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After ‘Rocketman’, Taron Egerton Transforms Again for ‘Black Bird’

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Taron Egerton channeled a pop god within the Elton John biopic “Rocketman,” winning raves — and a Golden Globe — for his portrayal of how a shy piano prodigy blossomed into a global superstar.

But in his latest role, as a convicted drug dealer in the brand new Apple TV+ drama “Black Bird,” he had no outlandish sunglasses or feather boas to solid off when shooting wrapped every day. For “Black Bird,” which is predicated on a real story, he needed to solid off something darker: the confessions of Larry Hall, a person convicted in reference to one girl’s death who was suspected to have kidnapped, raped and killed many more.

“As much because it was an excellent experience creatively, there have been days where I went home feeling like, I don’t actually need to take heed to these items anymore,” Egerton, whose character’s task is to elicit those confessions, said in a recent video call from his London kitchen.

Egerton, 32, who has lent his soulful tenor voice to characters each flamboyant (John) and furry (the mountain gorilla Johnny within the animated musical “Sing”), could have taken his pick of nearly any musical role after “Rocketman.” After which there are those chiseled beauty and piercing green eyes, which appear to beg for a cape and spandex.

As an alternative, he wanted his next major on-camera role to be one which showed the world he was greater than a song-and-dance man.

“I desired to do something that felt really different from ‘Rocketman,’” he said. “People tend to think about you because the final thing you probably did. They don’t need to take that risk on giving an actor a job that they’ve not seen them do a version of before.”

He found it within the psychological thriller “Black Bird,” a six-episode mini-series that the creator and screenwriter Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”) adapted from the prison memoir “In With the Devil,” written by James Keene with Hillel Levin.

The series, which debuts July 8, centers on Egerton as Jimmy Keene, who is obtainable a probability to commute his 10-year prison sentence with only one condition: He must persuade Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) to inform him where he buried the body of at the very least one missing girl, and maybe a dozen more.

“An element like Jimmy — or, indeed, an element like Elton — they’re absolutely the roles I need from my profession,” Egerton said. “That’s to not say all the things I need to do must be heavy and dark — I’m definitely drawn to that stuff — but it surely’s really, really creatively nourishing to have writing like that since it makes you ought to bring your best possible.”

EGERTON WASN’T ALWAYS SO ENTHUSIASTIC about acting. He was born right into a British working-class family, with a father who ran a bed-and-breakfast in Liverpool and a mother who worked in social services. They divorced when he was 2, and he moved along with his mother to Wales.

When he was 12, he moved to a distinct a part of Wales, Aberystwyth, which left him feeling desperately lonely. “I lost all my friends I’d had as a baby after I moved,” he said. “I used to be quite cocky and quite confident, but that was to mask the insecurity I used to be feeling.” He didn’t dabble in acting until he was 15. “It was as much about attempting to be social and make friends because it was an interest in acting,” he said.

The acting stuck. After he graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2012, he landed some smaller roles, performing in a stage production of “The Last of the Haussmans” on the National Theater in London and appearing within the British TV dramas “Lewis” and “The Smoke.”

Then got here his big break: The director Matthew Vaughn (“Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class”) solid him because the street-rat-turned-spy Eggsy within the 2014 British action-comedy film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” The role made him a colead, alongside Colin Firth, despite Egerton’s having never been on a movie set.

“He got here in and did an ideal audition,” Vaughn said by phone. “He was Eggsy. I liked that side of him within the role because Eggsy was also about being around a world you’ve never been in and growing.”

On the heels of the success of the primary “Kingsman” film, which grossed greater than $414 million worldwide, he landed roles in “Eddie the Eagle,” the Disney animated film “Sing” and a sequel, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.”

Then he hit a rough patch, first within the title role in Otto Bathurst’s 2018 “Robin Hood” adaptation, after which because the antagonist of the 2018 biographical crime drama “Billionaire Boys Club.” Each were critically lampooned box-office flops.

“I ignored my instincts on those two jobs because I used to be offered quite lots of money to do them,” he said. “And that’s just fatal. You may’t pick roles that way.”

