British actor Treva Etienne is back on our small screen playing Dingaan Botha in his second series of Steven Spielberg’s hit TV series Falling Skies.
His outstanding work in the first series didn’t go unnoticed with publications like IGN saying Treva Etienne was “a stand out addition last year”, thankfully he is back in the last series of this amazing sci-fi show.
In the UK Treva rose to fame in National favourites like Desmonds, Holding On, The Fast Show and landed some pretty decent roles in a couple of blockbusters you may have heard of such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Bad Boys II, Black Hawk Down and Termination Salvation along with a host of big name TV series.
Treva sat down with us to discuss Fallen Skies, whether there will ever be a black Bond and more.
You’re back in your role as Dingaan Botha in season 5 of Steven Spielberg’s Falling Skies, for those that have been sleeping on this show, tell us about the show and your character.
In the final push of the show an invasion happens, the show has kind of evolved now, it’s about the end. My character has kind of involved into more of a creative type and I’m using my creative technical skills to help with the war and create more opportunities for the second mass (2nd Massachusetts Militia) to reach our objective and help win the war. I’m helping out with the technical aspects of our weapon strikes and using ideas to help create new strategies and new ideas for weapons.
What attracted you to a sci-fi TV series? Did Spielberg’s name pull you in?
No not really, I’ve always liked sci-fi and any opportunity to do sci-fi is fun or dress up in costume is fun. There was just an opportunity to do something different. And it’s always fun to get into something different. I’ve done other sci-fi films like The Last Train, I did the Terminator Salvation movie and that was sci-fi, I’ve been in a couple of pilots that were sci-fi. So I’ve always liked sci-fi. This was just another opportunity to be in a different world because sci-fi creates that. You’re in a different world with a different set of circumstances around you which is always fun to do.
How was the audition process for this series?
It was quite straightforward. I put myself on tape. Then the tape goes in and they look at it and if they like it you get the call. Quite straightforward really.
How do you even prepare for a role like this?
I guess you can’t really. I don’t really know how the role is going to evolve; you just have to be present and ready to just create whatever they throw at you. You’re kind of creating the role as you’re doing it. You don’t really have a set idea of what the role is. You have an idea of the circumstances and situation you’ll be in but in terms of how you create the character the character is being created on the job really. The episode scripts come and you just go with what you think would work.
You’ve attracted a lot of positive comments about your outstanding performance in this series, does this spur you on?
Yes, always. Love is always a good stirrer. It’s nice that they like what they see of my character. That’s always a good thing.
You’ve done so much in your career to date from films such as Black Hawk Down, Terminator Salvation & Pirates of the Caribbean and many TV shows such as 24, Charmed & Falling Skies. What gives you more pleasure film or TV and why?
I think they’re both different, but they’re both the same. It all crosses over now, you could be on a TV show but it feels like a movie. Falling Skies feels like you’re making a movie at times. So It’s hard to define which is more preferable now because the hours are as long and I think it comes down to ambitions. It’s a very thin line now in terms of what you can do and what you can get away with. So it’s similar. Movies I guess are on a bigger scale because you have to come back and do them and it’s just bigger but television crosses over so much into movie making now it’s hard to see a difference.
What’s been your favourite so far and why?
I would say Pirates of the Caribbean was a lot of fun to make. It required wearing a costume and carrying a sword etc. and doing all that stuff that’s on a big ship in the middle of the Caribbean ocean. Yeah that was beautiful and it was a really good experience.
Out of the many actors you’ve worked with over the years, who has been the one that has given you the best advice/inspired you?
Well, it’s actually someone who I’ve met years ago. He used to be in Brookside. I must have been about 17 or 18. He was different and he always stuck with me. He told me once that you can be the greatest actor of your generation and still die an unknown. That stuck with me. That really kept it real for me. In the years that I’ve been doing this that really inspired me. And Stanley Kubrick when I did Eyes Wide Shut he said I should just keep pushing with my ideas and at some point one will break. So that inspired me as well especially coming from someone like Stanley Kubrick.
Why do you think so many British actors are finding success over in the states right now?
