Making his professional theatre debut doing Shakespeare, at the Globe, opposite Mark Rylance, Aaron Pierre didn’t so much jump in at the deep end as go scuba diving in the Mariana Trench. But when you’re ready, you’re ready, and his portrayal of Cassio in last year’s production of Othello proved Pierre could share the stage with Britain’s greatest living thespian. With roles in Krypton and Britannia, the South Londoner is equally adept on stage and screen.
What’s been your favourite role so far?
I am at a very early point in my career so have a pretty short resume, ha! They are all my favourite. I am so thankful to have had the opportunities that have come my way. Every role has been a joyous experience.
You were in Othello – how much Shakespeare have you done?
Professionally I have been part of one Shakespeare play, and Othello was my professional theatre debut. Prior to that, I did performing arts at Lewisham College where we studied Shakespeare. I then went to LAMDA where Shakespeare is a large part of the curriculum and studied for three years. Playing on the Globe stage was a dream come true, and I am so thankful for the experience. We began rehearsals in June and our final show was in October; I learnt something new every single day, and loved every moment. There are many other Shakespeare characters I would love to play, such as Mark Antony (Julius Caesar) and Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet).
What’s the most fun you’ve had on set?
Every day on set is brilliant. Filming Krypton, not one day goes by without us either discussing something fascinating or laughing uncontrollably. It’s a big family.
What’s the strangest thing that you’ve had to do for a film/TV show?
I haven’t been required to do many strange things but while filming season one of Britannia, MacKenzie [Crook] and I had some pretty intense scenes filmed at a location around 90 mins out of Prague, among these towering, imposing hills. You might spot those scenes in episode one.
Do you have any on-set routines?
When on set, I always have my headphones. Sometimes there will be an extended period of time between scenes and listening to music during that time helps me to stay in whatever place the scene may require. When doing theatre, I like to feel in tune with the stage. As an example, I might lay flat on the stage floor for a very long period time. It sounds funny saying it out loud, but yeah, that’s what I do!
If you could play any figure, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Muhammad Ali. He is an enormous inspiration for me and I will continue to be inspired by him forever. I have a poster of him that says: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” The Greatest!
What talent do you have that’d surprise us?
I really enjoy writing, and I love to share poetry or lyrics that I have written at open mic events – the energy at these events is amazing, and always goes through the roof.
You’re playing the titular role in King Hedley II – tell us about the play.
King Hedley II is a play written by August Wilson, set in 1985. It is the ninth play from Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle; also known as ‘Century Cycle’. It premiered at the Pittsburgh Public Theater in December 1999 and follows six characters on their quest for redemption. There are moments of joy and there are moments of darkness but neither is ever too far away at any one point.
What’s been your favourite DC film?
I have too many to name them all! The Dark Knight, Man of Steel, Wonder Woman and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice – and that’s just a few…
If you weren’t an actor, what would you do?
If I wasn’t an actor, I would definitely aspire to be a professional sprinter. Growing up I wanted to be the fastest person on the planet. I was obsessed with athletics!
King Hedley II is on at Theatre Royal Stratford East from 17 May. Krypton S2 comes to E4 later in 2019.