If you live in the U.K. then you’re probably already familiar with actor Adam Croasdell from his turn on the wildly popular show “East Enders.” But, if you’re here in the States, like me, then you’re just getting to know this handsome and talented Brit from across the pond.
In theaters now, Adam is starring as real-life Col. Elmer Ellsworth in the newly released historical film “Saving Lincoln.” And, he’s been popping up this year as ‘bad guys’ in the popular television shows “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Nikita.” He’s also appeared in ABC’s “Body of Proof” and the CW’s “Supernatural”; and alongside Stephen Rea, Steven Bauer and Ed Quinn in the Universal action-horror movie, “Werewolf: The Beast Among Us.”
We recently had a chance to ask Adam about his current film role and more.
HOLLY: Tell us about your role in the upcoming indie historical drama, “Saving Lincoln.”
ADAM: I play Col. Elmer Ellsworth, a close friend of the Lincolns from the early days when he practiced law with Abraham at his Springfield law offices. Ellsworth tired of the law and developed a fascination with the French Algerian method of light infantry drilling. He emulated the French Zouaves and created the United States Zouave Cadets. By the age of 24, Colonel Elmer Ellsworth had become a huge celebrity across the continental United States by having his cadets demonstrate these intricate and highly synchronized drills to massive crowds of spectators. The newspapers called him, "the most talked of man in the country". He was well-liked and required that his hand-picked volunteers be "morally upright," abstain from alcohol and tobacco and agree to a strict regimen of physical training! Ellsworth later lent his celebrity to the high ideals of the Union cause and joined Lincoln on the campaign trail. Ellsworth became the first Union martyr of the Civil War when he retrieved a rebel flag from an inn across the Potomac, flying in full view of the White House, and was shot through the chest whilst coming down the stairs by the inn-keeper. Later in the war, "Avenge Ellsworth!" became a Northern battle cry.
HOLLY: What’s it like portraying a real-life character? Did you feel pressure to ‘get it right’ or did you just use your instincts tocreate the character?
ADAM: I felt excited about it. I think it's an honor to portray anyone who's left a footprint in the world. You feel a responsibility to that individual to do them justice and to give them fair representation, no matter who they were or what they did. In Ellsworth's case, I read as much as I could and absorbed the photographs and the paintings. We move so fast these days and we're so used to sound bites and quick edits, that I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and really look at these old images - to go a little deeper. It's fascinating to see what happens when we slow down. There are, of course, big gaps in the records of historical people. History is a many-splendored thing and has many writers with as many agendas. Ultimately as an actor, when called on to play an historical figure, you draw on your research as far as possible and then you have to trust that all your years of observing people and situations have left you with the right instincts to play the scene.
HOLLY: You’re not the only Brit bringing a historical figure to life this year, but had you ever heard of Col. Elmer Ellsworth before reading this script? And, how did you prep for the role?
ADAM: Haha. Yes, well if you're referring to maestro Daniel Day Lewis, you couldn't have used a better example. He's one of my favorite actors, has been for years. His research goes very deep and his execution, as we know, is wonderful. His instincts, I think, are extremely finely-honed. Unlike what I knew of Lincoln, I had never heard of Col. Ellsworth before, so it was a pleasure researching his life and just how it dovetailed into the story of Abraham Lincoln. As well as the deeper, broader strokes of his charisma and military fascination, I liked picking out the smaller details. There were a couple of instances on the set of Saving Lincoln in which the director, Sal Litvak, went, "Uh, Adam, would Ellsworth have those buttons undone on his tunic like that?" or "Would Ellsworth wear his hat like that?" and I'd say yes, that his portraits and pictures show those quirks and preferences. Of course, Sal's a great director and couldn't possibly know every single detail, but due credit to his sharp-eye in each case. I also had the benefit of talking to a US Zouave re-enactment historian who helped my understanding a lot. One of the trickier bits of my prep for Ellsworth was when Sal asked me to learn a Zouave Cadet rifle drill for a scene. I spent days on it - this is what Ellsworth was famous for - but on the day of shooting, Sal asked me to only do a small part of it for the scene. That's film-making. So much prep is thrown out to get the best flow from the finished product.
HOLLY: It seems you’ve also been making headlines on television with several ‘bad guy’ roles including recent appearances on “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Nikita.” What’s more fun portraying the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’?
ADAM: I have a lot of fun playing the bad guys. Their brains are wired differently and their behavior is fascinating. I mean, putting Chris O Donnell in a bomb vest and shackling him to an even bigger bomb in NCIS:LA, and tormenting Maggie Q inside my pet tiger's cage in Nikita takes a lot of beating. My character Stefan in Universal's Werewolf - The Beast Among Us had all the best one-liners, was a knife-thrower, had super-strength and super-speed. What could be better than that? I've thought for a while though, that really, humanity is a seething mass of craziness underneath a thin veneer of civilization, and writers are getting very good these days at bringing out these qualities, and the qualities of the anti-hero, to a point that makes the 'good' guys very fascinating too. So long as they're fascinating, I like to play 'em.
HOLLY: Can you share with us what’s coming up next for you? And, how can fans find out more?
ADAM: Next up is more publicity for “Saving Lincoln” and I've also been asked to host a travel show called, “The Globe Less Traveled.” I have a website, link
where fans can find out more.
"Saving Lincoln" - poster