Oliver Trevena is an actor and on-screen television host originally from East Sussex, England. In this Exclusive Interview, Oliver discusses starring opposite Robert Patrick in The Rising Hawk, his time working for Young Hollywood, and the growing British community of actors in Los Angeles, among other topics.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity. However, the full, unedited version is available on YouTube.
Welcome and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Oliver Trevena (OT): Of course. Lovely to be with you, Conor.
How have you been finding living in the pandemic?
OT: It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, probably for many as well. In the beginning, it was a bit nutty. A lot of fear, I think also because of the world of media we live in. I got coronavirus pretty early on. I had coronavirus in March, there was a lot of unknown and “Oh, you’re gonna die!” going around which obviously is still there. I live alone and I’m in the Hills in Hollywood where it’s quite remote so I was a bit panicky.
I actually had the virus for six and a half weeks. I didn’t have symptoms for that long, just a few days really. Just kind of like a bad flu. They kept testing me every 10 days and it turned out it just kind of stuck there. It didn’t want to leave me, which I’m flattered by. I take that as a compliment, that coronavirus didn’t want to leave me. It must’ve had some fun in there. So yeah, that was strange and then kind of got back to life.
I think the hardest thing for me is… I’ve lived in the States for 16 years but I come back home at an extreme amount. I come back for a lot of football games, my Mum, Dad and 3 older brothers are all still in East Sussex. I come back and visit them every 2-3 months, for long weekends here and there. This is the longest I haven’t been back for. I’m definitely missing home, missing the family, and in general travel. I’m used to being on the go a lot. It’s been weird but it’s also been lovely as well. Sit still a bit, reflect, take some time for myself, get some foundation stuff in order.
I think like most people I speak to, it comes in waves. One day you’re like: “Oh, I’m fine! I’m going to get used to this.” The next day, you’re like: “F**k you Corona!” It’s just that. So yeah mate, I think the one feeling we all have in all of this is that it’s not something just affecting one of us, it’s affecting everyone. There’s some kind of unity to it. Even though it’s a negative, it’s something we’re all suffering from or being hit by. All in different ways, obviously but in that, you find some peace because it’s not something that’s just you, you know?
What inspired you to become an actor – did you know from a young age that it was what you wanted to do?
OT: Yeah, I love performing, I’m the youngest of 4 boys. I grew up in Hastings, down on the South Coast which, at least in the 80s (I was born in ’81), didn’t have a lot of performing theatres going around. But I think my Mum says it was always my choice that I started theatre school and dance school, in ballet when I was 3 or 4 years old. I don’t know anywhere in Hastings where I was walking as a 3 or 4-year-old and said: “Mum, I want to do that.” I think my Mum might have had something to do with it, as much as she says it was all my choice. From a young age, I just loved it. I loved performing, getting to be someone else. It definitely came with some troubles as well, kind of a rough neighbourhood in Hastings. Definitely got it handed to me a few times, quite a few street fights, lost some teeth along the journey.
Obviously, I loved it because I wouldn’t have stuck with it if I didn’t. It’s been a while now. When you’re performing, the rest of reality just stops. It’s a great way to disappear and become something else. For me, it’s become a real release or an escape, I should say.
Originally, you are from East Sussex, England. Did achieving success in America feel attainable when you were starting out?
OT: I mean, honestly I never really thought about LA or America. I was kind of settled in London. Then it was just the random opportunity moment that brought me here. Going back 16 years when I came to LA, there wasn’t a lot of Brits here. I definitely didn’t know friends like I do now. So many friends from back home are now over here. Definitely not in the entertainment business, people would come over for projects but they weren’t living here. It was quite a risk, you know? I look back on it now and I didn’t know anyone, apart from the Management and the people I’d met through work, who offered to bring me over here.
Then, you know, quickly made some friends and one of the first fellow Brits that I became close to was Robbie Williams. That was quite funny because meeting Robbie here is different to meeting Robbie there. Here, he was more of a normal guy in a coffee shop, you know? It was great, I never really looked back. As I say, the key to me being here is because I’m blessed, lucky to get back as much as I do. So, you know, I don’t think I could be here and never go home. The getting home part is a massive factor to me being happy here as well. You know, because I love England. It will always me… I’ve spent a good half of my life here now but England will always be my home, you know? Something about the rawness and the English people that I will always gravitate towards.
You were also a host on Young Hollywood. How did you find that experience?
OT: It was exciting. Everything from Young Hollywood, I did the pre-show for the Grammys over here, shows for the Hollywood Reporter. Some very prestigious companies and award shows. I managed to meet people that I never thought I’d meet. Not only meet them but sit and talk with them, for 20-30 minutes. I mean, kind of like yourself, I always try to keep it… there’s the work factor, the research, the projects they’re promoting, what you’re talking about which I’d always make sure I had the knowledge of. Mostly, I’d try to keep it conversational and fun. That was what I really loved.
