Anthony Boyle

JACKET and BOOTS by John Lawrence Sullivan. Vintage TOP and JEANS.

Anthony Boyle Is Taking Over

When Anthony Boyle was a young kid in Belfast, there were two very different stories he watched over and over that helped shape his childhood. One was Green Street Hooligans, a 2005 film that starred Elijah Wood as a Harvard student thrown into the violent criminal world of the eponymous London football fans. The other was Band of Brothers, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks's World War II miniseries from the early days of Prestige TV that followed a group of American soldiers from their initial training through D-Day to their occupation of the Eagle's Nest, Hitler's remote hideaway. “Growing up, we would watch Band of Brothers and want to be soldiers,” the actor laughs, “or we would watch Green Street Hooligans and want to be football hooligans and beat each other up.”

Recently, one of those youthful fantasies came true in a way, when Boyle starred as Lieutenant Harry Crosby, a navigator in the 100th Bomb Group of the US Air Force and the narrator of Masters of the Air, Apple TV+'s hit miniseries about WWII airmen executive produced by none other than Spielberg, Hanks, and Gary Goetzman. The show, which premiered in January and recently wrapped up its initial streaming release, completes an informal trilogy along with Band of Brothers and the 2010 HBO miniseries The Pacific, which focused on the Marine Corps. As Crosby, whose memoir A Wing and a Prayer served as source material for the series, the 29-year-old Boyle plays a decorated war hero who, with his blunt humor and bouts of airsickness, departs from the cliché of the noble soldier. “Crosby from the off just felt like he didn't fit the piece, which I found interesting,” says Boyle. “Everyone else felt like they were in Band of Brothers and Crosby felt like he was in an Adam Sandler movie, throwing up on people. He just was so full of quirks and I got that feeling that I get when I really want to play someone like, 'Oh god, can't wait. I really wanna step into those shoes.'”

All CLOTHING and ACCESSORIES by ,Alexander McQueen

All CLOTHING and ACCESSORIES by Alexander McQueen

Also starring Austin Butler, Callum Turner, Barry Keoghan, Nate Mann, and a packed ensemble, Masters of the Air is striking for its focus on not only the physical but the mental damage suffered by these young men forced to undertake incredibly risky bombing missions on which they often saw their friends shot out of the sky mere feet away. While still highlighting their heroism and sacrifice, the series also showcases their fragility in a time period decades before PTSD became a recognized condition. “What's really interesting for me when I read the scripts is you dive into the emotional landscape of the guys,” explains Boyle. “A lot of the war dramas I've seen, the focus is on the machismo and the violence—and this show has its fair share of that—but also you start to see the toll on these men. There's a line Crosby has which is, 'Some men drank, some men slept around. If you got a chance to forget, you took it.' There was no therapy, so you numbed it down. You didn't confront the feelings, you just tried to forget. We dive into the mental health of these lads that were just told they could come back and they would be speaking of the people that they saw got their heads blown off in a plane and the doctor would say, 'Oh, they've got war fatigue, just let them rest.'”

In preparing for the role, Boyle turned to Crosby's recorded interviews and his book, which the actor calls “so funny” despite its dark subject matter thanks to the spirit of its author, who died in 2010. “You got a real sense of his soul from reading the book and I really wanted to get that across when we came to filming, that he was inherently good,” he adds. At the premiere in January, Boyle met Crosby's children for the first time, which drove home to him the responsibilities of portraying a real-life individual. “About three minutes before the show was about to start, someone turned to me and said, 'Oh, by the way, you're going to meet his entire family,' and I was like, 'You're joking me,'” he recalls. “The whole way throughout the premiere watching the show, I was just like, 'Oh god, they're somewhere in this room, they're probably hating this.' Then his eldest son came to me after and said, 'Before we got here, someone told us, “Don't expect to see your father on screen.”' But he shook my hand and said, 'I feel like we got Dad back,' and I thought, 'If the critics hate it now or if everyone says I'm shit, I've got the blessing of the son,' which was great.” At a later screening for Crosby's extended family, his granddaughter gave Boyle the navigator's leather jacket to wear—temporarily, she stressed repeatedly. “It fit like a glove,” Boyle recalls. “He wore that exact jacket in the sky so it was a full-circle moment to put that on and actually have a relic of something that he actually wore and fought in. It was overwhelming.”

COAT, PANTS, and SHOES by ,John Lawrence Sullivan. , Vintage SHIRT.

COAT, PANTS, and SHOES by John Lawrence Sullivan. Vintage SHIRT.

For many actors, recent shutdowns due to Covid-19 and industrywide strikes have led to increased instability and volatile schedules—adding more burdens for those who are already reliant on piecing together a career one role at a time. For Boyle, delays have meant that months of nearly back-to-back shooting have led to a confluence of releases over the beginning of this year. In fact, earlier this month, Apple TV+ released the finale of Masters of Air on the same day as it premiered Manhunt, a thriller in which Boyle stars as John Wilkes Booth in the days after he assassinated Lincoln. Both historical dramas have been mainstays of the streamer's top-ten list ever since. “I haven't had something come out for so long, I almost forgot that that's the end goal, that things will be watched,” Boyle laughs. “I was like, 'Oh, wait, people are going to see it. It was actually recorded and people are going to watch it and have an opinion.'”

