It’s not often that I get asked to interview a dude, so when the opportunity arises, I like to say yes. What I found is that Ed Skrein does not fit the mold of a typical actor starring in an action film. In fact, he defied every stereotype and even surprised me (which is hard to do) with his life ethos, easy manner, and spiritual affirmations. Sure, you’ll soon see him tearing things up as the lead in The Transporter: Refueled, but he gave me hope that perhaps, just perhaps, we may be ready for a new kind of man crush — a guy who is as thoughtful as he is handsome. Sounds good, right?
Amanda de Cadenet : Hi, Ed!
Ed Skrein: Hello. That’s a big drink. What is it, a smoothie?
It’s protein powder, almond milk, coffee, and ice, and some kale. It’s how I start my day in L.A.
Very nice, very nice. Similar to mine, but my stuff is separate. I love my porridge with protein in it and my coffee separate.
Yeah, I’m somewhat obsessed with nutrition. … If you want to have a clear mind and a strong body, you’ve got to educate yourself.
A hundred percent. It’s made all the difference to me. I don’t talk about it so much, but it’s a big part of my personal life is nutrition, and it’s almost the most important thing throughout the day, especially with shooting and all that. Yeah, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right petrol in your car, you know?
It’s a really simple thing that a lot of people don’t realize. I know you have a kid, you have a son, and I have 8-year-old twins. I can see in them that if I don’t give them the right nutrition they can’t focus as well, they’re aggravated, they get really cranky, they get tired and s—ty, whereas if I give them balanced nutrition … and also teaching them about nutrition, even though they’re little, just so that they know what works for their bodies. Otherwise you’re going against yourself.
Yes, a hundred percent.
Have you always been aware of what your body needed?
No. No, not at all. Actually, I’d say only the last three years I’ve properly experimented, found out what works for me, what sort of calories I need in a day, what sort of things I need for different times that I eat, the days that I am working out, the days I’m not working out, the days that I’m shooting, the days that I’m shooting action compared to the days that I’m shooting dialogue. It’s taken a lot of experimenting, trying different people’s diets and stuff like that and speaking to different personal trainers and nutritionists and just different people.
A lot of my friends that are actors have to put on a lot of weight and muscle for certain roles, and that’s when they’re learning about nutrition and working out. Is it because of your work that you know all of this?
It started as that, yeah, definitely. It started by every job I do I always want to change my body composition, change my body fat, change my muscle mass, change my hair, change my beard, change my posture, and the latter ones, obviously, I can work on myself in isolation, but the body fat and the muscle mass is something that obviously I need outside advice.
So it started with, like, when I did Game of Thrones I really wanted to get lean, be leaner than I’d ever been before. My first role, [in] Ill Manors, I was 97 kilos [214 pounds]. So I was muscle, but I had a lot of fat as well as, I was a bit lump. And then for Game of Thrones I wanted to change it. I knew that we were going to clean shave my beard, I was going to have long hair. I said, right, I’ll switch this up completely. So I lost 13 kilos [29 pounds].
Wow. How did you do that?
It wasn’t rocket science. But then for different roles, like for Deadpool, I wanted to put on muscle mass. Whereas I’d been doing The Transporter, so I got lean again. So for The Transporter I was just doing martial arts and eating clean, no carbs for the whole shoot except for my cheat days or whatnot. And when we came to Deadpool, I was like, “All right, I want to put on some mass, I want to look different from The Transporter.” So it became a lot of nut butters, it became a lot more brown rice, more quinoa, and all of that stuff and just more calories and switching it up.
Yeah, you’ve gotta find what works for you, create your own tools for living. So one of the interesting things that they sent me was that you got stabbed when you were 17 years old? Which is no small thing. How badly were you stabbed, and what the hell was going on?
Basically, it was a simple thing of times when we used to enjoy conflict and we used to enjoy negativity, and basically as simple as, yeah, five guys jumped me and one of ‘em stuck a knife in my back and my lung collapsed. I went into hospital for five days, and in those five days it was really important because I realized that the person I was pretending to myself that I was wasn’t actually me. You know? I didn’t want to start any big wars or anything like that. And those five days in hospital were beautiful, because I really had epiphanies and such and came out just with … it sounds pretentious, but with peace in my heart.
