Luke Pasqualino

For British Actor Luke Pasqualino, no character is out of reach emotionally, not even his character in Apple TV’s Shantaram

Luke Pasqualino is an actor known for what he calls brooding romantics. Since starting his career at 18, he has graced many TV screens, starred in films and, as of 2019, made a home for himself in theater. Luke was first catapulted into the public eye by the beloved teenage drama Skins, but has since lent his talents to a musketeer, an intergalactic commander, and a geisha, among many other colorful characters. His latest role for Apple TV is somewhat different. It adds villain, pimp and drug dealer to the list. 

Shantaram is an action-adventure based on Gregory David Roberts’ bestselling novel of the same name. It follows Lin (Charlie Hunnam), a man on the run who seeks asylum in the hustle and bustle of the underbelly of Bombay. Pasqualino’s Maurizio is only one of the so-called friends he connects with as he pieces together a new life. For the British actor, Shantaram is only the beginning of a very busy few years. He has several upcoming projects on his roster, which include Medusa Deluxe, the highly anticipated murder mystery from Tom Hardiman, the second season of Netflix’s hit fantasy series Shadow & Bone and the animated Lord of the Rings prequel, The War of Rohirrim. It’s likely audiences of all interests will find his talents on their screens in one form or another. Talent, it is clear, Pasqualino values and hones with each and every character he plays, brooding romantic or otherwise.

1883’s Sydney Bolen spoke with Luke Pasqualino about his new AppleTV series, how he feels about his character and his on-screen personas past, present and future.


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I was able to watch the first couple of episodes of Shantaram. I like it a lot. I was not surprised to find the writers also worked on The Punisher and Narcos. I know that this story went on quite a journey before its release on AppleTV+. What was your journey with the material – from the audition process to getting the scripts to production?

I got a phone call from my agent. She basically just said, “This show for Apple TV has come in called Shantaram. Have you heard of it?” I hadn’t read it, but I knew briefly what the story was about. So, I started to do a bit of research. I read parts of it online, and then I ordered the book on Amazon. But when it arrived, I saw that it was like 900+ pages, so there was no realistic way I could read it before I auditioned. However, from the pages I was sent, I knew about the character and obviously that I had to do it in an Italian accent. I put a tape together from that. Three or four days after I sent the first audition, I got a phone call with notes, but then I didn’t hear about it for a good couple of weeks. This was in the height of the pandemic, but nine times out of ten, if you don’t hear about a project for a certain amount of time, you just say, “okay, well, it’s not gonna go any further. Otherwise, they would have gotten in touch.” Out of the blue, my agent called with the offer. Originally, the color drained from my face. I wasn’t expecting her to say that at all. Other things were going on at the time. I was absolutely delighted when I got the offer. I couldn’t have been happier. Then, as they say, the rest is history.


It seems like a fun show to be a part of.

It was so much fun. The cast got on really, really well. Plus, it was nice to visit Thailand and Australia, albeit, with the lockdowns and restrictions in place. But, I’d like to think we made the most of the situation that we had. It’s nice to see fans’ reaction to the show. People seem to really be enjoying it. We had big shoes to fill with the book being so popular. When you’re filming something you never know how it’s gonna turn out, so to see that it’s turned out well and people seem to really be enjoying it is a big, big bonus.


When you first read the pages, what drew you to the role?

I felt like I sort of knew this character. He’s a small fish in a big pond. There was a lot of background character work that I did leading up to the filming because I got quite a long time to look at Maurizio before I was even flown out. I knew about the job well enough in advance that I could prepare a little bit. This is the first time I’ve ever played a bad guy, so to speak. I’ve always played that sort of brooding romantic hero, which I’ve never had a problem with. But it’s nice to spread my wings and do something slightly different. I was immediately drawn to the fact that it was set in the early 80s, which is an era that I’ve always been fond of because of the music and seeing pictures of my parents growing up in that age and the stories about what they used to get into and whatnot. Obviously, it’s all set in Bombay, but the 80’s definitely drew me to the role very, very, very quickly. That was very interesting.


You said this was your first time playing a “bad guy.” The show is full of characters that are not necessarily good, but they’re not necessarily the antagonists either.

