Susejd Rol struggled for years in supporting parts, before landing his break-out role as the baby Jesus in this year’s Greggs Christmas advertisement. We settled down to talk to him about Stanislavski, life in the pastry and “that” Trainspotting nude scene
How did you get the job?
In this business, unfortunately, there are still very few meaty parts for savoury actors – so there’s a lot of us chasing very few rolls. It started as any other gig would. I got a call from my agent – went along and the director Steve and I just clicked.
How was the production process?
Steve had a clear vision from the start. He’s extremely collaborative and wanted to evoke the tableau vivant style of the work of people like Alfred Stieglitz. I think you can see those influences in the end result.
Did you expect the reception you got?
I think you have a feeling on set when magic is happening and I’m not at all surprised by the response we’ve received. Some of it has been negative of course but that always happens when you push the boundaries of your art. Much the same happened when Michael Powell made Peeping Tom in the sixties – it was slammed in all quarters – now that is held up as a classic.
Do you think the same will be true of the Greggs 2017 Christmas commercial?
Absolutely. Those criticising it now will hail it as a masterpiece one day. In that I have no doubt.
How did you prepare for the part?
I’m very much of the Stanislavski method school. Playing the inner sausage of the infant Jesus was a big challenge and I spent several weeks in maternity wards, studying babies and trying to capture that innocence whilst also projecting the aura of a child whose destiny is to die on the cross. I wanted to play Jesus the child of a humble carpenter – the Jesus who was born to be King – but also Jesus the swaddled pork snack.
As a sausage roll do you feel you get type cast?
That was much more the case when I was setting out. At RADA I did find myself condemned to play very limiting parts – in Macbeth for example I had no lines and only one scene at Banquo’s feast. It was quite humiliating to be honest but you have to climb the greasy baking tray to survive.
What was your breakthrough?
I started out in the theatre – mostly in supporting rolls – but then Trainspotting came along and I got cast as “meal two.” It was a single scene in which I played a saveloy that got eaten by Renton – but it was all I needed. I got noticed.
And you went nude.
How was that?
Well it was a case of just getting on with it really. I worked out for a month or two beforehand which really paid off – but the film was out there and what was asked of me was hardly like swimming down a toilet or pretending to freebase heroin.
I’d love to get back into stage work. The last decade or so has mostly been taken up with film parts. Calls are coming in. I’ve been talking to Wes Anderson about Grand Budapest 2 – there may be a musical in the offing – who knows. In this business it’s very important that you don’t go stale.
Sesujd Rol – thank you.