British actor and writer Sebastian de Souza is best known for his work on Skins, The Borgias, and Plastic. On Monday, January 25 fans can see Sebastian portray Wes on Freeform’s new series Recovery Road (the first three episodes are currently available here). Talk Nerdy recently chatted with de Souza about Recovery Road and his upcoming film Kids in Love.
What was your audition process for Recovery Road?
My audition process for Recovery Road went a little like this. It was a very strange process in one sense, because it kind of happened over a long period. We did one pilot maybe a year and a half ago now and then shot another pilot. So I actually shot a pilot with someone else and then shot one with Jess (Sula) who now plays Maddie. My audition process was two-fold. Although I had the job the first time around, the second time around when they were re-auditioning the part of Maddie I slightly felt like I was auditioning too because I was waiting with bated breath to hear who I would be working with. I couldn’t really be happier to be working with Jessica because we worked together before and I love her, she’s great.
Well interestingly I never got in the room with anyone until we shot the pilot. I taped in London two or three times, which can be difficult and impersonal because you aren’t able to talk to the people you’re auditioning for. You can’t understand what they really want. I just went out on a limb and gave them my- who I thought Wes was, and I don’t know. I guess it turned out to be the one that they had in mind. (laughs).
Besides Maddie, did anything else change from the original pilot to the one that we’re seeing now on TV?
The structure of the pilot remains pretty similar. The over all frame of it, but I think- You know what Bert (Royal) and Karen (DiConcetto) and all the other writers in the room discovered was that the real drama, not to put down what happens in the high school, but the drama of Maddie’s story takes place in Springtime Meadows. In the halfway house.
I think that basically the major change, apart from the addition of a couple of characters, was that there was a lot more time spent in the house itself. In the initial pilot the timings were balanced pretty evenly between high school and the recovery house. I personally think, it made for a more gripping start to the story because you find yourself immediately inside Springtime Meadows. Many people are calling our show Romeo and Juliet rehab, but the story’s actually an ensemble piece about people who have to co-exist in very close confinement and deal with problems and issues that are not easy to deal with. Issues that take a lot of time. Recovery takes time and that’s why there are various programs. The twelve step program is the one that Maddie is on.
The series is based on a YA novel of the same name by Blake Nelson. Did you read the book after landing the role? Or were you familiar with it before?
I decided not to read the book until after we shot the series. I read the book following the wrapping of the series. I probably should have read it first. (laughs). Reviewing some of the scenes maybe it would have made for a much better performance. I’d like to create a character that was, although based on a character previously written, kind of original. I felt very safe in the hands of Bert and Karen who had been very faithful to the book and at the same time built on what was in the book itself.
I figured it would be best for me to be as original as possible. Then if there were elements of that character that were in the original book that needed to be expressed in my playing of him, then I trusted that I was in good hands and everyone would be able to instruct me if that was the case. So yeah, no, I didn’t read it until afterwards. It’s a great book though.
What did you do when you found out that you had gotten the role of Wes?
What did I do? I usually… I mean I’m not a very good actor so I don’t work very much. (laughs). I think I probably screamed out loud or said, “Praise the lord,” or something. You know what I did? I had a drink, with my two closest friends. We went into the pub. I don’t know whether we were already on our way to the pub but we went there anyway.
I remember feeling extremely… I’m always very cynical because I prefer to wait and see what happens with something than to get over-excited and then be disappointed. I remember feeling different to how I felt before when I got a part. Even then before we’d seen episode one through three, when I didn’t know a whole lot about what this story would be, I recognized that out of all the things that I’d done in my very short career so far, this was going to be the most important in the sense that it dealt with something that was very real and very pertinent and topical. It dealt with something that really isn’t dealt with on TV in America or anywhere else particularly well or given enough time. I remember feeling, even then, really proud to be a part of Recovery Road before I’d actually even shot a frame of the series.
Both Recovery Road and Skins are very real dramas and they don’t shy away from what’s happening in the youth today, and they don’t sugar coat it. Do you go after real roles or are those the ones that have just happened for you?
