Dean-Charles Chapman: From Musical Theater to Recreating WWI
BELLO SPOTLIGHT to be featured in January 2020 issue.
By Aris Pangan
Dean-Charles Chapman has experience across all forms of acting – television, film, and theater. He was the longest serving Billy Elliot in the West End Theatre Billy Elliot the Musical and played Tommen Baratheon on Game of Thrones. Chapman is most recently seen on the big screen as one of the two young soldiers you see in Sam Mendes’ 1917, trying to beat the clock in this revolutionary one-take film. The film just won a Golden Globe for Best Drama Film and we are so excited! Chapman discussed with us at BELLO how the rigorous production process of the film was not too different from theater, and everything in between.
How did your acting career start and what has led you to this point?
I had a big sister that was two years older than me and she joined a theater school called Colin’s Performing Arts. In that theater school there was an acting agency. And the acting agent asked my mom “Do you want to put Dean into it?” I was four at the time, I don’t really remember but apparently I said yeah. I joined the acting agency, and pretty much as soon as I joined my big sister quit because she didn’t really like auditions or anything like that – she was a bit of a shy person. Somehow I carried on.
You have achieved the title of the longest serving Billy Elliot in Billy Elliot the Musical. What was the transition like for you from theater to film?
I learned a lot from Billy Elliot, I probably learned all the basics of acting. Theater is a really good starting point as an actor. I did it for years. When I was seven, I played a small role called Small Boy for about a year and a half, and then I played Michael which is Billy’s best friend, for six months. Once I was playing Michael I was training for Billy, and then played Billy for two years. My last month as Billy, they had to do an EPK for Billy to promote it, so they chose me. They put big cameras on cranes in the theater and I basically had to redo certain scenes from the show but on camera, and that was the moment I was like “Oh my God. I love film, I want to be a film actor.”
What was your favorite part about working on 1917?
It was an experience like I’ve never ever had before. I’ve never really had to do as much research before like I did on 1917 for anything else. I really enjoyed the research of the period. We went to France and Belgium, we actually stood where No Man’s Land would’ve been and I actually found a piece of shrapnel on the floor in the mud. The filming of it was really amazing, we filmed it in one continuous take. I think the longest scene we did was nine minutes long. As an actor, not a lot of people film films in these ways before. Doing that is a real privilege and I loved every minute of it. It genuinely felt like a piece of theater. It was a real collaboration rather than separate departments on a film set. It was one big teamwork. It was a choreographed dance between the cameras and the actors. When we got the take right and everything fell into place it was honestly the best feeling ever.
How have your past roles prepared you to play Blake?
I’ve done physical stuff before, with Billy Elliot. This was really difficult, the physicality of it. The only thing I can compare it to is theater because theater is like one take – three hours nonstop, you couldn’t make a mistake, six months of rehearsals, years of training. I think that sort of discipline in theater that you need, to get up every day and do the same thing, do a show every night, definitely helped me prepare for this.
What’s a day in the life like for you?
I like to hang at home with my mom, dad, and sisters. I read scripts if it comes through, I go swimming a lot. I walk my dogs everyday, I watch films. I’m a big gamer, I play Playstation. Just see friends, chilling out and catching up. As an actor, you’re always away from home. When you do come home, it’s like you always need to catch up with everyone.
Who is your dream collaboration?
I’d love to work with Martin Scorcese, Quentin Tarantino, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m a bit obsessed with Robert De Niro right now, I’ve been watching a lot of Scorcese films.
What movies would you bring with you on a deserted island?
I would bring Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Pulp Fiction, Jaws, and…Toy Story.
What would you say is your spirit animal and why?
Probably a sloth. I just love lying about and chilling out. They take their time, really want a pet sloth as well.
Where do you think you will be a year from now?
I hope that I’m happy and that I’m still working because I love my job. I just hope I’m doing something I enjoy.
Photographer TOMMY FLANAGAN @tommyflanaganphoto
Creative Direction ALEKSANDAR TOMOVIC @alekandsteph
Stylist ANGEL TERRAZAS @angeltstyle
Styling Assistant BIANCA AIRES @baires06
Grooming KC FEE @kcfee
Production @BELLOMediaGroup x @MaisonPriveePR_LA x @bonnetalex18