(Photo Credit: Stuart Wood; © Studio Lambert and all3media international)
Guy Burnet is a film, television, theater actor, director who is here to talk about his new Amazon Prime television show The Feed. He stars as Tom, a man born into the family that created the Feed as a way for us to be instantly connected through our thoughts. Here, he talks about the show and his view of the fictional technology. In our world, Burnet talks about his own career hopes and where he sees the medium of television and film headed.
Guy Burnet: How is it going?
Awards Daily: Good, got the six episodes you guys sent us, I got a general sense of what the show is going to be like.
GB: Good, good, it has a bit of a buildup, it needs a bit of tension to create such a complex understanding of the world.
AD: That actually leads into my first question, did you read the original book to prepare for your character or this world in general?
GB: Yeah, I did actually. I was in Germany shooting a show called Counterpart at the time when I got the script. I got The Feed, I read through it and I liked it more than the other stuff I was reading. So I sent in a (audition) tape, I thought, you know, I found that very interesting, so I got the book online and read it before I even got the role. What was interesting when I landed the job and we started shooting I read the script and I realized the first season of the show is the first ten pages of the book. So, basically, everything past the first ten pages of the book isn’t relevant to the first season, which is kind of bizarre and doesn’t always happen, and I guess it does give it room if it wants to develop further.
AD: Wow, a lot was covered in the first six episodes, amazing it was such a little part of the book.
GB: Yeah it’s kind of crazy, I was surprised by that too, what happens eventually– but I don’t want to give anything away. Within the book after ten pages we jump ahead into the further future; we are in a dystopian kind of world. And the first season of this show more than anything—I don’t want to give away too much—what we see in the first six episodes is building momentum towards something that goes a little crazier thereafter, so it develops, develops, and goes bonkers basically by episode ten. And I really didn’t see it coming even when reading episode seven or eight. It still builds some momentum; it begins to build more of the world itself for what happens thereafter.
AD: You mentioned you were looking over some other scripts and this was one that jumped out at you. What was it that attracted you to this material?
GB: What happened was when I read it initially, Tom (my character) one of the first lines, in doing this job I could relate to this character a lot closer than any of my other characters I have played before. And why that was was here’s this guy, living somewhere in the near future but it could been today really, with today’s technology and how aligned we are with that technology. But he has distanced himself and is quite reluctant to allow himself to immerse fully into this technology (the feed). Me personally, I’m kind of the same way to an extent, I don’t have social media. I related to the character initially, which made me read on and on and on and then what interested me in general was that here we have something that some people would say falls into science fiction.
But for me falls into a much more grounded element of that, a science fact. It is something that is not a radical hypothesis; it is something that could actually occur in the next few years. And people who are a lot smarter than me can tell you that this is a possibility. Elon Musk, Yuval Harari—all these people who are popular at this given time—who will tell you, yeah, this is a probability not a possibility, this is probably going to happen. What attracted me was the grounded nature of what the show was bringing and relating to the character of Tom himself and I really wanted to create a protagonist so that the audience could live the show through his eyes. Where other characters could come in and out and be big and interesting, bad or good, but a central character where you could go, Okay, let’s go on this journey through his eyes. All the other characters will come along and we will enjoy them, but we need a kind of linchpin of how things are going to be set up. Because it’s relatively complex.
AD: Your character has a lot of emotional baggage, especially with his family. How do you prepare to get into that head space?
GB: On the surface, what you have is a guy that we meet at the beginning going to his brother’s wedding, back into his family’s life relatively reluctantly. In the back story that I played for myself he has not seen his family for a long period of time, he separated himself because he doesn’t really like the philosophy that his family has. He wants to live a simple life, he doesn’t want to be reliant on the technology that his father has created. He comes back for his brother’s wedding, he hasn’t seen them in a while, he meets his future wife there, something crazy goes down at the wedding. But then he separates himself again for a couple of years and creates his own little bubble, his own little family away from his other family.
Still, he has no choice but to be dragged into this world that he has spent his life getting away from. And he has to do it to protect his new family and that world starts to become very complex. Now the character has a conflict of interest of don’t want to be involved in this, but I have to for the sake of my new family and I now have to be involved with the family that I have separated from because he has such a complicated relationship with them. But I think the main elements on the surface is the world is going under, and if we don’t figure out what’s going on it could be dire, dire consequences for the world.
AD: It is nice that you brought up the other family because I thought your chemistry with Nina Toussaint-White was one of the most interesting parts of the show. It felt like you had that connection right away in that first episode, and then later you can feel the history that you guys seem to be having since it’s unclear how many years have passed. What did you two do to make that connection work to create that feeling?
GB: That’s a great question. Firstly, she is such a nice person and that is always helpful. Everyone has their own philosophy and how they approach characters, and for me it is to build a history with the other actor that I am working with, the other human being I am working with, so that hopefully we can create a chemistry that when you watch it on screen you go, oh, I can feel this, I’m connected to this, I believe this, I believe that they could be a couple, I believe that they have a history. And to do that sometimes in past films or different shows you call up the actor and go, hey, would you mind meeting? Let’s get together and spend some time together. Sometimes they don’t have the time, and sometimes they don’t have that philosophy; they just want to meet up on the day and do the lines. But, for me, it is important to build that chemistry.
I had the role already, I was filming in Germany at the time, flying back and forth to do chemistry reads with actresses in London. Nina was one of them and we had a nice chemistry, and when she got the role she was such a wonderful open book, a beautiful person that could just go, all right, let’s do something interesting and try to build our history here. During the filming we spent eight months together and, not that we shot everything in chronological order but a lot of it was the development of the relationship, in the beginning of the show when we meet. So we meet each other, and everything that develops there over eight months of shooting was just a genuine relationship, beginning with friendship that developed over time, and what you’re experiencing there hopefully came across on the screen over eight months.
