“I grew up in North London in a house of six boys (I have five brothers, and I’m also a twin). My surname Leanse (pronounced Lee-antz) is a Lithuanian Jewish name — my great-grandparents moved from a shtetl in Lithuania to Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century. My red hair is a bit of a mystery (none of my parents or grandparents are redheads) but I like to think it snuck into the family genes in Ireland. I love languages and speak fluent French and Spanish. I studied them at Cambridge University, where I got involved in the theatre scene and realised acting was what I wanted to do.”
What kind of actor do you aspire to be?
One thing I’ve learnt from drama school is how much power fellow actors have to push each other to achieve their best work. I want to be the kind of actor who enables others to be the best they can be. For me, that means bringing enthusiasm, kindness, and hard work into a rehearsal room or on set. I think that energy is infectious.
What performance piece did you choose for the showcase and why?
I picked a piece from a play called The Antipodes by Annie Baker. Danny is working in a writer’s room and decides to share a personal story with the group. But after sharing, he is met with a wall of blank faces and has to confront how others see him / fail to see him. There’s a weirdness to his character that I just love — he is so off the wall and quirky and I love the way something so small as picking up a chicken can come to represent so much.
What book, theatre, film or TV production has most inspired you?
Just recently, I went to watch That Is Not Who I Am by Dave Davidson at the Royal Court, and left the theatre feeling like the world was crumbling around me. I love the way theatre can pull the rug from under you, and make you walk out onto the street feeling like you’re in a different place from when you walked in. I really admired the nuance and detail in the performances of Siena Kelly and Jake Davies — sometimes, in the theatre, I am aware I’m watching an actor on stage acting, and sometimes I am just in a room with real people. This play definitely felt like the latter.
How do you keep creative?
I started The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron this year. One of the most valuable tools I’ve taken from it is the morning pages: three hand-written sides of A4 every morning. The writing isn’t meant to be good. And it’s not meant to be read by anyone. It’s a mental detox. But it gradually crystallises into a map of your life — the things that worry you, the things you fear, the things you want, your hopes and ideas… It has made me feel more clear-headed and present. I’ve also really loved my first attempt at screenwriting as part of Guildhall’s Solo project this year — in which I imagined what happened next to Sir Andrew Aguecheek from Twelfth Night.
What is the dream role you’d love to play?
Vincent van Gogh in a biopic directed by Jane Campion.
What do you hope to be doing this time next year?
I hope to be in rehearsal rooms or on set learning from actors and directors who have been working for a long time. I want to work with directors such as Lyndsey Turner, Ian Rickson, Daniel Evans, Rupert Goold. Watching Spring Awakening at the Almeida back in December was one of the best nights I’ve had at the theatre and I would love to be part of a rehearsal process like that. Or anything that Paapa Essiedu is in. He directed us at Guildhall and is so exciting to work with – I would love to act alongside him.