Most viewers of Manhunt will know the basics of Booth's story—Boyle himself remembers first encountering the assassin in an episode of The Simpsons—but the seven episodes of the series offer a thorough examination of his motives and mindset while fleshing out the aftermath of a pivotal moment in American history. “It's an insane story, it's nuts. If you heard that, you would go, 'What? What do you mean?'” says Boyle about the stranger-than-fiction circumstances of one of the country's most famous actors murdering the president in a theater and taking to the stage to deliver a line from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. “People thought it was a joke, people thought it was a hoax. It didn't sound real.”

SHIRT by ,Alexander McQueen. ,TIE by ,JORDANLUCA. ,Vintage PANTS.

SHIRT by Alexander McQueen. TIE by JORDANLUCA. Vintage PANTS.

The series, which also stars Tobias Menzies as Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, traces Booth's attempted escape south with a broken leg over the course of twelve days before his capture and death. An avid defender of the Confederacy even after its surrender, Booth was, says Boyle, “a racist fucking asshole.” Having to embody the character required some disassociation on the actor's part. “It's a strange one because you're acting so you don't actually feel or think these things, but you're saying some pretty fucking horrible stuff,” he adds. “It is uncomfortable and it is nasty to have these words in your mouth and these feelings and these actions. I don't know if you could prepare. You just fucking do it. You just show up and do it, it's a job like any other.”

As with Crosby, Boyle was able to turn to Booth's own writings to understand his motivations, immersing himself in the assassin's virulent, conspiracy-fueled fantasies. “He thinks he's a hero,” Boyle explains. “I couldn't play him like he's thinking he's a villain, twizzling his mustache. You have to play him like Booth. In 1862 or 1863, he had written a letter that said the Black man is enslaving the white man in America. The mental gymnastics one would have to do to think that is staggering. He thought that killing Lincoln was a heroic act. He thought his President Davis was going to embrace him with open arms. He thought the South would rise again and he would be lauded and he would be a hero.”

SHOE by ,Alexander McQueen

SHOE by Alexander McQueen

Those writings also proved uncomfortably resonant during the filming of Manhunt when an eighteen-year-old white supremacist murdered ten Black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. “He had written a racist manifesto online and usually I wouldn't even try and read anything like that because it makes me sick, but I had read Booth's letters and he had written racist manifestos,” says Boyle of the killer. “They were so similar, the sentences, it could have been the same person. It was the same thought, it was the same idea that hasn't died. It was this horrible racist bile that this guy had written and posted online and I thought, 'Jesus Christ, this feels, unfortunately, so current and just so sad, so fucking depressing.'”

A native of Northern Ireland, Boyle's time in the United States until then had largely been limited to New York and Los Angeles, which made filming Manhunt in Georgia an eye-opening experience. He recalls driving past Confederate statues and flags to set, where he would then get into character to extol the glories of the Lost Cause. “I do feel like I had a certain distance from it” as a foreigner, he says, “but [I could] understand those resonances and how that story still permeates the South today.”

All CLOTHING and ACCESSORIES by  ,Alexander McQueen. ,CHAIR by ,Dudley Waltzer. ,

All CLOTHING and ACCESSORIES by Alexander McQueen. CHAIR by Dudley Waltzer.

Before this year, Boyle was best known for his Olivier-winning and Tony-nominated stage role as Scorpius Malfoy, son of Draco, in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and this promising introduction to wider audiences marks a turning point for the actor, who shows no signs of slowing down. The coming months will see him in Shardlake, adapted for Disney+ from CJ Sansom's series of mystery novels set in Tudor England. Boyle will star as Jack Barak, who assists the titular barrister with investigating crimes during the English Reformation. “It's different from anything I've done really up until now,” Boyle explains. “I used to love watching these old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies with my dad and when I read the Shardlake script, I had the same feeling I felt as a kid just going, 'Oh, it was him, it was the butler, it was him.' I think it will be a good one to watch with people, it's one to talk to someone about.” Later this year, he'll also be seen on Hulu in FX's Say Nothing as Brendan Hughes, an officer in the Irish Republican Army during the Troubles in Belfast.

After this run of historical stories, Boyle says he is looking for something more purely imaginative for his next role. “I keep playing real people,” he laughs. “It feels important somehow when I'm reading it, but I think for the next couple of years, I've got to try and avoid that. A fantasy or something could be cool next, like playing an elf or a fucking orc or something.” But until then, he is most excited about a well-deserved break before his next project begins shooting at the end of the summer. “I'm going to go back and see friends and family and ride horses and swim in the sea and drink Guinness,” he says. “I'm going to go back to Belfast and chill in Ireland for a bit before I have to pretend to be someone else again.”

Masters of the Air and Manhunt are now streaming on Apple TV+.

COAT and PANTS by ,John Lawrence Sullivan. ,Vintage SHIRT.

COAT and PANTS by John Lawrence Sullivan. Vintage SHIRT.

HAIR by Kei Takano. MAKEUP by Philippe Miletto. SET DESIGN by Rana Fadavi. PHOTOGRAPHER'S ASSISTANTS Rio Zangoura and Stefania Carli. SET DESIGNER'S ASSISTANT Max Stranger. PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Lauren Hillsdon.

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