Photo of Jamie Bogyo looking straight to camera.

Interview with Jamie Bogyo, star of Operation Epsilon at Southwark Playhouse

To say that West End actor and playwright Jamie Bogyo has had a meteoric rise feels like an understatement!

He only graduated from RADA in 2019, and less than two years later was cast in the lead role of big-budget show Moulin Rouge! The Musical, making his West End debut originating the role of Christian in the London production.

When Jamie left Moulin Rouge!, he then moved round the corner to the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, to take a principle part in the West End revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspect of Love, starring opposite Michael Ball in the part that Ball originated in London.

Next up for Jamie is a move away from musicals to a straight play: he’s taking the role of Nazi scientist Carl Friederich von Weizsäcker in Operation Epsilon at Southwark Playhouse in London.

This gripping, award-winning drama by Alan Brody is set against the backdrop of World War II and the dawn of the atomic age. Based on actual transcripts of secretly recorded conversations, this once-classified true story promises to be a poignant and thrilling exploration of the ties that bind us to our actions, our decisions, and one another.

Ahead of its UK premiere we caught up with Jamie to talk about his career and this new project.

Jamie Bogyo in Aspects of Love. Photo by Johan Persson
Jamie Bogyo in Aspects of Love. Photo by Johan Persson

What attracted you to the role of Carl Friederich von Weizsäcker in Operation Epsilon?

I was really intrigued by the play itself and the opportunity to explore a side of history I didn’t know much about. As a role, Weizsacker appealed to me specifically because of the journey he goes on during the play – of all the characters he’s one who matures most during the course of the play (he needs to as well!) and that was really interesting for me to explore as an actor. 

How have you prepared for playing a real-life physicist who was involved in Nazi Germany’s nuclear program?

There are several great books about Weizacker and the operation at Farm Hall which have been really useful in terms of filling out the world of the play. The script itself is the biggest resource and is inspired by the real life transcripts of these scientists’ conversations, as all of the rooms they were staying in were bugged! I actually was a bit of a science nerd at school – for the first two years of Yale I thought I might be a math/ physics major – so it was a lot of fun to get back in touch with that.

What are some of your favourite moments or scenes in the play, and why?

I love the group scenes because it’s very exciting to be on stage with ten brilliant actors whose characters all have their distinct point of view and subtly shifting alliances. In particular there is a big scene in Act 2 where the scientists argue about a memorandum that they hope will clear their name, which I think is really brilliant. It’s that thing of trying to get a group of people with strong opinions to all agree which is so fascinating and so relatable but now the stakes have been dialled up to, dare I say… nuclear!

What do you hope the audience will take away from watching Operation Epsilon?

I hope they leave questioning the responsibility pure scientific research has to actual human life in an imperfect, politicized world. It’s a big question and there’s no simple answer but it’s one these scientists are grappling with and I think is extremely relevant currently in the early days of AI. 

Jamie Bogyo (centre) with Jason Pennycooke and Elia Lo Tauro in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matt Crockett
Jamie Bogyo (centre) with Jason Pennycooke and Elia Lo Tauro in Moulin Rouge! The Musical. Photo by Matt Crockett

How does appearing in a drama compare to playing roles in some of the big musicals – such as your recent performances in Aspects of Love and Moulin Rouge?

This is totally different from Moulin and Aspects! On the most straightforward level it’s definitely a relief not to have to worry about my voice as much! Also I’m getting to play a Brit in this show which is fun after having played two American roles. I love musicals but I trained on a straight acting course so it’s nice to get back to my roots.

You went straight from drama school at RADA to taking the lead in Moulin Rouge! in the West End – that must have been an intense experience! Have you got any advice for other young performers about how to get started, and how to handle the pressure of performing in a major West End show?

I would say don’t be discouraged if you don’t hit the ground running right away. I graduated right before the pandemic so even though Moulin Rouge! was my first gig, there were almost two years prior where I didn’t work at all! Compare and Despair are some wise words and I think it’s important to remember them when you’re starting out because the only thing you can do is focus on your own journey. Be generous towards everyone and celebrate your friends’ successes and I feel like the energy you radiate into the world is the one it gives back to you. 

And then in terms of handling a big gig once you’ve booked it – it’s a lot about what you do when you’re not on stage.  You can be the most talented actor or singer in the world but to do live theatre 8 times a week (especially a musical) you have to take care of yourself or you can’t sustain it over a long run. 

What are some of your future goals or aspirations as an actor, and what are some of the roles or projects that you would love to do next?

Well I’m a writer as well so a big dream would be to get some of my plays produced and to act in them. Just as an actor, though, there are certain projects that have always been on my radar- I’d love to do a classic American play (Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neil, Tennessee Williams etc) since they really inspired my love of theatre in the first place. I’d love to do some TV/ Film since there’s so much amazing content getting made these days. And as someone who grew up in New York, I’d be lying if I said doing a show on Broadway wasn’t a goal at some point.

Nathaniel Parker and Jamie Bogyo in rehearsal for OPERATION EPSILON, credit Ben Hewis Videography
Nathaniel Parker and Jamie Bogyo in rehearsal for Operation Epsilon, credit Ben Hewis Videography

West End Theatre Quick Fire Questions

What was your first acting role?

My star turn in a Thanksgiving pageant at nursery school! I said that one line with gusto!

What was the last show you enjoyed in London as an audience member and why?

I went to the opening night of For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When The Hue Gets Too Heavy at the Lyric and it was one of the most electric nights I’ve ever had in a theatre. I love seeing new, daring writing get that kind of platform and it’s a brilliant play with a beautiful, life-affirming heart.

Which do you love best? The first day of rehearsals, the first night of the show or the last night?

That’s tough but I’ll have to give it to the first night of the show. Nothing like opening night!

What was your very first theatre experience (as either an audience or actor)?

The first show I saw was Beauty and the Beast in New York and I ran screaming out of the theatre during the scene where Belle gets chased by wolves in the forest. I was about 5 – but thankfully I was not put off showbiz!

Which role or show have you most enjoyed being part of in your career and why?

I’ve only done three shows professionally and I’ve been lucky to have loved all of them. But Moulin Rouge! as my first job, something I did for a year, and a show that really changed my life will always be very special to me.

If someone could only see one musical or play before they die, what should it be?

I’m gonna go with Little Shop of Horrors. Guaranteed to extend your life span!

What would be your profession if you hadn’t chosen the theatre and entertainment industry?

If I could get paid to write about food and travel I definitely would.

Operation Epsilon is playing at Southwark Playhouse Elephant in London from 15 September to 21 October 2023.

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Operation Epsilon

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👤 📅13 September 2023
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📷 Main photo: Jamie Bogyo

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