Fans of Netflix’s historical action series The Last Kingdom may know Mark Rowley best for his work as Finan on the show. The Scottish actor has a number of impressive credits to his name, such as the Starz series The Spanish Princess and Jason Lei Howden’s recent comedy thriller Guns Akimbo. While waiting to shoot season five of The Last Kingdom, which Variety reports is in prep, he recently worked on an upcoming drama series whose production in Rome was put on pause by the pandemic in March but restarted in August. And while the series is still being kept under wraps, Rowley was able to speak with Casting Networks about his experience filming in times of COVID-19.
What has been the biggest change to your on-set experience in light of all the safety protocols in place?
Well, actors usually like to have a laugh and a joke on set, but now you have to be very conscious of someone else’s space, even if it’s just having a conversation. All the distance can feel strange because the job of an actor is very intimate and personal. There’s a sort of contradiction in that you and your scene partner can get close and touch each other while the cameras are rolling. But as soon as they call cut, you have to maintain a certain distance again. I totally get the reason for it, that they’re trying to limit close contact when it’s not necessary. It’s just strange.
What about wearing a mask on set when you’re not filming? Has that affected any aspects of your technique, such as getting into character before the cameras start to roll?
No, it was fine. Let’s be honest, actors are pretending to be other people and should be used to being uncomfortable. There are so many people on set who are looking at you while you perform, which comes with a lot of pressure. Hopefully, you can handle wearing a mask on set before taking it off to do your work. It’s important to note that we get to take our masks off to film. Crew members are putting in long hours, keeping theirs on all day.
That’s a really great point and acknowledgment of what they’re doing to keep everyone safe. I’d love to hear more about your time when productions were shut down, during which you created The Actor’s Community, an international community for actors to grow and learn from industry professionals. How did that come about?
I started it off during lockdown as a way to help people through all this, to help myself and other creatives. I managed to quickly get together my actor friends and have them come on the platform to just give away their knowledge. There are classes on how to approach texts, how to break down characters, and even on what the industry is like. I’ve learned loads from them myself, and there’s a lot of mixing of ideas because we have people virtually attend from both sides of the pond, America and the UK.
Rowley shared an overall positive take on his experience returning to set during this time of COVID-19, expressing gratitude for still getting to work, all things considered. He wrapped the interview by noting the good that has come out of the pandemic, which transcends one’s role in the industry. “There are so many people that are going, ‘I’m realizing I don’t spend enough time with friends or family,’” Rowley relayed. “‘I’m realizing what’s important in life.’”
This interview has been edited and condensed.