IN CONVERSATION WITH NICHOLAS GALITZINE
Nicholas Galitzine’s career is taking off after the success of Netflix’s ‘Purple Hearts’, where he starred opposite Sofia Carson. The film premiered on 29 July and was not only #1 worldwide for 3 weeks, but also became the 7th most successful film for Netflix of all time. Nicholas just wrapped production on Amazon’s novel adaptation ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’, and has been announced as the lead in another Amazon’s novel adaptation ‘The Idea of You’, where he’ll be starring alongside Anne Hathaway.
Nicholas, we were able to see you this summer in Netflix’s ‘Purple Hearts’, a story about Cassie, a struggling singer-songwriter, and Luke, a troubled Marine, who agree to marry solely for military benefits. What preparations did you have to go through before playing a military character?
Marines, when they’re joining the military, have what’s known as basic training, which they have to complete. It’s a points system to prove that they have the physical capabilities to be a Marine. And because I wasn’t able to get out early to LA where we were filming the movie, I did a lot of this physical prep back in the UK where I was based at the time. And that was trying to improve my three mile run time, my press up time, my pull ups, all of these variety of exercises that are required for the military. That was the physical aspect of it.
And then it was really just researching who these people are, why people are inspired to join the military, the different backgrounds they come from. I think really trying to understand who Luke was as a person, why he felt the way he did, why he believed the things he did and try and empathize with him as a person, because he’s so different to me in a lot of ways. And he undergoes such a transformation throughout the movie because of Cassie. I think just trying to understand all of his choices and his vulnerabilities was the the starting point for me as an actor.
What’s actually been the most challenging part of the preparations to portray Luke, a Marine, who faced quite some challenges in his life, from addiction to the injury while on duty?
It’s hard. You kind of try and get all of your emotional ammunition together for the movie, but you really don’t know what will be the most challenging thing until you encounter it during a scene. There were various things that I thought would be challenging earlier on, that ended up being easier. And then things that I kind of hadn’t even really considered, were extremely emotionally difficult to overcome.
I think for me, I love playing characters who are seemingly emotionally impenetrable on the outside, but have this deep underbelly of emotion. And that’s very much Luke and part of his toxic masculinity is the fact that he’s been brought up to be very rigid. But he’s definitely a very feeling person. Knowing sort of when to play him as stoic and when to let him be vulnerable and open up, which is what I think the fans really love to see, is throughout his relationship with Cassie when he started to soften and grow as a man. There was a lot of stuff that didn’t make it into the movie where I had portrayed Luke as being hyper emotional, lots of really emotional tearful scenes that the director, Liz Allen just didn’t feel was entirely right for his character progression. And that’s the benefit of movie making, as an actor you could play it this way or you could play it that way. And they kind of decide of the continuity of the character as you go.
You and Sofia have really great chemistry and that transcends on the screen. How was it working with her on ‘Purple Hearts’?
It was funny, cause I didn’t know a huge amount about Sofia before, but I knew that obviously she’d come from a Disney background, she was a successful singer in her own. And you don’t really know what you’re going to get in the scene partner until you’re there on the day. Sofia and I went through a process together over Zoom, really where I was auditioning for her, and then they cast me and we did a bunch of these rehearsals over Zoom. And it was clear, despite the fact that we were not in the same country, there was something kind of electric between us. We kind of knew how to push each other’s buttons and there was a really fun back and forth, which you really look for in a scene. You want someone who’s really gonna keep you on your toes.
And that just very much continued as soon as I got to LA. I think it comes from a deep understanding of our characters, a willingness to play with each other and to not just be locked to what’s there on script, to really try and find new and interesting ways to challenge each other. But as I’m sure you’d agree, chemistry is kind of this weird mercurial thing. It’s a thing that’s really hard to pinpoint and sometimes you can’t say why someone has chemistry or they don’t, but they just have it. And I think Sofia and I were really lucky that we just had this thing and it made emotional scenes, scenes with a lot of sexual tension, humorous scenes, all of it kind of easier because we knew we were able to bounce off of each other.
The film was #1 worldwide for 3 weeks and it also became the 7th most successful film for Netflix of all time. How does it feel being part of such a successful and popular film?
It’s very vindicate for me because I think as actors, we constantly get knocked down and rejected and just the simple act of doing what we love to do is the hardest thing in the world. You have to audition to be able to be given the opportunity to act. I’ve had so many failures and near successes and disappointments and I kind of got to a point in my career where the most important thing was that I was working on things that I felt passionate about, with people I felt passionate about. And then ultimately the result of that movie, the final product, I tried to detach myself a little bit from, because you don’t want to be emotionally disappointed again. And I remember doing this movie, when I got this script I felt this is a character that I could really do something with and bring some nuance to and some real emotion. And it was a small budget thing and there was no notable stars, A-listers, in it, so the result of a movie like this remains to be seen. I just knew there was a lot of potential.
