• Interviews

Hannah John-Kamen: “I’m always learning through the characters I play”

Hannah John-Kamen is no stranger to dystopian drama. Audiences have watched the British actor tackle lead roles in television shows including Black Mirror and Brave New World, as well as big-screen endeavors in movies such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Steven Spielberg-directed Ready Player One. Her resume is filled with iconic projects including the Canadian space drama Killjoys, Game of Thrones, and a Ghost-ly role in the Marvel movie Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Up next, John-Kamen will be seen in the rebooted Resident Evil movies, as well as taking a top-secret role alongside Sam Heughan in the thriller SAS: Red Notice.

When did you decide you wanted to become an actor?

To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember not wanting to be an actor. I have no memory of not wanting to do this. I’ve always been creative. When I was little, I used to create the most amazing and ridiculous adventures in my head. I’d invite my school friends around for tea after school and we’d come up with extravaganzas for the parents to watch – after charging them £1 a ticket when they came to pick the kids up. I’ve always had a crazy, wild imagination. I’ve always been a kinesthetic person.

Who are your acting icons?

I’m constantly inspired by movies and styles and stories and characters and genres. I grew up with old Hollywood films like Some Like it Hot and Gone with the Wind. I loved the Hans Christian Andersen musical, Guys and Dolls and Singin’ in the Rain. Lots and lots of different productions have inspired me in terms of being wide-eyed in front of the TV and going to the theater.

The life of an actor isn’t always easy. What challenges have you faced along the road to success?

It’s definitely a tough career. It’s quite daunting to be on set every day because there are a lot of eyes on you and a lot of pressure on you. Before everything became exciting for me in my career, there was a point where I wasn’t working and it was a big challenge. In my early 20s, I didn’t expect to experience the feelings that come from not working for a while. Thankfully, my parents came in and told me to keep calm and carry on. Then I took a breath and I found a sense of confidence when I went to meet people in the industry. I wasn’t as frantic as I’d been in the past. I had a new air of confidence.

What did your parents think of your decision to become an actor?

They completely encouraged it. My mum and dad have always said, “As long as you do whatever you want to do with absolute tenacity, passion and grace, then do it.” I was highly encouraged by my parents. I was beautifully and creatively encouraged by them. My parents have absolutely kept me grounded, too. I’m very, very lucky to have them as fans of what I do. They have a great sense of pride in me.

How has the pandemic affected your work in the industry?

Luckily, I wasn’t working on anything at the start of the pandemic – but the whole experience was quite terrifying when lockdown started. On a positive note, I think this time has been great in terms of discovering new ways to be innovative and creative with your time. Personally, I think the biggest challenge for me has involved trying to keep fit. I struggled to keep my mind and body active. Plus, I starting to go a little cross-eyed with all the Zoom meetings. I was craving to get back onto a film set.

What can you reveal about your upcoming movie project, SAS: Red Notice?

It’s a very exciting role and a very exciting film with an excellent cast. I can’t wait for people to see it. It’s a very thrilling story with a lot of action, but I can’t say too much about it right now.



At the start of 2020, you starred in the Netflix drama, The Stranger. Have there been any talks about a second season?

I had an absolutely wonderful time on that show and I wish I could say there would be more, but I don’t think there will be. The Stranger was based on a standalone book and it’s a standalone story that follows Adam Price [played by Richard Armitage] and the Stranger [played by Hannah John-Kamen]. The story is all tied up at the end, so I don’t think there’s anything more you can really do there – but I’ve always said there could definitely be a spinoff with the police officers. I think you could always do another story in that town with the same police.


You also appeared in the dystopian Peacock drama, Brave New World. How would you describe your experience on the show?

It was a very prescient project. If you’re familiar with the Aldous Huxley book, you’ll know the story is very ahead of its time. It’s such an interesting and huge concept with lots of characters and high stakes. It’s very dystopian and it’s very close to how we live right now. The concept of everybody being in their place is very interesting; the notion that everybody is under this false guise of constantly being happy and fitting into the world in a certain way. And then you have a character like John the Savage [played by Alden Ehrenreich] come in and rattle that – and the chaos that causes. It’s a very fun and beautiful tale.

What did you learn about yourself from your work on the show?

I’m always learning through the characters I play. Always, always, always. You learn things you never knew about yourself all the time. In Brave New World, I play such a wonderful, extrovert character. She’s a very hedonistic, artistic person who lives within her own kind of controlled chaos – but the thing that I found interesting about her was her vulnerability. You can feel a sense of depression after the high of creating these amazing “feelies” [debauched, sensual parties]. I think she’s under a lot of pressure to create feelies that are bigger, bolder and better than anything she’s ever done before – but it’s always very short-lived. Nothing ever lasts. She lives a roller coaster life of highs and lows.

How much of a party animal are you?

I prefer a nice beer garden in the summer to a big party. I like small gatherings. As long as there’s good music, I’m happy and I will have a nice dance – but I’m not really a party animal. I think that was back in my drama school days.

The sets and landscapes in Brave New World were striking. Where was everything filmed?

We shot the show in Wales and the sets were absolutely incredible. It’s always amazing to see what an art department creates because the sets really do transport you to different places. It was great to have an actual set to wander around with Brave New World. I think it always beats working on a green screen. When you read a book, you always have an idea in your head – but this was bigger and better than what we could’ve ever imagined. It was incredible.