The prominent British actor shares his thoughts on fame, fatherhood and his new Neo-Victorian fantasy. 

It would be all too easy to typecast Orlando Bloom: the Hollywood heartthrob, the adrenaline junkie, the debaucherous playboy. But as is often the case in La La Land, the man behind the myth wasn’t exactly who I was expecting.

When we meet in the hilltops of Calabasas, he is preceded by an eight-pound pooch named Mighty, of understandable social media stardom. Orlando himself is equally charming, and despite delirious heat, willingly submits to hours shooting outdoors. He is a professional, but also, it seems, just a really nice guy.

Bonhomie aside, Bloom is not the drama school graduate we met in Middle-earth. After two decades in the celebrity bubble, he has weathered the ups and downs of a public life in a world obsessed with hyper-exposure. Now, he is poised to tighten his grip on the reigns. 

“I was really blessed, having that kind of opening in my 20s, but also having time to have a child and hold a space for living something of a life,” he says of what can only be described as his meteoric ascent to fame. “Time is precious. Who you spend your time with and how you spend your time with them… You might be better off reading a book than hanging out with a certain set of people… It takes time to figure those things out and redirect the troops.”

Today his attention is firmly fixed on his new series, Carnival Row, a fantasy thriller with film noir sensibilities. “It’s this sprawling, epic kind of Dickensian world, and I really felt like I hadn’t seen that before.” As Executive Producer and starring alongside Cara Delevigne, Bloom navigates a world that parallels the challenges and fears of our own. His character, Rycroft Philostrate, is a moody police investigator charged with maintaining the peace amidst a string of murders in the immigrant faerie community. At its core, the idea of otherness punctuates the narrative, undoubtedly reflecting the current social climate, particularly concerning refugees and inclusivity. 

“Art reflects life and that’s what we want in this day and age. People are being sort of comatosed into accepting appalling behaviour and there’s nothing ok about it. There is nothing ok about the PTSD that is going on in America and the UK and the world right now,” says Bloom.

“Carnival Row gives you a look at the world we are living in, but because of the fantasy, it sort of separates you slightly, so you’re getting entertainment whilst also getting a message about race, migrants, refugees, life with the ‘other’. What is different and is different dangerous?”

Honourable intentions indeed. And it seems Bloom is happy to step up and tackle a role with such intrinsic complexity. “For me, Rycroft Philostrate was an opportunity for someone to play this darker, more intense sort of character who’s got his secrets and who’s had this very challenging upbringing… and I liked the idea of that.”

This philosophy seems to reverberate through Orlando’s life in general. Be it as an ambassador for Unicef, or as a thrill-seeker on wheels, he’s keen to push his own boundaries. “I like to evolve, I like to be challenged. I’m not up for an easy road. I live quite happily in the hurt locker. If it really hurts, I’m like, oh great, I must be growing.”

I ask Orlando what he’s learned after 20 years in the spotlight, to which he simply replies, “Be discerning. I think our words have a lot of potency and impact.” On living a full life, a similar thread emerges. “I really want to enjoy family and friends, my beautiful son, and have more kids. I want to make sure when I embark on that, it’s with my heart full and very clear about the reality of what that means, as opposed to some romantic idea of what it means to be in a relationship. Because I think when you’re younger, we’ve all been sold this Hollywood idea of love and relationships, marriage and kids, and actually, what it really takes is communication and compromise. So, life looks likes somebody who’s willing to communicate and find joy in the simple and small moments.”

And with that, Bloom is whisked off to his next adventure, leaving the unfettered bliss of a Californian summer in his wake. 

Article first published in Man About Town Chapter II, 2019. Photographs by Bartek Szmigulski, Fashion by Mark Holmes, Grooming by Sonia Lee.