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Still of Elliot Warren and Anthony Boyle in character from the war drama series "Masters of the Air".

From stage to Spielberg: Elliot Warren dishes on Masters of the Air


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It was 2019 when BA (Hons) Acting graduate Elliot Warren collected a career crown jewel – an Olivier Award – for his play Flesh and Bone.

Following that, there’s very little he hasn’t done. As an actor, roles in the acclaimed Masters of the Air and How to Have Sex (the BAFTA-nominated brainchild of fellow Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) alum Molly Manning Walker), as well as upcoming appearances in A Thousand Blows on Disney+, alongside Stephen Graham and Erin Doherty, and the ninth series of ITV’s crime drama Grantchester.

From the writing perspective, there are multiple projects on the go as well. From television work including his original series SlaughterHouse, currently in development with the BBC, and X, which begins filming this year, to his feature film Bruiser. On top of that, a second play is in the works – The Ballad of Ticky Monroe. So begs the question, does he like juggling lots of projects?

“I prefer being busy,” he says. “I like having five or six things on the go at the same time. I find that if I have one project, I become a bit obsessive… I get in my own head about it. I think when you have so many things to juggle, you have to make quicker, sharper decisions, so I tend to work like that.”

Elliot currently appears as Lieutenant James Douglass in war drama series, Masters of the Air, opposite a cast of established actors including Austin Butler, Callum Turner, and Anthony Boyle, with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks serving as executive producers. With such distinguished company, what were some of his most memorable moments working on the show?

“I met friends for life,” he says. “It really did build that camaraderie amongst the lads. We did a bootcamp at the start that was amazing. There were 67 of us at that bootcamp – the cast ended up getting to 600 boys – but that core group was thrown in at the deep end, running through the woods every day chanting US army chants… doing caterpillar push-ups… it was amazing and so fun.

“While filming, some of the most memorable moments were, when we’re in the sky, you’re on a gimbal that’s 30 feet in the air, with a piece of B-17 plane attached that moves like a rollercoaster, and all around us was a dome of screens. It wasn’t green screen; it’s this insanely expensive technology that goes across the whole gimbal, and they project the sky on it. German Luftwaffe planes are coming at you, and you have real guns firing blanks – we’re firing like on a computer game.

“All the emotions you see in that show are all real; we didn’t have to act much! We’re running around the planes, bullets flying everywhere, we’re actually falling over because the gimbal’s moving suddenly. It was a combination of me as a teenage boy playing Call of Duty and having so much fun, and also trying to respect and represent a massively important story. These incredibly brave men’s lives.”

Like many of the characters in Masters of the Air, Lt. James Douglass was a real person. Elliot explains the research that went into realising the character, who he describes as “incredible”.

“He was the lead bombardier on the majority of the missions that he went on […] the actual guy that was lining up where they were going to drop bombs on the Nazis. And he won several Purple Hearts – he had an incredible military career. But weirdly, there wasn’t much on him, other than the accolades. I did get in touch with his family; his grandson and I were talking on Instagram, and he told me a few bits about his grandad.

“But you do have to take some creative license with the character. The real James Douglass had this little moustache and this nice quiff, so we thought, ‘Okay, he’s this suave pilot’. We made him a bit of a cheeky chappy, but also because of his accolades, we made him super brave, he looks after Crosby [played by Anthony Boyle] in the nose of the plane.”

Elliot says that the training he received at AUB instilled a belief in himself and his abilities, which he has taken forward into his career, including Masters of the Air.

“I don’t think, so far, that I’ve ever had a moment where I feel an overwhelming sense of Imposter Syndrome, or ‘I can’t do this’,” he explains.

“[AUB] teaches you to think on your feet and be super creative in a limited space of time. I remember, in second year, we were doing these tasks where you had two days to make a play and then come in and perform it. At the start, we’d think, ‘Oh my God,’ but after two months of doing that, we were bashing them out and everyone was really entertaining.

“I think having that ability in your arsenal, going into the world with a sense of confidence, going onto these big sets, you’ve got a takeaway. Thinking, ‘Steven Spielberg might be watching this, and this show cost £750 million and the camera is on me’ – that’s a bit scary. But as soon as you remove yourself from that and rely on your abilities, I think you’re golden.

As he mentions, Elliot has a wealth of projects on at the same time, many of which are his own creations. And the idea of actors making their own work is vitally important, especially at the start of their careers.

“Writing a monologue, or getting a friend who’s a writer to write a monologue, calling people and saying, ‘Can you give me something?’ You don’t have to do it yourself, basically. You just have to have that networking ability to be able to call on other people and get work out there. Go to monologue slams or put work on at theatres that do nights where you can do 10 minutes of something. Just get yourself out there, because otherwise, no one’s going to be watching.”

Elliot’s second play, The Ballad of Ticky Monroe, is in the early stages of writing. As he reveals, it follows a similar vein of Flesh and Bone, written in a hybrid rhyming slang-Shakespearean verse, “bending fourth wall drama with soliloquies and monologues out to the audience.”

“It’s about a homeless drug addict in London, who is trying to get clean to reconnect with his daughter,” explains Elliot. “It’s about him, and also about suicide and depression in young men in this country – something that I’m really passionate about. Another character, who is mildly in psychosis, doesn’t really have a way out or anyone to help him. They’re the two protagonists.

“It’s really funny and light-hearted,” he adds, “But it is about some serious, dark subjects. I always try to write about those subjects and give them some heart and soul. Some characters that you’re going to love, instead of being too bleak about it. You can learn more from that style of writing.”

Finally, we refer back to Elliot’s mega multitude of ongoing projects, to find out which of them he’s most looking forward to seeing realised.

“I’m most excited for a show that I’m writing, a six-part drama called Slaughterhouse, about working-class lads in Essex, who are boy racers. It’s about them being directionless, their ambitions and where they are in the world, and young men in this country in general, who are dealing with depression, anxiety and suicide.

“I think the days are gone when you can just be an actor,” he continues. “The vast majority of us are artists. The industry doesn’t owe you anything, and you can be forgotten in an instant, so you’ve got to make your mark. You can’t do that by twiddling your thumbs and waiting for the phone to ring. Go out and make your own stuff.”

Something to think about

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