Star of the Week: Olivier winning actor Bertie Carvel’s big break on Broadway and his earnest approach to acting

Bertie Carvel

Bertie Carvel

Look up “class act” in the dictionary and the above picture should be right next to it.

Hailing all the way from London with years of Royal Academy of Dramatic Art training and an Olivier Award under his belt, Bertie Carvel‘s grand Broadway debut was nothing short of magnificent. However, the road to Shubert Alley was a long one. Through Bertie’s pure ambition and unbelievable talents, he has been able to conquer the realms of television, film, and stage with ease. Although his run in Matilda ends on Sept. 1, for this undeniably charming performer, the best is yet to come.

Bertie was born in London, England, and attended University College School before heading to Sussex University to study English. He transferred to RADA later on and worked vigorously at his craft for years, even if it meant doing speech exercises with his tongue and injuring himself while driving on the highway. That level of dedication is still prominent within Bertie today, as plainly seen by any one of his performances.

Before making the leap across the pond to New York, Bertie appeared in numerous West End productions: Revelations, Rose Bernd, Coram Boy, The Life of Galileo, The Man of Mode, Damned by DespairParade, and Matilda the Musical.

Bertie played Leo Frank, a Jewish factory manager who is lynched following the false accusation that he murdered a 13-year-old girl, in Parade. He has stated that this role has been his favorite to play over the course of his career, and it was the first musical he performed in on a professional level. For his heartbreaking performance he earned an Olivier Award nomination.

As for Matilda, his origination of the role of Agatha Trunchbull led to his Olivier Award win. In his acceptance speech, the first people he thanked were the cast and crew of Matilda. “Acting is a team game. The actors and musicians and technicians who make this show are exceptional,” Bertie said. He was able to travel to Broadway with the same creative team (including director Matthew Warchus, who has described Bertie as a “bottomless pit of ideas”) and with Lauren Ward, who also originated her role as Miss Honey in London.

Along with these highly impressive theatre credentials, Bertie has also appeared in Doctor Who and Sherlock. He appeared as a recurring character in a series entitled Hidden, and in another called Bombshell. More recently, he was spotted in the Les Miserables film as Bamatabois, a character who assaults Fantine when she refuses to give him her services.

As a self-described “quick learner” and a solid “seven” on a scale of competitiveness from 1-10, Bertie’s bright and witty persona always shines through in interviews and when he converses with fans at the stage door. He has learned to adjust to life in New York, and it has, in fact, exceeded his expectations. “I didn’t expect to like New York so much,” he confessed to the New York Times.

Even though Bertie was hesitant about New York at first, the fans of Matilda accepted him with open arms. He received rave reviews for his performance, and is playing for sold-out audiences nightly. He makes the impeccable transformation into Miss Trunchbull look incredibly easy, and even fun. However, Bertie has described this process as “detective work.”

“Acting is a mysterious process,” Bertie told the New York Times. “Like explaining how a magic trick works.” His intricate routine that prepares him for the show and helps him get into character involves a series of questions Bertie asks himself. One of them is, if Miss Trunchbull hates children so much, why does she work in a school? Bertie has also worked tirelessly in finding his character’s voice, hammer-throwing stature, and femininity underneath it all. This terrifying rant is only the surface of what Bertie has been able to bring to life in Matilda.

The explosiveness and rapturous qualities he has brought to Miss Trunchbull have been spooking audiences for months now, and earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. He also won a Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.

“If you want to walk away with a show, don’t work with kids,” Bertie said in an interview with Playbill. “But if you want to be in something that’s joyful and exciting and fun, then I highly recommend it.”

Bertie Carvel is a genuinely gracious and grounded person, and although he may be stealing the show at the Shubert Theatre each night, he always seems to continue to strive for perfection and remember the people who have helped him get to where he is today. Bertie is the kind of person who can instantly captivate an audience, or even just a small group of people at a press event. He is confident in his moral standings (he considers himself a socialist, and considers the spirit of his beliefs to be cohesive to what he’s come across in New York) and his earnest personality couldn’t be more different from the villain he portrays on stage every night.

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