From Harry Potter and The Cursed Child to Derry Girls, Olivier Award winning, Tony nominated Belfast born actor Anthony Boyle, 24, has already made a name for himself before he hits his first quarter century.
Boyle is winning raves playing Scorpius Malfoy, a very unlikely hero in the Tony winning Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I and II and the role, he says, is going to stay with him forever.
But how did he get started? Here are your basic career options in Belfast, become boxer or face exile. Alright, there may be a little more to it than that, but that's what life once looked like to actor Boyle when he was growing up there as a very frustrated actor.
When other lads were out playing GAA sports or knocking around in the lanes of his gritty Poleglass neighborhood he was up in his bedroom keenly observing them and noticing how some people's arrival could change their group dynamics. It was a kind of early theatre school, really.
“I always just wanted to act,” he tells the Irish Voice. “But I wasn't too good at school (he got expelled) and I didn't enjoy having to sit down and be spoken to. I wanted to get up and do things, I wanted things to happen. So I went to drama class and I got good at it. That's where I found out the things that maybe were frowned upon in the classroom were encouraged in the rehearsal room.”
How do you keep someone creative engaged in the learn-by-rote teaching style of a typical Belfast school? The answer is you don't. It's not been set up for people like them, so Boyle started sinking fast.
“Pressing the red button was encouraged in a rehearsal room,” he says, “but not in my school,” a reference to the kind of attitude that eventually got him kicked out of school. “Looking back in hindsight leaving that school was definitely the right thing for me to do. I don't think I should have been kept in mainstream education. It wasn't great for me, or the pupils or the teachers. I just always knew I was going to be an actor, there was no other thing in my head. Everyone else thought I was cracking up but for me I was grand, I knew what I wanted. I was focused on that.”
Boyle kept on landing stage roles until a play he at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast was seen by a teacher who said he should come to her drama school. “It was called the Royal Welsh, so I went to Cardiff to study acting for a bit. I left the place after my first show in third year to go and do Harry Potter on the West End. Then we came out here to do it on Broadway.”
It's not a bad old trajectory for someone who has just turned 24. “I feel like an old man, I really do,” he laughs. Perhaps it's down to all the success and recognition at such a young age. One thing is for sure, Boyle knows how to convince you what you're seeing is real, a particularly useful skill when it comes to the magical world he's a big part of now.
In Harry Potter and The Cursed Child the unlikely friendship between Potter's son Albus and the son of his sworn enemy Lucius Malfoy, an awkward young teenage lad called Scorpius (played by Boyle) is the emotional heart of the play.
When Scorpius fears for Albus' life we do too, when he cracks a joke we share it, when things get really bad we are right there with him. Only the most gifted actors can make these moments seem as real as Boyle can.
“I can't take any of the credit for that, it's all down to the show's writer Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany,” Boyle says but he's being far too modest. “Jack is one of the seminal writers of our time, the work that he dos in TV and film and theatre is at the Shakespearean level. He's writing constantly in so many different formats and he has so many different worlds in his head. The man is just so good.”
As reviewers have noted the relationship between the two lads is beautiful to watch on stage. It's a friendship that's built on honesty and affection and it moves everyone who sees it. “When I was 14 I couldn't have, I wouldn't have had the emotional tools to say I need you or I love you or I need a hug,” says Boyle. “That wouldn't have been in my vocabulary, I don't think I would even have been able to identify that emotion.”
Nevertheless the character he plays has found that maturity and the payoff is enormous. The gap between who we think Scorpius is at the beginning and who he turns out to be by the end are remarkable. But is it tiring to play such a massive two part show nigh after night?
“It costs a lot,” says Boyle, but he's talking about his emotions. “I lose my mother in the second scene I'm in. He gets bullied every day of his life. People tell him he's Voldemort's son, which is like being the Anti-Christ's. He has a lot of weight to carry around with him. It's also one of the most loving joyous roles out there because he has this pure kind of optimism. I think I'm really going to miss playing him, I think it's going to stay with me forever.”
At the stage door after each performance fans have told him they see so much of themselves in his performance. “They tell me I am so like him. I do these things with my friends. I dunno, it feels very special,” he says. “Plays and roles like this don't come along all that often.
He's being too modest again. Boyle delivers a performance that is actually the heart and soul of the show. He brings so much conviction and emotional depth to the character that you are rooting for him from his first deeply awkward moments onstage as the surprisingly kindly son of one of the most feared men in the Potter canon.
Meanwhile the new comedy hit Derry Girls is a home made success story where Boyle plays the heartthrob DJ David Donnelly. “That was good craic,” he laughs. “I got a call to come and do this really funny show with a couple of mad ones from Derry and I was like yeah. I thought it would be a laugh. Then I feel in love with those girls man, everyone of them was just so talented and cool and funny in real life. I'm glad that they're doing so well.”
What's next on his slate? “I have a film coming out with Fox Searchlight called Tolkien, it's the biopic of J.R.R. Tolkien. That comes out early 2019. After that I don't know yet.”
Well that's already plenty to be going on with.
Meanwhile he's learning to love living in New York City and acting on Broadway in the biggest Tony hit of the season, but Belfast is and always will be home he says.
“I feel like when you get off the plane in Belfast, there's an energy, it feels different from London or Paris or New York. Belfast City Center feels different. It has a checkered past and art comes out of that. I feel so connected to it. My soul is firmly in Belfast.”