Otto Farrant on Alex Rider: To play someone that I idolized as a kid is amazing

Published: Jul 10, 2020, 11:04 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

Otto Farrant talks about his character of a teen superspy in the new series Alex Rider

Otto Farrant in a still from the show Alex Rider. Pictures courtesy/SONYLIV PR
Otto Farrant in a still from the show Alex Rider. Pictures courtesy/SONYLIV PR

Otto Farrant, who read the books as a 9-year-old, plays the teen superspy Alex Rider in the new series. The series is based on books by British author Anthony Horowitz. It comprises of thirteen novels and six graphic novels. The show Alex Rider will air on SonyLIV from 10th July 2020. Otto in a candid chat talks about playing Alex Rider and more:

Can you please give us a brief summary of this drama?
Alex Rider is about a teenage boy whose uncle dies unexpectedly, and suddenly he is thrown into a world of espionage. He has to save the world while grieving for his uncle. But it's also a story about friendship and conquering your demons and forgiveness, too. And it's epic and action-packed! Hopefully everyone will love it. I think it's got something for everyone.

How did you find out you had got the role of Alex Rider?
I was with six mates at a restaurant, and I knew I was going to hear that day. It was the evening, and I was kind of really hoping I'd get the call. My agent called me, and she said, "Go somewhere quiet." I went outside, and she went, "You got it!" Immediately my heart dropped into my toes, and I was hyperventilating. I started running around, and the adrenaline was going crazy. And I went back inside, and all my friends knew I was going in for it. They asked, "Did you get it?" Obviously, I couldn't tell them, so, I went, "I don't know. I'm going to find out next week." But it was a really special moment.

What's so exciting about getting to play this particular guy?
I read the books from when I was nine years old and I loved them. And if I felt that, I know that millions of people around the world also felt that. So, I know how much love for the books and the character there is out there. And the only thing that I can do is do my best to live up to the expectations. The books have sold over 19 million copies in 33 languages – it's insane. So, to play someone that I idolized as a kid is amazing.

Can you elaborate on that?
In terms of what it means for me personally as well, it's such a great opportunity to explore an incredibly complex character who is iconic to so many people. And there are millions of fans around the world who I think are going to be really excited, and I just hope I do it justice for them. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd play Alex Rider. I didn't think it was possible. And then when the opportunity came up, it was something that I couldn't pass up.

What have you most relished about playing this role?
A: The thing that struck me when I read the books is how well Anthony writes tension and action. In all the books, the most enjoyable bits for me are Alex has really got to dig deep and save the world because things are really against him. He's amazing at getting out of those situations. So, the most exciting thing when I got this was to be able to put that on to screen and really feel those emotions.

Otto Farrant as Alex Rider
Otto Farrant as Alex Rider

What do you love about Alex?
I think I love the character because he is so relatable. He could be anyone. He could be a friend of mine. He could've been me. It's just about the circumstances that he's put in, and the people that he's surrounded by. He's someone who's complicated and has had a complicated upbringing. He's been trained all his life by his uncle to be a spy, without knowing. And then he's a victim of circumstance in that his parents died when he was younger, and now his uncle's dead. It's not easy, and he has to really dig deep to find the courage to save the world, to defeat his own demons. That's why he's so iconic because he encourages us to see a side in our self which is steely and resilient.

How similar are you to Alex?
I'd like to think that I am an ordinary kid like him. I grew up in South London, and there's nothing particularly special about my upbringing. It was just happy. And I think if I'm playing an ordinary kid, it's going to be far more relatable to an audience than seeing a superhero on screen because you can't relate to those people. You can only relate to real people. And Alex is very real and he's very caring. He's a great character to play.

How have you found it working with Brenock?
He's great. We hit it off immediately when we met at the auditions. He was like the person that I clung to because there were 20 of us in there, and there were so many different personalities. Brenock was someone who I knew would instantly make me laugh in a high-pressure situation. I think that translated when we went into the room and read together because we were essentially cast together. And I was just really happy when he got the job and I got the job.

Did hitting it off so much help you both get the roles?
I'd like to think so, yes. You feel very lucky as an actor when you meet someone that you immediately click with because it can be quite a vulnerable situation in an audition room. And so, when you've got someone that you can trust immediately, it is a really important thing. And I definitely had that with Brenock.

You do lots of stunts as Alex. Which one have you enjoyed the most?
One day on a snowy mountain in Romania, they strapped me to a rig, which was tied to a snow bike. The snow bike just went, and suddenly I was flying about on this thing going down the mountain. I just had to do lots of reaction shots. There were people chasing me with guns on other snow bikes, and I just had to keep my balance and also react to what was going on around me. It was really fun. I think what you're going to find with Alex Rider is that there are going to be some amazing stunt sequences, but it's also going to have real depth within the characters to show these are real people and how they go through these experiences.

How did you prepare for the role?
I did a lot of physical training. I started by building a routine where I was exercising two days on and then one day off. And the kind of exercise I was doing was Krav Maga training, which is an Israeli self-defence training. It's all about efficiency. You can only use it if you're being attacked or your life is threatened. It's about getting out of that situation in the most efficient way, so punching people in the throat or the balls. I spent the first two hours of my first lesson getting kicked in the balls, and it was not fun. And pretty much every session I've been to since, there's been one section where I do get kicked in the balls for a little bit, but I have a guard so it's fine.

What other forms of training did you do?
The other stuff that I did was climbing. I've got really into bouldering, which is my newfound passion. I just go and climb walls for three hours straight – sometimes on my own, sometimes with an instructor. It's like solving a puzzle in your head while doing physical exercise, which for me relates to the character so much. It's a really good way of relaxing my brain, but also doing a bit of character work. I'm ready for action now. Always ready for action!

How has Brenock reacted to your training sessions?
Every time I come back from training exhausted, Brenock is sitting there eating his Macky D's. I'm there with my salad or my chicken, and I'm saying to him, "Oh, man, you, man. This is not fair!"

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