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The turning point comes when “you start being offered parts, which is where I’m at now.Where you don’t have to audition, where they know you from things and say ‘Hey, would you like to do this? Four years ago, on the other hand, he went through a period of nearly eight months without work. Because you’re in a town where everyone’s working, seemingly, and you’re not doing it.Simon’s tastes run to commercial hits over capital-A Art – and in fact he remains very business-minded, as befits his education and family background (he’s also one of the few actors to have entered the business from the production side).He’s the kind of man to whom a producer can entrust money without worrying that he’s just going to “sit in a field picking daisies,” as he puts it.His whole family are business people: both his parents now work in property (they’re not estate agents; they buy and “flip”) and he also has an older brother working in the City.His mum and sister-in-law used to own a trendy coffee place in South London called Urban Coffee – and it was there, about 12 years ago, that Simon got his big break, or not even a break but “my first time being allowed to look through the keyhole,” as he puts it.“And I went and thought ‘This is good, I like this actually’.
Not really, he replies, implying that the man must’ve worked for a fraction of his usual fee, or even for free: “He’s a fan”. At 37, he may be in the best place that an actor (or actor-director-writer) can be: newly established, his career about to crest, but also with a promise that the best is yet to come. Let’s get him in, he can play a psychopath, a love interest…’ Which is what’s happening now – on he was Sunil Bakshi, a member of HYDRA who was burned to a crisp at the end of Season 2 (“I’m officially dead, I got incinerated. His very first role – with almost no acting experience – was as Pedro, a randy Mexican houseboy in Tennessee Williams’ ; it was one of his first auditions, “and I ended up on the West End stage with Woody Harrelson for seven months!
Reading and filmgoing are very solitary hobbies, I point out. He himself has worked with some divas, says Simon, but absolutely refuses to name names, even off the record.
Yes, he agrees, but his job is so relentlessly social – and it’s not just the acting, it’s also the constant hustle of being affable, easy-going, easy to work with, relaxed and charming like he is in our interview. Instead he tells a story of how he bonded with Christopher Plummer, the Oscar-winning star of his (it’s set during the Greek War of Independence).
I also suspect he’s fiercely competitive – and it may or may not be significant that, when I ask for names of his actor friends in LA, he mentions only women. – which has found willing backers, and also opened the door to the Peter Francisco biopic – was his own project from beginning to end; “I knew that, with all the favours I could pull in, I could get away with doing it for about 0,000”.
His “best mate there” is Caitriona Balfe, the lead actress in ”. Simon pauses thoughtfully, as if to say it’s a valid question. “I was…” he starts to say, then decides not to: “I’m single now. He managed to raise the money on Kickstarter, helped by his minor-celeb status (Sunil Bakshi on was a massive hit with the fans; “I just knew how arch you had to play it,” says Simon, a comic-book fan himself), found his crew, then storyboarded every shot in the one-hour pilot. The work is all-pervasive; even parties tend to be about promotion or, at the very least, networking.