Tom Burke is a TV, film and stage actor best known for features like The Libertine, Casanova and Dragonheart. He also played Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at London’s famous Globe Theatre. Tom boasts a wide range of special skills, from stage fighting to horse riding to tango!
This interview was featured in the May 2006 issue of Left Clip, our magazine for young people which has since been discontinued.
Lots of our readers will recognise you from the various roles you’ve played on the big and small screen. Can you give us a whistle-stop tour of the ones you’ve enjoyed the most?
The theatre work I’ve enjoyed most would have to be Gertrude The Cry by Howard Barker, who also directed it. I think he’s arguably the most exciting theatre writer around. He writes without sentiment or moral assumption. The television work I’ve enjoyed most would have to be State of Play and Bella and the Boys
I know you trained at RADA, but how did you first get into acting and what would you say inspired you to pursue such a competitive career?
Acting allows you to be different day to day. That’s particularly important to me because I think that there is a huge pressure in life to have a consistent personality and I think that can bring us further and further away from our essence. I get very annoyed when I do or say something and somebody says “That’s SO the sort of thing you do.” We put the pressure on ourselves too, I have friends who I can’t get out of the habit of being the clown around or a sort of listening mother figure. If I’m playing a part I can cut those ties without people saying “But I thought you liked your tea with two sugars” or whatever.
I believe one of your special skills is tango! Does that ever come in handy?
I’ve never had to tango in a job yet. There’s a Japanese play called Tango At The End Of Winter that I really want to do when I’m older. I partly started learning for that, it’s also a great healer for a broken heart.
What would be your dream role and what advice would you give to somebody looking to follow their dream into acting?
I think dream roles are always changing because for me anyway it’s about exploring elements of yourself that you haven’t before. I think one thing I would say to people who want to act is that if you really believe you’re good, then honour your talent by getting some proper training. Three years, even if you’ve already gone to university. It will go by in a flash and it will give you a chance to really experiment and take risks. Teenagers feel like they’re running out of time. There is no rush, people come out of Drama School looking younger – it’s kind of creepy.
How do you relax after a long day filming?
I read or watch telly. Filming is unbelievably draining, far more than theatre because it’s full of stops and starts, so I usually don’t go out much while I’m on a job.
Carmit Bachar (of the Pussycat Dolls) told Left Clip that agents often attempted to put her off the entertainment industry. They thought her cleft lip would hold her back and warned her not to get her hopes up. What would you say about that sort of attitude?
Well of course it’s a horrible thing to be told. I think the mainstream side of the industry can often get anxious about anything a bit different but the mainstream side of the industry is not the whole industry. The thing about Carmit and the Pussycat Dolls is that they’ve got a cult following and they’ve got that because they have a very clear and individual idea of what they want to do with their music.
Do you feel having a cleft lip has made any difference, good or bad, to your life?
For me, it’s only been positive.
How do you cope with all those camera lenses peering at you, or getting up on stage in front of hundreds of people?
This is going to sound obvious but I think you just have to put your attention on the people/person you’re talking to and not yourself.