British Actors You Should Know: Jack Lowden

Jack Lowden as Lord Darnley in Mary Queen of Scots  (Photo:  Image courtesy of Focus Features)

While the name may not ring a bell, Jack Lowden is exactly the kind of actor this series was meant to profile. Talented, versatile and increasingly in demand, this Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduate has been putting in some impressive performances for almost a decade now. Also from what I've read, he would probably prefer being identified as a Scottish actor you should know so here I'd like to so specify that fact.

Early on, Lowden's biggest success was in the theater, where he appeared in plays such as Black Watch, Chariots of Fire and Electra. In 2014 he won an Olivier Award for his role as Oswald in Richard Eyre's adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts.

Personally, I think he should make a return to the stage by crossing the pond for a run on Broadway, but for now we’ll focus on his television and film credits.

As is common for actors in their 20’s, Lowden has played a number of soldiers. In 2014 he starred in two military-themed productions. In the inevitably tragic World War I mini-series The Passing Bells he was a teenage German infantryman and in ’71 he featured as an ill-fated British soldier deployed to Belfast during The Troubles.

Then in the 2017 Christopher Nolan World War II blockbuster, Dunkirk, Jack played Collins, one of the RAF Spitfire pilots. He would be the one who’s not Tom Hardy.

FYI: You can stream this Oscar-winning film on Amazon Prime or Hulu with Cinemax add-ons.

The bread and butter for most British actors is, of course, the costume drama and young Mr. Lowden has appeared in his share of those as well. He had a small part in the 2015 mini-series Wolf Hall as Thomas Wyatt, the ambassador who petitioned the Pope to annul Henry VIII's first marriage.

You may remember that the BBC commissioned a lavish new production of Tolstoy's War & Peace back in 2016, with an impressive ensemble cast.  Jack portrayed Nikolai Rostov, a young man of noble birth who seeks glory in war. Unfortunately for the passionate fellow, his financially shaky family has been damaged further by his youthful indiscretions.

This version of War & Peace co-starring Lily James, James Norton and Paul Dano is available on Hulu.

Also in 2016, Lowden hit the links in Tommy’s Honour, a biopic about the legendary Scottish father-son duo credited with ushering in the modern game of golf back in the mid-1800’s. Jack played headstrong golf prodigy Tom Morris Jr., who refused to allow his social standing to get in the way of his ambition and followed his heart in choosing a wife with a sullied past.

Co-starring Peter Mullan as Old Tom and Ophelia Lovibond as Tommy’s wife Meg, you can stream Tommy’s Honour on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Lowden traveled across centuries in 2018 with his first stop being 16th century Scotland.  In the royal drama, Mary Queen of Scots starring Saoirse Ronan, he portrayed Lord Darnley AKA Henry Stuart, the man who won Mary’s heart, but turned out to be a bit of a disappointment on several fronts, namely involving loyalty and sobriety.

Jack then went on to star in the BBC adaptation of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song where he played a charismatic plantation overseer in 19th century Jamaica. (I've read the book, but as far as I can tell, this program is not yet been made available on DVD or any streaming service in the US.)

The roles where Lowden has made me really sit up and take notice, however, are varied while displaying a special capacity for vulnerability. In fact, these characters he plays so sensitively remind me of the types of roles fellow Scot James McAvoy was playing earlier in his career

In the 2017 film England Is Mine, Jack plays a young, sullen, insecure dreamer named Steven Patrick Morrissey. While this is an unauthorized portrait of the early life of the famed Smiths’ singer-songwriter, you need know nothing of Morrissey to be moved by Lowden’s performance that swings between arrogance, apprehension and heartbreaking despair.

Featuring Jessica Brown Findlay and Jodie Comer, this little-known gem is available to stream on Hulu.

One of Jack’s most recent roles can still be seen in a theater near you. Fighting with My Family is a based-on-a-true story comedy about the Knights, a family of small-time professional wrestlers from Norwich, England. The parents (played by Nick Frost and Lena Headey) pin all their aspirations on their children Saraya (Florence Pugh) and Lowden’s character, Zak. When the siblings get an audition with the WWE and only Saraya is selected for WWE training, the family quickly gets behind their best hope and Zak is left to struggle with losing, not only his ambition, but his identity.

This film is a quirky, inspiring story of triumphant perseverance, family bonds and, through Lowden’s subtle performance, a lesson on moving on from a broken dream.

And finally, on Netflix you can find Calibre, a tense thriller that won the praise of Stephen King on Twitter, the Edinburgh International Film Festival award for Best Film and snagged Mr. Lowden the distinction of Best Film Actor at last year’s Scottish BAFTAs.

The premise is that Vaughn (Lowden) and Marcus (Martin McCann), two lifelong friends (and city boys to boot) head into the Highlands for a hunting trip. It’s no surprise that a fatal accident occurs, but I understand it gets even tenser and twisty-er as the story progresses. To be honest, I’ve only gotten to the initial shock and what-do-we-do-to-cover-our-tracks moments, but so far, it’s been a compelling watch and Lowden's harrowing performance has been completely convincing.

What's on the horizon for Jack Lowden?  He will be playing an FBI agent in the upcoming Al Capone biopic, Fonzo starring Tom Hardy. And another thriller, entitled Cordivae is in pre-productionLowden will not only star but also serve as producer with his new Scottish-based production company, Reiver Pictures. The film will be shot entirely in Scotland beginning next month.

If this talented young actor is on your radar too, please share your impressions in the comments. And if you haven’t discovered him yet, there’s plenty here to get you initiated…including this Irn Bru advert which spoofs High School Musical