You got to know some people and got moments from people that other interviewers might have missed or not got. I found that I always built a great rapport with the actors, the musicians, the people I was interviewing because of that honest reaction. I went into it with what I needed to know but I always let the interviews just take the way they were going. Let them flow in the direction of wherever the conversation was going, had some fun with it. It was great mate. As I say, I met some amazing people, some of my dearest friends to this day, I met by sitting on a sofa. Friends like Vanessa Hudgens, I met so young. So many people that I’ve interviewed and we just became friends. I’ll always be grateful for that part of my life. For me a couple of years of ago, as I said I grew up as an actor in theatre school and it was something that I cherished and enjoyed. It just got to a point for me where I was like: “I don’t want to sit and interview everyone about their films anymore. I want to be in the films!” There were definitely people around me – Agents, Managers, that thought I was crazy. They were like: “You’re working, every day.” I wasn’t out of work for 9-10 years running, as a host. Which as you know in the entertainment business is a good run.
So, to jump ship was a big one but I feel like in the world today that we live in, a lot of hosts cross over, a lot of actors. You’ve got The Rock hosting game shows, a lot of people are doing that kind of crossover, the door was open. Never say never, it’s not forever. It’s just something that I want to commit to, give it a go and that’s what I’ve done. It was hard in the beginning because constant work would still be offered to me as a host and I had to keep saying no. Choose to not work, in the hopes that I would get acting work. There were definitely moments, it was tough. I’m happy with the way things are going. Work’s different in the acting space because it is more up and down.
Projects come, you shoot something and you’re waiting for the next. I was used to working at least 5-6 days a week for 9 years. It was different, it’s a challenge and that’s one of the things that I’ve learned in life is sometimes you need those challenges again. Sometimes you need those risks whether you’re 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, whatever it is. I think those moments reignite you, that kind of fire you used to have. Sometimes, the only way you can get that is by taking a risk. We become too complacent and comfortable in other areas. I was extremely comfortable as a host. I loved it, but I was extremely comfortable with it. I wasn’t challenged that much, which is why I enjoyed it and kept getting booked. But at the same time, I was like: “I want to struggle a little bit”, as crazy as that sounds. It’s been an adventure, for sure.
Outside of acting and hosting, what are your other interests?
OT: Health and wellness is a big part of my life, the last few years. Just because I think the older I’ve got, living a life in LA and the entertainment business, you get kind of exhausted. Burning the candle at both ends, as they say. Working in the day, then out at premieres at night, parties, events. A few years ago, I got really interested in [Health and Wellness] and invested in a gym called Dog Pound which is kind of a fun personal training 1-on-1 high end clientele. I have an investment in a place called Next Health which is an optimization centre which sounds crazy to a lot of people. It’s cryotherapy, stem cell and oxygen chambers, all that stuff. I also have a beverage company called Cali Water which I’m launching this year. The business side of things I still enjoy because it’s creative.
I’ve been with the UK brand Allsaints for a while as their Ambassador and got to know some of the business sides of things, staying close with those guys. I enjoy that because the downtime as an actor that all of us have, it gives me something to fill my time. I’m not really good with too much downtime. I’m grateful for that. Passion-wise, I’m hugely involved in Philanthropy. I have an organisation that I’ve been the spokesperson of for 8 years called Not For Sale which is a global organisation against human trafficking and slavery. I do work with them on a regular basis. Due to the pandemic, I can’t travel but the first shelter we built is in Thailand, hard to get there at the moment.
I’m working with the Skid Row Housing Trust here in LA, the biggest organisation that builds single occupancy homes for the homeless. The homeless issue in LA is worse than ever so I’m doing stuff for them at the moment – I just hosted their virtual Gala, which is the only hosting gig I’ve done. As I said, I’m staying away from it, but it was for charity. I hosted the Imagine Dragons charity Gala last year as well, because Joel McHale was away. I’ll step in and host things when it makes sense, it’s giving back. Giving back is a massive, important thing for us all, you know? Especially in the bubble of Hollywood, it’s easy to become a bit self-obsessed. I’m definitely guilty of that in moments. I think anyone that tells you any different is lying.
One of your recent projects is feature film The Rising Hawk. How would you describe The Rising Hawk’s plot to anyone who hasn’t seen it?
OT: I think in the UK it’s called something different – Fall of a Kingdom. I don’t know the reasoning behind it but on iTunes, Amazon, and some theatres, it’s being called that. I heard this from the director. It’s based off Zakhar Berkut, probably the most famous novel in the Ukraine, their historic novel. It was a Ukraine-US co-production, a 13th century warrior pre-Genghis Khan, the Mongols invade. It’s a historic warrior flick, really. It’s fun, my character was something that I’d never played before. I’d been in various roles on TV shows but never got to hold a sword or ride a horse. Also, getting into character was so much fun because when you’re put in these costumes or dressed to the extent, the swords you’re holding are fully weighted swords. You just feel like the role.
