Sean Teale on The Gifted, superheroes and learning from the best

Sean Teale has already played major roles in Skins, Reign, and now Marvel's The Gifted – and he's still only 25. We chatted to one of British acting's most exciting talents 

You’ve been cast in Fox’s Marvel series, The Gifted. Can you tell us anything about the show or your character?

The Gifted is in a way a street level view of the X-Men Universe and the people within it. The show tracks two families of sort that are thrust together. One is an all American family of four and the other a group of Mutants who are part of a Mutant Underground Network designed to help other mutants. In our world mutants are persecuted and oppressed by a hostile American government agency who deems them a danger to public safety. I play one of the main members of Atlanta’s Mutant Network Marcos Diaz (or Eclipse) – alongside his girlfriend Polaris and his best friend Thunderbird.

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You're playing a new mutant character created specifically for the show. Does that give you more scope to play with the character or put you under pressure to impress loyal Marvel fans?

It actually contributes a bit of both. On one hand you get the benefit of working on a character never seen before - you have a certain freedom in not being shackled to anything historically. At the same time you have no backstory to go on other than what you’re told or personally create. Luckily Matt Nix and our writers have given me information to help with the process and hopefully keep it within the universe the fans are so dedicated to, which its hugely important.

Apparently your character will have the ability to to absorb and manipulate photons. If you were able to choose a superpower, what would it be?

If I could choose anything I’d choose teleportation. Flying would be great but it’s a lot of faffing about and who knows how quickly you can fly. Knowing me I'd mess up and find out what the inside of a plane engine looks like – much like Thunderbird in the comics does at some point.

What’s the secret to mastering the American accent?

I’ve always loved accents and I don’t know if there is one specific secret per se. When it comes to accents I’ve always just really enjoyed impersonating. When I was a child, growing up I would basically be a Parakeet. We’ve had American programming flung at us from a very yearly age so tie that in with the amount of American work available and you find your way. But I enjoy manipulating accents and playing with intonation, tone and stress so you just have to stick at it. The history also of why people speak with the speed or cadence they do is pretty fascinating. It’s all useful but just requires time and desire.

Growing up did you have a favourite superhero?

I mean across all the many superhero comics and movies Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor X stands out performance wise – especially in Logan. Deadpool is great. My childhood was a lot of Batman movies with different Batmen.. some were far better than others...

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Why do you think the superhero genre remains so popular? For the last century it’s dominated our culture...

I feel like there's a plethora of reasons for this and this interview would be endless and I'd bore everyone if we got into too much. Overall the genre can be entertaining, tell interesting, different stories and be broad in size and scale which means there’s something for everyone in there. But alongside that it’s also the perfect medium to tell stories of humanity, and resonate with issues occurring in the real world. The perfect example is the X-Men and how relatable they are - Professor X and Magneto were to some degree based on MLK and Malcolm X.

This futuristic role contrasts the period roles you’ve previously played. Is there a difference in preparation?

To be honest there isn’t too much difference in overall preparation. Really the difference exists in your character prep - it varies from role to role with who they are and what world they live in but you’re still preparing for it the same way. Admittedly shows set in the modern era are simplified to some degree by us existing at the same time as they’re set. In shows set centuries ago you have to take into account society, how they spoke, movement from a time you didn’t exist in. It’s all fun.

You made your name in Skins – did your teenage debauchery mirror that of the show?

To some degree it did yeah. That show was completely insane to be a part of in the best possible way. On and off camera we had a lot of fun - but most of the serious stuff we saved for on screen.

You’ve worked with some great actors, including Tom Hardy, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Did they teach you any valuable lessons or share any tips about the business?

I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the people I have over the last few years. Working alongside creatives with so much experience means you’re always learning, picking up ideas on prep and execution that resonate with you and some that you try and find aren’t quite your gambit. There’s no real direct route to success in an industry like this though so often people thankfully don’t just tell you specific tips that will guarantee you get to where they have. But they’ve all been a font of knowledge, experience and ideas to learn from or play with which is awesome.

Do you have any dream roles / projects for the future?

I want to try my hand at anything and everything to be honest - it’s more about the stories that are being told and the role itself than a specific name or franchise.. but.. two books that I’d love to do well or be involved in in any way now that their rights have been bought are the Spademan Chronicles and The Sisters Brothers - all amazing. I wish I could've been involved in Band of Brothers too. And show me someone who wouldn’t like to take on Bond and I'll show you a liar!

The Gifted premieres on FOX UK on 8 October