HEnry Lloyd-Hughes’s Twitter bio states that he is “the most famous actor you’ve never heard of.” It’s a line that appeared in a magazine profile of him last year. There is another profile, from five years earlier, that says roughly the same thing. He is a fantastic actor with an almost impeccable resume; If only he could somehow land that career-defining role that would push him to the top.
“It’s extraordinary,” laughs Lloyd-Hughes, 35. “The false sunrises I’ve had. I am like the teflon don. You can put success close to me, you can put me on the highest grossing British sitcom of all time, but that’s not my turn. It just escapes me. Fame can come so close to me and yet it leaves no trace. I am immune to success. “
He’s certainly not behaving like a celebrity. In a world where the video interview has become something close to great art, he stumbles upon ours a couple of minutes late, dropping into a shed strewn with cricket paraphernalia, in what appears to be the account of his mother. “Perfect,” he mutters to himself as his chat window announces him as “Lucy.” “Every time …”
I don’t want to add anything to the growing collection of items that promise Lloyd-Hughes will be the next big thing, but he’s about to reveal his most storied character. Because, in the Netflix series The Irregulars, he plays Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes’ fatigue is real: Guinness World Records lists him as the most represented literary human character in film and television history, played only in the last 15 years by Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr, Will Ferrell, Henry. Cavill, Ian McKellen, Ewen. Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Johnny Depp – This is not a version of the character that you will have seen before.
The Irregulars is written by Tom Bidwell, perhaps best known for his adaptation of My Mad Fat Diary, and is based on Baker Street Irregulars, the team of urchins who appeared in three of Conan Doyle’s stories as Holmes’s street intelligence agents. . This is a bold reinvention of them, led by an amazing young cast. Without revealing too much, The Irregulars is a far more supernatural affair than you might expect. “It’s Skins and The X-Files,” says Lloyd-Hughes.
And bloody too, I say. “Yes, I know,” he nods. “When I started watching it, I got really excited and started texting my friends. I was like, ‘Oh, who has a 14-year-old?’ Bla bla bla. And then as he got more and more violent, I thought, ‘Actually, who is 17, 18, maybe more like a 19 year old?’ ”.
Although he is often mentioned by the urchins, Holmes does not appear in The Irregulars until the middle of the series. And when he does, he’s a shadow of his former glory: emaciated, hollow, prone to vomiting. Something has clearly gone very wrong.
“I don’t think any other version made Sherlock so aware of creating his own myth,” says Lloyd-Hughes. “Maybe he has sexed his own legend record a bit. And then we look back from a place of: ‘He screwed it up. He’s totally screwed up. This Sherlock is a far cry from any of the cool, carefree versions of the character. “
Doing a skewed and scary Holmes show is a very pandemic thing to do, says Lloyd-Hughes. The Irregulars’ vision of Victorian London, he says, is “a strange, surreal kind of window into how bad it must have been to be young and poor in a hugely overcrowded city when things go wrong. If that’s not the 2020 motto, I don’t know what it is.
“I feel there is something in disgusting restlessness and sadness. Do you know that feeling that we all feel right now? I don’t want to be too Adam Curtis about it, but a lot of weird things are happening, isn’t it? We have some nice young men on the show who are quite sweet and charming, but we also have a man who can shoot birds with his eyes. “
Lloyd-Hughes was offered the role of Holmes after auditioning for Dr. Watson, which went to Royce Pierreson (The Witcher, Line of Duty). “I auditioned so well,” he says. “I was so upset. I was so upset. I kept telling my agent, ‘I just don’t understand why I’m not on this show, because I feel like I made it.’
The hit meant that when he was invited to audition again for Holmes, he had enough insight to suggest who the character should be. “I told him, ‘When he’s young, he’ll have long hair. He’s going to look like a rock star. It’s going to be like David Bowie absolutely insane, the Thin White Duke in the back of the car with Alan Yentob. And then when he’s older, we’ll shave his head. ‘ I’m saying all these things and they’re just looking at me … “
And yet that’s the character we see on screen, though Lloyd-Hughes is quick to credit makeup artist Lucy Sibbick, who won an Oscar for Darkest Hour, for making it look “really good.” .
Perhaps the success of this decadent Holmes is thanks to Lloyd-Hughes’s ability to portray creep convincingly. While he’s a fun and witty father of two, on screen he can tap into a dark malevolence. He played the thoughtless bully Mark Donovan in The Inbetweeners and the Oxbridge braggart Dimitri Mitropoulos in the Laura Wade Posh play. Most recently, he played the almost unbearably evil Aaron Peel in the second series of Killing Eve.
He also played David Miliband in David Quantick’s 2010 docudrama Miliband of Brothers. Ed Miliband was played by his younger brother Ben, most recently seen in the banking drama Industry. I tell Lloyd-Hughes that it fascinates me when the brothers end up doing the same thing for a living. Isn’t that a recipe for all kinds of Milibandy, toxic and competitive psychodrama?
“Honestly, I’m not competitive with anyone,” says Lloyd-Hughes. “I am too tired and too old to have an ego in what I do, and he has a baby that is even younger than mine. So I’m pretty sure he’s in a similar mental space, if you understand what I mean. Once you get to the age where people eat away at real life debris, I honestly couldn’t even imagine how brain cells would have to compete with anyone, regardless of my brother. I’m just trying to stay awake. “
It may help that, unlike the Milibands, who only had each other to crash, Henry and Ben are two of six children; They have two siblings and two half siblings. One of them has a record label in New Orleans; another had their college stay derailed by Covid. If you listen to The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, you will meet his sister Flo.
On the family setup, Lloyd-Hughes says: “What you find over time is that you have a very specific dynamic with each one, almost to the point where it’s like, ‘That’s the one I talk to about football. That’s the one who really knows cricket. That’s the one I can ask an emotional question to. They all splinter. My 17-year-old brother is a true genius of encryption technology. I can text him a second’s warning and say, ‘Zoom is acting wrong. What am I doing wrong?'”
Would you like to reappear with Ben? “At that point I thought that Miliband of Brothers was going to have the feeling that we were opening our account,” he says. “If we can play the siblings, especially the famous siblings, then it would split into a nice little sideline, because how many siblings are there in the world of literature? But literally no one has asked us to do it again. “
Smile during our conversation. It’s a familiar riff to him, the role of the next big thing that is always overlooked, and one that he clearly loves to DJ. If The Irregulars proves to be a breakthrough, it will be well deserved. But if not, at least you’ll have fun with this fun self-conscious hack for a while longer. After all, who else can say he’s the most famous actor you’ve never heard of?
“That’s the catchphrase,” he sighs, mocking himself. “Don’t spend it.”
The Irregulars is on Netflix since March 26
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism