craig roberts on how to cope with being a weirdo adolescent
We talk to the Welsh actor about grandmothers, growing up and being cool at school.
Phone interviews aren't ideal. In addition to the technical glitches, it can be hard to establish a rapport because, as a generation, we're not good on the phone. All my pre-conceptions of Craig Roberts as a socially awkward person assure me he won't be either, but I have to take it back now, because he's an absolute charm. Having recently conquered America, and been likened to David Lynch for his oddball directing skills in new movie Just Jim, in which he also plays the star role Jim, Craig has outdone himself. The most famous lad in Maesycwmmer, Wales - apart from Aaron Ramsey who plays for Arsenal - Craig is a national treasure, who still regularly hangs out with his grandma. Sincerely playing out the deadpan comedy of errors that is growing up, in all its horrible glory, you'll be seeing him later this year in Kill Your Friends, alongside Nicholas Hoult, and playing a boy suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy alongside Selena Gomez in Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, set for release 2016. Craig is the poster boy for the most self-aware and conscious generation ever. Since he rapped an entire Eminem song for us on film back in 2011 in 'fuck the beat, I go a cappella' style, we've been firm fans. This boy's got fundamental greatness. Get acquainted.
Hi Craig. How's your day going?
I've just woken up, so it's fine. I'm in New York. How's the heat wave?
From the office, it's ok. What are you doing in New York?
I'm shooting a TV show for Amazon called Red Oaks. It's pretty cool, it's nice.
Are you doing any touristy stuff?
I'm terrible at touristy. I went to Times Square and I had a panic attack. I'm afraid of heights and everything seems to be height-orientated here, you either go on a helicopter or you go to the top of Empire State, so I can't do any touristy stuff here, so I am just, yeah, doing nothing.
Just Jim has been described as a 'coming of age' film. What do you think that means?
I think it's strange that movies with teenagers are called 'coming of age', because I don't know that anybody, at any age, comes of age. I mean, I'm still coming of age and I'm 24, and my grandmother is still coming of age. Most movies have protagonists that are coming of age - trying to learn stuff about themselves and about life - so every movie is a coming of age movie.
What's your grandmother like? What does she get up to?
Her fish just passed away, and then she got some more fish. So that's what she's doing at the moment. She's very funny. She's more social than I am. We are a really quiet family; we normally just sit down. I go back to Wales like every two weeks, so when I go back, we gather together and nobody talks.
What do you think you'll be like when you're a granddad?
A mute, I will be a mute. I stay in a lot now, and I feel old now.
Why do you feel old?
I feel ancient. I don't go out, I mean not that anybody goes out clubbing these days, I don't know what clubbing actually means, but I don't go out. I hope I am the reverse of what I am now when I am old, I hope that I am actually out clubbing with purple hair.
Is that scene where you have a birthday party and nobody shows up in Just Jim true?
Sort of, I had a birthday for which I invited people to a community hall, and some people showed up but not the people I wanted, so from that point on I was like, fuck that, I'm never celebrating my birthday again.
Were you embarrassed or kind of fine with it?
I was kind of fine. I did something for my 21st though, I was out and a few people turned up, but we couldn't get in anywhere, so again it was a disaster.
Why couldn't you get in?
We just don't look like people that would entertain other people in a club.
So the alternative is a house party. What's your vibe at house parties?
I admire what Bill Murray does. He seems to go to a lot of house parties, cleans up the dishes, then leaves.
Bill gets sexier with age.
Yeah, yeah, agreed. He is a very funny guy and very talented. I love the fact that he has managed to stay more credible than any other actor of his age. It's a hipster generation and he's the kind of person that doesn't really give a fuck about anything, and people like that.
What kind of person was cool at your school?
The jack the lad, the Jack O'Connell kind of person. What's interesting is now it's the kid that's intelligent and nerdy that's cool.
I think that's because of Seth Cohen.
I mean yeah, that's probably what's changed the world, Seth Cohen.
So, who specifically was cool at your school?
There was a guy called Lian Davis, the hardest kid in school. I mean he didn't look like the hardest kid in school, he was a normal looking guy, but for some reason he was able to take down anybody.
Were you friends with him?
I'm Facebook friends with him. But no I've not spoken to him. Apparently he does a lot of running now, which is good.
What were the girls like at school?
I went to an all boys school so the girls were non-existent.
How did that affect you?
I mean, I would have been just as bad with girls if they were in the school.
Who was the first girl you asked out?
Did it go well?
We kissed. But no, it never goes well.
Dates are the worst things in the world. You have to sit down, and you have to be funny. I mean, you have to go in there and definitely be funny. Imagine if you just talked about a family member dying. It's a very strange situation to put yourself in.
Do you think people try and be funny around you because you're funny?
I'm not funny. Do they? I just look scared all the time. I mean, people just don't talk to me full stop.
But you're very famous now...
I mean, very famous in Wales, but nowhere else. In my hometown there's like ten statues of me. No, there isn't. But there will be.
Is there anyone else from your hometown who's made it?
Aaron Ramsey, he plays for Arsenal.
My friend interviewed you a few years ago and you rapped an entire Eminem song for her…
I remember that.
Do you still listen to Eminem?
Every day. I love Eminem. I slightly feel like I'm the only Eminem fan left because he's not very good anymore. He's not relevant at all. He's just shouting about nothing and it's disheartening.
What other rappers do you like?
It slightly sucks to say you're a Kendrick Lamar fan now. It's like when you love a really an indie band and all of a sudden they become the biggest thing on the planet and everyone in the world loves them and you're like, damn. But I'm a massive Kendrick Lamar fan
You made a rap album didn't you, how many tracks were on it?
Eight tracks. I think the first one's called Clap your Hands.
Are you going to release it?
It would be the end of my career.
Please can you rap me your favourite Eminem lyric?
[raps]… 'I came to the world at a time when it was in need of a villain'.
Text Sarah Raphael
Photography Andrew Vowles
Styling Max Clark
Grooming Roxane Attard using Bumble and bumble
Photography assistance Freddy Lee, Gary Vsobczyk
Lighting Pro Lighting
Styling assistance Kristofj Von Strass, Bojana Kozarevic
Craig wears jacket Paul Smith. T-shirt Sunspel. Trousers and belt Margaret Howell.