If a person has a name similar to his or her job i.e. a water researcher by the name of ‘Andrew Drinkwater’, he is classified in a category called ‘nominative determinism’. When Buzzy Cohen played and presented Danger!For example, he validated the hypothesis that people work near what their name indicates (perhaps the Danger! buzzer brought him to the game show).
Hero Fiennes Tiffin likes to talk to the creators of this concept. It doesn’t work for him. He can’t stop playing evil.
“It’s weird, [because] my name is Hero, and I keep getting cast as villains,” he says, speaking of his turn as cruel slave trader Santo Ferreira in the brilliant new action movie The woman king. Combine that with playing a young Voldemort in the Harry Potter series (he’s Ralph Fiennes’ cousin) and the somewhat emotionally abusive boyfriend of After and you get the full picture.
Fiennes Tiffin is good with the irony. He laughs it off. It’s an honor to be included at all! In fact, he says it’s easier to get the audience to love you than to hate you, and he’s up for the challenge.
“You have to worry a lot more,” he says. “I’ve played some mean characters. Utilities, [in real life] I’m used to making people happy as a success, an achievement. But it’s nice to do a little bit of both, isn’t it? It’s fun to take them on a roller coaster ride, make them happy, make them sad.”
While his Santo Ferreira should make The woman king viewers viscerally angry, are Hardin Scott going to have After fans in tears. For those who haven’t kept up: After was originally a Wattpad fanfiction about Harry Styles and the rest of his One Direction crew, hence the name ‘Hardin Scott’. (The initials are the same, and the rest of his friends have the same initials as the One Direction guys: Nate for Niall, Logan for Liam, Landon for Louis, and Zed for Zayn.)
In After ever happy, the fourth installment of the cheap teen romance saga, Fiennes Tiffin returns opposite Josephine Langford as Tessa, his love interest. Hardin, however, is not the cheerful Harry Styles at all. He is full of swear words. He hits walls. He kicks in doors and yells, “Fucking Trevor!” while Harry Styles stands onstage in a feather boa, bouncing about like a cheerful elf.
“To be honest, that works to everyone’s advantage,” says Fiennes Tiffin of the separation between his character and his inspiration. “I’m sure Harry doesn’t want to be defined by a character about him. And I’m sure the writer Anna Todd was aware of that and reluctant to push boundaries or be pushy. It started as an inspiration and I think everyone will be happy that they went a different way.”
After is a goofy, goofy franchise. Again, it’s based on a Wattpad Story. Fiennes Tiffin seems to realize the inherent absurdity of this, chuckling about the scene where he has to smash into a wall, or how many swear words he has to drop in each take. He tells me he has to wake up too many times (as in, literally pretend to wake up) during filming – in fact, he demonstrates on our Zoom, pretends to be asleep and then opens his eyes and looks around to. He’s good at it. Should be the whole practice. But what does he do most? Shout “TESSA!” to his dear, loving girlfriend.
“If we’re rehearsing a scene where Hardin says ‘Tessa’ once, between rehearsals and takes, it should be an average of five,” he says, trying to deduce how many times he’s said Tessa’s name throughout the franchise. “It must be more than a thousand” [times]. Probably more than two thousand, three thousand. If there are fans out there who have a lot of free time and want to figure it out and calculate it, get started and let me know.”
Tessa and Hardin are back on, off again, but by the end of… After ever happy, they broke up. (Don’t worry: A fifth entry was filmed in secret, meaning the couple will definitely be back together soon.) Hardin’s final scene is shot at a bookstore, where he reads from his book about his love with Tessa watching from the outside .
I had to ask: does he see the parallels between this and Taylor Swift’s? But too good short movie?
“I do not have [seen it]’ he confesses. “Essentially she copied us? We’ll get the lawyers involved and see what we can do,” he jokes.
When they’re not arguing, Tessa and Hardin have sex. That’s pretty much all they do: argue, break up, and have sex. Before shooting the third movie, After team introduced an intimacy coordinator to accompany the many sex scenes in their films, and Fiennes Tiffin is grateful for the addition. He was happy to work with Langford before, but now they can get a little more creative. For example, in the third movie, the couple gets hot and sweaty on a gym bench.
“Like a stunt choreographer or dance choreographer, [an intimacy coordinator] can also gauge how comfortable you are,” he says. “Sometimes they don’t have to do anything. Sometimes it’s like when a director says, ‘You guys play a scene so well, it’s all realistic, it’s fair, I believe I don’t have to say anything.’ But it’s for the moments when things don’t go well.”
He compares it to the hours of work put into stunt work The woman king– if you want to have something special, you need to hire a specialist. And speaking of that, The woman king features some of the best stunts in recent history, resulting in a moving action movie beyond compare.
“This was such an important story for so many young girls around the world,” he says of the film, which is now in theaters. “I don’t know the type of person who wouldn’t like this movie. There is something for everyone in it.”
He is right! The woman king Viola Davis plays the leader of the Agojie, an army made up entirely of women, seeking to defeat a neighboring tribe and remove their Dahomey kingdom from the slave trade. Despite playing one of her character’s nemesis, a brutal Portuguese slave trader, meeting Davis was the favorite part of Fiennes Tiffin’s film shoot.
The pair do not share scenes together, but they did meet at base camp in South Africa. Fiennes Tiffin appeared on set to watch Davis give her input for a scene, wearing a onesie and some great shades. When she was done (and of course everyone agreed), she threw away the curtains and gave Fiennes Tiffin the warmest welcome ever.
“[Viola] exudes an experienced boss-level energy,” he says. “She’s really good at playing the mother, caring, making sure everyone is okay, while also playing the role of making sure things are done on time. All I wish is that I could have more direct scenes with her.”
As you might guess, things don’t end well for Santo Ferreira in the movie. They don’t look too good for Hardin either, thanks to his heartbreaking breakup. But Fiennes Tiffin signs chipper as always, ready for any bad (or maybe nice and sweet, like his real-life way of life) role that comes his way.