Photographer LEFTERIS PRIMOS
Interview by Ines Shubshizky
The first thing I notice when I meet Ray is his passion for artistic content and the openness with which he shares his emotions. So who better to talk to about the future of film, trusting your instincts and dealing with criticism than him.
Ray currently stars alongside Stephen Graham in the one-shot drama/thriller Boiling Point, which got four nominations at this year’s BAFTAS. For his performance as Freeman he has just been nominated for a BIFA as ‘Best Supporting Actor’.
Hi Ray, congratulations on the success of Boiling Point. On a scale of 9 to 10, how excited are you?
It’s all very exciting because it’s such a small independent film that’s a bit of a David and Goliath story. The fact that it’s been so acknowledged by BAFTA is incredible. I mean, when you make something like this with a lot of heart and passion and for the art, that’s the most important thing and everything else is just a bonus. But I think it’s a great advert for independent British cinema. So I’m really thrilled for everyone involved.
Boiling Point was filmed with a single shot. How intense was the pressure to get it right?
When you shoot a film in one shot and action gets called, you are practically live and can’t get anything wrong. You have no choice but to be completely present and immersed in your role. You can’t think about anything but who you are as a character and you have to be in that moment. You have to listen, and I think that’s what acting is essentially about: listening and responding. I couldn’t care about how I looked or what my next line was, because I had to react to what people were saying to me. I had no choice but to be in the now. And that’s a really beautiful thing. I wish I could be that more often in life.
You have an extensive career as both an actor and a producer. How do you think the industry has changed with the emergence of streaming platforms?
I love cinema and I love film. So for me, it’s a double-edged sword. I still want to make films that have some form of theatrical release because I think that’s how films should be experienced. But streaming services give new and smaller actors a platform that they wouldn’t have otherwise. They have the opportunity to help new talent break through because people are already signed up and watching their content without having to bait with big names.
Where do you see the future of film?
I feel like people are starting to look for films that are not just entertainment, but that say something about the world. It seems like people want to break out more from these comic book blockbusters that were everywhere a few years ago. And while there’s nothing wrong with those, it seems to me that people are craving to see real stories now. I also often wonder how long it will be before actors are somehow obsolete. Technology is progressing so fast, and games are getting very, very close to film. And I ask myself how long it will be before directors no longer have to coax a performance out of an actor, but can actually achieve the performance they want by drawing it out and realising it.
You also have your own production company. What inspired you to create that?
That came from a place of frustration with the industry when I was a young actor. Today we have wonderful diversity, but it was the complete opposite back then. My phone kept ringing for the same roles – either to play a doctor or a terrorist or whatever other cliche could be thrown at me. And I was frustrated because I knew I had the ability to play bigger roles with more depth. So I basically taught myself how to write and produce. I thought if the industry wasn’t coming to me, then I had to bring the energy back to the industry.
“When you make something like this with a lot of heart and passion and for the art, that’s the most important thing and everything else is just a bonus.”
What are you most looking forward to in your career at the moment?
Working with other artists and filmmakers who have really strong visions. I’ve always been pretty fussy about what I do anyway, but I’m focusing now more than ever on being specific and really making decisions. I’ve spent my whole career not making big financial commitments because I never wanted to be in a position where I had to choose money over art. Right now, I feel like I’m at a really good point in terms of my confidence and ability as an actor and filmmaker. I feel like my confidence is at an all-time high right now, and that allows me to seek out the work that I want to do. And I would love to get back on stage. I haven’t done that in so long, and the thought of it makes me incredibly nervous. But it’s a craft that I love.
It seems like you really prioritise quality over commercial aspects, is that right?
Definitely. Because I’ve slept on too many sofas and sacrificed too much money over the years to suddenly change now. I’ve gone through times when I had no money, and my team would say: well, Ray, this is being offered to you and it would be able to pay your rent. And I’d say, I’ll just go sleep on my mate’s sofa for a while, because I just had a clear idea of where I was going and what I wanted to do. There have actually been two roles that I had to take for financial reasons. But both times those were truly unhappy experiences because I wasn’t listening to my heart. At times it can be hard to trust your instinct, even though it proves you right every time. Sometimes the best decision is the hardest, isn’t it? So I have to keep listening to my gut about what to do and not worry about anything else. I’ve learned that when fear comes up, especially when it’s really overwhelming, it often shows me that I should lean into it. Because every time I have stepped into the fear, it has been really fruitful at the end of it. So I’m going to dive into it and if it goes completely wrong, then I’ll just have to deal with it.
“Every time I have stepped into the fear, it has been really fruitful at the end of it. So I’m going to dive into it and if it goes completely wrong, then I’ll just have to deal with it.”
How do you deal with the criticism you are constantly exposed in your job?
In the last few years I have been working on myself on a more spiritual level. I think I’ve learned to trust, even though I used to find that difficult. I think it’s about trusting that you have something to say and that you have a journey ahead of you. I always struggle with making decisions, that’s a big issue in my life. I could spend days thinking about whether I should do this job or not. But someone told me: the universe, or God, or energy, or whatever you want to call it, is attracted to movement. So if you keep moving, everything will change for the better as long as you keep moving. Even if you take the wrong path, it will come back to you. I try to remember that and tell myself that what I perceive as a setback often doesn’t matter. As long as you come from a place of integrity and honesty, you will always be led to where you need to be.
Would you agree that working in the media requires you to constantly be resilient?
Absolutely, but I urge you to keep going. There are so many people who drop out along the way because it is so hard and the lows are really low. But then when you get the rewards, that feeling is so good. And I’d rather have that than a plateau at a mediocre level. I think that’s what makes us artists and that’s why we do what we do. There have been times when so much rejection and so many awful things have been thrown at me. But there is something that just brings me back every time.