We shot a big chunk of it in the Carpathian Mountains, so, it’s good. It’s mind blowing to me in every way. There’s so many moments where I was like: “I can’t believe I’m here.” You’re at the top of the mountain on a horse or standing there with a sword doing these action scenes and fighting. It was kind of crazy. My character himself is called Bohun, he’s the kind of crazy one of the film. Everyone’s somewhat put together, I’m a bit of a loose cannon. I remember the director in the auditioning process said: “Imagine this guy to be like Mickey from Snatch“, which was Brad Pitt’s role. It just resonated. I won’t say I’m pretty normal, we all have our moments, normal in real life.
It was nice to just play this completely crazy person. It was great, getting to train with a stunt team, they’re incredible. It was definitely a challenge, I’d never held a sword at all. I might have lied a little, going into the project, pretending that I had, but I hadn’t. In Hastings, I know we have the Battle of Hastings, they redo it every year but I never paid much attention. I was either dancing or on the soccer field – the football field I should say for the UK people.
It was a challenge and the stunt team put me through it every day. Hours and hours, I’d go back to my hotel room with the stick and have to practice Figure 8s and the sword moves. Like I said, the reason why I wanted to learn was to push myself and with this, I definitely got it. The stunt team actually were nominated for the Tourist World Stunt Award. That kind of shows the team we were working with. So, yeah, it was great.
Rewinding slightly, how did you become involved with The Rising Hawk?
OT: Yeah, I put an audition down on tape which even more so now is the way that actors do it, especially with COVID. The director liked it. The writer Richard Ronat, director John Wynn and one of the producers, I met them for a coffee at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. We sat there and had a chat, talked about the role and yeah, that was it really. Put a couple of scenes down on tape, they liked it, I met them. Within four weeks, I was on a plane to Ukraine. That’s the nature of the business, it sometimes happens quick and it sometimes happens extremely slowly.
Among your co-stars in The Rising Hawk is Hollywood legend Robert Patrick. How much of a learning experience did you have, working alongside him?
OT: I mean, that’s one of the highlights of this film. I’ve heard a lot of actors say it when they’ve been on projects for months at a time on location, how the cast has really become like a family. For me, it really was the case. Both Robert and Tommy [Flanagan] have become dear friends of mine. I speak to Tommy regularly, I speak to Robert regularly and also Alex MacNicoll, Poppy Drayton, Rocky Myers, Alison Doody. We all keep in touch. It was a real experience for all of us. Working with those guys, Tommy and Robert in particular, it was just amazing. Tommy and I were texting the other day and he saw a cut of the end of the film. He was like: “You did such a great job, brother.” Honestly, I said to him: “Mate, I learned from you.” I’ll be forever friends with those guys and hopefully we can work together on something again soon.
Of the scripted television shows currently on the air, are there any that you particularly want to be on?
OT: Peaky Blinders, I love it and I had a meeting with Anthony [Byrne], the director not that long ago. So, you never know. I’m just such a fan of that show in every way. Some of the best acting I think I’ve ever seen. Cillian Murphy is just a genius, Paul [Anderson] is absolutely brilliant. It’s a great cast, a great show, a great story, so well shot. That’s one of my favourites for sure. There’s so much great TV out there. Such a variation too.
I watch things like Ozark, binge it and then switch onto a show called Hanna. The lead actress [Esme Creed-Miles] is so f*****g brilliant, she’s amazing. It’s exciting when you get to see someone like that and you’re like: “Wow.” Cut a long story short, Peaky Blinders, Hanna, I’d love to be on. Obviously Game of Thrones was epic. Outlander. There’s so much out there.
If you had the funds to put together your dream project, what would it look like?
OT: God, that’s a great question. It’s tough because I love action projects but I also love comedy. I was trained in improv and that’s what helped with my hosting a lot. I think I like playing comedy sometimes because people looking from me at the exterior are like: “He’s an action guy. Tough guy, shaved head.” So, I liked to do some of the comedy just to throw people off. There you go! It would be an action-comedy. Clear-cut answer there, an action-comedy. Who would be in it? Actors right now that I love watching… Jon Bernthal, I think he’s brilliant. Michael Shannon, I love watching. There are legends and people like De Niro, Leo, Scorcese directing.
If this is my budget and there’s no limit to funds, we could continue the list and have cameo after cameo. I think action-comedy would be good. I also love watching romance and stuff like that because I think anything that makes you feel… I love a good cry or I love a good laugh. Something that just pushes you to feel. That’s my personal favourite and what I’d always like to make and hopefully give people.
Obviously, the world is a challenging situation. If you could send a message to fans of your work or you personally, what would it be?
OT: I’ll say a quote that my grandma always used to say to me. She’s passed now but she was a brilliant Irish lady from Belfast who would always find the light in the darkness. No matter what was happening, she’d switch and put the positive on it. She said: “It’s always okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” That would be mine.
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