Joseph Sinclair

Introducing Connor Swindells

From the boxing ring to the big screen, we meet the 22-year-old star of rap battle drama ’VS.’

Phil de Semlyen

Who is he?
He’s a 22-year-old boxer-turned-actor from West Sussex who plays the lead in ‘VS.’, a drama set in Southend’s underground battle-rap scene.

Who does he play?
Swindells is Adam Watson, a teenager bounced from one foster family to another since his mum gave him up as a boy. ‘He’s self-destructive and thinks the world is against him,’ says Swindells. ‘My mum passed away when I was young so I knew what it was like to grow up without a maternal figure. I knew “VS.” would bring up a lot of buried stuff. It was daunting but also thrilling.’

How did he get the role?
In an open audition that almost ended in blows. ‘I was at a self-destructive point in my life,’ he recalls, ‘and I nearly got into a fight. Obviously, that was a quality they were looking for.’

Connor Swindells as Adam Watson in ‘VS.’Connor Swindells as Adam Watson in ‘VS.’

What caused him to go down the path to acting?
A dare, initially. ‘Brighton was my nearest town and I used to go there at the weekend and get into mischief. I saw an audition poster for a play and said to my friend “I bet I could do that.” He said, “No, you couldn’t.” And that was it. It was “The Trial” by Kafka and I got the lead role, then I got the lead in two more plays and got an agent after the third one. I was really lucky.’

Was that his first stage role?
Not quite. There was a role in a specially rewritten school adaptation of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ as a 13-year-old. ‘My teacher told me to audition for it but I couldn’t sing so she wrote a non-singing part for me. She told me afterwards that she saw me being in TV or film one day.’

‘I nearly got into a fight at the audition. Obviously, that was a quality they were looking for’

Who are his acting idols?
He admits to ‘borderline stalking’ Ryan Gosling. ‘Every other day there’s a picture of him on my Instagram Story,’ he laughs. He also idolises Joaquin Phoenix (‘the best screen actor of all time’) and looks up to old-school American actors. ‘I have a real obsession with macho men like Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen.’

Where can we see him next?
Alongside Gerard Butler and Peter Mullan in ‘Keepers’. ‘On the first day, I was like, “That’s mad. It’s the guy from ‘300’ – I grew up on that film.” By day two, it was “Oh, it’s Gerry.” And Peter is like a father figure now.’ 

VS. review

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