On paper, the lives of investment bankers might not sound thrilling – but watch just one episode of new drama Industry, on BBC Two tomorrow night, and you’ll be totally gripped.
Set on the hostile trading floor of a cutthroat London investment bank, Industry follows a fast-living group of graduates as they compete with each other to keep their jobs. Think Skins meets Billions.
Rising British actor Harry Lawtey stars in the ensemble cast as confident young banker Robert, who is less-privileged than many of his peers but parties harder to make up for it. We caught up with Lawtey to hear how the show echoes real life events – and to get the goss on his biopic plans for Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
Hi Harry, the world of finance seems dull. How did you make ‘Industry’ feel exciting?
“It isn’t all [TV] screens with Bloomberg on. It’s a claustrophobic environment, with lots of different personalities, age groups, drives and ambitions, so it’s really a hotbed for [people] mixing and controversy.”
How much did you know about banking before the show?
“We were lucky that our two creators, Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, are former bankers themselves who went into screenwriting, which isn’t a very well-trodden path. They were a great resource for us because they know the world of the show intimately. A lot of [Industry] is based on their own experiences, so we could always ask them questions. There were a few moments during filming when I did lean over to them and ask, ‘This didn’t happen, did it?’ And they were like, ‘Um, yeah, this one year…’ There are lots of hidden gems in there which are true to life.”
What was the most surprising thing you learned about that world?
“The intensity of it. These top level bankers will spend more time at work than at home. They are completely devoted to their job and it becomes their way of life. Some bankers commit a period of their life to it. They’ll be successful as possible, and then they’ll bow out for their own well being, which seems fairly wise.”
Has ‘Industry’ made you want to give banking a go?
“Absolutely not. It’s ironic really, because I became an actor so I wouldn’t have to wear a suit every day and sit at a desk. Now, in my first major job, I’ve found myself wearing a suit every day and sitting at a desk for six months.”
Lena Dunham directed the first episode. What was she like to work with?
“She was fantastic. Lena was involved in the casting process quite early on, as well. For us, as relatively inexperienced actors, to be working with someone of her calibre and success was a dream come true. We felt at home with her early on. She’s got so much energy and it reaches every corner of a room; she taught me to be free on set.”
Did you hang out with the cast off-set?
“It was quite a long shoot, so we lived in apartment blocks together, like the characters in the show do, for six months in Cardiff. On the first day I went to Cardiff for shooting, we went to Lena’s house, ordered Domino’s, and played party games to get to know one another. Then her phone pings, and she says, ‘I don’t want you all to think I’m some Hollywood superstar, but also I would absolutely love it if you thought I was some Hollywood superstar – look who’s just text me.’ She shows us her phone, and she had a text from Brad Pitt. He’d sent some pictures of a sculpture that he was working on. Then, out of nowhere, Lena’s like, ‘Quick guys, smile!’ and she takes a picture of us all and sends it to Brad Pitt. I’ve seen the photo since, and my face is the perfect expression of someone who, in the space of a second, is deciding how he wants to be perceived by Brad Pitt. It’s the most awkward, pained smile you’ve ever seen.”
Before acting, you played music as a busker in London. Would you ever do a musical?
“I’d certainly be interested in it. And probably quite frightened too, but I’d definitely give it a go. I’m a huge Beatles fan and I would love to play [their manager] Brian Epstein. He’s not necessarily a musician, but he’s got such an interesting life story. There are so many people associated around The Beatles’ history that have interesting lives. I’d love to do that.”
Is there a second season of ‘Industry’ in the pipeline?
“I’m absolutely up for season two, but we haven’t got any green lights yet. I suppose we’ll just wait and see what people think of it. Creating the show has been one of the happiest, most productive periods of my life, so I would absolutely love to do it again. I just can’t wait to see which characters audiences side with…”
Harry Lawtey stars in ‘Industry’, November 10 on HBO Asia