Meet the Brit Behind Tin Star's Whitey Brown: Oliver Coopersmith
At the moment, actor Oliver Coopersmith is better known as Whitey Brown, a character in new Sky Atlantic drama Tin Star whose baby face belies a chilling ruthlessness. We see him taking on his enemies in the unforgiving Canadian wilderness and are drawn in by his mysterious connection to Jim Worth (played by Tim Roth), a former London detective who has given up the Met to be police chief in the Rocky Mountains.
Brown too is British. He works for a local criminal and has an urgent agenda that is progressively revealed, with plenty of violence and taut cliff hanger moments. This show will establish Coopersmith as a bright new talent to watch. The Essex-born actor’s past roles include John Bagnet in BBC drama Dickensian and Ben in sci-fi thriller iBoy, which starred Maisie Williams.
He is nothing like Brown, who he describes as “aggressive, confused and fueled by revenge.” Rather he’s chirpy and full of enthusiasm about Tin Star, and its “dark human element that I think will keep people interested. I find dark, complex stories the most interesting. Whitey has a very dark story behind him, but the more intriguing scenes are when we see his guard come down and you realize he’s just a lost young man who has had everything he loves taken away from him - the only bits left are pretty bleak.”
Working with Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks was another part of the draw. “I’m five foot six inches, so I look up to most people,” he jokes of his taller mates. At the read-through he sat next to Hendricks: “She must have noticed I was petrified and started chatting to me about how nerve-wracking read-throughs are. Just having someone as good as Christina say she was feeling nervous too took the edge off a bit.”
Filming took place in Canada and Coopersmith shared an apartment block with his co-stars in Calgary while making it. When they weren’t working, they watched British TV together. “Who knew Happy Valley could be so comforting?” he asks through laughter. Alberta is “beautiful, so cinematic” and Coopersmith “can definitely see the draw of the quiet life but I don’t think I could live there for much longer than what we did, I love the UK too much.”
It’s certainly safer than the Canadian wilderness. The cast was instructed in what to do if they saw a bear: “They said not to run away, but if I’m honest that’s the first thing I’d do! I’ve got little legs but they move bloody quickly, I fancy my chances.”
Coopersmith had six weeks between getting the job and heading off to Canada, in which he had to bulk up. “The training and diet were pretty extreme,” he says. “It was essentially meat and vegetables. All for a 15-second topless scene in episode two.”
Also tasked with handling a gun, Coopersmith suffered for his art. “As I was watching Genevieve O’Reilly pull the trigger I felt something really small hit the left side of my chest," he recalls, "it started to burn a bit. But I didn’t want to make a fuss on our first day at work. When I got in the car, I had a look, and there was a little circular burn.” It turned out he had a fragment of the bullet in his chest. “It was like the scene in Skyfall where Daniel Craig uses a knife to cut out some shrapnel except my version was with tweezers, and my mum put some tea tree oil on it afterward.”
Coopersmith lives in East London and goes back to his family home in Essex a lot. His mother is a family therapist, his father owns a business, and he has two brothers and a younger sister. They’re close. He still has both sets of grandparents, and he plays on a football team with his brothers, acknowledging that “they’re both better than me, just."
Not long after his return from Canada, he moved in with his girlfriend.“I missed her so much that I wanted her around all the time," he mentions. Luckily, she agreed with me! ” When he isn’t working, he plays football and “hangs out with mates from school.”
“I’m making an effort to read more plays; I never went to drama school so I have a gap in that knowledge and I’m trying to educate myself a bit. Music wise I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for Baby Driver, I loved that film, and every song they used is such an anthem.”
When he was younger, he loved watching Spiderman and is still a loyal fan: “No matter who’s playing that part I will always watch the Spiderman films. I always wanted to be the superhero, but in Tin Star, I’m sort of the baddie, who knew?”
On Twitter and Instagram Coopersmith has a witty tone, with thousands of followers. “I don’t think I use tech an unhealthy amount,” he says. “Social media is a great tool for actors and a great way of letting people know what you’re up to, but people shouldn’t know everything. I don’t care about your coffee cup with the wrong name on it.”
The future is open for Coopersmith, and he is positive about it. “It can be the best and worst thing about this job, which you never know what’s coming next. I quite like the hopeful opportunity of it, so let’s just wait and see.”
Written by Susannah Butter
Photographed by Tyler Morris
Styled by Jordan Dean Schneider
Produced by Francesca Turner