The Version Interview... Fionn Whitehead on new itv drama, HIM
Created by BAFTA winning writer, Paula Milne, HIM is a new three-part ‘domestic horror’ that focuses on a 17-year-old boy known only throughout the drama as ‘HIM’ who is caught in limbo between childhood and adulthood.
Trapped in emotional flux between the two homes of his divorced parents, each now remarried with new families, ‘HIM’ is the cuckoo in both their nests, a reminder of the failure of their past and a threat to their new-found domestic bliss.
Like any teenager, he is riding a rollercoaster of confusing emotions and finds it hard to process his feelings, but ‘HIM’ has the added complication of a primal struggle to contain the terrifying secret of a supernatural power he has inherited from his grandfather. With only his aging grandmother understanding his gift, ‘HIM’ must fight his anger and frustration to take control and use his powers for good before they end in tragedy.
Starring newcomer Fionn Whitehead, Katherine Kelly, James Murray, Patrick Robinson, Lucy Liemann and Simona Brown, this striking and original drama focuses on life’s major themes: the painful breakdown of relationships, love, loss, betrayal and passion. At the heart of the story is HIM’s rite of passage from boyhood to manhood as he struggles not to lose his humanity and control his supernatural power.
Q: How did you get into acting?
“I started acting in primary school. The classes were few and far between but when we did do them I really enjoyed it. Originally it was just to entertain my friends. Then as I got older I started doing more workshops and looking for opportunities outside of school. “I joined the Orange Tree Youth Theatre in Richmond, Surrey. I was also quite into sports, including rugby, but I left that behind and just focused on drama. I became a member of the National Youth Theatre and completed their two-week intensive summer course. I also studied drama at GCSE and A-level. “Acting is a release, a rush I don’t really get from anything else. I’ve always been interested in the way other people’s minds work, how people interact with each other and relationships, so it combines all of those things.”Created by BAFTA winning writer, Paula Milne, HIM is a new three-part ‘domestic horror’ that focuses on a 17-year-old boy known only throughout the drama as ‘HIM’ who is caught in limbo between childhood and adulthood.
Q: How did this role come about?
“I saw the audition posted on the National Youth Theatre website and applied for it, but I didn’t hear anything back. Then I was encouraged to apply for it again by an old Youth Theatre director and so I re-applied and included a very clear photo in the email. The castng director Daniel Edwards called me within 10 minutes. I put a lot of it down to him, he was incredible. “This is my first professional acting job. I was pretty gobsmacked for a solid two months a]er I got the role, I was delighted but also extremely shocked and couldn’t really believe it. I’d set myself up for a life of doing liKle jobs and trying to make ends meet. I was working in a cafe at the time and just doing acting because I really loved doing it. Then when I got this role it blew it all out of the water. It was not what I was expecting at all. It was amazing.
Q: Who is HIM?
“HIM is a 17-year-old boy who has been hung out to dry a bit. His parents are divorced and they’ve both got new families. So he’s been le] in the middle and he feels le] out, isolated and lonely. He doesn’t feel like they want him, even if that’s not true, because they’re both busy with new families. He isolates himself by removing himself from social situations, opting to be on his own a lot, smokes a lot of weed and blocks it all out. Everything he does is done to block out the rest of the world. “He also has this uncontrollable power which is part of the reason why he isolates himself. The emotional response and the supernatural power, it’s hard to know which came first and which triggers which. HIM is smart but under so much pressure, he’s conflicted and it bursts out of him. Because no 17-year-old can really handle that intense secret.”
Q: Why is he just called HIM?
“The writer Paula Milne gave a little speech about HIM at the script read through, which was really moving. She said, ‘I didn’t give the character any name because he represents all of our sons.’ That was quite poignant. “A lot of aspects of the character are extremely relatable for any teenage boy’s life. All supernatural aspects aside, the feelings of loneliness and isolation a lot of people get at that age and that is very easy to fabricate in your own head. Anyone can relate to it, whatever age you are. It’s something a lot of people experience. That was why the choice of ‘HIM’ was good and why I didn’t want to give HIM a name, even just to myself. I felt like that would be disrespectful. “It’s a coming of age piece as well. It tracks his teenagehood, so it catches him at a very interesting time, one that is touched on in film and TV but rarely the darker side of it.
Q: How was it filming the ‘supernatural’ scenes?
“It was really cool. We shot a big scene right at the start of filming so it was the first >me I’d acted what he was going to do when he lost control. I had no set plan about what to do. I controlled my breathing, tensed up the muscles in my body and just zoned in. “It was easy to do because the special effects guys did some amazing work and it did feel real in the moment.”
Him starts Wednesday 19 October at 9pm on itv.