Steve Toussaint on Line of Duty, Silent Witness & A Doll’s House
Not only has British actor Steve Toussaint taken on roles in traditional UK dramas such as Doctors and The Bill, but also big Hollywood blockbusters like Judge Dredd and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Most recently, Steve has been on our screens in the highly rated Silent Witness, and is due to appear in the second series of Line Of Duty this month alongside Keeley Hawes and Mark Bonnar.
We had the chance to catch up with Steve and talk about his career progression, the differences between television and film work, and his hopes for the future.
How did you originally get into acting? Was it something you always had a desire to do or did you change career paths?
I actually left university and worked in banks originally, but didn’t really like the job so gave it up and went to the States. I had done a play at uni but I didn’t really know anyone local. Gary Oldman came on the scene and was terrific and he was only round the corner so that inspired me. I tried evening classes and the teacher put on a Shakespeare play. I then auditioned and eventually got a role in a panto.
I always wanted to be in TV and film, but felt you should be able to do all of it. I was always trying to learn on the job and it was good for me to experience all aspects. I certainly didn’t mind theatre as I was working and getting experience.
You got into a big Hollywood movie early on in your career with Judge Dredd. How was it being part of something of that stature so quickly?
It was very minimal but lovely to experience a set with that type of money. I was within touching distance of Hollywood stars and felt on top of the world at the time. From there I was keen to get the main roles but as you get on, you learn about acting and make something of any role. You’re given a couple of scenes and you do whatever you want. It’s nice to have that freedom and over the years I’ve just tried to do whatever comes up.
Did it give you any expectations as to how your career was going to go?
You can’t underestimate luck in this industry. You just have to be prepared and ready for whatever comes up. You can often think something regular would be nice, like perhaps a barrister or something, but I still love the job. I get to see the world and work with some great people regardless of what roles they have been.
Over the years you’ve had roles in some of the most famous British shows like Waking The Dead and Holby City. What is it like being part of such institutions?
Well, I originally went over to the US and then came back. I suppose I feel like I never really left. I thought I’d keep the bridges open, that way I always had options. It often felt like I was the only one that hadn’t done those types of shows for quite a while! They are a great testing ground and perfect for honing skills. It’s amazing how they bring out compelling stories on such a regular basis. You get a real idea about the industry on those types of shows as they are really intense. You have to hit the mark regularly with tight time constraints. Those regular dramas and soaps are really hard work.
You have experienced procedurals over the other side of the pond too with CSI Miami. What are the differences between American and UK television?
I remember first walking onto the CSI set and it was honestly quite nerve wracking, but when it comes down to it, it’s the same crew running the show. The same type of jobs and the same dedication coming from them. Perhaps I was called sir a lot more there and paid better, but actually it was mostly the same really. Just different locations and something nice to experience.
Recently you have been juggling a successful theatre run in A Doll’s House alongside roles in a number of UK TV shows. Is it important to you to have variety in your career?
I’ve always felt like if you do one thing then it’s just a job. I like the idea of something different and not just clocking on and clocking off. I definitely wouldn’t want a 100 years in the same job! It’s like if you get a TV pilot in the US and you end up signing away 7 years if it’s picked up.
A Doll’s House is going to the US which is great news. I wasn’t familiar with it beforehand but I quickly had a look online and got an idea. Nobody like me had done the part before. I met the director and they wanted a new take, slightly younger and sexier. It’s a really tough role, as Dr Rank is dying and there’s some very emotional moments. It’s definitely a modern take and audiences seem to be loving it.
And of course Silent Witness has been successful for many years so it’s great to be a part of that, and Line Of Duty has done well lately, so both have been good opportunities for me.
You wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post regarding British Black actors and heading out to the US for work. How have things changed for you over the years?
Personally I think I’ve found roles that aren’t racially motivated. I’ve certainly heard horror stories around but had no personal experience like that. Things are getting better and the Government is talking to people, but the focus should be on those who are making the shows, rather than those in them. It needs to be about those that can change things. I’ve never felt it was about getting given handouts. All I have ever wanted is to be judged on my own merits, and I like to think that has happened for most, if not all, of my career. The most important thing is to keep talking about it.
Having starred in movies, TV shows and stage productions, what plans or hopes do you have for the future?
I’ve actually been dabbling with writing over the last few years. I’m certainly not giving up acting, but I’m trying to get the discipline together to be more creative. People have said the writing has promise, so that’s always nice to hear. I’m getting ideas together for a TV show, hopefully a three-parter, so we’ll see where that ends up!
Steve Toussaint stars in Line of Duty which returns to BBC2 on 12 February 2014.