Photographed by Gigi Umbrasaite, Harry organically moves through space like rolling thunder in a brewing storm, where he feels a constant energetic pull to continue creating and working in the realms of acting. The art of story-telling leads a large part of Harry’s world, where at an early age he began his pursuits and ambitions in acting with the support and love from his family. Since then, Harry has taken on the role of Robert Spearing in the HBO/BBC Two series Industry, and is set to star in Scott Cooper’s Netflix original titled The Pale Blue Eye, a gothic murder mystery which is landing on Netflix this Friday.
Harry dives into the scenery in dapper brilliance. Styled by Bethany Ferns, Harry is a true chameleon in his craft. He saunters alongside muted brick walls in neutral greys, blacks and beiges, then gracefully extends an embrace of ebullient greens amongst soft landscapes and verdures. Harry moves through layers in a versatile array of textured sweaters and warming coats, with patterns hosted in a variety of harmonious hues. An armour he wears well, Harry is ready for any weather or new thrilling experience that may be on the brink of discovery.
Holding himself in a space where growth is always on the horizon, he is constantly shifting and sculpting in his everyday life. I sit on the edge of my chair enthusiastically as Harry and I bounce around the concept of what being in our twenties has consisted of thus far. The transformations, the enigmatic and welcomed realisations of how to positively and productively hold space with other people, and the constant exchanges of energy that cannot be escaped. We jump like cats from cloud to cloud, agile and curious, looking in every direction and landing softly into the past, present and future. Each thought exudes warmth and translucence as Harry humbly expresses his successes, ambitions, and the enchanting love and admiration he holds for the people he surrounds himself with. Somehow, his spellbinding energy has travelled all the way across the pond from England.
Discover Harry Lawtey in 'Pale Blue Eye' arriving at cinemas on 23rd December 2022 or on Netflix on 6th January 2023.
Okay, let’s start simple. Who is Harry Lawtey?
What an interesting question to kick off with. I mean, it's hard to fully objectify yourself, you know? I'm 25. I'm from England, but I grew up in Cyprus; that's a big part of me, because my dad's in the military. I love acting, I love football, and I love music. And who am I as a person? Hopefully, you know, I've got a good heart, I'm loyal to the people that I love, and I always want to have a nice time!
What puts a smile on your face?
It's another cheesy answer. To be honest, the first thing that comes to mind when you ask the question is spending time with my friends. I've realised it in a very full way over the last two years, especially during the pandemic when everyone's lives were kind of thrown into some kind of flux. I actually have the best friends in the world. I genuinely don't know what I've done to deserve them, but I have several really supportive and close people to me that I trust a great deal, and they all have different roles within my life. I'll go to different people for different things, because they have their own brilliant qualities. Even if I'm just hanging out at the pub or going for a walk with them, I get a bit of a fuzzy feeling because, maybe it's a bit gloomy, but I'm at an age where you realise you're becoming an adult and life seems to be going at a pace that is exciting but also a bit alarming. You think, some people in my life might not be here forever, especially family members that are a bit older. But I've got these great friends. That's an amazing reassurance, and they're going to be here for as long as I'm here. I think that means you're ready for anything.
Yeah, definitely. I think the early and mid-twenties is where you start knowing how to exchange energy with people in a beautiful way that really resonates with everyone involved.
Right, and it's funny that I’m 25 now, and I’ve realised I'm closer to 30 than I am to 20. I don't necessarily look at myself as a young person anymore. Most of our lives we've been the youngest people in the room, and now we’re not. There are these rotations that happen as a grown up. There’s much more possibility now that you can go out and do whatever you like and make certain choices. But also, you've got to live up to whatever idea you’ve had of what you might be. It's a confusing time. I think I probably spend too much time thinking about all that.
What in your life feels meditative?
I love listening to podcasts and music. You can switch off, and even in a chemical way you get good responses in your body. You get these endorphins that are good for you, make you feel better and more positive, and give you more energy. That relates to my whole life as well, even in my work. I feel most peaceful when I'm working, and it's the space in between working where I get restless. My key to meditation is activity. Meditative is quite a good word for how exercise feels to me actually, because that's why I like it and why I do it as much as I can. I definitely haven't always been this way with exercise. I've gone through phases in my late teens and early adult life where I exercised just because you're aware of yourself and your body, and you have some kind of material goal. I’m definitely on my way past that now, and I know for sure the main reason I exercise and stay active now is for far more than just my body.
