With Lady Chatterley’s Lover, You’re About to See a Lot of Jack O’Connell

Of his Netflix film, the actor says, "Me nana can't see it, me mum can't see it, neither can me sister. I'd say anyone else is fair game.”
Jack OConnell on Filming the ‘Lady Chatterleys Lover Sex Scenes

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…

Glamour: Tell me a little bit about what attracted you to the role of Oliver Mellors.

Jack: O’Connell: Director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s previous work and, yeah, just the idea of her perspective on this story. And obviously, Emma [Corrin] was already attached, so the idea of working with both of them was very exciting. And then the more I learned about the project, the more personal it became.

I didn’t previously know that the original author D.H. Lawrence was from down the road from me [in East Midlands, England], and then I began to read the book and got a massive kick out of how local Oliver Mellors feels to my region. It’s not a region that you get to see a lot of in TV and film, generally speaking, so there was that.

Was there a specific project of Laure’s that sparked your interest? 

I’d watched The Mustang before we arranged to meet up, and it’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking, so I was excited to see how she would take on board this story and the themes within it. She’s got quite a rebellious nature as well, and I think that is apparent within the writing and, subsequently, within the film.

Aside from your local connection, is there anything else you have in common with Oliver? 

I think his views on social class and how futile a system it is, in terms of being effective, and his ability to see right through the bullshit of it all, yeah, that resonated with me.

Can you expand a bit about the bullshit?

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.

And what was your relationship with Emma like? How did you first meet?

On Zoom. They were already attached to the project and then I got to attach, and then we met up in a rehearsal space in North London and spent about two weeks there just knuckling down on the script and figuring out the characters and story beats and what we liked about the script and where we wanted to go to the book for more references. Yeah, that’s where all of that began. 

Did you have any kind of ice breaking? You met on Zoom. Was there something that you talked about, or was it just immediately about diving straight into the work?

I suppose the Zoom was quite formal because, I guess, you have to be. Once we got into the rehearsal space, Emma brought along the movement coach that they’d worked with before, and the style there is what you’d expect in maybe a theater school or what have you, where you do exercises and pretend to be fire or wind or the sea or choose an animal that represents a character and become-the-animal-type stuff. I didn’t go to drama school, so all of these experiences were new to me, but I felt like I was in good company and thought, Fuck it, might as well get on with it.

Jack O'Connell as Oliver.Parisa Taghizadeh/Netflix

How did you take to playing an animal and doing these more formal exercises?

You know what? As daft as it sounds and as daft as you feel like at the time, you definitely progress something, whether that is just what comes after feeling daft with someone else. I guess just the absurdity of it helped—it made other things seem a lot less awkward or a lot less uncomfortable.

You said you did a lot of rehearsing, and I assume that you worked with an intimacy coordinator for a lot of that?

Yeah, Ita O’Brien, just to set the boundaries and figure out how we were going to portray what we needed to portray, but without either of us feeling compromised.

Was that the first time that you’ve worked with an intimacy coordinator?

It is, yeah.

And what did you find the experience like relative to your previous experiences without one?

Totally necessary, I think, just even on the basis of being afforded that time because it is a daunting thing. Just to be afforded that initial period of figuring out what we were doing before anyone else could look at it or before any cameras would get on to it was invaluable. Ita was great with helping out with the choreographing of these things without making it feel overly rehearsed as well.

Is there anything surprising that you learned from the coordinator, any techniques?

No, I wouldn’t say anything too surprising really. I just think we’re in a day and age where a lot of people have come out and shared pretty hideous stories, so the necessity of having an Ita on board is totally apparent, and I would attest to that, for sure.

You’ve been in the business for a really long time. Aside from an intimacy coordinator, is there anything else that has changed in the last five or six years?

I’d say so. One of the most distinct transformations is the way people watch their media now, because when I started out, there were no streamers. You’d watch a show when it came out, and you’d have to wait for the next episode and the next episode. And obviously, nowadays you’ve got something that’s a bit more on-demand, and I wonder what that has done to the collective experience of watching something, TV-wise. I think time will tell what it’s done for cinema, whether it’s good or bad.

How do you feel about streaming? Are you a theater guy, or are you somebody who binges an entire series in a weekend?

Oh, I’d say I’m both, yeah, yeah. Listen, I like going down to the theater, and I like to sit on me ass and binge-watch stuff for a day.