And then what kind of ensued was just the most interesting, humbling, surreal thing to witness. Sofia got to enjoy it in a different way than I did, because she was really there doing all of the press, kind of leading the charge for us. But I was on this other movie and I sort of saw on social media and through what my agents and friends were telling me how it just caught fire. You look at that top 10 and at every other film on that list and they have huge budgets, huge stars and we’re there as this kind of outlier, this disruptor in a lot of ways. It’s really cool to see that and it just serves to me as a constant reminder of how fan led this movie was and how people really connected with it for one reason or another.
It’s really opened so many doors. And sometimes all it takes is one opportunity to really strike a note with people. And suddenly all of that hard work is realized. I’m always surprised when people hire me, but it’s brought about a sort of element of peace and perspective for me. And it means that I’m able to approach my next project in a much healthier way. It’s kind of facilitated my creativity in a much more productive, authentic way.
How has the success of the film impacted the path of your career going forward?
I believe that the industry is kind of like an onion in a way. It’s made up of many rings and every time you have a success in whatever capacity, you kind of move slowly towards the center a bit. Now, in the case of this movie, there was this huge jump. A lot of the time people can think that you are creatively a great fit for a role, but commercially the people who are in power might not see it, or there might be a bigger name who will sell the movie better. And especially in a time like this, where the movie industry is very much changed because of Covid and streaming. So I think that’s one thing that’s definitely impactful.
My next project just got announced. I’ll be working with Anne Hathaway. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure it helped motivate them to allow me this opportunity because I had this incredible recent success. I think people now are really affording me the space to really express myself as a creative and say “Hey, this is what I want to do next. I think this would be a good move for me”. Whether I want to pursue music for this period of time, I want to produce my own thing, I want to direct in the future or write, whatever it may be, people just allow you that space to really be the most creative version of yourself, because it’s very hard to do that when you’re not allowed the opportunities, when you don’t have the power to really show your creativity. That’s probably what I would say the biggest change has been.
This June you released your debut single ‘Comfort’. Tell us more about this first single of yours, what inspired you to write it and to take a step into the music waters?
This is a song that I very much just put out. I didn’t try and do any sort of promotional stuff behind it. It was much more important to me to just have something that felt authentic and just felt like the first marker in the steps that I would take towards my music and not have it be like a lot of these people who suddenly drop earth song and they’re like “Hey, I’m a musician”. I think it would be really insincere for me to manipulate my momentum as an actor into some momentum as a musician. I very much wanna earn the right to call myself that.
I think because of the opportunities that have come my way because of my recent successes, I’m now getting to work with people who are so knowledgeable and brilliant within the music space. It’s really helping me grow as a musician, but I know I’m gonna grow a ton as a writer the more influence I have from more knowledgeable people than I. For now, it’s all about writing things that are really true to me. And I think ‘Comfort’ is very reflective of that. It’s reflective of the transient lifestyle that I feel I’ve lived the last few years. I’m not based anywhere in the world right now, it’s just hotel to hotel. But it’s also about how that kind of lifestyle can reflect within your personal life, your romantic life, needing security and stability and comfort. And committing to stability is something that can be very terrifying to a lot of creatives, because we know that our lives are entirely unpredictable and we don’t know where we’re going to be even a week from now. I have no interest in just like trying to write hits you, I think it always has to be true to me and hopefully I can continue down this path where I’m making music that feels authentic, but I’m also learning from these great talents who already exist within the music industry. I think the trends change so quickly, we definitely have this feeling of trying to appeal to what is in the zeitgeist, especially with things like TikTok now. Youmake a hit song for TikTok, but within a few months that gets boring and people move on to the next thing. If you write something that is true to who you are you believe in it wholeheartedly, I think those are the things that stand the test of time. I believe what is true remains.