How important is it to have a sense of grounded-ness in both your career and everyday life? How do the two differ?
Career and life in this profession intertwine probably too much. Sometimes to an unhealthy level, but that's also just the nature of the job. You have to give a lot of yourself to make it work, where you’re involving your own personality and ego into the characters. It can become a bit of a fragile thing at times.
This job as well can be really, really exciting and fun, and a complete ride. But then also, once it’s arrived, you're always searching for more. Everyone I know my age is naturally very hungry. I never feel too grounded, if I'm honest. But what I’ll say is I'm glad to have my own home soon. I've been lucky to have worked in different countries and different places, only sleeping in the same bed for no more than a couple months. And that can be thrilling, but there comes a point where I want some roots. So, having my own home will help with that. I’m confident that it will actually really help with a sense of grounded-ness.
How do more serious and emotional roles affect you?
I think most actors thrive and gravitate towards those kinds of roles. That's when work feels most like work, when you make a leap and have the courage to try and do something as authentic as you can. That sounds a bit self-indulgent, but to do something emotional and really do it properly because you think it's important to someone, it’s a brave thing. But of course, it does come with challenges as well.
For me, personally, there's always been a safe distance between me and work, where it doesn't affect me too much in my personal life. It's always a learning curve. There are a lot of days that can be very demanding on an emotional level. It’s good for me to realise that I can create a distance from the character, where it does feel like work and it's about something bigger. It’s a bigger thing than you - you're just a cog in it and the size of your cog varies from production to production, but you’re just a cog, you know?
Are there boundaries or walls you have to put up for yourself in certain roles? Anything you had to step away from and re-evaluate or see from a different angle?
I've definitely had the experience with characters I've played where they merge closer towards me over time. And that can be a nice thing. Sometimes it can be frustrating as well, because if a character is very similar to you I never feel like I'm doing anything, and I feel like a bit of a fraud. But there’s going to be a part of you in every character. So, even if the character is a million miles from me, it’s never about having to put up this big wall. There’s never some mental exercise I’ve had to do.
My favourite part of being an actor is the personal aspect of turning up to a workplace that has hundreds of different people there. They're all experts in their field and are already interesting, unique people from different backgrounds, and you just get to have fun with them and be part of that team. That's genuinely my favourite thing about being an actor. It's the thing that never lets me down. And it's the thing that makes me most happy and gets me up in the morning. I think if I was to be quivering in the corner of a room, trying to focus on being in some kind of state, I would miss making friends with people and having a good time. You should only really do this job if you enjoy it. It can be easy to lose sight of that at times because it can become very serious, especially in your own head where you have a lot of responsibility and pressure. But if you're not enjoying it, don't bother.
There’s this sense of community in the work that seems really important.
There’s definitely a huge sense of community in the work. But what's funny is it’s a very intense community that you live with for months, then all of a sudden there's a stop day and everyone goes back to where they came from. It’s very lovely, but also a little sad. I've been working professionally for four years, so not too long, but I've already had about six or seven of those really tight knit units, where you can have a real level of trust and friendship. But then you say your goodbyes and thank yous for the last time, and just move on to the next one. It's a strange kind of community because it's intense and loving, but then fleeting. And, of course, I still have friends from previous productions, but everyone's so busy and in different places that you have to just take it as it comes.
You recently finished filming for Scott Cooper’s The Pale Blue Eye opposite Lucy Boynton, Christian Bale and Harry Melling. What can you tell us about the film and your role in it?
I’m not sure how much I can say actually, because the role I'm playing hasn’t been shared yet. But it's based on the novels, so if people really want to know they can read the novel! It's quite gritty and suspenseful. And in that Gothic way, it's got its own mood and atmosphere that’s very brooding. It was a really brilliant time in my life, making the film, and I was very grateful to just be involved. Also, some people working on it are at the top of the game, both in acting and cinematography and directing, so I felt lucky to be there. It was a real adventure and I hope that people enjoy the film.
With the apparent gothic theme of the film, how did it feel stepping into that universe? I imagine it’s similar to dreaming up worlds as a kid.
