Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
The Snapshot: Harry Lloyd plays a pill-popping-“Alpha Plus”-male torn between two worlds in the futuristic sci-fi series Brave New World, based on the Aldous Huxley novel from 1932. (The nine-episode series premiered on NBC’s new streaming service Peacock on July 15, 2020.)
The Performer: Harry Lloyd
The Series: Brave New World
In a year that can only be described as 2020, most entertainment we watch gets filtered through a new lens. In better times, a dystopian tale of America might play out like fantasy popcorn fare to people with few cares in the world. But in this futuristic account originally penned by Aldous Huxley just under 90 years ago, Brave New World comes across like a prophetic peek into what could happen if an already polarized society leaned into its hastily broadening class divide.
In a world that seems like a crossbreed between Westworld, Burning Man and something Banksy thought up, Brave New World is set in the the distant future and conjures up a vision of two vastly different civilizations. One being Savage Lands – a twisted “theme park” where what’s presumably remaining of a depressed America exists almost solely for the amusement of others.
Then, just one quick rocket ride away, there’s New London where orgiastic raves and colorful little Soma pills keep everyone happy and seemingly content. In New London, there’s no pain, hunger, or monogamy. It’s a place where “everyone belongs to everyone else” – and it’s because of this principle of free love times a thousand that we first meet two of the story’s main New Londoner protagonists: Lenina (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd).
Bernard is a counselor, a company man, and an “Alpha Plus” human (top of the gene pool stuff) charged with keeping the peace by dispensing Soma to the masses to maintain the status quo.
A state sanctioned drug dealer of sorts.
But there’s something different about Bernard and Lloyd’s performance that perfectly embodies this newfound uncertainty as his character develops a healthy – or unhealthy depending on who you ask – curiosity. That is, ever since encountering the death of a man who seemingly jumped to his death, Bernard’s own emotions have been, well, a bit jumpy. Much to the dismay of his bosses.
As Bernard comes to grips with his emotions in a world where people aren’t used to feeling, he is essentially sent on a mandatory vacation to Savage Lands, where he brings a plus one: Lenina.
Lenina, a soul animal of sorts to Bernard, takes the trip to Savage Lands with Bernard to see how the other half lives. The residue of America after god-knows-what-took-place between 2020 and 2540. The visit is fun for the two Soma-addicted New Londoners at first, but it ends with a twist.
As Bernard, Lloyd offers a layered performance that starts definitively as one thing, before quickly evolving into another. The show itself can be a bit rocky in parts, but watching Lloyd own his role is a high point, as he faithfully shuttles from emotionally absent to feeling body, before allying with Lenina and “savage” John (Alden Ehrenreich) to question the soul of utopia.
If you think Harry Lloyd would look oddly familiar if he just had long-flowing locks of blond hair, that’s probably because you’re remembering him as Viserys Targaryen, the egomaniacal brother/tormentor of sister Daenerys “Dragon Queen” Targaryen in season one HBO’s Game of Thrones. That is, until he gets his “Golden Crown” at the hands of Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa).
If you know Lloyd from elsewhere, it’s probably because the 36-year-old Brit has been in many stellar projects on the big screen and small. In the film realm, you might remember Lloyd opposite Eddie Redmayne in the Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything (2014). Or alongside Meryl Streep in her Oscar-winning role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011).
Then there was all the TV in between Brave New World and his TV debut in David Copperfield (1999), where Lloyd stood out in several projects. For example, as the legendary “Charles Xavier,” aka “Professor X” in the third season of FX’s hit series, Legion (2019). And as Peter Quayle in the critically acclaimed Starz series Counterpart (2017-2019), opposite J.K. Simmons.
As with so many talented Brits, Lloyd also starred in numerous theatre productions over the years on London’s West End such as The Duchess of Malfi and The Little Dog Laughed. He also performed a one-man show for a bit, Notes From Underground (2014), which he staged in Paris and London, receiving some critical acclaim for his modern take on Dostoyevsky’s classic novella.
Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.