A Conversation with Actor Justin Salinger
An actor of great range and adaptability, Justin Salinger has appeared alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in 2015's Everest; depicted the heroic leader of the Union Armies and former US president, General Ulysses S Grant, and embodied a bloodshot and broken drunk in Ray & Liz, based on the legendary photobook by Richard Billingham, among many, many other roles.
Justin is also a friend of Drake's and a very well dressed and interesting man, which is why we wanted to catch up with him to find out more about his work, life, approach to style and a famous horse called Bernard.
Photographs by John Spinks.
Drake's: Hi Justin, what has been your most gratifying role to date?
Justin Salinger: I played General Ulysses S Grant in a three part mini series for Sky History. Researching that period of American Civil War was hugely enjoyable, but I soon realised that representing Grant on screen would be a massive challenge and responsibility. I had help most days from a beautiful and willing horse called Bernard, who had a far more impressive movie CV than me. The only downside was having to smoke 10 fat cigars a day. Still recovering.
Where are you happiest?
JS: When I’m away driving across the US with my family.
Do you have any style rules that you live by?
Not really rules as such, but I have learnt the hard way that stealing someone else’s style doesn’t always work! What looks great on one person can look awful on someone else!!
What was the acting process like for Everest? Was it more demanding than other roles?
The challenge of Everest for me was maybe not what you’d expect. They built a section of Everest in Pinewood Studios and fired ‘snow cannons’ at us. So nothing too life threatening. My character in the movie, Ian Woodall, was British, but masquerading as South African, so by far the most difficult part for me was the accent!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Never to underestimate how far persistence can take you in your career.
Where’s your favourite city in the world and why?
I think New York is an astonishing city. Like being in your own movie.
What’s the secret to great acting?
I wish I knew, it feels so elusive! People talk of star quality and screen presence. For me it’s often defeating the anxiety that can go with it. I think good instincts play a big part. Some actors say acting is not acting but reacting. It’s certainly important to listen. But a love of it and some serious persistence can take you a long way.