Yeah, it's fun. It definitely takes you back to being a kid. There’s that phase you go through when you're a kid, when you play dress up and do little performances or whatever. I think a lot of actors, certainly for me, just stuck around for that phase. Doing a film like this takes you back to that phase in a really nice way, because all the costumes in the film were tailor made by these brilliant costumers. They were so specific and authentic to the period, and there’s so many intricate layers to it all. Like, there's a right way of doing all the buttons, and in a way you put this sort of pageantry on top of what is often a very practical job. You have to turn up and try to execute what you had planned, then the aesthetic of it all gives an extra level of fun and silliness. You really are playing make believe, especially when you're in these amazing locations where there's ornate fireplaces and massive snow covered graveyards. It's movie magic, I suppose.
Yeah, movie magic. I love that. Do you personally like horror and thriller films?
Horror, no, I don't at all. I take no pleasure in being scared, so I am absolutely rubbish with watching that genre. I will never choose to watch one. It’s always against my will, which I really am gutted about as well, right? Because I know for a fact, especially in the last five years, there's been some really brilliant, game changing, critically acclaimed horror films. And I haven't seen a single one! I haven’t seen Get Out, Midsommar, or, you know, other very artistic horror films. It's like spicy food for me. I don't really get spicy food. It just tastes like pain, and I’m a bit like that with horror films. So yeah, because I’m such a wuss, I'm not a fan of the genre, I've got to be honest. But in a way, it's interesting to see how The Pale Blue Eye has been pitched in the media. Because I think there are horror elements in this film, but I don't think it's a horror film. In its DNA, it's more of a thriller. There are really interesting supernatural elements to it and whether there's any substance to them, which is a question that the film poses. But I don't think it's, in its DNA, a horror. It's much more of a thriller. Which I do enjoy. I really just don't need the jump-scares in horror films.
Do you have any phobias?
No, not any major ones. This comes to my mind now because it's summer, but I don't like sleeping in a room where there's loads of bugs. And that's fair, but what's funny is that I'm not afraid of bugs. Like, I will pick up the bug and try to remove it from the room. I just don't like the idea of being unconscious and the bug crawling on me. Especially on my head. Yeah, that bothers me. So, I don't have a phobia of bugs or insects or anything like that, I just don't want to sleep alongside them.
What parts of yourself do you put into each role that you take on?
It depends on the character, really. And that can be a physical thing as well. In practice, I think it’s about choosing what to lean into more within the character. It’s similar to if you’re having a good week and you're feeling good about yourself, your walk might change or something. I'm always thinking about how you can give over information to an audience through your body. Because often in television, especially with quite short dialogue at times, you need to maximise any chance you get to offer information and essentially tell more of the story.
Overall, it all really depends on the part. I suppose you enjoy bringing in the nice parts of yourself into a role, because you don't like thinking about the things in yourself that aren't as good. And everyone's got things that aren't as “good”. If you're a jealous person, or if you've got too much of a temper. I'm more inclined to put the things that I like about myself into the characters. That's only human, I suppose.
How does that also play into holding empathy for your characters? And, does holding empathy benefit the process of the creation?
For sure. I mean, with Industry particularly, one of the things I really like about the show is that the fans will have completely different favourites. There's no clear hero or villain, and people aren't good or bad. In a binary way, the show very much lets you decide. I think that's a current trend in television. There's other shows, particularly HBO shows, that are really good at presenting a character to you, and letting you make your judgement over the course of several episodes or seasons. And then in further episodes or further seasons, they go: by the way, this is what they’re actually like. So the audience gets tested and challenged to change their perception or route to different people. That’s what’s nice about Industry. Everyone watching seems to root for different people, which is fun! It's nice to make a show with a lot of complex characters. I think for us as the cast, obviously our characters are our favourites. We get to see the world from their eyes. You have to understand your character’s injustice in order to be able to play that, so you always have to sympathise with your character.
So far, I don't think I've ever played someone who has no redeeming features, or is just evil in a very obvious way. It's not an opportunity that I've had yet. But, if you think about it, there aren't many characters who are like that anyway. Because usually, bad people don't think they're bad people. Well, maybe they do, but I think most people are the hero in their own story. You see the world through your own eyes, and I think that’s also something actors have to try and do in a role. It's ultimately the way most people live their lives in the real world.
