Interview with Colin Morgan
Actor in Testament of Youth
Lead-star of former BBC TV series Merlin, Colin Morgan, recently joined us to talk about his latest film, Testament of Youth.
Considered one of the great war memoirs even written, Testament of Youth is a true life account of Vera Britain's life during World War One (1914-1918), and a chronicle of how it affected not only herself, but a nation.
Portraying the role of Victor Richardson, Colin Morgan plays one of Vera's close friends, who, out of duty and loyalty to Queen and country enlists to help in the war - which ends with devastating results at both ends.
Testament of Youth is released in UK cinemas from 16th January 2015.
What drew you to the character of Victor?
The script, it was just so fantastically written. I think when you initially read something and it draws you in from an emotional and a deep way then you inevitability feel a bit of a draw towards it. Particularly with Victor, I think his story just absolutely connected with me. I felt an immediate duty and honour to do him proud, luckily I was given the opportunity to do that.
What was it like as an actor to read Victors words? Did it help to capture to his voice or his story at all?
Absolutely, we all read Testament of Youth - the memoir itself - which from Vera's point of view was vital, we needed to know what she went through. But for me, and personally, Letters From A Lost Generation the novel, which is a collection of their letters was fantastic as it was their words. It [was] their voice, and you're reading it and it was immediately this duty and honour for you to them in bringing it to screen. Vital for us to do that.
Did you do further research into the First World-War in general?
Yes, I did read a lot of World War One poetry, to get that feeling from guys who weren't poets, who were soldiers and just wrote what they were feeling. Some of it was quite humorous surprisingly, some of it's quite poignant and very moving. But for me it was trying to find out exactly what it meant to be young at that time. I mean, these boys felt to die in battle was an honourable death, it wasn't shameful. I think that nowadays, if they were forced into doing something like that and they died they would be extremely resentful about going. These boys, even if they were filled with an inch of doubt or that it was scary or was wrong they did it, and they were on the mind-set that it was an honourable way to go. Unfortunately for Victor, he went through a really horrible time and came back having lost his sight. So, I don't think that it felt too honourable for him in the end.
It is mentioned in the film that it was worst to be blind than to die. It is quite interesting to think like that ...
Yeah, I don't get the impression that his family were too supportive around it. In their letters, they had actually said it would be better for him to die, than to live. There was no support back then for blind people until they had set up St Dunstan’s, home for blind. It was still a relatively new thing that was around - if you lost your sight then you lost your life. There was no point. But luckily at the time [of the film], they was starting to develop support for them, but, still it did have a bit of a stigma.
How did you find the complexion and tragedy of being blind in your role?
Again, it is about trying to inhabit that mind-set strand - trying to make it as real for yourself as possible. I think that the experience of losing my sight with the blind veterans UK down in Brighton was helpful, I contacted them and asked for their help. They brought me down there and blindfolded me for about close to five-hours and they took me in as a blind resident and just treated me like they would someone blind coming in. They gave me a tour of the building as a blind person. They brought me into the workshops, the gym, I had to make tea for people (impossible!), but it was an amazing experience. Then once I had regained my sight they had took me around where I had been and it is amazing what your mind creates when you lose your sight. But it was really important for me to see what it is like to lose your sight.
You can read our ★★★★☆ review of Testament of Youth, as well as other cast and crew interviews by clicking here.