No, it doesn’t sound pretentious. I think that all people have an opportunity when they have a catastrophic event occur that they either go more into the darkness or they have what you call an epiphany, where you realize that that is an opportunity in that moment for you to change the course of your life. When I’ve seen people not pay attention to those signs, it gets louder and louder and worse and worse, and you might not have an opportunity to do it again because you end up dead or something really bad.
A hundred percent. I suppose before that, like most teenagers, I suppose I ran on ego and all of that teenage testosterone and bravado. And I suppose that was the beginning of my honesty, of me looking in the mirror and being honest with myself. This life and this negativity is not what I want to be surrounded by. I’m a peaceful, loving guy and I’ve cultivated that path since, in the 15 years or so since, and it’s been beautiful.
How have you held on to that intention? I know a lot of people that have diverted from that awakening because it takes consciousness and mindfulness and dedication and reaffirming that path on a constant basis. How have you held on to that?
I’m surrounded by really good people, and I’ve always been family orientated anyway. All my brothers and my sisters and my mom and dad and my nieces and nephews and godchildren are all close to me. I’ve got a long-term partner and obviously a 4-year-old son that’s real close. And my best friends are my friends from nursery. So I’m literally friends with my pals from 4 years old.
That’s great. That says a lot about you, actually.
All of us as well, ya know? As things have gone on, my circle has widened a lot, but my close circle is the same. I come back and they just take the piss out of me and remind me that I’m just a goofy idiot and remind me there’s nothing special about me. And in terms of the spiritual awakening and stuff, I read a lot. I listen to a lot of podcasts and just try to constantly reflect. I feel like I always meet people that are like-minded.
You know what? We attract what we are.
Exactly, yeah. I’ve tried to surround myself by people that are honest. I don’t really get involved in any of the jazz of the industry. I was in Comic Con a couple of weeks ago, I had the best time, so wonderful. And every night people would go, like, “Oh, are you coming to the parties?” I’m like, “No, I’m going home, man.” I’d go home and listen to one of my podcasts or read something or Skype with my family or just go train. It is very important for me to maintain my physical well-being to try and learn and keep growing, you know? As men we’re like 10 years behind women anyway.
It is, maybe more. I’m 32 and I feel like I’m growing up finally.
I think there’s something that happens to a man when he becomes a father. You have to take care of someone else, and it begins the process of that self-reflection of you can no longer be the child because you have the child.
That’s the beginning of it. And it’s a nice journey to be on, it’s a fulfilling journey to be on. This job is interesting in that as well because I get to explore emotions and I get to explore different paths and different people’s perspectives.
If you’re given a voice, whether it’s in the career path that you’ve chosen as an actor or a musician or whatever it is, like there’s a responsibility to use it to improve the world in some capacity, improve people’s lives in some way. Do you feel like you’ve been given this voice for a reason?
Nah, not really. Not really like given a voice for a reason. The reason I’m not a politician is because I don’t know what the answer is, I haven’t got these answers, I don’t know how we can improve all of these terrible things that I see in the news. But what I know I can do is I can improve the lives of the people around me that are just the very small people around me.
Well, it starts there, it starts with your community and then it spreads out. People sometimes don’t take care of their immediate community, and they’re out in the world doing these charitable things, but it’s like actually what is going on in your home is f—ed up.
Oh, that’s the most important thing for me, ya know. And that’s what I always feel like, especially when I’ll be away and everyone will be, let’s say, at Comic Con or something, and it’ll be like, “Yeah, you know this is amazing, how’s everything going?” I’m very thankful, everything’s at a really good place right now, but there’s a lot of my people in my circle and a lot of friends where things aren’t going very well and there’s not very nice things happening. So that means more to me than the superficial stuff. When I’m working, it’s the most important thing at the time and I’m completely there, but it’s second to my family and friends, 100 percent.
How do you do that? The demands of a schedule that a film requires or a TV job, how do you manage that with your commitment to your son?
Well, my son comes with me. He is only 4 and a half now. So we’re gonna have the problem now of school, but previous to now he just comes with me. Usually my rule is that I start the job by myself. I go out there 'cause I want to be in isolation for the rehearsal period and for the first couple days of the shoot.
When I get a job, my first worry is my son. The first thing I say to my lawyer is, “Right, I want multiple flights for my family and I need accommodation that looks after my family, and that’s the most important thing.” And then he sorts out all of the jazzy stuff and comes back and says, “Oh, I got you this and that” and I’m like, “Cool, whatever.”
