Tom: You never know in this business, you never have that moment where you say yeah, I’m definitely going to be successful at this, it’s just so competitive. Acting is that subjective right, you may think you’re perfect for a role but someone doesn’t like, doesn’t think you’re right for it, you never know. All you can do, the way I see it, is you can go in there and do the audition, give your version of the role and if they like it, it’s yours. Growing up I did a fair bit of sport and kind of fell into a drama class in school and I just really loved it. It kind of became like a progression, where I was acting more and more and I ended up doing a lot of fringe theater and the next thing I knew I was auditioning for drama school, went through that process and fell in love with it. The more I did it the more I fell in love with it and it became the only thing I wanted to do. When I decided to do it as a career, I mean when I do something I do it one hundred percent, I don’t do it half-assed, so that’s what I did and it, fortunately, has turned out all right. Still, every job I do I think, this could be the last one, and when you have a family those pressures become a little bit more, so you’re always thinking about making sure you can provide as well. With that said, auditions have become an enjoyable experience now, if they like what I do it’s great, if not then ok, next one.
Bloodbath and Beyond: You’re no stranger to action, fantasy, you’ve always been on screen for that, whether it’s big or small. Would you ever consider getting into something like the horror genre, because with The Umbrella Academy it got a little dark, you’ve been on Game of Thrones, you’re no stranger to gore, so would you consider being in a horror movie?
Tom: Yeah, my very first movie was a horror movie, I ended up getting killed, I got impaled onto a spike, through the head. But yeah I’d love to, I’ve actually started to produce a lot as well and we’re looking at a lot of horror scripts because horror is really fun to do and you can usually do it in a fairly cheap way. As long as you have a great story, great characters and a great crew lined up, they’re relatively easy to make. To be in one, yeah, that would be great, if it was a really great horror script, that would be brilliant.
Bloodbath and Beyond: Would you want to be the killer or be on the other side?
Tom: Good question. It depends what the killer was, what his motives were…it was be interesting to be a killer, yeah.
Media: What did you think of the last episode of Game of Thrones?
Tom: Honestly? I haven’t watched it. I’m not one that jumps on the hype patrol, so I’ve seen some of season eight but I haven’t seen the ending. I’ve heard the fans are very divided but for me, from my personal point of view, regardless of what the last episodes were like, when I saw that petition to get it re-written I felt really bad for the writers because they’d given these fans, who adore the show, seven and a half seasons that they love, adore and have fallen in love with, they’ve put their heart and souls into this project, for those fans to turn around and say, we want more capable writers, I think it’s really disrespectful to them, that’s my point of view, personally.
I want to thank Tom for taking the time to talk with us