While the world sits in various stages of COVID-19 restrictions, the Amazon Prime Video series Alex Rider is exactly the entertainment we need during the pandemic, and one of its stars Brenock O'Connor, who plays Alex’s best friend Tom, has some ideas for the second season.
“I'm never going to turn down an idea of two boys just going through and exploring who they really are,” O’Connor told Yahoo Canada. “Give us some humanity, anything like that I'm down for.”
“I think it's an accurate representation of what most teenagers are like these days, they're more emboldened than people in the past, we know what's going on, we've got access to information all the time, I'd love to see that side of things.”
The actor also recognizes that the cast is “very lucky” to be given the opportunity to go back to work, after it was announced on Nov. 10 that Alex Rider has been renewed for a second season.
“We released it in lockdown...so it feels strange to be thinking about going back to work, really,” O’Connor said. “[We’re] some of the few actors that are able to go back into employment, which is a very lucky situation.”
If O’Connor looks familiar, you’ve likely seen the now 20-year-old U.K. actor as Olly in the HBO series Game of Thrones, but it’s his infectiously witty take on Tom in Alex Rider that quickly makes him a favourite character and welcome comic relief in the first season of the spy series.
Alex Rider is based on Anthony Horowitz’s graphic novel franchise of the same name, with the first season on the Amazon Prime Video show specifically based on the second book, Point Blanc. Alex, played by Otto Farrant, is a London-based teen who grew up unknowingly part of a word old of espionage, with the assassination of two billionaires leading him to going undercover in a boarding school called Point Blanc.
Although the franchise is known as a young adult spy story, labelling the series as “young adult” doesn’t do the show justice, with heated action sequences and a lot of depth to the storylines and the characters.
“There's a lot of drama that goes on that you can sometimes get lost in action sequences and big explosions and everything like that, and you can sort of let the humanity of these people slip away,” O’Connor explained. “And then there's also a side of things where you don't keep people hooked enough.”
“The writer obviously had the main task of making sure that there was a nice split between but then conveying all the scenes in a certain way is a nice challenge. I think our show manages to make sure that everyone feels human, whether they [have good intentions or bad intentions], everyone feels fairly real.”
‘Completely wrong’ decision to audition O’Connor for the title character
Tom isn’t actually in the second book, he comes up later, which allowed O’Connor to “have some fun” with the character.
“Me and Otto went for lunch with the writer of the books, Anthony Horowitz, very early on in the process and he just told us that he had full faith in us to do what we thought was right for the characters and bring the best versions of the characters forward,” O’Connor revealed. “I didn't feel restricted by the books, it just was a lovely helping hand if I needed a look into what this character was really thinking at a certain point.”
This was also the actor’s first time being able to improvise on a television series, as opposed to most sets where, in his experience, directors and writers weren’t as open to experimentation.
“At the end of the day, no one knows what teenagers talk like more than people who were teenagers,” O’Connor explained. “I was 19 when I shot it so there is an element of realism that you can only get from having a little bit of improv and bending certain lines.”
The actor was actually a fan of the books growing up but in an interesting turn of events, O’Connor began his audition process for the series for the role of Alex, but he always knew that wasn’t the right fit.
“When I first heard about the audition, I was actually being seen for Alex, which is completely wrong, would never have worked in a million years,” he said. “I got the tape through and I was like, ‘this is incredible that they're doing this, but I'm not right for this at all’... and I was like, ‘whenever they're casting for this Tom character, just let me know.’”
It was only when O’Connor got to the final chemistry read that he was able to try out the role of Tom.
“It was a lot of fun finally, getting to sink your teeth into a character that you've thought you'd have a lot of fun playing,” he said. “To be involved in something that I've read since I was about seven years old, in any way, is like true dream stuff.”
As O’Connor takes the time during COVID-19 restrictions to focus on his music, the actor said it’s “amazing” to know that people took the time in lockdown to watch the show.
“The idea that even in this crazy, crazy year that we've had, people have taken time out of their day to sit down and watch our show is amazing,” he said. “Seeing people's reactions of how it's getting them through tough lockdowns and stuff, that is really sweet.”