Graeme Thomas King was on a bus ride to work when his new fate approached him in the form of Beatrice Basso. She invited him to audition for a short film she was creating, and that was the start of his transition from an office job onto movie sets. “I owe her a lot,” King told us in an exclusive interview, where he also explains the Meisner technique taught at William Esper Studio in NYC, where he later attended to bolster up his expertise. “The technique is very much focused on taking the attention off yourself as the actor and putting it on your scene partner, a task or something outside of yourself.” Now as a fully-immersed actor, Graeme has landed various exciting roles, including the new Pretty Little Liars spinoff, “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” alongside Sasha Pieterse, as well as the film “Greta” with Chloë Grace Moretz. Check out our exclusive interview and photoshoot with Graeme below. How to pronounce Graeme: “grey as in anatomy, ‘um’ as in ‘um how do I say your name?'” as he states in his insta bio“.)
How did you get “discovered”? apparently, it was on your way to work. What sort of job did you have before acting?
I wouldn’t say I was discovered exactly. I was on my way to the library in London, on the number 11 bus when someone asked me if I was an actor. Her name was Beatrice Basso and I owe her a lot. She herself was an actor and was creating a short film and wanted to know if I would like to audition for one of the roles. I’d never acted before so it was quite a shock and an alien concept to me. I was studying for my masters in business at the time and would eventually go on to have a brief spell in finance before deciding to try and pursue acting.
Were there any surprises as you transition from an office job onto an acting career?
Not really, I pretended I knew what I was doing then and I’m still pretending I know what I’m doing on set. I’m joking (partly), because the differences are obviously quite stark. The office as an actor is an undefinable thing, it can go from anything from the inside of a car to a green screen to a sound stage. All disciplines require hard work and this one is no different, however.
What was your first job as an actor?
I did a number of short films in New York and the UK prior to my first professional job. My first role came on Neil Jordan’s film Greta, which was recently released. That was a bit of a dream, to be honest, sharing space with Neil, Maika Monroe, and Chloë Grace Moretz. I had a tiny role which didn’t make it in the final cut of the film but none the less, it was a fantastic experience made special by very generous people. Thanks to Jina Jay the CD for giving me a chance.
How was working with the cast of Pretty Little Liars as a newcomer? Given that they had been working together for years before you came in – was the cast welcoming?
Well, it was only Sasha and Janel who came across from the original PLL, and I’ve felt nothing but love and support from them since the beginning of the journey. I think they’ve taken everyone under their wing a little bit, they’re certainly the guiding light, as Marlene and the other producers who have been involved in this universe for so many years. It really is a family and I’m lucky to be a part of it.
How did you get into character as Jeremy for “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists”? Tell us about your role.
When I initially read it he reminded me a lot of William Thacker played by Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. I used that a lot in the beginning. As filming has gone forward it has become obvious that Jeremy is a lot edgier, still very charming but certainly not to be messed with. He’s an incredibly intelligent guy who works for Hotchkiss Industries and is madly in love with Caitlin.
You are from the UK, where is home now?
London will always be home, and the UK will always be where my heart is. I love the traveling element of this job however and have been lucky to call New York, LA and recently Portland OR, home – even for the briefest of spells. I feel very much like a gypsy and have been living out of a suitcase for a number of years now. Long may that continue.
You went to William Esper Studio for acting school (NYC) where you learned the “Meisner technique.” Can you explain what that is and how you use it for your acting?
What stays with me very strongly from my time at the Esper studio is the adage that Bill passed down, that acting is doing truthfully under imaginary circumstances, and this is essentially what I learned at the studio. How to play in my imagination, how to behave truthfully under the imaginary circumstances of a scene. The technique is very much focused on taking the attention off yourself as the actor and putting it on your scene partner, a task or something outside of yourself. The first year of the training centers around the repetition exercise, which is most closely associated with the Meisner technique. Its an incredible tool for working from your instincts and fully listening to your scene partner, which for me is such a huge element of acting. Go watch Sam Rockwell in anything and you’ll see the Meisner technique in full flow, he studied with Bill and did the same program I did.
Who are your acting heroes? Have you met any of them yet?
I take a huge amount of inspiration from the people around me. Lashana Lynch is someone I have massive respect for and career-wise somewhere I aspire to be. She was recently in Captain Marvel and for me was the standout performance. Knowing how much hard work she’s put in to get to that point is incredibly motivating. Charlotte Hope is someone I met recently, I remember watching her in Game of Thrones as Myranda many years ago before I started acting and it was those type of performances that inspired me to take it up. She’s now the lead in The Spanish Princess. Again, knowing that hard work combined with high skill pays off in this industry is inspiring and keeps me going.
Any other upcoming projects on your radar?
I’ve got loads on my radar that I’m aiming for but I think I’ll keep them to myself for now.
Graeme Thomas King – all photography by Ilina Mustafina for The Untitled Magazine