Hometown: Bargoed, Wales, UK
Why He’s On Our Radar: Making his feature film debut in “Submarine,” Roberts gives what could certainly be a star-making performance as Oliver Tate, a boy on a mission to save his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) from the dissolution of their marriage and to lose his virginity before he turns 16. The British imported film won considerable acclaim following its the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, where it was picked up by The Weinstein Company (click here to read our interview with the comedy’s director, Richard Ayoade). It’s now making its way to U.S. theaters. One of the freshest and distinctively clever teen tales to come along in some time, “Submarine” should have no problem making Roberts one of this summer’s big indie breakouts.
More About Him: The young Brit starting trying out for roles when he was only 9 years old, landing a part in Antonia Bird’s 2000 TV movie “Care” on his very first audition. That appearance led to a decade’s worth of roles on British television, including one as a vampire’s best friend on “Young Dracula.”
What’s Next: Roberts said he’d really like to do more films. “I love improvisation,” he said. “And I’d love to break into American movies. I love the Judd Apatow clique. I love those sort of films. You can tell they’re improvising and having fun a the same time. If it’s possible, I’d love to carry on acting while having fun.”
indieWIRE Asks: When did you decide you wanted to become an actor?
I started acting when I was about 9. Basically because I couldn’t play football. I couldn’t play any afterschool activities so I joined this drama class. I took an interest to it and it went from there, really. I got a part on a TV series on my very first audition, which was really lucky of me. From then on, I thought ‘Wow, this seems pretty easy.’ I just kept doing it, and really found this love for improvising. That was main attraction to acting.
How did “Submarine” come about?
I got a script from my agent for the film. When I read it, I thought it, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ Or, actually, I thought, ‘Do you they not have a Michael Cera or someone to play this.’ That was what my first instincts were because it was just such a well-written script. It reminded me of ‘Superbad.’ Not that it’s a lot like ‘Superbad,’ it was just that sort of comedy. So I read it and thought that this must be some sort long shot. We sent a tape to audition, and I got a call back. I met up with Richard Ayoade, the director, and we just struck a bond right away. Which was really cool. We did improvisation for about 10 minutes, and he was so good. He used to stand up so he’s very good at comedy. But it was almost easier to have him there because he was so easy to bounce off of. And that led to a screentest, which went really well. And now we’re here.
You had previously worked on TV. What was this like in comparison?
Looking back on the work that I did on TV, I won’t say over the top, but it wasn’t natural, if you know what I mean. It wasn’t natural acting. Now that I’ve done ‘Submarine’ and worked with Richard… He showed me the less you do, the better, really. I don’t think the work I’ve done before ‘Submarine’ is bad, I just finally feel like I can act. I really feel like it helped me a lot, acting wise.
It’s obviously a much different scale. I mean, this is a lead role in a feature film.
That was the great attraction to it, obviously. As soon as I read it, I thought ‘Wow, this kid is in basically every scene.’ And even the scenes he’s not in, his voice is in the scenes. I knew this was going to be a tough thing for anybody that gets the part. But the character is just so great.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast?
When I found out the cast that they had – Paddy Considine, Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor – I was taken aback. I was just like ‘This is amazing.’ It really was. I was so shocked at how good they were. I saw Sally Hawkins in ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ where she gave that great performance. But I’m lucky I saw that after we made ‘Submarine.’ Because if I’d seen that before ‘Submarine’ I would have been very nervous working with her.