OnStage: Interview with Wil Johnson in Lynn Nottage’s Sweat

Actor Wil Johnson is a native Londoner as a teenager he had no interest an acting career it was just by chance that a drama teacher pushed him to be part of a school production after the lead dropped out and as he says, “the rest is history”.
A long and accomplished career started with his first professional acting role in 1985 in a play called Four Seasons at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Following that he had varied roles which includes Casualty and London’s Burning, before landing detective Stevie Johnson in the London Weekend Television series Anna Lee. He played the supporting role of Detective Constable Skelton in Cracker from 1994 to 1995. In 2000, the BBC television pilot Waking the Dead followed, and he played Detective Sergeant Spencer Jordan, a member of a specialised police unit investigating “cold cases”. Waking the Dead returned for a complete series in 2001, and Johnson became a main cast member. Since then he has  appeared in drama series Clocking Off as Steve Robinson, two series of the BBC’s Babyfather. In 2004, Johnson played Othello at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, he was Marcus Kirby in the BBC drama Waterloo Road. In 2011 as ‘Sean Dolan’ a Consultant paediatrician in BBC One’s Holby City and in 2012 he joined Emmerdale as single father Dominic “Dom” Andrews leaving the soap in 2014. His film credits include in 2010, In a Better World (film) as Dr. Najeeb, in 2008 as Big Man in Adulthood, in 2013 he appeared in thriller Life Outside. In 2013, he co-produced with Christian Ashaiku a film called Disorientated Generation.

In 2016, he appeared as the Earl of Kent in the Talawa Theatre Company production of King Lear. In 2018 he was in Winsome Pinnock’s Leave Taking at the Bush Theatre. Some may not know that he is a respected DJ playing alongside the likes of Artful Dodger and events such as ‘MonologueSlam’ event (actors showcase) at The Green Carnation cocktail lounge where he was the special guest DJ.

Wil Johnson is currently on stage in the West end stage production Sweat as Brucie.

Firstly, congratulations on this role, I have to say we have been fans of your work over the years as far back as Babyfather, amazing- Tell us where you started out with your training and what was your first job?

Thank you. I started my journey in acting at school. It was my last year in Secondary School and a school play was being mounted. A week before they were due to open the lead male actor dropped out and I was approached by my drama teacher to play the role. At the time I was not a drama pupil so being asked to play this role seemed odd to me and I immediately turned it down. However, I later found out that a girl who I liked was in the play, so I went back to my Drama Teacher and begged for the role!!! And the rest they say is history…

Do you prefer working on the stage or screen?

I love both mediums because each brings with it its own unique challenges which I relish. Also, it depends on the part. There must be a sense that I could fail in this role and that’s when I know where the challenge is. The ‘Thing’ that will help me to grow as a performer.

Tell us about your character in Sweat, what motivates him and is there anything you relate to?

Brucie is a forty something working class man who unfortunately has been out of work for nearly two years when we meet him in the play. A series of circumstances has changed his life dramatically and we meet him, we meet a man at a crossroads. Without giving too much away, we are very very different which I love because that pushes you as a performer to ‘Become someone else’….

What excites you most about this production?

The script/story where it’s set (Reading Pennsylvania) playing an American role. An extremely brilliant cast and working with the uber talented Lynnette Linton our director and the opportunity to work with Lynn Nottage, a two-time Pulitzer prize winning writer…so many elements.

How are the rehearsal going, and how do you prepare for each role, is it a different experience each time?

We are now up and running! The reviews are out, and we are being dubbed “The Number One Show in town!” Not bad..lol…My preparation for each character varies depending on the role. With Brucie, it was about getting the dialect/accent right .That was my first port of call. Everything else evolves organically through the rehearsals process which I never pin down…it’s a moveable feast…

Are you a Marvel fan if so do you have a favourite Marvel movie?

I am a DC Fan. The Dark Knight..Batman is my Hero. My aka is ThDrkKngt. I also have Batman Tattoos to prove it…

What attracts you to a script?

Two elements. An amazing story and an incredible part.

Tell us a bit about the Sweat storyline, what can the audience expect from the production?

If I tell you..I’ll have to kill you…lol…The audience can expect to experience a good story….

Where do you call home?

Kent.

As a seasoned actor, are there any roles that you would like to play?

I never think in terms of roles I would like to play, only in terms of ‘What is the next challenge..?’

What advice would you give to anyone entering the profession?

Learn to make rejection your ‘Best Friend’……

Sweat is on a the Donmar Warehouse until 2nd February due to popular demand it has an extended run.

Image credit: Wil Johnson as (Brucie) photo: Johan Persson set design Frankie Bradshaw

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