Ben Miles, who plays Sir Timothy Midwinter in Lark Rise to Candleford, can certainly never complain of being typecast. He went from playing a one-track minded womanizer in the comedy series, Couplings, written by Sherlock creator Stephen Moffat, to the ruthless lawyer and statesman Thomas Cromwell in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. For the latter, the Wimbledon born actor earned himself a well-deserved Tony nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Play, after the two-part production transferred to Broadway this year.
Miles first took on the role of Cromwell when it premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2014 and it is probably the most physically challenging part he’s had to play. The character is on stage virtually the entire time. In fact, at the play’s first preview, Miles sugar levels dropped to dangerously low levels that he almost collapsed. As Miles explained in an interview later, “I had this curious out-of-body experience where I was onstage, but I could see the whole thing. I had no idea who was coming on next, what scene was coming next, and I was suddenly ravenously hungry.” Fortunately he got off stage, drank some apple juice and was able to finish the show, but barely.
Now, after a year and a half of performing the role in Stratford-upon-Avon, London’s West End, and Broadway, Miles has learned to treat the project “like a sport and not an art”. When he has to perform in both a matinee and an evening performance, he sleeps between shows and eats the same food that is fed to the Miami Dolphins. He also warms up before the shows with the use of a punching bag.
Miles, who was born in 1967, became involved in theatre in high school, when he discovered that he could skip math classes if he was involved in a production. He started out doing sound and lights, but when he realized he could miss even more lessons if he was actually in a play, he swapped his backstage roles for ones on stage. Fortunately, his lack of interest in math didn’t hold the young actor back because when he graduated he was accepted into the Guildhall School of Speech and Drama and has been working ever since.
One of Miles’ favorite roles was that of Bolingbrooke to Kevin Spacey’s Richard II at the Old Vic in London. The play was directed by the original Les Miserables director, Trevor Nunn. According to Miles, “it was like winning a prize, coming to the Old Vic, working on Shakespeare, which this theatre has had a great tradition of. Working with Trevor Nunn, working with Kevin Spacey, it was a dream job, it really was.”
Miles is married to the Los Angeles born RSC actress, Emily Raymond, with whom he has three children.
Lark Rise to Candleford airs during Afternoon Tea, weekdays at 4:30pm.
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