Jack O’Connell lights a cigarette mid-interview. I might’ve missed the quick orange flicker, but the flash was hard to miss inside an otherwise gloomy Zoom rectangle: O’Connell is wearing a gray hoodie while seated on a gray couch in front of gray wall, as gray daylight filters through from an unseen light source. He holds the cigarette off-camera and takes an occasional drag, blowing gray smoke.
The 32-year-old was described as a bit of a rebel by tabloids in the early aughts, and it’s not hard to project some of that “bad boy” quality on his aloof demeanor. That’s not to say he isn’t polite—he answers most questions thoughtfully, casting his gaze beyond the computer camera in pensive reflection. He dodges more personal questions but with wit, a smirk dangling from his lips.
Having seen Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Netflix’s adaptation of the classic 1928 D.H. Lawrence novel, I can’t help but see a little bit of his character, Oliver Mellors, in the actortoo. O’Connell’s take on the titular lover is measured yet accessible, a moving study of a disenchanted veteran who moved through the ranks in World War I only to return to the stratified life of early 20th-century British society, working as a gamekeeper on Lord and Lady Chatterley’s sprawling estate.
“His ability to see right through the bullshit of it all, yeah, that resonated with me,” O’Connell says of Oliver. Spoken like an actor who’s been in the film and TV business since his early teens! Especially one who shot to stardom after a three-year stint on the cult-favorite teen dramedy Skins. “I think he sees what Connie has to subscribe to and the caged lifestyle she has to lead. Also, he’s a man that went to war, so he can see the hypocrisy within that. I just thought they’re very poignant themes that are perhaps still relevant today, unfortunately.”
Though Lady Chatterley’s Lover is set nearly 100 years in the past, there’s something profoundly modern about Lady Connie Chatterley (Emma Corrin) and Oliver’s story: Theirs is a situationship turned real romance that ends in achingly beautiful love. With sex. Lots of sex.
Like previous adaptations of the film, director Laure de Clermont-Tonnere’s version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover is an erotic experience, with both actors going fully nude in several scenes. But, O'Connell notes, “At no point did it ever feel gratuitous. It didn’t feel like we were handling any of that material just for the purposes of shocking people or for gossip or to get more views.
“I hope it goes down all right,” he adds of the film’s December 2 release on Netflix. “Me nana can’t see it, me mum can’t see it, neither can me sister. I’d say anyone else is fair game.”
Read on for more of O’Connell’s experience filming the more intimate scenes, his most romantic gesture, and that rumor about his social media fan accounts…