Interview by Jana Letonja

One of the most exciting and in-demand young actors in the UK, Jack Rowan has taken the acting world by storm in the past couple of years. 2023 is already shaping up to be an even bigger year for this exceptional and versatile young actor. From 16th March we are able to watch him in the leading role in the six-part 80s-set gangland thriller for Sky Max ‘A Town Called Malice’.

Jack, your screen career took off when you were catapulted into the limelight for your performance as Sam, the teenage psychopath leading the cast in C4’s Born to Kill‘. How do you look back on the beginnings of your career in comparison to where you are now?

Although it’s easy to get caught up in the current moment sometimes, I do find myself reminiscing a lot. Every one of my roles hold special places in my heart for different reasons, but ‘Born To Kill’ always sits in the top spot. It was my first lead role and I’m forever grateful to the team for taking a risk on me and giving me the chance to bring Sam to life. The biggest gift ‘Born To Kill’ gave me was confidence as an actor, but more importantly, as a person. Rejection in this industry is inevitable and it’s something I’ll naturally continue to experience, but jobs like ‘Born to Kill’ help me walk into an audition room with my back a little bit more straight and my head held that little bit higher.

How was it portraying a psychopat so early in your career? Did you have to undergo any special preparations in order to embody such a personality?

The role definitely required a lot of preparation and understanding. I’d never been into homework or studying whilst I was in school, but delving into the world of psychopathy was a real joy as research for the role. It helped me immensely. Something clicked once that role was in my grasp and I wasn’t prepared to cut any corners.

Have you always known that you have this passion for acting?

Acting was always something I enjoyed and never shied away from getting involved in, but it only became a passion as a result of an injury in boxing. Boxing was my passion growing up and it gave me a much needed escape. My lifestyle was dictated by it, I trained regularly, went for long runs whilst not actually in the boxing gym and stayed on top of my nutrition so I was always around my fighting weight. The injury was the moment where everything shifted, because I essentially ended up with no routine and I just needed something to fill my time with whilst I recovered. That’s where this wonderful new passion came from. At the time it felt like a curse, but it actually ended up being my biggest blessing. I did have 10 more fights after my injury, but I have to admit the passion wasn’t the same as it was before. Cheers to acting for coming along.

For your work, you’ve received unanimously glowing reviews and were nominated for multiple leading actor awards, including a BAFTA Best Actor nomination. How does such recognition empower you as an actor?

Of course recognition for anything you have achieved is hugely empowering and validating. It was a great point in my career to receive such recognition, with it being my first lead role. It gave me the nod that I must be doing something right. I try not to focus on the post potential recognition and focus on the job while I’m doing it. I’d rather it be a lovely surprise than an unfulfilled hope. Although the TV BAFTA didn’t go my way, I am the proud owner of a BAFTA CYMRU Award for the same role. It encapsulates a seriously beautiful time in my life. And when looking at it, the memories just come flooding back.

In 2022 we’ve been able to watch you in BBC Three’s ‘Wreck’, a comedy horror series about a young man who takes a job on board of a cruise ship in order to investigate the disappearance of his sister. How would you describe your experience of working on this series? Now that your character’s been killed, is there any way to see you return for the second season?

My journey on ‘Wreck’ started with a positive Covid test the evening before rehearsals, so a dreaded impromptu 10 day hotel isolation is what followed. However, the many hours of thinking time only made me more eager to get on set and it was certainly worth the wait. It’s something I’m very proud to have been a part of. A real personal highlight was working with director Chris Baugh again. We had previously worked together on the indie comedy-horror film ‘Boys From County Hell’. Regarding the second season, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe in the second season we can meet Danny’s twin.

2023 is already gearing up to be a neven bigger and more exciting year for you, with a lot of new lead roles coming up. What are your personal expectations and goals for your career?

I just want to keep working. I don’t seem to have any specific dream roles, but hopefully I’ll realise them once they present themselves. My genuine goal is to look back at a body of work one day and say I’ve achieved all these different things, worn all these different clothes, had all these different haircuts, spoken in all these different accents. Just to be able to look back at a body of work that’s interesting and varied would be an amazing thing.

The first project of 2023 is Sky Max’s six-part series ‘A Town Called Malice’, which is a 80s-set gangland thriller. What can you tell us about this series and the story that we’ll be able to follow in it?

‘A Town Called Malice’ was the best job ever. I knew it would be something special right from the beginning, when I first read the script. There was a great one liner that described Malice to a tee: “If Dallas made love to Pulp Fiction to the sounds of Duran Duran, they’d give birth to ‘A Town Called Malice'”.

You will star in it as Gene Lord, the reluctant gangster and yongest member of South London’s Lord family as they relocate to the Costa Del Sol to reset their criminal activity in fertile new pastures. Some actors would say it is their dream to portray a gangster once in ther career, but how was being a gangster for you?

Being a gangster was a lot of fun I must say. It’s definitely one of the perks of the job, getting to embody all these different characters. I loved every second of playing Gene. His journey over the course of the series is the best I’ve had the opportunity to play thus far. I guess being a gangster and dressing well go hand in hand and Gene definitely made me rethink my entire wardrobe.

Like you mentioned, before acting you were an amateur boxer from age 12, winning 18 of 27 fights. What do you love the most about boxing? How does boxing make you feel?

Ironically, now that I no longer compete in boxing, I’ve actually become a bigger fan of the overall sport. I think because it consumed my life so much back in the day, I didn’t feel the need to indulge in it when I had downtime. Boxing gave me so many memories and experiences through such formative years and I truly fell in love with the art form more than anything else. Although I didn’t watch it much when I was actually taking part, now that it’s in the past I can enjoy it from afar without actually getting punched myself.

What are some of your other passions in life, besides acting and boxing?

A big passion of mine is my football team West Ham United. I love the Hammers, but being a fan is a very wild and inconsistent ride, so perhaps I need to find a passion that doesn’t make me care so much. I do love a good long walk and I’m also partial to indulging in a video game every once in a while.  

Photographer Lee Strickland