What would you describe as the most satisfying aspect of acting for you?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me personally the most satisfying thing while acting is to really achieve a state of not acting at all. We’re in the business of the pursuit of truth in a lot of ways, and honesty and authenticity. And sometimes you are so at one with your character, you have such a deep empathy for them, you are truly believing everything that’s coming out of your mouth and at the same time you are absorbing everything you are seeing, what your partner is saying in a very true way, that it kind of ceases to become acting. It just becomes very real. And you don’t have any predetermined choices about the scene. I think that was one of the things I learned as an actor, that has impacted me the most to kind of absorb the lines, but then kind of throw away the entire scene and just let whatever happens happen. Don’t have a predetermined idea about what you want the scene to be and then it just becomes like pure connection. This is a really special feeling. And I’m sure it probably sounds very pretentious to people who don’t do this job, but there is this incredible magnetic electric connectivity you can have with another person, where you are just in this weird flow state with each other. And if you achieve that, that can be the most fulfilling thing. It’s this undescribable feeling within your body, there’s adrenaline, there’s just like a deep satisfaction. It’s what we all aim to achieve as actors. I had a lot of moments of that on ‘Purple Hearts’. It was an extremely cathartic experience for me because my dear grandmother passed away while we were doing it and so I had a lot of this unresolved emotion and I didn’t really know what to do with it. It completely helped me be so present within so many scenes and it kind of inspired me to connect in that way. So I would say that’s the most fulfilling thing, really.
When you’re not filming or traveling for work, what’s your happy place in life?
I have a very adventurous soul, this part of me that wishes I was an ancient tomb explorer or a pirate. It’s why me and my friends do escape rooms all the time. We’re obsessed with them. I think for my own anxieties and mental health, things that push me out of my safe space are really exciting to me.
I love traveling. I haven’t been back to my heritage homeland, which is Greece, for many years. Going to Greece, feeling the culture and the food and everything, and honestly just being with my family and my loved ones, that really kind of fulfills my zest for life when I’m not working.
Being here in California as well has been very healing for me. I think being by the beach every day is something that continually restores me. We’re in this extremely technological world and it’s so fast paced and ever changing. I think there is something really comforting about climbing a mountain that has been there for like millennia before you existed and will continue to be there millennia after you’ve existed. I know a lot of people who are in the industry and a lot of people who are not in the industry, who kind of had a similar approach and feeling about nature. So those things really give me joy.
I was reading this book called ‘Ikigai’, which is about finding happiness in life through simple activities. They talk a lot about blue zones, which are the areas in the world where the most people live to hundred. And one of those places is in Greece, because they live a very simple lifestyle in a lot of ways. It revolves around food and nature and being with loved ones and no stress. I love that notion, especially considering this job can be very stressful and you don’t know where you’re gonna be from week to week. I’m long overdue a trip to the motherland to kind of have a reset, so I think after I’m done with the next couple of jobs I might just take a few months to switch off for a bit.
As we’ve been able to see, your career is really starting to bloom after the success of’Purple Hearts’. But where would you like to see it take you in the future?
It’s funny, I’m not one of these people who really believes in a five year plan or manifesting a certain role. Don’t get me wrong, as a young British man who loves action movies, I would love to be James Bond in the future, but there’s no way of manifesting that. There are so many talented people within this industry. And I think it’s very much about being in the right place at the right time. I think as I’ve maintained working with people who are better than me, that I can grow from and I can learn from as an artist, is important. I think showing my versatility as a performer, moving into the action world is something I’ve really wanted to do for a while because most of my life I was actually training to be an athlete. I was training to be a rugby player, I was doing javelin in athletics, I was playing football, I’ve been a martial artist for a few years now. So getting to use that physical side of me would be so much fun.
At the start of this year I got to do a comedy, which was a really scary opportunity, but at the same time so much fun. Every time I do a job that scares me, I know it’s the right thing. So continuing to make myself uncomfortable and just growing as a person, cause I think this job can provide a lot of growth in your own personal life as well. And traveling to new countries and meeting new people.
I have a list of people I’d love to work with. Danny Villanueva is one of my favorite directors. There’s actors like Javier Bardem and Killian Murphy, that I’d love to work with. These are just a few people off the top of my head I’d desperately love to work with. Trying to learn from people who are so certain about their art form is really intriguing to me, because I think if you rub shoulders with people and you just kind of absorb everything that they’ve learned over their careers, inevitably you will grow as an actor.
And superficially, I would love to play a cowboy. I’d love to do a Western. They’re one of my favorite movie genres and I can’t understand why people don’t make them. I learned how to ride a few years ago and I became a little obsessed with it. It’s something I was able to pick up pretty easily. So now I just can’t imagine a job more fun than getting to ride around on horses as a cowboy. I do a fun accent, you know. I’m like, someone write me a great Western and I’m on board.
interview by JANA LETONJA
talent NICHOLAS GALITZINE
photographer SAM DAMESHEK
stylist CHRISTIAN STROBLE
grooming MIRA CHAI HYDE USING HOUSE OF SKUFF
photography assistant HALEY HALTER
styling assistant KASSIDY NAGY
retouching CARLY HILDEBRANT
casting director TASHA TONGPREECHA
editor TIMI LETONJA