Alfred Enoch on Playing Believable Heroes and Post-“Potter” Casting
After having returned to the theater in West End’s Red early last spring, Alfred Enoch is back on-screen as the shining star in the second season of BBC’s Trust Me, which is a whole new battlefield from his role as Gryffindor Dean Thomas in the Harry Potter series. Enoch has taken on the part of Corporal Jamie McCain, a disabled Afghanistan veteran sent to a spinal unit in Glasgow. Away from the war, McCain must separate life-threatening danger from nightmares and friends from foes when a killer runs free around the hospital. Enoch discusses his perspective on modern heroism and the physical demands specific to his role.
At the beginning it’s a battle to raise his arm up. It’s getting out of bed. Showering. Whatever it is, there are these physical challenges. Nowadays the expectation for what we consider extraordinary, or what is physically impressive, is very high. We’re used to seeing heroes leap over buildings or clear whole flights of stairs in a single bound in superhero movies, which are fantastic – the kind of stuff I loved as a kid. But there’s something interesting about a story that goes against the current of that and brings it down to something smaller, to what it physically impressive in this context.
To help perfect his performance as an ex-war hero, Enoch spoke to war veterans and professionals. He began to notice the knowledge he gained deepening his understanding of mobility struggles the disabled face, such as using a wheelchair, which he describes as “tiring” but “eye-opening.”
You don’t want doctors at home going, ‘Oh, nah, come on.‘ I’ve got friends who are doctors, and they wouldn’t let me live it down. I was like, ‘We’ve got to make sure we don’t cock this up.‘ I found myself walking around the street, looking at steps and thinking, [‘]goodness, you’d struggle to get down those in a chair.[‘]
Enoch does not believe Potter has hampered any acting opportunities he may have had. He recognizes the struggle his costars have had with being predominantly known for their Potter roles and has worked to avoid typecasting, but Enoch considers his on-set exposure as Dean to be “an education.”
As big a thing as it was, I didn’t have much to do with it, so it didn’t hang so heavily around my neck. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing thing to be part of, but for me it was ideal because it was on a huge scale – an education – but I came out of that and no one was like, ‘You’ll always be Dean Thomas from Harry Potter,’ because most people don’t know who Dean Thomas from Harry Potter is. A friend of mine said the only power an actor has is to say no. I think that’s stating it emphatically, but you come out of a job and you’ve been fortunate that it’s something people see and that they enjoy.