Actually, the other thing I always say is I need a gym. And I need to eat like five meals a day. But they’re literally the only things because that’s my body and my family and that’s like … they’re my priorities. The rest of it is like jazz and glitter and, great, if there’s any jazz and glitter that can be added on. I’m thankful for those blessings, but to me they don’t mean s—.
Yeah, no, those are the things that are important to you. What we’ve spoken about is the most interesting to me, but I’m going to ask you a couple of other questions about music. You started off being a musician. Obviously, music is something you love, otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten into it, so are you going to continue making music?
No, it’s been years since I made music. I think the last thing that I actually recorded was years ago now.
Why did you start off making music?
Because I loved it. I was involved in this beautiful scene. At the time there was a wonderful scene, and it puts a smile on my face just thinking about the texture and the closeness of the culture in the London underground hip-hop scene back in the turn of the millennium, really. It was a wonderful time.
I was surrounded by street entrepreneurs and just hungry, creative people that were kind of like, “F— everyone, we’re gonna do what we want to do.” And creatively we were stubborn romantics. We really felt like, “F— what’s going on in the charts,” we just wanted to do our thing. It kinda makes me laugh when people say you were a rapper because really like we were in the underground, we were super-underground. We went to festivals around the world and stuff like that. It’s funny that more people talk about it now than they did back then.
Yeah, I know, 'cause they just want something to hook onto.
But it was a beautiful time and in terms of my creative journey it was really important to me. I studied art to begin with, and I went to art college, and I was halfway through my fine art degree and I was just feeling like, “Ya know what, I can do this when I’m old, I can paint when I’m old. I want to make music, I want to be around these people, they’re like this is happening, like I need to do it.”
Do you still have that hunger in the belly?
One hundred percent for acting. I’m mad creative for acting.
How did you fall in love with acting?
One of my best friends, Ben Drew, wrote and directed a movie and just said, “I want you to be in it and I want you to try, and I think you could be really good at this.” And so I tried it, and I’ve always been, I’ve always had self-confidence. With things that I want to do, I’ve always had self-confidence. And things I don’t want to do, I’m the most unconfident person around.
I know for me I’ve been able to lack in skill 'cause I’m extremely confident and the space has been there. It’s like the cart before the horse. And then you’re learning on the job. Do you know what I mean?
Precisely. We were talking earlier about this self-reflection and honesty, and it’s like being thankful for the positions that we get in, whether we feel like we deserve them or not. But then once we are in those positions it is our duty to improve.
Yes, it is, it is. Have you worked with any female directors?
Yes, yes. Some of my favorite auditions have been with female directors.
I would imagine you do really well with woman directors.
Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed feminine relationships where there is no sexual tension. That’s why I’ve kind of always got on really well with older women as well, you know? A lot of time I’ve had bosses who were women that were like described as battleaxes, and I loved 'em, man. We get on like houses on fire.
Well, it’s probably just the approach. It seems to me like you’re someone that is very authentic and you just come with an honesty and a willingness, and a lot of women get categorized as being difficult or a pain in the ass or whatever just 'cause they’re women that have opinions and they’re strong. It sounds like you’re definitely someone that lives for equality of all people.
Yeah, a hundred percent, a hundred percent. That’s injustice, you’ll never see me kick off with a producer. Producers will always say, “Oh, Ed was the easiest guy to work with, he was so nice,” but f— about with one of my cast members or f— about with the stunt guys and treat them like s—, or let the first AD speak to one of the runners like a bully, and then they’ll see the real side of me, you know? It only happens very rarely.
I know, me too.
I hate inequality and injustice, especially when we’re top of the food chain and such, on the call sheets at least. It’s important that we help these guys, because I need them. I can’t make these movies without them.
You’re one piece, you’re a cog in a wheel.
Yeah, man, so I respect them wholeheartedly. I remember my dad came to set on The Transporter, and he said to me afterwards in a very English way, he said to me, “Obviously I was very proud of the fact that like you’re working and you’re doing what you love” and blah, blah. But he said the most important thing that he was proud of was the way that I had time for everybody on set and the way that I spoke respectfully to everybody on set. To me everyone is equal.
Who you are as a person.
Yeah. I feel like that’s really important. I’ve seen actors create negative atmospheres on set by just not being thankful for what they have and just being ungracious.
That’s very common.
It is. And dissent spreads quickly through the ranks. And we need to have a positive attitude. And, again, it’s born out of a selfish need. I need positive people around me, so I have to be positive so that they’re positive. [Laughs] All of this selflessness is born through selfishness.