"Just enjoy every moment as it comes." Thomas Doherty on Disney, Dove and One Direction
As one of the stars of the new TV adaptation of High Fidelity, it seemed only fitting that we quizzed Thomas Doherty on a few of his personal Top Fives – from 'Members Of One Direction' to 'Favourite Things About His Girlfriend'
Some interviews can be a bit of a struggle (or so I'm told).
Some interviews, however, can be a total blast – like having a chat with a mate down the pub, a mate who happens to have 4.4m followers on Instagram and a jawline so chiselled you could probably carve a sculpture with it.
Enter Thomas Doherty. A 24-year-old actor with a dazzlingly bright future, a wicked sense of humour, and zero pretensions whatsoever. (Well, he is Scottish.)
Like a host of megastars before him, Doherty got his break via Disney, starring in The Lodge and the Descendants franchise. The latter introduced him to girlfriend Dove Cameron (34.3m Instagram followers), and a relationship regularly cooed over by the population of a large European country (their combined followers equate to roughly the population of Poland).
His latest project is High Fidelity, the ultra-hip TV adaptation of Nick Hornby's seminal 1990s novel; one that has relocated to Brooklyn and turned its 30-something male protagonist into Zoe Kravitz. (It works amazingly well.)
As fans of the book, film or TV show will know, Top 5 lists recur regularly throughout – so we asked Doherty a few of his.
We also discussed graduating from Disney, life in the public eye, and why playing a villain is just more fun.
We hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as we did conducting it.
Have you read High Fidelity?
I did read it for the TV show. I actually read it when I was younger. I really, really loved the book, and the film with John Cusack. When I heard about the series I thought, 'should we touch it?' But the concept of the gender swap, and the fact Zoe Kravitz was attached to it, the whole thing sounded really exciting and cool.
The trailer looks great, and the gender swap seems totally natural. Zoe's Rob looks very similar to the book version of the character...
Yeah, so much. They really honoured it. Nick Hornby was quite involved in the process because we wanted to stay as true as possible to the script. Throughout the whole process he was really delighted with it all, and that's kind of the highest compliment you can get.
It's really cool as well. There's quite a lot of heavy duty TV going on at the minute, and I think this will be quite refreshing. It's cheeky and it's charming.
Are you playing one of Rob's exes?
I'm one of the exes, yeah. [Chuckles.] I'm the equivalent of Zoe Kravitz's mum [Lisa Bonet], who played Marie Le Saint in the film. [A very cool musician. Obviously. She's played by Lisa Bonet.]
That must've been a little odd...
It got weird when it came to the sex scenes, I'm not gonna lie. I actually mentioned it once and it got quite weird.
At least you didn't take out your phone and play a YouTube clip...
[Laughs.] Put some speakers on in the background.
When the book came out in the 1990s, Rob was seen as a classic example of a certain type of man - loves music, makes lists, emotionally stunted. It's interesting a woman can play the part today and it seem a totally natural fit...
Yeah, definitely. Back then, the whole patriarchal 'this is the way men are', and women need to act like women - together, one man, all the rest of it - that's definitely gone. It definitely seems a lot more equal in the sense that women don't have to abide by this strange way of being that patriarchal society has thrust upon them. Have you ever been to Brooklyn?
I have. A couple of times...
That's so forward thinking, and so to film the show there made a big difference as well. You get up every morning, you'd go for your coffee, and before you went to the set there'd be gender-neutral bathrooms, and loads of pride flags.
It's a really, really cool, progressive area. And you're surrounded by that vibe, and then you go onto set. It was a really cool, fun job to do.
Last time I was in Brooklyn, I stayed above a gay club that put on a nudist night every Tuesday. Next time you're there, check it out...
[Laughs.] Yeah, definitely!
Presumably at 24, you're too young to have a Top 5 Exes list like Rob?
I am, yeah.
But as you're a big One Direction fan – top five members of One Direction?
Ah, it's gotta be Harry at number one. Always.
And then Zayn, I know that's a bit controversial, but Zayn number two: he's a very talented guy.
