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"I think my dream is to be an actor's actor," Andrew Burnap tells me. "The greatest honour in the world is when another actor views your work in a way that is beneficial to them. When I go to see other actors' work, it's because I learn from them every time I see them, and I would say it's my dream to be that for someone else." Down a transatlantic phone line on a day's respite from the preview performance schedule of the Broadway revival of Camelot, in which Burnap takes centre stage as King Arthur, the 32-year-old ponders the path to cultivating such influence.
In part, at least, a heterogeneous portfolio of roles is instrumental. And that's something that the next two years of Burnap's career will undoubtedly afford the star. Not only embracing Aaron Sorkin's 2020s re-work of a timeless musical like Camelot, next March will see Burnap take on the innovative new male lead role in Disney's live-action remake of Snow White. Written by Greta Gerwig and Erin Cressida Wilson, staring alongside West Side Story-breakout Rachel Zegler and blockbuster titan Gal Gadot, he will play neither the Hunstman nor the prince, exact details of his role, however, he must remain coy on. Upcoming A24 psychological thriller The Front Room makes for a trifecta of career-making parts in the coming months for the Tony-Awrd winner whose return to theatre sees him in fertile ground after he bagged one of the prestigious gongs in 2021 for his role in Matthew Lopez and Stephen Daldry's monumental two-part play, Inheritance.
Head below to read our chat with Andrew, taken from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Man About Town, all about Camelot, living up to the pressures of previous career triumphs, and why he's determined to remain acting until the day he dies...
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Congratulations on your part as King Arthur in Camelot! How does it feel to be stepping into such an iconic role at this point in your career?
It feels both daunting and quite welcome at the same time. I have always loved musical theatre since I was a kid, and I haven't been able to really do it on stage since college, so I thought it was a thing of the past for me. So when this came my way I felt like the universe was giving me a dose of my childhood love again. But, the men who have played this part before are all some of the greatest actors known to us, so stepping into those shoes is an honour and insanely intimidating.
Did the challenge of mathcing those other actors' successes in the role or the prospect re-entering the world of musical theatre ever make you think, 'I don't know if I can do this'?
When [the team] first approached me, I didn't really know Camelot that well and so my first impulse was, 'Do I want to give up my life again to do a show on stage?' Because what I've learned so far is that when you're doing a show like this that requires so much of you, you really do have to live like a monk for the most part. But once I read the script and obviously when I heard about the creative team, most of me said, 'I would be so stupid not to do this.' And then the thing that pulled me from 99% to 100% was reading the script and finding it hilarious and quick and witty, as well as wonderfully urgent in a way that made it just an easy, 'Hell, yeah!' I haven't regretted that since.
And I do want to say, it's not lost on me that I'm not saving lives, what I'm doing is a dream come true, and I am incredibly lucky to say that this is my job. My personal life suffers just a bit, but it's all in service of this great thing that I've always wanted to do, so at the end of the day, I feel fulfilled and grateful and inspired.
You touched as well on Aaron's script for this iteration of the show. Could you summarise what it was that drew you to this adaptation? And what different sides of the show audiences might see?
I think Aaron made the decision early on, to take all of the magic out of the book, which I think does a couple of things. It makes the story about humankind and only humankind, so it's about a young man who has been given this power that he didn't want, and his main enemy is human nature. So I think what that does is make the story quite urgent and necessary. I think it makes it modern, no matter what time you are performing it, because there's always war, there is always human desire, lust and human idealism, and those forces, when you trace back through history, are the inflexion points at which major things happen. So I think it makes the audience question themselves and question the world we are surrounded by right now in this very moment of war in Europe and disintegrating institutions and systems in place that should care for society's most vulnerable that are not working. Unfortunately no matter how much ground is gained with each generation, the next generation still struggles with the same things. And I think Aaron’s script directly deals with that in a very new way.
And for you personally as well, coming into another stage project after having so much success in your previous work, is there a pressure to match that or to reach the same kind of success with this?
I think anytime you're publicly validated for something expectation enters the chat. I have found the older I get, the lower my expectation is and the happier I am. And I think the pressure to perform is actually the enemy. I started my career really wanting to be a good actor and that really put me on the wrong foot. I put all this pressure on myself to be good and be great. So I think the answer to your question is simply, yes, of course there's pressure to match that or exceed that but if that enters into the artistic process, I think you're dead in the water.
And looking to the future also, you've got Snow White coming up next year. That's another iconic story to step into, what was the process like of deciding to get on board for that?
That was something that I did the old-fashioned way. I auditioned for it and they said they liked me, so that was quite an easy yes. I think being a part of something as grand and iconic and beloved as Snow White is another dream come true. I get to play a whole new character which is so fun and working with Rachel and Gal was an absolute dream and Marc Webb, our director, is such a great guy and has such a clear vision for this beloved fairy tale. It's a new story in the sense that it's no longer a princess waiting to be saved by a prince, but a princess waiting to be saved by herself and finding her voice, her strength and her courage and actually, in the end, saving everyone around her. So I just had an absolute blast working on that. And I think Rachel is truly a once-in-a-generation talent and I hope people will be as moved by what she did as I was.
And then in terms of your own character, are you allowed to share anything on that? All we know is that he's a different, new kind of character from what we’ve seen before.
Yes, I would say that Jonathan is less of a full-on prince and more of a reluctant hero. I guess that's all I can say right now.
Nice, that's enough that keep us interested. And additionally, you have an A24 film The Front Room on the horizon which seems once again like a completely different vibe for you, really diversifying this current era of your career. Is such variation in the projects you're working on something you'd say you are seeking out these days?
You know, I think it's impossible to be a master of his craft before you're 80 years old. I think you have to live a full life before you can actually articulate the full life but I started out in theatre, theatre is my first love, it will always be the thing that I've returned to. I think whatever comes my way is a welcome surprise and I've been really lucky in that I've been able to go left and then right, so the goal is to be able to do everything under the sun to grow, expand and learn, and be able to use the thing that I love to do to articulate as many different kinds of stories as possible.
And as you said, it takes till you're 80 years old to master this craft and live a full life. Do you see yourself being an 80-year-old, still taking on new roles and exploring what you can learn from acting?
100%. I think if I could die on my way to the theatre, I will have lived the perfect life.
Camelot runs from April 13th at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, NYC.