James takes a big bite out of the Big Apple

James Physick during rehearsals
James Physick during rehearsals

Harry Potter actor to tread boards at New Theatre Royal

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From a Gosport schoolboy to treading the boards in the city that never sleeps, James Physick has had an exciting journey towards stardom. Elise Brewerton talks to him about his career so far.

As a schoolboy at Portsmouth Grammar School, James Physick always dreamed of being an actor.

James Physick, an actor from Gosport who is making it big in New York.

James Physick, an actor from Gosport who is making it big in New York.

But, growing up in Gosport, he never imagined he would make it in New York, having worked alongside directors such as Kevin Spacey.

Now the 29-year-old, formerly of Foster Road, is on the cusp of hitting the big time having spent many years pursing his dream.

He is currently starring in The Pirates of Penzance, in Pennsylvania, and has been lined up to play an Englishman in New York in a major television series.

After several years partying and soaking up the artistic atmosphere in Southsea, James and his best friend, musician Sam McCarthy of the band Burning Beaches, quit Portsmouth to cut a dash through London in 2005, where James’ adventure really began.

James Physick, an actor from Gosport who is making it big in New York.''caption: James (right) with friend Sam McCarthy on the seafront.

James Physick, an actor from Gosport who is making it big in New York.''caption: James (right) with friend Sam McCarthy on the seafront.

But it was not all glamour.

He says: ‘It’s known all too well in this career the difficulty in balancing regular jobs that pay the bills and sustaining a creative fulfilment.

‘That’s when I landed a job at Madame Tussauds, in Baker Street, in their scare attraction.

‘One week I would scare the living daylights out of people and the next I’d be singing as a crooner to guests walking through the museum.

‘In 2006 I auditioned for the leading role of Raymond in an Old Vic Theatre production called On The Middle Day.

‘The project was a site-specific play at the Imperial War Museum, London, written by historian Gavin Birch and directed by Matt Wilde.

‘Actor Kevin Spacey, who is artistic director at the Old Vic Theatre, headed the project up.

‘It was a phenomenal experience and working with Kevin Spacey was a true inspiration.

‘We had brunch together after the project and a lot of the advice he shared with me that day inspired me to move to the US.’

As well as theatre roles in London, he paid the bills by working as a regional marketing manager with Monster energy drinks and taking acting classes part time at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Three years ago James realised it was now or never and he had to give it his all to follow his ambitions.

He auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, New York, when agents visited London.

‘Its reputation with alumni such as Robert Redford, Danny DeVito, Grace Kelly, Kirk Douglas, Anne Hathaway and Paul Rudd confirmed it was the right fit for me,’ says James.

‘They accepted me after my audition and then I was en route to NYC.’

In James’ first semester at the drama school he met his girlfriend Tamara Ratcliffe, a fellow Brit, whom he describes as his ‘rock’.

They live in Astoria, Queens, which is known as Actoria because of all the thespians who live in the neighbourhood.

He says: ‘It is the most amazing city. It’s culturally diverse and has so much to offer day and night.

‘It really is the city that never sleeps.

‘The first day I walked the streets from Lower East Side all the way to Central Park it was like walking onto a film set.’

Upon graduation last year James was awarded the Charles Jehlinger Award for best actor in his year at the Academy.

James is now a member of the Academy’s company and has starred in productions on stage and on the small screen.

He has had leading roles off Broadway as Val Xavier in Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending – the role made famous on the big screen by Marlon Brando.

James has also played two leading roles in the play When the Rain Stops Falling as Gabriel York and Henry Law.

He was also nominated as best actor for Jason in the play Good Morning at the highly-acclaimed Strawberry Theatre Festival in Manhattan.

And he has been very busy recently working with acclaimed playwright Douglas Carter Beane on the play Fairy Cakes at the Scranton Shakespeare Festival, Pennsylvania.

James says: ‘Douglas has opened up so many opportunities and has been ever so generous with his time, his mentoring and sharing his industry professionals contacts with me.

‘He plans to produce Fairy Cakes either for a national US tour or Broadway in the coming year.

‘Again I played two leading roles, as Prince and Cupid.

‘It may even make it to London.’

And there are even bigger things to come.

‘Friday was the opening of my new show in Scranton, and it was brilliant.

‘We were challenged with producing a mammoth Gilbert and Sullivan classic operetta The Pirates of Penzance in less than two weeks.

‘We did it to a rapturous audience and, as you can imagine, we celebrated with a late cast party.

‘I have a wonderful working relationship with Douglas which has grown into a friendship.

‘After the show he spoke with me about two projects that he wants to progress with me later this year.

‘The first is to continue with Fairy Cakes when it’s produced on Broadway and for which he already has interest from actors Nathan Lane and Cynthia Nixon.

‘The second project is an untitled HBO show in development.

‘I can’t go into too much detail, but it will be playing an Englishman amongst a Mafia setting, most likely here in NYC.

‘The project is written by Douglas and headed up by producer Frank Rich who produces the comedy show Veep.

‘They are both really exciting.’

On the small screen James has appeared in The Hunt on CNN.

The night shoot involved a car crash scene where James’ character was flung from the vehicle.

Living in one of the greatest cities in the world means that he is never short of visitors, as James explains, ‘My family tend to visit when they can and my mum Karen is planning to spend Christmas in New York this year, which I’m so excited about.

‘I’m also really lucky in that New York is a destination a lot of my friends and previous colleagues travel through.

‘It’s not unusual for me to get an email or Facebook message out of the blue from a friend saying “Hey I’m in NYC for a couple of days.

‘Let’s grab a drink”.’

James has many happy memories of Portsmouth and Southsea but he has made New York his home and where he hopes to make his name.

‘My ultimate dream,’ says James, ‘is to be a series regular on a major TV network show as well as produce independent films.

‘And I would love to work with wonderful directors such as Woody Allen, The Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese.’

Bearing in mind his achievements so far, it surely won’t be long before they come knocking.