Then Niall, then Louis, and then Liam. I think Liam's got a really good voice, but he's just a bit of a melt. [Laughs.]
He's just one of those guys who's old before his time...
Yeah. Even the way he speaks is just like, 'Uncle Liam.' Poor guy. But he's really talented.
You get a bit caught up: 'Oh my God, I've been verified! Oh my God, a million followers!'
You played Harry Hook in Descendants 2 – I'm guessing actors like Zac Efron have made it easier to transition from Disney star to more adult roles...
You have to be smart. I think being British, I never grew up with Disney. It was almost like a very exciting opportunity to break into acting, as opposed to fulfilling this dream. In America, it's like, 'wow, you're working for Disney!' When I came across that was very much the attitude on set.
It's, like, incredible to get up there. Which it was, it really was incredible, but being from Britain you're not as emotionally invested and attached as someone who's been brought up with it. That made a massive difference. I think I went in with more foresight about what's gonna come next, and not get lost in the Disney thing.
It was amazing to work with them, and an amazing stepping stone, and an amazing start. These days, you need Instagram, Twitter followers, all that shit, and it really served its purpose for that.
But so far, I've worked with Helen Mirren in Catherine the Great, and High Fidelity, and there's swearing and there's sex in both. It hasn't been too jarring.
Did you speak to any of your Disney predecessors about how to handle the transition?
I don't think I did. Everyone's experience with it is so entirely different, and I'm very much a 'in the moment, take it as it comes' person. I'm very fortunate to have a very solid family unit that's Scottish, and very grounding. And a good group of friends back home as well.
It is a weird thing. It's very exciting at the start, but then it kind of becomes your new normal. You stop dwelling on it so much, and thinking about it so much, and then you get back to the way you started again.
Cos you do, you get a bit caught up: 'Oh my God, I've been verified! Oh my God, a million followers!' You get caught up in all that bullshit. Which is OK, which is fine, which is natural, but when that passes you do return back to the work, the acting. I think with even more vigour because that whole thing has happened already, so it's kind of ticked the box in a type of way.
But then some people never leave, some people never tick that box. Just love fame!
A lot of Disney stars get really hardcore in their twenties. Bella Thorne directed a porn film. Justin Timberlake did FutureSex/LoveSounds. Zac Efron had that film where someone peed on him. It doesn't sound like you're gonna do anything that drastic?
[Laughs.] Nah, I did all that in college! I got it all out of the way! No, I'm really lucky that I went to college in Edinburgh for a few years. You do get a lot of stuff out of your system. But I've not had anyone peed on me!
When I came into [fame], I was ready for it, I was a bit older, and that definitely helped. But everyone has their own challenges with it, and their weird subconscious ones as well that you didn't really expect. You just have to take it as it comes. Trust yourself.
Number one city would have to be New York. It's a bit cliched but everyone has their own experience of it
If you had two cultures that were diametrical opposite, I'm not sure if you can get much further apart than the archetypal Scot and the archetypal LA person...
[Laughs.] It was definitely a culture shock! It's like a weird, pop-up town. It's such a strange place! But after a couple of years in LA, I have fallen in love with it. You get into the groove of the place.
I lived in London for a while, and London happens to you; with LA, you have to make it your own, and it takes a while to do that. But I'm two years in, and I'm feeling more settled now.
I've always found LA very lonely...
Yeah. It's such a young city. London and Edinburgh are old, old cities, and so there's a weight to them, there's a depth to them. You can almost feel that well-established energy. Out here, it's so young, it's almost like a pop-up town. It's very light, and there's not a lot of soul to the place. You do have to really find that.
OK... Top 5 Cities?
I think number one would have to be New York. I really like Brooklyn, Williamsburg, even Manhattan, it's really cool. So I'd probably say New York: I know it's a bit cliched but everyone has their own experience of it.
Number two, Vancouver. Beautiful city and the nicest people. It's so beautiful, man, honestly.
Number three, Barcelona. Loved it.