AD: I think it was definitely there. As I said, it was one of the most compelling parts for me. There is a scene where you are looking at each other and the weight that both of you have on your faces is very well done. So, congratulations!
GB: Ah, thank you man, honestly that means a lot because we are pawns in this. When I say that, in the chess pieces of filmmaking, we are a pawns in this. As much work as I can bring, as much work as Nina can bring, we are still in the hands of writers, directors, editors, and a multitude of factors. So if one piece exhibited of the work we do behind the scenes to create that chemistry to come across. Then, of course, that is the most complimentary thing we can ever hear, so I really appreciate that.
AD: No problem, so you mentioned being a pawn in all this, you have done TV before, quite a bit, but this is your first big starring role, you are the center character. Does that change the way you approach it?
GB: It does, the biggest change is this one, it’s me, I am the protagonist. I can’t approach it the same way I approach say, Ray Donovan, The Affair, Counterpart because, to be a character who comes into a show and is not the character the audience is living through the eyes of, you can afford to come in and be slightly bigger, more interesting and impactful in a certain way to drive the narrative as you’re popping in and popping out. In this instance you have to have a very grounded element to it. You have to to go, Okay, we gotta build this over ten hours, I want the guy you meet in the first frame of the show to have an arc and by episode ten you go, Oh, my God, that is a different character than the guy I met in episode one. He has developed in a different way, and that is the biggest change. The other element that is behind the scenes in these things is that I am a cog in the machine, a pawn on a chess board, because I want to be involved in this element.
I am a fan of television, I am a fan of film, I’m a fan of the arts. I am just like the audience who are reading your writings, I read these things, I watch these shows. I am just a fan, so when I approach these things, I go let’s try and do something that people will want to watch, people will want to see. But you also have to understand, or at least this is my biggest learning curve in this situation, is that you’re also in the hands of a multitude of factors, a multitude of people, from money, to the writing, to the editing, to the directing, the producers. Producers are a big big element when it comes to television, where film is a directing medium, theater is more of an actor’s medium, television is very much the producer’s medium so you have to navigate yourself through that. I think it is always interesting when actors talk about the experience they are always like, Oh it’s a great show, and oh, my God, the actors are great and I had a great time doing it. No, there was a machine behind it and sometimes it works and sometimes it’s out of your hands and all you can do is bring your life and soul to this, and build a relationship with the other actors and try to create something that’s interesting for the audience.
At the end of the day, even though a lot of it falls on you, a lot of it is not in your hands. That’s what I’ve learned from the process, and I can’t wait to be in this position again, and take from the experience that I luckily had in this one, being the lead of something and developing that experience further. Does that make sense?
AD: It does, and actually it goes into my last question quite nicely. As you mentioned, you have done movies, you have done TV, theater, and directing, and I saw on-line football.
GB: Football and boxing.
AD: Right, so is there any project you would like to in the future, either in front of an audience or behind the scenes, that you haven’t done yet that you are thinking about?
GB: That’s interesting, I think that is a great question, ultimately it is hard to give a very specific answer to. I like to be creative, I’ve done this for years and there are ups and there are downs. I have been to the very bottom and sometimes I have had small successes here and there, and I want to keep developing that. First and foremost, I am a big film fan, I always have been, I love cinema, I love it, and today that has basically evolved and it will even further; there will be new streamers coming out into television. Film and television have kinda melded into one and it’s becoming more interesting than it ever has been. For me, I would love developing the characters in television world into long-form and short-form, and mix between film and cool television. I have had opportunities in the past to do (I don’t want to obviously name stuff), but stuff that I would say “Eh, I don’t know if I’d watch this.”
I always tried to choose work that I find interesting, especially in the last five years. I think what I would like to do is be more involved, I’ve been acting consistently, but creatively as part of an ensemble so that not everybody is just doing their faction. The writers doing the writing, the actors doing the acting, editors doing the editing, directors doing the directing, developing something that the end goal is doing something innovative, something brilliant. There is some brilliant television out there, there is some brilliant film out there. I want to try doing those things. I don’t know if that is a specific answer?
AD: I don’t think it had to be specific. In fact it sounds almost like a commune of creative people just working together. It sounds like a fascinating idea, and not the kind of answer I was expecting.
GB: Yeah, I think that’s the key to it all, when ego is put aside magic can happen. I really really believe that, when that happens and there’s a creative ensemble and we can all do tons of things, that’s when the magic happens. That’s what I think I really mean. I’d love to be developing stuff, that’s what I’d love to do. I would love to involve some of the stuff that I experience in the first part of my life, maybe football, boxing, martial arts; I would love to bring those things to the table. I think being involved in a creative ensemble and bringing something to the screen that the audience can go, This is something different than we’ve seen before, be just part of the evolution that is happening in the television world . I’m happy to be involved with it, even in a small manner.
AD: Well, good luck with that in the future, and congratulations on the show. Is there anything else you want to leave our readers with?
GB: You know I was reading through your website Awards Daily and it’s super interesting and what I do love is its film, and now you guys are delving into instant video, and it covers what we were saying, like how the evolution is happening, of clocking the medium, what happens in the next step of that. I think it’s very interesting that you guys at Awards Daily are really at the forefront of that.
AD: Well, thank you very much!
Guy: Tell you what I do want to say about the show itself is that the difference from, say something like Black Mirror, which people are comparing it to, is that that is a three-act structure within one episode. Here it requires some patience, it requires some time, so I do hope people give it some time, and that’s what it requires to create the world for what happens later on in the show.
The Feed is now streaming on Amazon Prime.