I don’t think it’s a new thing, I think it’s been going on really, British actors have been working in America since Charlie Chaplin, Sam Laurell or Vivian Lee, Lawrence Olivier, Charles Morton, these are the early actors that were there and it just evolved from doing that. Michael Cain, Sean Connery, Roger Moore it’s just evolved. Lots of people have had that relationship with America. Then when the bands came like The Beatles and opened up a whole era of British Music as well so I think that there’s always been a kind of success story with the Brits and the Americans. I think the way this has been continuing, if you look at the past year, you always see that Brits have done well in America and there’s just more Brits of colour now so it’s been highlighted again. I think both Black and Indian actors from the UK do well in the US if you look at the names that around now, the girl in Bend it Like Beckham the actress has gone on and done things, the cast from Slumdog Millionaire. I think it’s a lot of luck and a lot of commitment, a lot of hard work, but I think that relationship will continue as it has always done with the UK and America.
I grew up watching you in the likes of London’s Burning and Desmond’s on British TV, You’ve certainly come a long way from there. What makes you want to keep going after all these years?
I love the creative process, I love the way you can take an idea and mould it and create something out of it for people to be entertained by it and I think there’s just so many creators and innovators around. The technology allows people to be more creative than they ever dreamed, the animations and special effects and what you see the Marvel/DC comics franchise doing now. When you’re in this process and it’s working it can be quite an amazing and inspiring experience. It’s like another planet. To be watching and to be part of something and to see people enjoy it afterwards. I think that’s what really what keeps me going. There is never a dull moment. There is always someone trying something or trying something different and that inspires me to keep going because I’m like that as well. I’m always trying to do something different and I think that side of it is always something that keeps me going.
I have to admit, you don’t seem to have aged, what’s your secret?
I drink oil of Olay every morning. I’m joking I don’t really. I don’t know. People ask me that all the time. I don’t know. I’ve got to thank my grandparents and their grandparents and all of my family. It’s got to be something in the bloodline, all my family are like that. We all look very youthful and I’ve just got to give thanks to the Etienne family tree. I think it’s strange as well, I look at them and they all look like me. You know the Picture of Dorian Grey where the guy’s got the portrait I’ve got a photo like that. I’m grateful it’s like that because it could all change tomorrow. I’m just very thankful I don’t have a big white beard right now, but I’m sure it’s on its way. It will evolve in time I’m sure. Either that or I’m some kind of alien from another planet but we’ll keep it to that.
I think you were one of the first British Black actors to be suggested to play the first black bond way before Idris Elba. Do you think we will ever see a black actor in the role of Bond?
I think we’ll see an actor in a role like Bond. But I don’t think we’ll see a British actor in the role of Bond. But I think there will be at some point a Bond type thriller that will be made and actor of colour will play. I can see that coming. I just don’t think it’s going to be Bond. Bond is too set-up in the historic mindset as 007 and I think that will create some issues because people love their Bond. Whereas, I think if they created another type of character just as you’ve got the Bourne Identities or Ethan in Mission Impossible, the Bond type action men that has different locations and exotic villains and women. I think I can see an opportunity at some point soon where we’ll have a black actor in that role but we kind of did with Shaft and Wesley Snipes, those types of characters so I can see them doing that again. But I don’t think they would create a 007 out of Bond because they could always go 008 or 009 then add something different to the mix. It’s fun to be in that conversation for a minute, it’s cool.
If you could change one thing about the British TV and Film Industries what would it be?
One thing? God, Blimey. It would just for people to be more open. For people to take more risks, and push the envelope more. Keep creating new dynamics. Keep creating new ways of entertaining people. So that’s all, just for people to be more open.
What’s left for Treva Etienne to do? What kind of role would be your perfect role to play?
Oh Boy. I don’t know really, he shows up when he shows up. I think there are a lot of opportunities still and lots of characters, historic characters as well as modern day characters that are still left to play or be part of something and sharing that experience. We’ve probably got more stories that we’re not aware of just about cultural England, you can make comedies out of them, and you can make dramas out of them and thrillers out of them. Just to be more open, to integrate more and to integrate the stories more and if they’re open to that then I think we can really create something quite unique about Europeans.
Season 5 of Falling Skies on Sunday’s at 10 p.m EST on TNT and is showing now on Fox UK.