Number four...number four I'd probably say Paris.
And then number five, I'm going to round it off with Edinburgh. I love Edinburgh.
Dove's got the most incredible eyes... God, I feel like I'm singing a One Direction song
You kinda have to. You don't want to get beaten up when you go home. Having quite literally forgotten where you came from.
[Laughs.] I think my gran would do that!
I'm terrified to go back to Barcelona. I went with my ex, and I'm worried it will bring back all these memories...
I went with my ex as well! [Laughs.]
Yeah! And I don't want to go back either! Cos I'm going to be like, 'oh, that's the street where...'
Let me know when you do. We can go together!
We'll go together! [Laughs.] Have a tour of heartbreak city!
Your current relationship with Dove Cameron is very much in the public eye. Do you find that weird at all?
Yeah. It was weird at first. It was pretty weird at first. But now it's not weird at all.
The only thing that's quite hard for me is that my girlfriend can get very anxious when she's out and about, and people take pictures of her and come up to her and stuff. I'm quite protective about her in that sense.
But in terms of us as a relationship and being in the public eye – I don't know, it's cute that people enjoy us together. Better that than the other! People are very supportive and stuff, which is really nice.
But no...I just love her. It doesn't affect the relationship at all.
This may be the soppiest question I've ever asked, but Top 5 Favourite Things About Your Girlfriend?
[Laughs.] Aw, only five? Top five. OK.
I'd say her... her personality. That's all-encompassing how kind and loving and patient she is, as well as how funny she is. Yeah. Just all of it.
[Pause.] I'm not struggling to find stuff, I'm just not sure what to say next...
She's got the most incredible eyes: there's so much depth and life to them. God, I feel like I'm singing a One Direction song here.
Number three... she's got a really hot body!
Four? She's incredibly talented; I love listening to her sing. Sometimes for auditions you have to do self-tapes, and I get to watch her acting all the time. That's quite a treat. She's so good at it, she's so talented.
And number five? How much she loves animals. Sometimes she'll cry over them. And I love animals!
What's your favourite animal? I'm not going to ask you Top Five Animals...
[Laughs. A lot.]
Be a good person, work hard. Just enjoy every moment as it comes
Last couple of questions. You definitely have a Bond vibe going on in the photoshoot. Is that an ambition?
You know what? It used to be when I was younger: I always thought I'm going to be the next Scottish James Bond. I wouldn't say no to the part, but I'd really love to be a Bond villain. I think that would be so cool.
Javier Bardem, Christoph Waltz... I don't know what's wrong with me but I just love the villain parts. They’re so interesting and to play one would just be the most fun!
So yeah, I'm not averse to playing Bond, but I think a Bond villain is definitely more my calling.
Main baddie or deformed henchman?
Either. Every baddie in any film - I've got a massive poster of Heath Ledger as The Joker above my bed. I just love it! I think it's cos they animate so differently; there's such an intensity. I know it's like a bad energy, but the intensity's still there, and it's very peculiar, and it's so fascinating and enjoyable and indulgent.
[As we’ve already overrun on time, Square Mile manages to resist the urge to ask Top Five Bonds / Bond Villains. For what it’s worth: Connery, Brosnan, Craig, Moore, Dalton / Scaramanga, Goldfinger, Franz Sanchez, Alec Trevelyan, Max Zorin. Over to you, Tom...]
Any ambitions for the next few years?
I have a foundation that I know that I want to put to acting, and I know that I want to have an enjoyable, contented life. But apart from that? Specific goals, people have five year plans – I really don't have that.
I had had that before, and when you do have that you have expectations, and obviously you're never going to fulfil those expectations and so you're left a little disappointed, always.
I encourage my little sister as well, just to be as open as possible – not a 'yes man' but be in flow with life and see where it takes you.
Be a good person, work hard. Apart from that? Just enjoy every moment as it comes, as much as possible.
That was a very wise answer, and a lovely note to end on. Thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it.
No, it's been lovely, lovely speaking to you, man!
High Fidelity premieres on Hulu 14 February