Born in Cardiff, Wales, but with German descent, Dino Fetscher started his acting career in the theatre and later moved on to cinema and television. He started acting when he was very young, mostly thanks to his mother who signed him up to youth theatre at 7 years old, and made his screen debut in Russel T. Davies’s tv shows ‘Cucumber‘ and ‘Banana‘ in 2015. From that moment on he kept on acting for both the stage and the screen; two very different mediums that he says to love equally and for many reasons.
In 2021 he made his National Theatre Debut playing the life-changing role of Felix Turner in the critically acclaimed play ‘The Normal Heart‘ – which deals with the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s New York scene – for which he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 2022 Laurence Olivier Awards and WhatsOnStage Awards. Later this year he will appear in the second season of the Apple TV+ sci-fi series ‘Foundation’, that is set to premiere this summer, in which he plays the role of a “martial arts expert with a big gentle heart”.
“There is nothing like being on stage – in all its thrilling magic and equal terror”
Where did your love for acting come from and when did you decide to pursue it professionally?
I’m not sure where it came from, no one in my family acts or performs, but I’ve always had a close affinity with storytelling, ever since I was very young. Actors such as Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Bette Midler were my earliest inspirations; I’d watch them on repeat on our little TV in South Wales. As a kid, I was constantly putting on shows in living rooms and telling my cousins and siblings off for not taking rehearsals seriously enough. I also think a lot of why I became an actor is down to my mum; she signed me up to youth theatre when I was about 7, in an attempt to channel my hyperactivity, and has always been a pillar of support and encouragement since. I actually totally stopped acting for several years when I hit my mid teens, but my mum was always telling me I could do it. I moved to Cardiff city centre at 18, and worked an array of jobs finding myself along the way, before coming to the conclusion that acting was the only thing I wanted to do. I auditioned for drama schools and then – after several rejections – got into my dream school in London where I trained, and the rest is history.
“I love the nuance that comes with screen work, the most subtle of thoughts can be electrifying and incredibly moving”
You worked in both movies and theatre. In what do you think they differ and which one do you feel is closest to you?
Theatre is where it all began for me, it holds a very special place in my heart. There is nothing like being on stage – in all its thrilling magic and equal terror. I love the bonds that are forged when you are in a theatre company, it’s one of the best things about it; you’re all in it together, you become a wonderful weird little family. A play is also a living breathing thing, and you make discoveries with every show – that’s probably my favourite thing about theatre, there’s such an intense level of discovery. You’ll be 4 weeks into a show and suddenly understand something in a totally different way! Blows my mind.
I came to screen much later in an acting sense, but my first love was film. I would watch ‘Jumanji’, ‘Hocus Pocus’, ‘Matilda’, ‘Dirty Dancing’ and many others on repeat, often performing scenes for my friends on my street – it was my first draw into acting. I love the nuance that comes with screen work, the most subtle of thoughts can be electrifying and incredibly moving. There’s a delicacy in film that absolutely transfixes me. I also love seeing how it all comes together in the end. Less like theatre, everything comes together over a much longer period of time, and you only get to see all of the combined magic – the music, editing, the grade to name a few – at the very end. It’s a wonderful thing. I adore working in both mediums!
“The Normal Heart is an utterly outstanding piece of work, I’ve loved it since I first read it”
Were you expecting the critical success that The Normal Heart received?
The play is an utterly outstanding piece of work, I’ve loved it for over a decade since I first read it, but you just never know how something will be received – especially the long awaited revival of such a seminal play. Of course I wanted our hard work to be celebrated, but I think going into something with the expectation of rave reviews is a dangerous game. In my experience, an attachment to the outcome over process, over story, over art, is never truly fulfilling.
I think it’s also important to say that ‘The Normal Heart’ isn’t just a play; it was written as a call to arms in the middle of one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen. As a company we came from that place – this play is about real people, real events, real atrocities. Within it lies an incredibly important lesson.
We tried to serve that with every performance under the incredible directorship of our ship’s captain, Dominic Cooke. That’s why I think it had such critical success.
“Playing Felix Turner in ‘The Normal Heart’ on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre is something that will never leave me”
Among all the characters you have played, is there one in particular that stuck with you?
I find this question so tricky! I’ve loved every character I’ve ever played – even the ones I haven’t; even then I still learn something new about myself in some way. However, playing Felix Turner in ‘The Normal Heart’ on the Olivier stage at the National Theatre is something that will never leave me. It was a privilege getting to tell that story, to be a part of something that affected so many people in such a profound way.
Getting to be a part of such a powerful piece of queer history like that was the highest honour.
What does a screenplay need in order to get your attention and make you decide to take on a role?
I love scripts that surprise me! Where the characters are so 3-D you aren’t sure what will happen next.
I relish detailed and well observed relationships and characters who have immense depth. I love work that has a bigger agenda than just to entertain. That said, on the flip side I also just love being a goof – so stuff that really makes me laugh or think or elicits some kind of a strong emotional response, immediately has my attention.
“I love work that has a bigger agenda than just to entertain”
What can you tell us about your character in the upcoming second season of the series ‘Foundation’?
I’m sworn to secrecy until release, but I can tell you that he is a badass. He’s an expert in martial arts, but with a big gentle heart. He’s very wise, yet deeply conflicted. He goes on a really beautiful journey throughout the series. He is also queer – which is amazing as you don’t see this kind of a storyline often in the Sci-Fi genre.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you have received about acting?
This wasn’t given directly to me, it was written in a letter by Martha Graham to dancer Agnes De Mille, passed on to me by my dear friend Indira Varma many years ago. In the letter Martha says how it is not the artists business to judge their art, or to even think it is good. It’s incredibly profound – give it a read!
The bit that always stays with me though is: “Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others”.
What are you working on at the moment? Any future projects?
At present I am filming a very exciting series called ‘Fool Me Once’ for Netflix based on the Harlan Coben novel. I’ve also just shot a film for BFI by the wonderful Tom Stuart opposite Ben Whishaw.
Talent Dino Fetscher
Photographer Alberto Tandoi
Stylist Ava Domina
Opening image: Dino Fetscher wears jumper Sunflower, ring and necklace Giovanni Raspini
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