I first met Luke Pasqualino a few years ago at a party celebrating the rising stars of British cinema. Standing out among the smattering of established names and precocious young talent littering the room, I can safely say that Pasqualino was, and still remains, one of the most unaffected, disarmingly charming young actors I’ve encountered.
Today we’re meeting on Pasqualino’s shoot for MATCHESFASHION.COM at London’s Somerset House, just a stone’s throw away from The Savoy hotel where our paths first crossed. It’s a bitter, steely-skyed day, Luke’s been on set for a few hours and we’re both itching to head to the nearby Delaunay for some well-earned Wiener schnitzel. Emerging from the changing room at the end of the shoot, sportingly shaking hands with everyone, he greets me with a puckish grin, grabs me by the shoulder and leads me out onto the Strand.
You may know 24-year-old Pasqualino as the pretty one from UK Channel 4’s Skins, who met a sticky end at the hands of a psychotic psychiatrist (played by Hugo Speer). These days, however, with his long shock of jet-black hair, high cheekbones, swimmer’s physique and professional demeanor, Pasqualino is every bit the grown-up actor. Not only has he recently starred in South Korean action epic Snowpiercer (alongside heavyweights John Hurt, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell), this month he also takes on one of the lead roles in the new BBC mini-series The Musketeers. As the loveable rogue D’Artagnan, Pasqualino stars alongside Peter Capaldi, Alexandra Dowling and, funnily enough, Speer, who plays Captain Treville. ‘He’s resurrected me,’ Pasqualino jokes between mouthfuls of deep-fried veal. ‘There are no hard feelings; it was all for the love of TV.’
Given Pasqualino’s striking looks, you’d be pardoned for placing him in the much derided model-turned-actor bracket (although he only did a bit of commercial stuff in his teens). Consequently, he’s wary of relying too heavily on his looks. ‘I think being an attractive actor can hold you back at certain times,’ he says thoughtfully, ‘purely because sometimes a leading man doesn’t need to be tall, dark and handsome. The opportunity to grab those roles is becoming smaller and smaller.’
You’d also be forgiven for assuming that the young actor – who still lives at his childhood home in the English east Midlands with his Neapolitan mum and Sicilian dad – would be gunning for a career to match the likes of Jude Law or Orlando Bloom, both of whom hit the Hollywood big time early on in their careers. But it’s a point he’s quick to protest. ‘I don’t necessarily think I need to play the leading man. Not at all. I’m not averse to it, but as a supporting actor you get to have so much more freedom with what you do.’ So if not a leading man, then what? ‘I really admire Giovanni Ribisi’s career, because he’s not the typical lead. He sits in the background and plays the supporting roles, which I think are incredibly important. You just need to find the right balance.’
Speaking of balance, Pasqualino’s steady rise and increasing media attention must be causing quite a stir among his family and childhood friends back home. He approaches the point with characteristic candour, raising his (deeper than I remember) voice above the din of the Friday lunch crowd. ‘It’s really important to stay grounded,’ he says. ‘I try not to lose sight of the little things, like being able to wake up in your own house, make a cup of tea with your own kettle and just being able to lounge around on your sofa. It’s really important to speak to the people who helped get you where you are, your family and friends. The moment you lose sight of them, you’re lost.’
With the first series of The Musketeers (the BBC is yet to announce whether it will be commissioning a second) and Snowpiercer under his belt, where does Pasqualino hope his career will take him next? ‘I’d like a big biopic, like The True Life of Marlon Brando or something like that. That would be my ideal role. I’ve also never played anyone in a position of power. I’d like that kind of thing, like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Wolf of Wall Street.’
Dressing up in luxe sportswear for the shoot, it turns out that Pasqualino is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a bit of a clothes horse. From the casual flick of a collar to moving his body around to make the clothes fit better, Pasqualino knows how to look good. Indeed, on the shoot he confidently takes note of the zip details on a Paul Smith bomber, and comments on the tapered shape of some narrow navy trousers. The soft leather jackets, sleek high-tops and smart tailored trousers he was swashbuckling around Somerset House in aren’t, it turns out, a million miles away from the kind of clothes Pasqualino likes to wear himself. He’s sitting opposite me in a parka, a pair of slim jeans and some high-tops. But what does he wear when he’s dressing up? ‘My all-time favourite piece is a Dolce & Gabbana coat, which I bought a few years ago and I’ve only just started to grow into. It fits like a dream; it’s beautiful.’
Interview over, I feel Pasqualino breathe an imperceptible sigh of relief. We talk more about his plans for the future and how he would eventually like to move to London when he ‘finds the right place’ and how he wouldn’t rule out moving to LA, although he’s ‘seen people struggle’. Then, with darkness falling over the streets of central London, it’s time for him to leave. But not before offering to split the bill with me. Told you he was a gentleman.
The second episode of The Musketeers airs on BBC1 at 9pm on 26 January. Teo van den Broeke is associate editor of British Esquire. Follow him on Twitter @TeoESQUIRE
Grooming by Laurey Simmons. Assistant Carla Bradley.
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