From Humble to Hollywood
If you ask the average child what they want to become when they get older, you're almost certain to gather outlandish answers covering every career sector from astronauts to movie stars. If you go one step further and ask the average adult if they've achieved their childhood dream, be prepared to receive many “no’s.” However, for Allen Leech, the answer has been and will always be, “Yes!”
Leech is probably most known as Tom Branson on the award-winning series from Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey, which ran for six seasons on PBS and ITV, and earned three Golden Globe Awards, 15 Primetime Emmys, and a BAFTA Special Award and 69 Emmy nominations, making it the most-nominated non-U.S. series in Emmy history. (Its movie will premiere in September.) In particular, his prominent role has garnered 3 Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series while his latest role as Freddie Mercury’s personal manager Paul Prenter in Golden Globe-winning Bohemian Rhapsody has accumulated major buzz from critics. Despite the awards and success, Leech's claim to fame began on a much smaller stage many years ago.
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, Leech notes his hometown as “an amazing place to grow up,” due to the strong community and family bonds present during his upbringing. “You can't walk down the street in Dublin without bumping into someone you know or a family member you know,” the 37-year-old actor says. “There was a strong community element that was incomparable.” This element clearly persisted in the form of a very supportive English teacher, who saw talent in Leech and pushed him toward extracurriculars within the arts.
Leech's induction into the performing arts began in elementary school where he earned the role of the Cowardly Lion in a school production of The Wizard of Oz. “That was the first place I fell in love with acting,” Leech recalls. One night after performing, Leech met an actor who told him he did exactly what Leech was doing, only professionally, and that same night, something ignited within the young Leech. “I couldn't believe that someone said they actually did that as a career, and it's been stuck with me since I was 11.” At that moment, Leech knew he'd want to pursue a career in dramatic arts, and his passion in acting was instilled.
Since gracing the Dublin stage as the Cowardly Lion more than 25 years ago, Leech has gone on to perform far more eclectic roles, including his role in the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody. Moreover, while he's played a number of divergent characters in the past, Leech describes his preparation for this role as “a huge challenge.” Adds Leech, “[Paul Prenter] did do bad things. He sold the story of Freddie Mercury having AIDS to the press just after he got fired but it's very rare that someone is all bad.” In efforts of executing the role to the best of his ability, Leech was forced to comprehensively explore Prenter's life. “You sort of have to get in the psyche of the person and try to understand why they did the things that they did, and that in itself was a challenge,” Leech expresses. Although digging deep into Prenter's life was a bit tough for him, diving into the music and history of Queen was a far easier task, especially since he grew up listening to the band. “I grew up on family road trips. My dad was obsessed with Queen so when we would drive, all that played was essentially Mercury,” he says. “I even knew all the early stuff.”
“You sort of have to get in the psyche of the person and try to understand why they did the things that they did, and that in itself was a challenge.”
When asked about the legacy left behind by Queen and Mercury, Leech was particularly inspired at the band’s versatility. “If you look at the progression of Queen, it’s simply amazing,” Leech points out. “They never stuck with one musical genre. I think what [Freddy Mercury] essentially left us was the ability to constantly adapt and change, and that's something I try to do at all times.”
Adaptability and change are surely two words that apply to Leech, who revealed that one of his next roles might be behind the camera. Directing has always been an interest for Leech but lately, it has become more of a goal. “The more I've been on set, the more I've witnessed more directors, and it’s become something I'm very interested in possibly doing one day,” shares Leech. “I think you'll actually become a better actor if you understand directing, and the same goes for directing if you've acted before.”
Writer: Mike Varius
Photographer & Videographer: Indy Sagoo
Stylist: Michael Miller
Men’s Grooming: John Christopher
Editor: Eiko Watanabe
Special thanks to K+K Hotel George Kensington (@kkhotelgeorge -
www.kkhotels.com/en/london/hotel-george) & KiCK Global (@kick.global - kick-