British Actors You Should Know: Aneurin Barnard

Aneurin Barnard in the 2016 crime drama 'Thirteen' (Image: courtesy of BBC)

Seeing as today is St. David’s Day, the celebration of the patron saint of Wales, it seemed appropriate to feature a Welshman in the latest installment of our Actors You Should Know series. Therefore, I’m taking this opportunity to introduce you to one of my favorite young actors from the UK, Aneurin (pronounced An-eye-rin) Barnard.

Born in the Valleys of South Wales, Aneurin grew up watching films with his grandad and his father who was a coal miner. He got his early dramatic training at the Bridgend Youth Theatre near Cardiff.

He went on to study at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. Shortly after graduating, he originated the part of Melchior Gabor in the London production of the hit musical, Spring Awakening. Barnard subsequently won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical in 2010.

Aneurin’s musical background served him well in the 2011 film, Hunky Dory. He plays Davey, a talented singer who has been recruited to star in the high school musical conceived by his spirited drama teacher Vivienne Mae (Minnie Driver). Her glam rock-infused version of Shakespeare's The Tempest is derailed at times by apathy, hormones and arson. But despite the roadblocks (and it being the hottest summer in Britain's history), Davey and the rest of the cast put on a triumphant performance in the end . The film features plenty of nostaglic 70's tunes including this classic Bowie song.

 

In 2013 Barnard donned medieval garb when was cast as Richard, Duke of Gloucester in the BBC period drama, The White Queen.

The youngest brother in the House of York, Richard is trustworthy, honorable, ambitious and loyal to his brother, King Edward IV (Max Irons). He accepts the dangers involved in keeping his family on the throne and eventually comes to rule England himself, though not without controversy.

 

A major change in appearance was called for in Aneurin’s next big role. He starred opposite Sheridan Smith in the ITV mini-seriesCilla which recounted the rise of the beloved Liverpudlian bluesy belter, Cilla Black, in the 1960's.

He played a very blonde Bobby Willis; Cilla’s manager, cheerleader, most honest critic and the love of her life. A talented singer and songwriter himself, he took a back seat to the woman he loved and eventually married.

 

In 2016, the BBC produced an ambitious adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic novel, War & Peace. As part of an illustrious cast that included Paul Dano, James Norton, Jim Broadbent, Stephen Rea and Gillian Anderson, Aneurin played Boris Drubetskoy.

The only son and pride and joy of Anna Mikhailovna (Rebecca Front), what Boris doesn’t possess in wealth, he makes up for in ambition. He is the first to win Natasha Rostova's (Lily James) heart, though he finds her not wealthy enough to get serious about. Throughout the story, he advances in standing, mostly through his impressive position on the Russian Tsar’s staff in the campaign against Napoleon.

 

Also in 2016, Barnard appeared in the gripping BBC crime drama, Thirteen. Ivy Moxam (Jodie Comer) was kidnapped when she was thirteen years old. Now twenty-six, she walks out of the home of her captor and tries to get on with her life in a world that has changed dramatically. Aneurin plays Tim Hobson, one of Ivy’s ties to the past and her first boyfriend.

Devastated by her disappearance at the time, Tim finally moved on and got married. But seeing Ivy again, even after all the time that’s passed, has him torn between his present life and the yearning of his past. Although it's wrong, you can't help but find his heartfelt crush on Ivy so adorable.

 

And finally, on the eve of this year’s Oscar ceremony, we find that young Mr. Barnard also played a part in one of the Best Picture nominees – Dunkirk.

This visceral historical film puts audiences right in the middle of the action; namely the evacuation of soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France. In his role as an Allied soldier named “Gibson”, Aneurin only speaks four words in all the time he’s on screen and still he breaks your heart. That says quite a lot for this young man’s talent.

 

If you don’t know Aneurin Barnard's work yet, I hope you’ll check it out. And if you’re already a fan, please share your favorite roles of his gifted Welsh actor. I have a feeling his career is only getting started.