I don’t know what it says about me that I keep playing drug addicts? (laughs). I don’t know what that says about me, but maybe it says that that’s the only thing I can do. I think that I prefer… I mean if I get the opportunity, which I have a few times, I’d much prefer to play a character that’s at least based in real space. Wes has an addiction that he suffers from, the disease of addiction. Matty on Skins was a little less based in reality but at the same time dealt with lots of things that young people everywhere have to deal with. Again, I feel very proud. I also feel very proud to represent characters that people can connect with and say, “Hey okay, that guy’s having that problem. Wes is troubling. Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe I can get some help. Maybe I can do something to change the course of my journey.”
I like playing any part that someone is kind enough to give me (laughs). I played a Prince. An Italian Renaissance Prince once and I don’t think you can get much further from Wes than that. You know, a couple of other things. I think that… For Jess and I in Skins, Skins and Recovery Road are actually kind of very closely related.
I think if I could say anything and make any kind of comparison, I think that Freeform is doing a really extraordinary job of pushing the envelope for youth TV. Let’s face it, I don’t think that problems like this are dealt with very often on TV here in America and I think that they should be more. Especially for young people.
As a scripted series, this hasn’t been done. This is new!
I know, right? I think that it’s very important. I hope that a show like this can go ways to encouraging other networks to not be scared to represent young people as they really are, which is real people with real problems and people who struggle. It’s hard being a kid. It’s hard being an adult but it’s really hard being a teenager. I think that it’s very important that these things are talked about comprehensively.
Was there any talk about Wes being British? How much of Wes’ back story did you come up with ? Or did Karen and Bert already have one for you?
No, I begged to do be able to speak in a British accent because as you watch the show you can see I can’t really do an American accent. (laughs) I know I wasn’t allowed to be British and Wes was… I think it’s interesting Bert and Karen did think about making him British even before I was a part of it. I don’t know, you guys in America have an idea of what us Brits are like. Kind of like, you know, in the bars you know. Getting slightly drunk maybe having too much to drink. I don’t know.
How much did I come up with? Well as with everything, again, it was a very extensive collaboration. I mean I generally… If I was given a scene to read or shoot I would approach that as I thought I should, and then if there was anything that needed adding, subtracting, or changing, Bert, Karen and I have a very close, open relationship. We have a very great shorthand. It was very easy for them to communicate any notes that they want to do differently.
I couldn’t even begin to claim total ownership of this character. As with all the characters in the show they created very three-dimensional people. I think, you know, what was great about Wes and the way they wrote Wes, was that it would be really easy for Wes to be a two-dimensional mysterious James Dean guy. Who sits in a corner smoking a cigarette and not saying anything. What they did was, which was such a blessing and it was so great to get the opportunity to play that, was they created a three-dimensional human being which… I think that goes back to what I was saying about let’s talk about real people with real problems.
What’s your personal favorite genre of television to watch?
Drama or comedy. I mean I could watch 30 Rock constantly until I die. I could just sit there and watch 30 Rock. I mean I love comedy. I love drama. I like things that are well done, you know. It’s like with music and film. I don’t have a favorite genre because if I did that genre would always be shifting and changing because it would be shifting with the next best piece of writing or directing. I like things that are good. Bottom line. I like things that are done well.
Wes works at a movie theater. So what’s the worst/or weirdest job you’ve had?
I’ve had some pretty weird jobs. I picked apples for months to make apple juice. It’s kind of crazy because it was just me in an orchard on my own for months sort of picking up apples from the floor. There was this one supervisor who had dedicated his life to the pursuit of picking apples and I wasn’t very good at picking apples. (laughs). I hope one day to be able to write a story about it because… It would have been very funny to watch, I’m sure. To be a fly on the wall.
That was a funny job. I’ve been a builder. My favorite kind of job which I would happily go back to if need be is working behind the bar, because it’s so fun. Also free drinks all night. There you go.
What’s the first drink that you learned how to make?
I dunno. What an interesting question. I guess my dad used to drink gin and tonic, so probably that was the first drink I learned how to make. You wanted me to say a choclotini didn’t you? (laughs).
