5 Facts About Josh O’Connor
Between starring roles as Mr. Elton in Emma, Prince Charles in The Crown, and soon as Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, 30 year-old Josh O’Connor is breaking out in a big way. Find our some intriguing facts about the MASTERPIECE star of The Durrells in Corfu and Les Misérables.
He initially didn't want to audition for The Crown
Despite playing such a recognizable, famed member of the Royal family, O’Connor at first had no interest in auditioning for the role of Prince Charles. “I thought, I can’t add anything to this,” he told The New York Times.
“I think a bit of me felt that, beyond Prince Charles being a very rich and posh man, what’s the get-in?” O’Connor told The Guardian in another interview. “Where’s the juice to him? Where’s the stuff?”
But thanks to the persistence of The Crown’s creator, Peter Morgan, he soon came around to the idea. Morgan asked O’Connor to read a scene in which Charles compares himself to a character in “Dangling Man”, a 1944 novel by Saul Bellow, where the character is waiting to be drafted into the war because the war will give his life meaning.
“And then [Charles] says, ‘I’m essentially waiting for my mother to die in order for my life to take meaning,’” O’Connor continued. “I read that line and I was like, ‘Well, that’s enough to get your teeth into.’”
The series reunited O’Connor with fellow Les Misérables star Olivia Colman, who played Madame Thénardier in the 2019 MASTERPIECE series. O’Connor played the lovesick Marius. (Colman and O’Connor’s The Crown co-star Helena Bonham Carter also played Madame Thénardier in the 2012 film adaptation of Les Misérables.)
“He’s one of the most beautiful actors to work opposite,” Colman said of O’Connor to The New York Times. “He’s out there with the greats, in my mind.”
He's no stranger to MASTERPIECE
The 30 year-old star has appeared in a number of MASTERPIECE hits, dating as far back as one of his first on-screen credits in an episode of Inspector Lewis in 2012.
O’Connor graced screens as Larry Durrell for four seasons of the series The Durrells in Corfu, alongside a cast that included Keeley Hawes, Callum Woodhouse (All Creatures Great and Small), Daisy Waterstone, Milo Parker and more.
He also starred in the 2019 series Les Misérables, with a powerhouse cast that also included Dominic West, David Oyelowo, Lily Collins, Olivia Colman, and more.
He’s helped birth over 150 lambs
O’Connor didn’t grow up on a farm, but picked up farm skills later, during the filming for God’s Own Country (2017). In the film, O’Connor played Johnny Saxby, a young sheep farmer whose life is changed by a Romanian worker (played by Baptiste star Alec Secareanu) he meets. To truly get into the role, O’Connor picked up a few tricks of the farming trade between takes.
“We’d be doing a scene, and then they’d call, ‘Cut,’ and a van would come in and the real farmer, John, would say, ‘Josh, we got a lamb to come out,’” O’Connor recalled to The New York Times. “You’d deliver a lamb, send it on its way, wash your hands, ‘Action,’ and you’d be acting again.” By O’Connor’s count, according to the interview, he delivered approximately 150 lambs.
“I started out a rubbish farmer,” he added, “and by the end I don’t know that I was a very good farmer. But farmer John, who’s still a very good friend of mine, said that he might employ me one day.”
He rang in 30 a little differently
When O’Connor turned 30 in May of 2020, as the world was dealing with a global pandemic and social distancing, the actor had a moment of clarity about himself.
“I’d been feeling this for a few years,” he explained to The Guardian. “But it was as if a switch flipped on my birthday and I realized that I don’t actually like clubbing, or hanging out in groups, or pretending to be cool. And overnight I decided I don’t have to like it. If I’m 30, I can be an adult and I can admit that I like one-to-one dynamics, and staying in and reading, and that’s who I am. It was a moment of permission. It has been my curse for such a long time, desperately pretending to be fun.”
Drama helped him live with dyslexia
O’Connor has discussed what it is like having dyslexia, something the actor admitted to living with for many years. During his school years, it could be incredibly frustrating for the actor academically — but luckily, it was the drama program at his school that really helped him when gearing up for his General Certificate of Secondary Education exams (GCSEs).
“Drama at my school – you chose drama because you didn’t want to do too many serious subjects,” he told The Indepedent. “This drama teacher came in who had an unbelievable wealth of knowledge about theatre. All of a sudden we were going on school trips, seeing these amazing plays by the likes of Samuel Beckett. My whole world went from ‘This is really fun’ to ‘This is fascinating to me’. Before, I would go to an English class and read Shakespeare and find it infuriating. Now, suddenly dyslexic Josh could read Romeo and Juliet and, while not necessarily understanding every word, I could visualize the theatrical magic. I became obsessed.”
Now, years later, O’Connor is set to star as Romeo himself in an all-new, made-for-television production of the Shakespeare play alongside Jessie Buckley. The U.K. National Theatre production is set to air on PBS.