What was the last thing that you binge-watched?

Oh, fucking what was it now? Killer Sally. I recommend it.

Did you watch the previous adaptations of Lady Chatterley’s Lover? 


No? Was that a purposeful choice?

I suppose so, yeah. I don’t know how helpful that can be prior to…I might give it a watch now it’s all said and done.

Was there anything that you did going into the role to prepare yourself, either physically or mentally?

I’m not sure there was, just because, I don’t know, I feel like I’ve been in that scenario a couple of times before anyway. So just the usual, trying to pay attention to everyone involved and keep it a collaborative process. I think that’s key—as long as you’re attentive to that. But yeah, no, there was no physical preparation, or even mental, to that point really.

Emma Corrin as Lady Constance, Jack O'Connell as Oliver in Lady Chatterley's Lover.Parisa Taghizadeh/Netflix

When the book came out it was very controversial, and the several adaptations are known for being very erotic. Is there anything that you’re nervous about with the film coming out?

Nana can’t see it. I don’t think she has Netflix anyway, so she can’t watch it. And I’d be mortified if my mom sees it, my family. But listen, it is exposing, and I think what we can honestly say is 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. It felt like it was continuing the story, and it felt like it was handled creatively by Laure. That was important, and we managed to establish that early on throughout the whole process. But that’s just really vital—to know that you’re in good hands and it’s going to be dealt with artistically and not just for the shock value.

The characters make big sacrifices for their relationship in the movie. What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for love?

Fucking hell. It’s a good one: learn to cook.

Really? You’re not a man of the kitchen?

Oh, I am now.

You’re prepping a big romantic dinner, what are you making?

Oh, a nice five-hour lamb.


Yeah, lamb shanks, five hours, red wine stock. Leave it in the oven, and then it’s just easy as well. Once it’s in, it’s in. That’s pretty romantic, no?

What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

I don’t know…oh, that I monitor my Instagram fan account. I’ve been accused of that.

You’ve been accused of monitoring your own fan accounts?

Yeah, that I have some involvement in administering them.

Are you even on Instagram?


You don’t even, like, peruse? No secret accounts?



No, not even. No.

You’re just in real life only.

Yeah, yeah, this is it. I’m part of a forgotten generation that’s refusing to move with the times.

The two characters, Oliver and Connie, connect over a shared love of books and literature. Are you reading anything? Are you a big book guy?

I love to read. Yeah.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, a book about mushrooms called Entangled Life. It’s about mushrooms on the whole, all of fungus, all of lichen. Obviously it gets into the psychedelic side of things, and all of the studies that have been done recently and how they’re all interconnected. Emma gave me that book on the set. It’s so comprehensive and scientific that I’m nowhere near finishing it, and I’ve had it for a year.

Emma Corrin as Lady Constance, Jack O'Connell as Oliver in Lady Chatterley's Lover.Seamus Ryan/Netflix

What do you connect over in romantic relationships?

Just all sorts—booze, the crack, shared interests, not-so-shared interests, that type of thing.

Shared interests, can you elaborate or are you—

Just like what youse are into and what youse ain’t into, et cetera.

You’ve done a lot of period films. Are you drawn to not the modern era?

I guess so. I don’t know. It’s quite exciting to be able to focus on different periods and become fascinated in different points in time. And it’s cool because, from every detail that you see on a set, you’ve got the set designer completely transfixed in this period, and you’re seeing all these different things they’re bringing to the piece. And then you’ll see the same with the props guys, and then you’ll see the costume, and all these different elements that would help you imagine what it was to be in that period. In terms of make-believe, it can be very exciting. But look, I’m not focused on one or the other, be it present day or then or timeless or even futuristic. It’s just, I guess, wherever I find meself at the time.

Is there any character from your past that you identify with the most?

Probably Cook [from Skins] just because that was three years of me life solely focused on portraying that character, and maybe pivotal years of your life as well. Yeah, that would probably have to be Cook.

Do you keep in touch with any of your former costars from Skins?

God, yeah. A good few, anyway. And if we’re not in touch, you’re asking after each other, what have you, but yeah, we were all tight back then. Obviously, one or two of them had gone on to do amazing stuff. But yeah, yeah, made some good mates on that, some good lifelong mates.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.