The Hollywood Reporter continues its Actors Roundtable series, this time with TV drama stars Hugh Grant (“A Very English Scandal”), Diego Luna (“Narcos: Mexico”), Richard Madden (“Bodyguard”), Sam Rockwell (“Fosse/Verdon”), Billy Porter (“Pose”) and Canadian star Stephan James (“Homecoming”).
When a collection of A-listers and up-and-comers are in the room for an informal chat, there’s bound to be talk of career mistakes and the roles they aren’t eager to take on again.
“I played Romeo for about 10 years in different ways,” British star Madden, 32, says. “Literally, I played it when I was 21 and when I was 30. I’ve checked that box. I’m done playing good guys that bad things happen to.”
For Rockwell, who won an Oscar for his role as a racist police officer in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, it’s moving away from the “redneck” title.
“I could take a break from racists. A long break,” Rockwell, 50, says to laughter from the table. “And I played a lot of rednecks – ‘country’ is probably a better way to put it. It’s funny, I’m a city kid, and they’re always trying to throw me on a horse or get a lasso or something. That’s not my thing.”
“Narcos: Mexico” star Luna, 39, couldn’t escape his breakout success in Alfonso Cuaron’s sexy coming-of-age road trip “Y Tu Mama Tambien”.
“After ‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’, for 10 years I was offered roles of a young kid kissing his best friend,” he explains. “I loved that film, but suddenly the character became more than what I was capable of as an actor. It was more what the film made audiences feel.”
Luna continues, casually dancing around the subject of “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”: “I started working when I was really young and did terrible films as a kid that no one got to see. And the first time I did a horrible film here, it got screened everywhere. It haunted me no matter where I was. I had to dance a lot. The film opened in every country, and I was like, “That’s what Hollywood does to your career.”
For Porter, it was being handed every “flamboyant clown” role early in his career, but now it’s a character type he embraces on his own terms with “Pose”.
“I’m finally in this moment in my life where I’m able to play that character as a fully developed human being and not just the two-dimensional version that is set up to entertain,” he says.
Toronto’s James meanwhile would like a break from period pieces after starring in “Selma”, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, and the Jesse Owens biopic “Race”.
“Playing historical figures is great. I played Jesse Owens and John Lewis, and there’s a lot of pride that comes with playing those types of people, but at the same time you get this feeling that people in Hollywood think you only exist in the 1940s or ’50s and you can’t do anything contemporary,” he explains.
But leave it to Grant, 58, to bring more laughs to his fellow actors.
“I’m so happy that I don’t have to play women’s parts anymore. The school I went to was all boys, and I was a pretty boy and I just played girls for 11 years,” he recalls to laughter. “And quite well, I have to say. I was a very good Brigitta von Trapp in my white dress with a blue satin sash. But it’s nice to be playing men again.”
As the most seasoned actor among the THR roundtable, Grant can identify with being labelled as “the next big thing” like Madden and James. Looking back on his career, the actor admits he made a few wrong turns when it came to choosing his roles.
“Every decision I ever made was probably wrong. When I was where you are now [to James] and you are now [to Madden] after ‘Four Weddings’, and the world was my oyster, I should’ve made interesting decisions and done different stuff. Instead, I repeated myself almost identically about 17 times in a row.
“People saw all those romantic comedies where I was being a nice guy written by Richard Curtis, who is a very nice guy, and they used to think, Oh, Hugh must be like that,” Grant adds. “But I’m vile. Really.”