Kyle Soller: 'I want to be more than just a hunk'
The American actor Kyle Soller plays Francis Poldark in the hit period drama, but he is happiest on the stage. He doesn't want to be drooled over anyway, he tells Kaleem Aftab
Poldark star Kyle Soller says: "Playing a British aristocrat is probably the furthest away from playing someone that's like me." In the hit BBC drama he played Francis Poldark, the landowner whose wife, Elizabeth, married him when she thought that his cousin, Ross Poldark, had died in the American War of Independence. In real life, Soller was born in Connecticut in 1983 and is married to the British actress Phoebe Fox, whom he met while he was studying at RADA.
"It's a funny one, coming over to play a member of the British aristocracy when you didn't grow up with that class system," he says. "In one sense I guess it really doesn't matter, if David Oyelowo can go over and play Martin Luther King and Meryl Streep can come over and play Margaret Thatcher."
Soller first came to London to do an acting course during his summer vacation in 2004. "I had this idea that being a Shakespearean actor was something to be acknowledged and that's why I came over for this summer school, I suppose." He has always been attracted to Europe. At school he did an International Baccalaureate because it was the toughest course available. He dreamed of Paris, Sartre and European art.
When RADA offered him a place full-time he had a tough decision to make: should he finish his art history degree, of which he only had one year left in New York, and look for an acting school in America after he had finished? Or should he bite the bullet, and move to London? "What was so seductive about going to RADA was that I would be alone. I'd have to start over. I'd have to completely re-educate myself culturally as well as in acting training. It was a big challenge, and I knew that if I went through with it, I'd come out very different."
Soller is the middle son of five children; his parents, a pharmacology lecturer at the University of California and a former concert pianist, were supportive when he quit college to pursue his passion. "If I told my parents that I was going to Paris to be an artist, I think their reaction might have been different."
At first, he felt awkward being an American in London. "I think because of Bush - we voted him twice, man. I didn't vote for him. I'm sorry." In the event, getting used to his new home wasn't as difficult or as lonely as he feared. "I tell you, in the last 10 years we have become so homogenised with American culture. You know in a cafe or restaurant there will be open brick, filament lighting, really minimalist decor. You know it's a nice place because it has this Brooklyn aesthetic. Not that there is anything wrong with that."
Soller himself has become more British over the past decade, even if he still has an East Coast twang. In his third year at RADA he met Fox and they married in 2010. He now supports Arsenal and drinks Guinness. But his greatest passion is the one that he developed as a young child, a love of theatre. In 2011 he was named Outstanding Newcomer at the Evening Standard Awards for his performances in The Faith Machine at the Royal Court and The Glass Menagerie and The Government Inspector, both at the Young Vic. He was up against his wife for the award, but since then her career has taken off even more than his. "People like her way more than me," he acknowledges happily.
"A theatre is a theatre," he continues. "The space is the same on Broadway, in Greece, in Japan, the idea of that space and what it means for a stranger to get up and be a different character and relate a story to you, that makes you think about yourself or the world or about nothing, I think that's kind of sacred."
He had small roles in Anna Karenina and The Fifth Estate, before being cast as Specialist 'Inky' Inkelaar in his current film, Monsters: Dark Continent, a sequel of sorts to Gareth Edward's 2010 smash hit Monsters. He plays a soldier from Detroit sent to fight in the Middle East. "I think it doesn't play up to the idea of what a sequel is today. It's not like Avengers 2, you never really wanted Monsters 2."
In his next film, The Keeping Room, Soller plays another soldier, this time in the American Civil War. We first him see murdering two women. The film is split into two halves, a domestic drama and a war film that concentrates on three women at home. He shot both films before he landed the role in Poldark. He had not heard of the books and only watched a few clips of the original BBC adaptation on YouTube before his audition: "I really didn't understand any of the history, the mining culture or what that has meant for England, so that was really cool to get stuck into."
He's been amused by the hunk status that has been bestowed on his co-star Aidan Turner. "It's funny to watch it happen. I'm glad it's not me." Not even a hint of jealousy? "I'm fine with it, because I knew that Francis was never going to be that character. Also I can't brood that deep like Aidan. He's great and he deals with the adulation like a gent. But it's reached the level of super fandom."
Soller is now looking forward to returning for series two and will be all over the small screen this summer. He's in Henry VI, Part 2, part of the BBC's major Shakespeare adaptation The Hollow Crown: War of the Roses. He also has a part in a new made-for-BBC film adaptation of An Inspector Calls alongside David Thewlis and Miranda Richardson. Then there is Apocalypse Slough, a 10-part show for Sky; he is currently filming it, opposite Rob Lowe, who plays a rebel priest and Mathew Baynton, who plays a Slough bank manager .
"It's a comedy drama in which a comet is approaching Earth and we have 33 days before it hits. A disparate group makes it to a bunker underneath Slough."
"It's a Games of Thrones situation where no one knows who will survive. They are still writing it. We just got episode six and we are still finding out crazy stuff."
Monsters: Dark Continent is out now, The Hollow Crown: War of the Roses, An Inspector Calls and Apocalypse Slough will screen this summer. The Keeping Room will be out later year