“But I feel like I must be kinder to myself,” he continued. “I used to be a 25-year-old kid who was raised by a single mother with little or no money. I desired to earn a living, not only for me, but for people who find themselves essential to me. And as much as I used to be not pleased with how those two movies turned out, I can see very clearly, on reflection, why I did them.”

Things turned around with “Rocketman,” for which he learned to play the piano and sang lots of his numbers live.

“He has an incredible singing voice,” said Dexter Fletcher, who directed “Rocketman.” “But he was also an actor who was willing to go to a spot where he wasn’t afraid to make a idiot of himself. He wasn’t wrapped up in being this supercool, emotionless, good-looking dude.”

Vaughn, who was a producer of “Rocketman,” said he believed the role had helped prove that Egerton could “literally play any role.”

“He’s in a rare, rare club,” Vaughn added. “Hugh Jackman is the one other guy who’s genuinely an motion star and a musical star.”

It was that versatility that caught the attention of Lehane, who developed, wrote and executive produced “Black Bird,” when he was on the lookout for a number one man.

“I’d just seen ‘Rocketman,’” he said, “and I used to be like, ‘My God, the range on this kid.’”

Egerton needed greater than range to shoot “Black Bird”; the series was also incredibly heavy. Lehane said that crafting a scene in Episode 5 had made him cry — the primary time he had experienced that while writing a script. Hauser said he was so affected by his role as Hall that his life began spinning uncontrolled. He eventually needed to get sober.

“Being Larry Hall 12 hours a day, you ought to go home and eat junk food, drink booze, have an edible,” he said in a recent phone call. “It was like living in a haunted house.”

But Egerton, whose character serves as a sounding board for Hall’s disturbing revelations, managed to stay largely above it, Hauser and Lehane said, despite a taxing six-month shoot in Latest Orleans.

“It’s a tough thing to do,” said Egerton, who bulked as much as play Keene, a burly former highschool football star. “Especially with long days, working nights, it could be hard to change off. But you discover a way.”

Egerton, who also earned his first executive producer credit with “Black Bird,” said he was immensely pleased with the result, particularly his scenes with Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas,” “Field of Dreams”), who played Keene’s father. Liotta died in May, and the role appears to be Liotta’s last for TV.

“I loved that relationship,” Egerton said of his and Liotta’s characters. “These two complicated, very, very flawed, imperfect men, but with this real love for one another.”

“He had such an edge and such a toughness to him,” he added about Liotta, “but in addition this incredible capability to be very open and quite childlike and vulnerable.”

IN THE THREE YEARS SINCE THE RELEASE OF “ROCKETMAN,” Egerton has done lots of voice work and in addition returned to the stage. In March, he made his West End debut in a revival of the Mike Bartlett comedy “Cock” opposite the “Bridgerton” star Jonathan Bailey.

On opening night, nonetheless, he collapsed onstage at the primary performance and, after a successful but temporary return, tested positive for Covid-19. Ultimately, he left the production, citing what producers on the time said were “personal reasons.”

“Toward the tip of last yr, an in depth member of the family was diagnosed with cancer, and I dropped out of a movie to return home and be with that person,” he explained. “I believed that, with the play, I used to be able to return to work, but I wasn’t. I had to depart, and it was sad, and absolutely one in every of the toughest decisions I’ve needed to make.”

Things look like back on target, and looking out ahead, he has no shortage of acting work. He has a starring turn because the Tetris Company founder Henk Rogers within the Apple TV+ film “Tetris,” which is scheduled for later this yr, and a return to the “Kingsman” franchise.

He also hopes to succeed Jackman as the following Wolverine and has met with Marvel Studio executives, including the corporate’s president, Kevin Feige.

“I don’t think it will be mistaken to say that,” he said, laughing. “I’d be excited but I’d be apprehensive as well, because Hugh is so related to the role that I’d wonder if it’d be very difficult for another person to do it.”

He paused, then flashed a smile. “But hopefully if it does come around, they’ll give me a shot.”

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