THE SUNDAY TIMES
19 NOVEMBER 2017
Fresh from his turn in the hit Channel 4 drama Unspeakable, Luke Treadaway shares thoughts on Trump, Weinstein and why we’ve hit peak contouring. By Christa D’Souza.
Male actors always tend to look smaller in the flesh. Luke Treadaway, with whom I’m having a coffee in Shoreditch this rainy Tuesday morning, is no exception. He is tiny in real life, with feet maybe even smaller than my own. Not weirdly so — he’s still very handsome, in a way a younger amalgam of Eddie Redmayne and Damian Lewis, just a reduction of himself, a concentration, a confit almost.
“A confit, ha!” he laughs. “Or maybe a jus? Although perhaps that also has to do with the massiveness of screens we watch everything on now. Better a reduction than a watery, diluted version of myself, I suppose.”
Luke Treadaway: a familiar name, but not exactly a household one — he is often confused with his fraternal twin and fellow actor Harry Treadaway. Despite winning an Olivier award in 2013 for his West End performance as a 15-year-old with Asperger’s in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (he was also in War Horse at the National and appeared alongside Anne-Marie Duff in Saint Joan), his career choices since (Fortitude, Unbroken and A Street Cat Named Bob) haven’t quite catapulted him to superstardom. Not yet, anyway.
But that’s likely to change. You’ll have recently seen him in the brilliant Channel 4 drama Unspeakable, in which he played the sinister toyboy lover of a divorced mother. (I’m a sucker for those he-said-she-said series, where women drink chilled white wine in the daytime and a gravel driveway is always crunching in anticipation of some disaster.) Then, next year, there will be the Sky Arts series Urban Myths: When Bowie Meets Bolan, in which Treadaway plays Bowie and Jack Whitehall plays Marc Bolan — or David Jones and Mark Feld as the stars were known back in the 1960s. It’s hard to think of either of them pulling that one off, but when Treadaway shows me a still, on his woefully cracked phone screen, there he is with a fluffy blond do and the one brown contact lens, inhabiting, as it were, the young Bromley-dwelling Bowie. “It was scary, because he is such an icon of mine. But that’s exactly why I agreed to do it. It’s my rule,” he says. “If it scares me and I don’t want to do it, then I’ll do it.”
Wearing a charity-shop denim jacket, a “free” T-shirt and a woollen beanie low above his blue eyes, Treadaway is dressed today like any other off-duty actor hanging out in east London. It’s hard not to lump him into that somewhat indistinguishable crowd of Burberry Brit types — Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith et al — who decorate the front rows at London fashion week. But Treadaway, 33, is keen to point out, it is his brother who modelled for Burberry; he just gets lent the clothes. And he has never modelled, no way. Unless you count the Vivienne Westwood gig early on in his career, “because, if given the chance, who wouldn’t?”, or the recent Pringle of Scotland campaign he was cast in alongside Stella Tennant.
On his ring finger is a gold band, quietly proclaiming his recent marriage to long-time girlfriend and Street Cat co-star Ruta Gedmintas. You won’t read anything about it: they had a super-private ceremony in Somerset, followed by a not-at-all-grand honeymoon driving around Sri Lanka. They now live in Highgate, north London, and have a close-knit circle of actorly friends that includes Felicity Jones, Matt Smith and the playwright Polly Stenham, who used to go out with Harry. Until Luke got married, he and Harry shared a flat, “but we appear to be all right living without each other and speaking every day. I know some twins aren’t.” Harry is 20 minutes younger, but they do look alike (check him out in Fish Tank, Penny Dreadful and Mr Mercedes), and I can’t help asking if they ever played tricks on girlfriends. They haven’t, boringly, although one tabloid was fooled enough to accuse Luke of cheating, when Harry was going out with the actress Holliday Grainger. One of three — older brother, Sam, is a multimedia artist — brought up in a little village outside Crediton, in Devon, Treadaway couldn’t have led a more wholesome childhood. Highlights include being a daffodil in the village pantomime, playing endless games of knights and dragons in the neighbouring fields and getting to do a house swap with a family in Greenwich, southeast London. (They went to see Starlight Express, which sparked an obsession with skating.) His parents, an architect and a former primary-school teacher, were the sort of people who said: “If you’re bored, go outside and build a treehouse.”
Perhaps that’s why there’s no hint of swagger, nor, for that matter, that faux humility you somehow expect. Indeed, sitting here opposite me, with his gingery goatee and sweetly wonky teeth, railing about Brexit, the oil corporations, all the grain that cows are eating and therefore destroying the world’s rainforests, he almost strikes me as a friend my son might bring home from university. Especially when he goes off on one about Trump (an “embarrassment to the species”, “a f***head”, “a nasty racist”, are just some of the ways he puts it on his Twitter feed, which has a respectable 13.6k followers). Harvey Weinstein? “Well, I mean, he’s so toxic, such a snake. Do we even have to include him in this piece?” But yes, he allows reluctantly, they have met. It was after Weinstein saw him in Curious Incident. “I remember thinking on the morning, ‘The play is going well, this could be good.’ So we had a chat and afterwards he sent me a script. It turned out to be a shit script with a stupidly shit part that I don’t think ever got made, so, of course, I said no immediately, not really understanding why he’d suggested it in the first place.
“I know for a fact that he has been in situations where he’s tried to get phone numbers of women I know, been declined, and then called them up the next day. It makes me think, ‘How did he get those numbers? Who else has been in on this along the way?’”
Hollywood, it seems, is changing, and Tread–away is part of the new generation who won’t put up with the rules and pressures that previous generations have been used to, including the physical pressures. “I find it so strange, this kind of homogenisation of attractiveness. The idea that, in order to be attractive, you have to look like everyone else. I’m not here to judge, and each to his own, but what is there to be gained from it? I think it has reached its peak, though, like this trend among girls to look like Kim Kardashian. The contouring thing has got so out of hand, it has gone punk, essentially. I don’t see what there is to gain from it. Free the teeth, that’s what I say.”