(laughs) I did! Freeform has released three episodes early. What has that experience been like for you? What has the response to those episodes been?
It’s obviously been extremely gratifying. I mean as an actor a big part of your existence is unfortunately and fortunately very reliant on the thoughts and feelings of other people. I think that it’s very gratifying to have had already such positive responses. I think it’s a very clever idea which a lot of people are doing now. I’m pretty sure that Freeform has done it before when they were ABC Family, maybe with the Fosters?
Their theory is the best marketing for a show is the show itself. Although I too question like, hang on they just put three episodes out, are they gonna have to wait three weeks to get another new episode? Apparently this is not the case. They generated excitement that you can’t get from billboards and commercials and whatever. As far as I know and have read… I don’t like to read a lot of criticism, just because for obvious reasons, but as far as I know the criticism and the response has been extremely positive.
What can you kind of tease about Wes’ story line in episodes four through ten?
What can I tease? I can’t tease. (laughs). I’m not a good tease but what I can say? The stories become… After episode three we’ve set everything up. All of the relationships are established. The story lines have begun and I think it’s the gate into the unknown and the arcs really get deeper and wider. All I would say is, if you don’t watch episode four, you really really are going to be missing out.
What episode four through ten are you most excited for fans to see?
You should stay and watch ten because I’m extremely proud of all of them and equally proud of all of the episodes. I think that the culmination of all those story lines is really touching and it’s one that I’m very proud of.
You’re also a writer. So which came first: Your love for writing or your love for acting?
I was an actor first. All actors do discover that being an actor involves a lot of time not acting. (laughs). I’ve always had a way over active imagination and I was kept up at night by my imagination. I was restless. I started to write ideas down. Then write little scenes and write pieces of dialogue. I was always writing stories as a kid but I’d never really stuck to anything that I’d done. Then I started to write shorts and things like that, and then a friend of mine and I when we were nineteen wrote a film called ‘Kids in Love’ which will come out in July of this year.
What can you tell us about ‘Kids in Love’?
I can tell you lots about ‘Kids in Love.’ ‘Kids in Love’ follows a character called Jack. It’s a coming of age story which is… We like to call it, my buddy Preston and I joke that it’s ‘The Graduate’ meets ‘Performance’ . We only hope to be anywhere close to the gravity of those great movies. That’s the best way to describe it. It is very modern-day ‘Graduate’ and the character Jack is presented as we all are in whatever country we’re in and whatever social situation. Where the choice when you get to eighteen is, do I go to University? Do I not go to University? You know, do I follow in my parents footsteps, do I carve my own path?
It’s the story of someone who decides not to do what his parents are advising and gets into a group of people who have decided to live an extraordinary life that is so far removed from the one that he has or will have. He then realizes at the end… Well you’ll have to watch and see what he realizes at the end. (laughs). I think basically he recognizes the value of hard work and the value of having your feet firmly planted in reality.
I’m very proud of it. We all are. My great old friend, Will Poulter plays the starring role of Jack. I greedily put myself in it. Cara Delevingne is in it. Gala Gordon and a wonderful, wonderful French actress called Alma Jodorowsky. It’s got a great cast. Yeah I’m really proud of it. I’m really happy it’s coming out.
Are you interested in pursing writing as a career over acting?
No, no. You know what I’d truly like to do between you and me? I’d love to be George Lucas and Indiana Jones all at the same time. Which we all know isn’t going to happen so I don’t know. I’ll settle for whatever everyone thinks that I should be doing. (laughs). It would be a dream come true to be able to live my life both as an actor and as a writer in equal part.
Our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us. What do you nerd out about or what makes you a nerd?
I’m a big nerd in so many ways but I don’t know. What am I nerdy about? I love planes. I go plane spotting. I used to do a lot of that. I’m not very technologically savvy but I get so excited about every kind of technological leap we make each year. I mean obviously I’m a big fan of ‘Star Wars’. I’m a big fan of ‘Indiana Jones.’ I’m a big sci-fi fan in general. I mean, you know, I’m as nerdy as the rest of them!