The first time I encountered Luke Millington-Drake, I knew he was destined for stardom—Hollywood cliché and all. It was in the late autumn of 2020, on a trip to Panama, where an influencer friend younger and cooler than myself insisted I look at “this insane kid from England making crazy Keira Knightley videos on TikTok.” And so I did, and so he was. Not necessarily insane, but a wholly original digital incarnation—swizzle-stick thin, with milky-white skin and razor-sharp cheekbones—of Knightley.
With his tart tone and sharp eye, Millington-Drake’s exuberant caricatures of public figures—including Nigella Lawson, Jude Law, and Hugh Grant—quickly captured my attention and refused to let go. Half entertainment, half social critique of the lives of the rich and reclusive, his videos are intimate and ironic, humorous but never haughty. I was immediately obsessed—as are his nearly 500,000 other TikTok followers.
Eighteen months later, I saw him in a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo as a “nasty gay BFF” on Loot, Maya Rudolph’s new Apple TV+ series. I giggled with tween-age glee—it’s him! He’s finally made it to TV. And, it appears, Millington-Drake is there to stay.
When I talked to Millington-Drake over Zoom, he was in the West Hollywood apartment where many of his Knightley videos are brought to life. While it was early in California, Millington-Drake, who’s 30, was already wonderfully full on.
Despite the feel-good nature of his TikTok content, Millington-Drake seems to dig playing a bad guy. He’s the voice of the Devil on Season Three of The Cuphead Show!, a Netflix cartoon series my little twin sons adore. “The villains are always the most fun to play, and the Devil is no exception,” he says. His Devil is “over the top and deliciously evil, all wrapped up with a theatrical flare.”
He also appears as a tour guide on Reboot, a family dramedy on Hulu, and will soon feature in That ’90s Show, an update of the sitcom That ’70s Show.
The actor is a lower-key, more introspective version of his social-media persona. His accent is as upper-crust as his two-fisted surname and his upbringing, between central London and socially suitable suburbs. His father works in philanthropy, while his Iowa-born mother is a nurse and opera singer. She inspired her son’s love of performance by taking him along to her rehearsals and recitals throughout his childhood.
“The villains are always the most fun to play, and the Devil is no exception.”
Millington-Drake’s mother also inspired his affection for America, which he lovingly calls “the land of Lucky Charms and maple syrup.” He’s been in California for eight years, having arrived from the University of Iowa, in Iowa City, where he completed a B.A. in theater arts. He said he went hard-core American in college, “joining a frat, tailgating, and making some of my best friends.”
In between his TV jobs, he works weekly with the Los Angeles improv- and sketch-focused Groundlings Theatre & School, where comedy queens such as Jennifer Coolidge, Melissa McCarthy, and Lisa Kudrow got their start. He describes Groundlings, which he’s been a part of for nearly a decade, as “essentially a master’s degree,” requiring him to create, rehearse, and perform an entirely original sketch show each week, S.N.L.-style, which challenges and expands his craft.
The TikToks, unsurprisingly, were a by-product of the pandemic, when Millington-Drake found himself home alone with ample creative energy and few obvious outlets. “I saw a lot of other folks in the comedy community making little videos and thought maybe I could try my hand at a sketch or bit,” he said of the videos, which take roughly a day to conceive, shoot, and edit. “And then my brother [Hugo] said, ‘What else have you got going on? Just do it’—and so I did.”
Knightley was an obvious initial focus for Millington-Drake, who adores the actress with dead-serious gravitas. Years before TikTok was invented, he’d done a reasonably decent Knightley impression in drama class. As lockdown set in, he wondered “if anyone else would get a kick out of it” on social media. Dozens of videos and millions of views later, the answer is officially “Yes!”
Despite all of his success, Millington-Drake says he has no idea if Knightley has seen or is even aware of his video homages. Asked if Knightley had ever reached out to him, he deadpans: “Noooooo—and quite rightly so! She’s a two-time Oscar nominee and a mother. She’s just shot new Chanel commercials. She has a lot going on!”
And so, too, finally, does Millington-Drake. As he readies himself for That ’90s Show’s debut, on January 19, he makes sure he doesn’t forget his roots. The Knightley content has slowed down a bit, but new videos—both of Knightley and his increasingly high-profile professional activities—still appear frequently, to the delight of both his TikTok and Instagram followers.
As he contends with a budding fame that’s likely to increase, he’s begun to consider more prosaic concerns, such as career, visibility, and longevity. “There are certainly a lot more eyes on me now, with lots more potential opportunities and far bigger questions about, for lack of a better word, my ‘brand,’” he says with characteristic humility. “But, honestly, all I’ve ever wanted to do is make people laugh,” he continues. “After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal of comedy?”
David Christopher Kaufman is a New York City–based editor and writer