In Industry specifically, there are themes that are at times dark and gritty, especially within the topics of youth and mental health. How important do these narratives feel for you in the current times we are living in?
Yeah, absolutely. It's hard to say because I'm a bit biased within my generation. Like, age wise, I’m able to look back at when I was younger and what things were like then. And things change so rapidly. But if you're between the ages of 10 and 20 currently, I don't think there's ever been a time in history where there's such a huge pressure on individual mental health. And thankfully mental health is becoming so much less stigmatised, but it also creates a culture where you have to question your own relationship to mental health, because so much of it is out there in the media. There's both good and bad things to it. It's really hard for the younger generations, and it was hard enough when I was that age. I can't imagine being 15 right now.
There is a lot more about mental health in the media, especially with young people, because I think young people in the modern day are living a genuinely unique experience in relation to history. The landscape of culture is just so different. It’s important for television and film in general to reflect that because, at its best, that's really what it's for. That's the job. I don't want to get too idealistic about that. Because first and foremost, I actually think actors are supposed to be entertainers, and we're supposed to give someone an experience, whether that's laughter, or joy, or fear. It’s a bit like a distraction from whatever you have in your life that you might need distracting from. That, first and foremost, is the job.
If you take that one step further, if you have the opportunity, you're able to reflect society, or reflect the individual experience and help someone better understand what they're going through. You’re able to help someone to feel heard, represented, or see things in a broader scope. Sometimes we deify the media in an unhealthy way, but if you can feel seen by somebody who's on television, I think that's a meaningful experience. Also, if it's done well, and if it's done sensitively and authentically, you can really understand it and learn from it. You can even, at its very best, have a chat about it. I think television shows and films find their way from the screen to the dinner table. I have no idea if Industry does that specifically, but I know a lot of great creations on television now that are doing that. And I think we're better for it.
There are the aspects of escapism as well that play into those narratives. What feels like escapism for you personally?
Everyone has their own version of escapism. And, you're right, there has been a growth in this work with escapism in the media. At times it comes with some flack and criticism, which is unfair. But I don't think it's any coincidence that this generation has created a demand for it in the media, and gravitate towards superhero films or the breath-taking fantasy work that's being made. And even though Industry is a bit more true to the life we recognize when we walk on the street, it’s still a world in itself. It’s its own little universe. It's a bit more of a toxic kind than some of those other ones, but I say if it's a distraction then it doesn't matter, as long as it takes someone on a journey to something else. Job done, if you’ve created an experience.
For me, I find an escapism in music for sure. I love music, and I'm definitely guilty of that feeling of escapism. There are all these alternative realities, like say you’re on a train and you're listening to an album, looking out the window and your imagination runs wild. I’m definitely guilty of that. But I like to think that's not because I'm an egomaniac, it's because I really like music and it sparks imagination. Which is what it's supposed to do.
I suppose I also get consumed by football, as well. It's actually the first thing I ever loved in the world, really. The imprint of it is everywhere in my life, especially in terms of my family. I’m actually going to a game tomorrow with my dad. We’re driving two and a half hours, and I can't wait because it’s quality time and I love the sport, but also I love the community and experience around it. I love that experience with my dad, and it’s not that we necessarily need the game to bond, because I'm lucky to have a great relationship with my dad. But for so many families, it's the way in which they connect. It's a shared language, you know? It's a bond over something to create memories. Football is definitely one of my biggest escapes. I get consumed with football content each week, whether it's podcasts, watching highlights of games, or watching the match. When football stopped during the pandemic, there was a real absence of it in my life. I realised how many hours of my week was spent not thinking about work or other things, and instead simply thinking about this sport, played by a load of guys who I don't know! It's silly, when you really boil it down. It's a strange thing to be obsessed with, but I noticed the absence of it in my life when it wasn't there. It's a whole other world. You said “fantasy worlds” earlier, and that’s my fantasy world. Rather than Game of Thrones or something, it's the world of football where the players have this crazy life they live and do it for a living, which I'm such a fan of. That's my go-to world.
Definitely, the aspect of storytelling really drives expression and creation. What is it about storytelling that pulls you in and resonates with you?