Absolutely. He’s just a bit of a pest.


What kind of things did you do to get into that mindset?

A lot of it came from rehearsals because if you have an idea in your head of how you think the character is going to be or how the show is going to be shot, or the tone or the vibe, and then you get to production and find you were completely off, it can mess with you. In all honesty, there’s only so much prep you can do. I’ve made mistakes in the past of over-prepping and then getting on to set and the vibe and the tone being totally different to what I imagined it being. I think for me, it was important to know the dialogue, know the lines, know the world and then allow the character and the journey to develop as the filming process went on. I think the development of the character in any piece comes while you have it on its feet, and you’re actually shooting it.

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I’ve never heard that before. I like that. How do you personally feel about Maurizio?

I really like him. I think he’s one of those guys who is incredibly selfish, but it doesn’t make him bad. I think he has a very warped idea of reality. Maurizio has this idea in his head that he’s a bigger fish than he is. He’s just trying to do what everybody else in Bombay is doing. He’s trying to make a buck and take the easy way out. But he ends up getting involved in some, not always sticky, situations, which you will see as the series develops. 


Without giving anything away, what is one piece of advice you would give your character?

Slow down. Take stock of what you’re doing. Think a little bit more about who it is you’re willing to get into a business relationship with.


They’re all about fast rewards in Shantaram.

They just want to make that quick buck.


To be completely honest, I am a big Skins fan. I remember my friend’s big sister watching it when I was younger, but I watched it for the first time in 2018. Freddie was my favorite. How do you think you’ve grown as an actor since then?

Oh, my God. I like to think I’ve grown loads. But I was also the actor at 18 years old doing Skins that thought I was doing a really good job as well. I can’t even watch them. I saw it’s on Netflix at the moment and they’re revisiting it on the E4 streaming platform in which it came out on so it still has an audience. It makes me cringe to see myself at that age. That was my first ever job in the acting world, so it was very bizarre. I was thrust into the fire or into the deep end with the nature of the show – the sex scenes and all of that sort of stuff. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way from where I was when I was 18. If I haven’t, then there’s a very big problem. But, everybody has to start somewhere. I’m incredibly grateful that I had that as my springboard into the industry.


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Suit Brunello Cucinelli T shirt Sunspel

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I remember how beloved it was when it first aired. Is there anything that you know now that you wish you’d known then?

Lots of things. When you’re trying to get your foot in the door of this industry, it’s daunting, it’s difficult. You never really quite know what to make of it or what’s around the corner, but at the same time, I wish I would have taken the whole thing a little bit more seriously. Skins was a very strenuous audition process. When I got the offer, I thought “the hard work was done” and I dropped my guard a little bit. This is the first time I’ve said this, and I have been man enough to admit it, but I definitely wish I’d have thought about things more and taken things a little bit more seriously.


I think a lot of that has to do with that age. I have things from when I was 18 that I wish I took more seriously.

It does. When we went back for our second season, season four in general, I had seen the scale of what that show was and how it changed my life overnight. There was an added pressure to do better and to do well. By that time, I had watched myself back on screen for the first time and thought, “oh my god. This is just bad.” I think that really put a rocket up my backside and made me focus. My focus definitely shifted a lot when we were doing season four. Nothing can prepare you to become a recognizable face, so to speak. Looking back, I have no regrets, but if I had to give myself a word of advice, it would be to focus more on what was going on.


Speaking of how you’ve grown, in 2019 you made your stage debut. In an interview with Broadway World you said you felt like experience made you a better actor and made you step out of your comfort zone. Now that it has been a few years, are you thinking about doing more theater?

Honest to god, I was having this thought today. I want to do another play. My stage experience at the Donmar was amazing. It was a comfortable enough entrance into the medium because I didn’t have incredible amounts to do, but it was still uncomfortable enough that I worried every single night before going on stage. I loved the challenge. I saw this amazing interview with Sophie Okonedo. She’s an incredible actress, and she’s very well-versed in the theater. She said that you can’t consider yourself a well-versed actor unless you have this relationship in the theater. On screen, you have everything that you have whilst doing a play, but you don’t have the audience. There aren’t any words to describe how it feels to act in front of an audience. I did that play for seven weeks, and I still to this day can’t quite describe the feeling that you get when you walk out onto that stage, even though it’s a very intimate theater. The audience really is the extra cast member. You feed off them so much. I think performing on stage is only ever going to make you a better actor. It makes you think about things that you wouldn’t otherwise think about. If you mess up on set, you have the safety blanket of being able to go again. You don’t have that in theater, which is an incredible feeling. It’s definitely something I’m looking at doing more of.


