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20 + 20 Covers Project: Craig Roberts

The Submarine actor talks about being an obsessed Eminem fan, his signature moves and how he's in the process of writing his own show

A magnificently understated performance in Richard Ayoade’s Submarine has been followed by parts in several large productions including Red Lights alongside Cillian Murphy, who chose Craig for his back cover. 

Dazed & Confused: You look like you enjoy having your photo taken.
Craig Roberts: 
Yeah, it’s cool to be able to do it. I was never one to be like, ‘get me in this photo.’ I’m not very photogenic.

D&C: Do you adopt a character when having picture taken?
Craig Roberts: 
Yes , especially this, which is a dark evil look, it’s pretty cool. 

D&C: What were you doing twenty years ago?
Craig Roberts: Nothing. I’m from South Wales, a place called Maes y Cwmmer, which I don’t really say because it sounds like Messy Cummer, which is not great. It’ a small town in Wales, population four or something like that.

D&C: Had you always wanted to be an actor?
Craig Roberts: I had quite a normal upbringing, acting was never a choice, I didn’t really want to be an actor, I wanted to be a football player because they earn so much money. I think I was a recluse and my parents wanted me to get out and do stuff so I went off to this stage coach, which I hated, it was an hour of singing, an hour of dancing an hour of acting, I hated singing and dancing, I couldn’t sing. So I quit that to pursue the football dream.

D&C: How did that work out for you?
Craig Roberts: Sort of around 10 or 11 I realised I couldn’t play football that well, I was right back, which is basically the position for the people with no skill and are not very fast. I joined this improvisation class in Cardiff, and sort of liked it, I suppose. I was never one who thought I was born to be an actor.

D&C: So what convinced you acting was what you wanted to do?
Craig Roberts: 'The Mask' with Jim Carey. I thought, ‘that’s cool, I’d like to do that’. My parents were never, ‘do this, be an actor’, they were like, ‘maybe you should look at other things, football’s not great for you.’ That, I suppose, was one of the things I looked at.

D&C: When was your career-altering break?
Craig Roberts: I’d been acting since I was 10 or 11, but I didn’t really realise that I wanted to be an actor till about two years ago, until I did Submarine. I did a lot of kids TV, but I think I was just turning up for the money a lot of the time, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Before Submarine happened, I actually quit acting, or gave it up in my mind. My last job before Submarine was Casualty. I did Casualty, six months went by and I thought, ‘you know what, I can’t really be bothered to wait around,’ so I started rapping.

D&C: Where did the call to rap come from?
Craig Roberts: I was quite a huge hip-hop fan, I’m quite an obsessed Eminem fan. So I was like, I can do it if he can do it. So I put a wife-beater on, stared in the mirror and started rapping and stuff. So I started off writing rap and then Submarine came along, and I said, ‘yeah, lets do it.’

D&C: Do you think your experience of growing up in small town Wales gave you an edge over other actors for the part of Oliver Tate in Submarine?
Craig Roberts: No, I think it was the bags under my eyes, the really weird haircut that I had, I looked really weird, so it’s probably that. I had no experience in Wales, just playing the Xbox, I didn’t leave my house much at all.

D&C: What was the first acting job you did?
Craig Roberts: It was a BCC drama called 'Care', which is about child abuse and stuff. I wasn’t abused in it, I was the son of the man getting abused, I’m not really in it much, my name in it was Craig. That was ten years ago.

D&C: Did your perspective on being an actor change in Submarine?
Craig Roberts: Oh yeah, doing Submarine, Richard the director taught me how to act really. With kids TV, it’s very over the top, it’s very ‘hey!’ With Richard, his style of acting is very minimal, I learnt that’s a really cool way to act, so now all my jobs are minimal, no expression.

D&C: What was the best piece of advice he gave you?
Craig Roberts: Bring it down, bring it down a lot. You’re way too much over the top, you’re seriously acting. He was really strict, shouting and stuff. The first audition I was probably over the top, but he just said, ‘say the lines, don’t act it.’ Obviously it’s different if you’re Christian Bale in The Fighter or something, you don’t just say your lines, but it worked for that.

D&C: Has playing such an iconic role changed the standard of what roles you expect in the future?
Craig Roberts: Yeah, I’m sure I’m not going to be in 'I Am Number Four' or any of those blockbusters. But it’s changed my life, it really, really has and it’s made me fall in love with acting. If I could do Submarine after Submarine that would be cool, but it’s not going to happen.

D&C: Do you have any exciting roles coming up?
Craig Roberts: I did a film called Red Lights about paranormal activity, which is pretty cool. Then I’m going to Paris next week to shoot a war film, Second World War film, guns and shit, I’m up for that.

D&C: Are these types of characters very different?
Craig Roberts: Yeah, the American character was very loud, I just mumbled the rest of them, taking it back to a mumble.

D&C: Is that your signature move?
Craig Roberts: Not mumbling, but like I learnt from Richard, that sort of minimal acting is cool, obviously not for every role, I can’t do minimal stuff where I’m getting blown up in the war film.

D&C: How did appearing in Dazed & Confused affect you professionally or personally?
Craig Roberts: It was very cool. I mean, being a quiet kid from Wales, appearing in magazines and stuff it’s crazy, it really is crazy, and it’s cool. I thought I was going to say something stupid in there.

D&C: Do you have to monitor what you say?
Craig Roberts: Yeah, quite a lot, I’m really holding back right now, I’ve a list of actors I want to throw abuse at or rap about.

D&C: What sort of roles excite you?
Craig Roberts: I’d love to play Batman, yeah. Christian Bale’s doing it, he was born in Wales, I can do the deep voice.

D&C: What do you do when your not acting?
Craig Roberts: I’m writing my own show at the moment, I’m working on something with Channel 4, which is about the downfall of an actor’s career basically, going to shit. It’s about a kid who basically goes insane through acting at age 20, sort of spoofing stuff from my career and taking the piss. I’m going to play the character Bruce, it’s quite dark, but funny.

D&C: How much from your own experience?
Craig Roberts: Mainly from knowing people who believe their own hype and it’s crazy. People do believe you’re the greatest and stuff are insane, I think we’re all the same and as soon as you start believing your own hype, good luck to you, you’re gone, there’s no coming back.

D&C: Is this the first thing you’ve written?
Craig Roberts: Yeah, I’m really bad a writing and reading. I’m really bad at reading books, I just fall asleep, two pages in, it’s ridiculous.

D&C: What are you up to for the rest of the day?
Craig Roberts: I’m going to my girlfriend’s and ride a horse. I’m learning to ride a horse, and I’m allergic as well, so it’s pretty good.

D&C: Why would you do that then?!
Craig Roberts: Love.

Photo Rankin
Styling Robbie Spencer
Hair Martin Cullen at Streeters
Make-up Lisa Houghton at Jed Root using Elizabeth Arden
Coat by Dior Homme

See our filmed interview with Craig Roberts and Cillian Murphy HERE