You get the feeling that Josh O’Connor is everywhere this year. After starring in the indie film Only You and in the BBC’s adaptation of Les Misérables, O’Connor made his royal debut as Prince Charles in the third season of The Crown, bringing to the role a soulful reverence and quiet masculinity—not to mention an uncanny resemblance to the pre-Diana prince. Now the British actor, whose photographs grace Loewe’s latest fashion campaign, is busy promoting a new adaptation of Emma, Autumn de Wilde’s whimsical take on the Austen classic that hits theaters in the U.S. this weekend.
“I was terrified of playing a comic role,” says O’Connor, who fit the film in between seasons of The Crown. But when O’Connor, who plays Mr. Elton alongside Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, and Bill Nighy, first met de Wilde, he says, “she opened this beautifully intricate box filled with images and references, and I found that inspiring. I am quite a visual person—I like to create scrapbooks for characters.” A trawl through O’Connor’s Instagram confirms this—in place of red-carpet selfies and filtered holiday snaps, he tends to post earnest photos of marmalade-colored pottery and Picasso-eque line drawings he’s scratched out himself.
Just shy of 30, O’Connor spent his childhood in Cheltenham, a picturesque spa town on the edge of the Cotswolds, and trained in his craft, studying acting at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Following several theater roles, he landed leading parts in The Durrells, a dreamy, sun-drenched family story set in Corfu, and in God’s Own Country, a brooding independent drama aptly hailed as Britain’s answer to Brokeback Mountain that earned the actor critical acclaim. Portraying the heir to the British throne catapulted O’Connor onto the covers of magazines and into the American consciousness. Next, O’Connor will take on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre, where he will play Romeo alongside Jessie Buckley’s Juliet. “It’s not the characters I’ve ever hunted or sought out,” explains O’Connor. “It generally is just … what is interesting—what kind of scripts take me, what kind of stories take me—and then everything follows. As long as the work’s interesting, I’ll do anything, really.”
Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for Air Mail