EXCLUSIVE Jesse Eisenberg: ‘I like to challenge myself with unsympathetic characters’

One quick glance at Jesse Eisenberg’s back catalogue of films pulls up some pretty impressive stuff, with the 32-year-old actor starring in huge Hollywood movies such as The Social Network and Batman V. Superman.

The Oscar-nominated star also has a bit of a knack for playing pretty unlikable characters and his latest play ‘The Spoils’ is no exception, with Jesse taking the lead role of Ben – a spoilt bully who sets out to destroy the relationship between his old high-school crush and her new fiancé.

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When I caught up with Jesse to talk about the play, which he also wrote,  I just had to get to the bottom of why he enjoyed playing these types of characters so much, and I have to admit, his answer was pretty impressive.

Speaking exclusively, Jesse explained to me: “I have an interest in empathising with people who don’t normally receive empathy, that’s just how I’ve been wired since I was young.

“As an actor I like to play roles that are seemingly unsympathetic because I enjoy the challenge of finding sympathy for them and empathy with them. As a writer, I think they are interesting characters.

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“The challenge for The Spoils is to have the audience and other characters empathise with this character who is doing the most destructive things that I can think of, and if I accomplish my goals the audience, the other characters, and me as an actor can find some way into this guy.”

Speaking about his decision to bring the play to London’s West End, Jesse added: “The Spoils takes place in New York City but I think the reason it’s appealing to an English audience and why I think it’s appropriate is because it’s about what happens to people when they’re in an urban cosmopolitan setting where the very rich can interact with the very poor and the immigrants can interact with the old guard and where drama and humour can come from the struggles that these young people contend with.

“It’s about five people, four of whom are American and one who is a Nepalese immigrant, and it’s a story of this generation of young people.”

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However, the star goes on to reveal that being an established actor doesn’t make performing any less intimidating, admitting that he still feels nervous about taking to the stage every single night.

Jesse told me: “I feel the same level of panic in front of two people or 7,000 people. I don’t know what it is but any time anyone new is watching I filter the experience through their new eyes; the job we do is necessarily exposing and I just think having new eyes on it is daunting.

“Further still, I’d rather have 7,000 strangers watching than one person who is my mother; if you know somebody in the audience it’s more daunting than 7,000 strangers.”

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But being an Oscar-nominated actor in a play alongside stars from both Game Of Thrones [Alfie Allen] and The Big Bang Theory [Kunal Nayyar] does have its perks, with Jesse reasoning: “I don’t think of myself in any other way than ‘I hope I do well tonight’ but there is an advantage if people come to see it because they know you from other stuff.

“The audience are more apt to enjoy is because they’re excited to see you, it’s very helpful that we are in other things and people have that familiarity with us.

“It’s to our advantage and it’s really nice.”

 

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