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The first time David Dawson met his costars in person, he had to sing with them. For any other movie, this might have been just another ice breaker, but in My Policeman Dawson stars opposite Emma Corrin and Harry Styles. And, well, that’s a different story.
“We initially met over Zoom, which was very bizarre,” the actor explains. “But Michael [Grandage, the film’s director] threw us in at the deep end the first time the three of us met; we had to sing a song in a sound booth because our characters sing a song together in a bar. It was a very clever way of getting rid of any kind of awkwardness in meeting new people. Interestingly, Tom Burgess, who Harry plays, isn’t meant to be that great of a singer, and I was meant to be quite good.”
It won’t be just the singing in My Policeman that people are talking about, however. The film—streaming now on Prime Video—is a moody period piece focused on three young Brits in the 1950s who are bound together by a secret, and it isn’t shy about the love scenes shared by Dawson and Styles. Though he isn’t one to kiss and tell.
“We had a wonderful three-week rehearsal process to explore that chemistry and to grow a friendship,” he explains succinctly of working with his cast mates. “It was a very collaborative process, which I think makes everybody gain a wonderful trust—and on a project like this, I think that’s important.”
And while they might rile up social media feeds, the steamy bits aren’t really the point. My Policeman, based on a 2012 novel by Bethan Roberts, tells the story of Dawson’s Patrick Hazlewood, a museum curator who meets a young couple, Tom and Marion Burgess, and begins a secret, marvelous, painful affair with Tom that becomes bigger than any of them ever anticipated. The film flashes between the 1950s and the modern day to illustrate the impact of youthful decisions, but also to highlight ways in which the world has changed over just a few decades. It’s a film about longing, the allure of the forbidden, the trouble with being yourself, and the lasting effects of the decisions we make.
“I'm a history geek, so I love looking into periods of time that are very different to our own,” Dawson says. “I was really drawn to Patrick, and the question of how someone like hims not only survives but thrives in 1950s Britain. Out of necessity, he had two different personas, the public one in which he can achieve everything he wants, and then the private. There were very few places he could authentically be himself and I liked exploring the vulnerability of that and someone who, like all of us, just wants to find love.”
It's also, Dawson points out, not exactly ancient history. “The poignancy in the movie is in the fact that for many places around the world, what you're seeing as 1950s Britain is still the present, it’s not a part of history” he says. “It's certainly made me come away from this project with a greater appreciation of just what's been fought for and achieved.”
Grandage—who’d previously worked with Dawson on theatrical projects—was looking for someone who understood just that. “It was important to me to find an actor who was able to bring a few key qualities that would make the relationship believable,” the director tells T&C. “A sense of ‘period,’ for instance, was crucial because we were building a 1950s world around Patrick and his museum life. Also, a sense of maturity and intelligence without having to find someone much older—he needed to educate and inspire Tom without being a mentor or teacher. Above all, I was looking for someone who was a sensitive performer who could bring real nuance to a character who had to be so guarded at such a difficult period in British gay history.”
But despite the weight of history, it’s worth noting that My Policeman isn’t difficult viewing. The three leads have a clear chemistry and watching them all fall in love with one another in a blur of music and art and so many cocktails is delicious. The always delightful Rupert Everett is on hand. There’s an attention to detail in the costumes and set design that makes it easy to get lost in this world; Patrick’s apartment in particular has a charm all its own. “I love his apartment,” Dawson says. “I actually went round it early because I always think it's important for you to make it your own, so it feels like it is your apartment. I can't give too much away, but there's an awful lot of beautiful nods in that apartment, personal things to do with some of the team that add touches of real life to it.”
And even though the film is streaming now and Dawson’s on to other projects—filming a new series called The Burning Girl to begin with—the love triangle at the heart of My Policeman isn’t done with him just yet. “I think it's the strangest thing about being an actor: you work with people very closely and then every time you have to say goodbye and accept that it's no longer yours, it's an audience's,” he says. “But I've had the pleasure of seeing my friends from the production since; I went to see Emma on the stage in the West End, and Harry invited me to the launch of his new album at the Brixton Academy. It’s nice that it’s not over yet.”
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