I really like the aspect of storytelling, I suppose, for the obvious reasons. It taps into a part of my head that feels fun and exciting, and also a bit of a distraction. You know, life can be really mundane at times. But life isn’t mundane when you're seven years old, for example. I see it in my cousin's children if I'm ever hanging out with them. If you take them to the park, the world looks so great and so exciting, because there’s no consequence to their day in a very beautiful way. And their emotions are extreme, whether for good or for bad. If you’re seven years old, you're living life fully in a really visceral, brilliant way. Then as an adult if you’re watching a great story, especially at the theatre, you're with other people, you're all doing it together, and you've all agreed to be engaged in this thing. At home, someone may be talking or getting up to grab a snack and it ruins this engagement. But at the theatre, everyone has made a silent agreement to be part of this thing; to sit down and pause your life for a second to be entertained. It's the closest thing that makes me feel like I’m seven again.
I love that about theatre, especially in London. We've got an amazing history of theatres, and the theatre industry in London is one of the best in the world. All the plays in London, they’re two miles from one another geographically, and all the shows start around 7:30PM. So, even if I'm not going to see a show, but I happen to be in central London around 7:30PM, I love the idea that at this minute thirty different things are starting, and there's thousands of people all sitting down, showing up and agreeing to be involved. I think that's so weird and cool. And that happens every day! It's so strangely ritualistic. Even in the modern world with technology, we will still all agree in a place like a theatre to become completely engaged. That's so great, and not to be too wonky about it, but so human. It’s such a human thing to do. And it’s what story-telling does for us.
That’s such a lovely perspective. And especially even after the shows have ended, there’s still a buzz of energy within everyone as well.
Yeah, and I've been in London when everyone's coming out of the shows and they’re walking back to the tube station to go home. Everyone still carries on the light of the experience, like a little buzz. And it’s great, because all the shows are right next to each other in different buildings. So, some people have just been to see Wicked, others have seen Les Miserables, which are very different. And you can see it on everyone’s faces when they leave the shows. One audience was just watching this super hard hitting play, but next door they're all watching Mary Poppins. All these energies and experiences collide into each other afterwards on the streets.
What ambitions fuel or motivate you? Anything aside from acting?
This ties into what we were saying earlier about being in your twenties. In terms of ambitions, I think mostly about acting, because I'm in a part of my life where, unashamedly, my career feels like the most important thing. Apart from the more obvious important things like the family and friends, it really is my career. And actually, recently on a job, I spent a lot of time thinking about whether that's a good or a bad thing. Sometimes it definitely strays into a place where it's too much in my head. I start thinking too much about trying to be better, what the next step is, or living up to this feeling of ambition and the set ideas you put onto yourself. But at the same time, I know I’ve gotten to this place because of that feeling as well. I'm grateful for where I am, and that must be a good thing too.
I’ve landed on a conclusion with acting and this ambition, where it's not always great and has unhealthy aspects to it, but you can make peace with it. And for the time being, it is what it is. There's no point trying to manufacture some other interest or ambition if this is what you feel in your gut. I know that life will just happen, so it will change on its own. The reason I've thought about this a lot recently is because I was working very closely with someone who's a few years older than me, and she had a baby several months ago. She has this very small human to look after all the time, who's just gorgeous and great. It was so clear, just in speaking and working with her on a daily basis, that her life was much bigger than this work we were doing everyday, because she has an actual person to care for other than herself. It felt very reassuring and inspiring. And what's funny is this small human you have to care for might even make you better at the work as well. So, I think I do have long term ambitions of having a family and stuff like that, but I'm not there yet. And I can let that happen to me when it happens, and be safe in the knowledge that there will be a time in the future where my universe becomes bigger than the thing I do. At this moment in time though, I'm really committed to it and really hungry for it. And that's totally fine.
What feels most important to remind yourself of when jumping into new waters?
To have fun. I think I forget to have fun way too much. Because I care a lot - I want everything to be good, and I want it to count. Those are good things to care about. I don't want to stop caring about them, but I also want to enjoy it. I want to have fun because I’m ridiculously lucky. And all of the people I know are ridiculously lucky. We are the small percentage of people who genuinely have the things we want, and all have crazily privileged lives. Me, as much as anyone I know, because I do the thing that I love as a hobby and people pay me for it. Like, what a gift, you know? And if it stops being fun, then what are you doing? How have you managed to miss out on what a great thing this is? So, I'm determined to not let that happen. And I'm determined to remember to have fun.