I look forward to seeing what you end up doing. 

Thank you very much. 


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Moving into 2023 and beyond, you have some pretty exciting upcoming projects. The first being the second season of Shadow and Bone. I am a massive Shadow and Bone fan, so I am very much looking forward to that. Since they are novels, the story is technically out there. Is there anything, in particular, you can’t wait for people to see?

As someone who is media trained, there is not a lot I can say. I will say this. As actors, we are not employed on the basis of how well we get on with each other extracurricularly. We’re employed on the basis of how well we can play a certain character, and if we get on with each other and the crew, that’s a bonus. With this job, I can honestly say I was working with some of my best friends. We also keep in touch now. I had a very long catch-up with Ben Barnes the other night and Archie [Renaux] and Jessie [Mei Li] and Freddy [Carter]. I’m working with Freddie’s brother at the moment, actually. We work in a very small industry. Shadow and Bone is definitely one of those things I’m excited for people to see. I’m excited for people to see how the characters develop, especially mine, obviously. As much as the first season was a huge success, there’re some good twists and some good plot points in this one. Fingers crossed, people enjoy it.


I think they will. [laughs] You are also currently tackling the animated Lord of The Rings prequel series: The War of Rohirrim. How did it feel to verbally step into that world? 

I’ve done voiceover stuff before but voicing a character in a movie like this is a first career fair to me, which I was incredibly grateful for. It’s definitely something that I would love to do again. My part is finished, but there’s still a very long way to go. It’s not coming out until 2024. It was an incredible experience. When you’re used to acting with the people and performing with the people that are actually in front of you, it’s a new experience not really meeting anyone you’re working with. But we have an amazing cast and crew, including Philippa Boyens, who is a huge name in The Lord of the Rings franchise. She worked very closely with Peter Jackson. She’s written some other films, so we’re in very safe hands. I’m actually very excited about this one.


Given the massive fanbase that comes along with Lord of The Rings, did you find the role intimidating at all?

I find every new role intimidating. It always feels like the first day of school, so I definitely did with this one. As I said, it was the first time I’ve ever done voiceover for a movie of this stature. It was extra daunting, but at the end of the day, I think nerves are good because it shows that you care. Bottom line is, and excuse my French, no one gives a fuck about your nerves. You’ve got to get a job done. You’ve got to buckle down and get it recorded and have it be believable and enjoyable. I do remember the last day. We saved all of the war scenes and some of the other more verbal stuff for the last day, so I wouldn’t lose my voice for the other normal-level speaking scenes. The last day was four hours of just screaming. I was absolutely exhausted by the end. That fully made up for the mellowness of the first four days. 


That sounds so fun, to be honest.

It was great fun.


Finally, to bring everything back to Shantaram, if you had the chance to run away and start over, maybe under less dire circumstances, where would you go, and what would you do?

That’s a tough question because I’m very close to my family and friends, so it means I’d have to leave them. But hypothetically, if I had to run away and start over, I think I would like to go somewhere tropical, but I also really like the seasons. I think I’d go somewhere like Italy. Because of my Italian heritage, the culture is something that I know very well. I feel comfortable there. I have an Italian passport, which would always help. But that’s just the first thing that comes to my head. If I think too long about it, anywhere would grate on me after a while. I could be in the most amazing place in the world, and if I didn’t have the right people around me, I think I’d suffer. I would like to change my answer to anywhere with the people that I’m most happy with.


Well, I don’t think there could be a better answer to that question.

[laughs] Thank you.


Shantaram is streaming on  Apple TV


Interview Sydney Bolen

Photographer by Pip

Styling Racheal Perry

Hair/Grooming Liz Taw

Makeup Justine Jenkins


Top image credits

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