Brenock O’Connor & Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo Interview: Alex Rider

The actors spoke to Screen Rant about how they got involved with the series, how they connected to the books, and whether or not they’d be able make it through the trials that Alex himself faces.

How did you become involved in Alex Rider, and what was your initial reaction to the script?

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo: I remember I got an email from my agent, saying that I got a meeting. It was Alex Rider, ao I went around and did a bit of research. And I spoke to my little brother, who immediately applied the pressure because he had read all the books. I went to my meeting, and I met [Andreas Prochaska], who was our director, and [Gary Davy], our casting director.

I just remember Andreas going, “Okay, Ronkẹ, I need you to do it better.” I was like, “I can do that.” And it was amazing, because after that, I think I had another recall and then my chemistry with Brennock can Otto. It was a long day, but it was fun because we just got to act all day. Then when I got the call from my agent, he was like, “Oh, yeah, it’s an offer. And I was like, “Yeah!”

Brenock O’Connor: I was just walking about London and got an email for a self-tape to audition to play Alex Rider. I was like, “That is ridiculous. Oh my, God.” First of all, they’re making Alex Rider into a TV show? That’s incredible; I’m so excited to see it. Also, I’m not Alex Rider. There’s not a world in which I am Alex Rider.

So, I read the scenes and sent an email to my agent. It was a Tom and Alex scene for the audition, and I said, “This is great. I’ll send in the tape. But when they’re casting Tom, let me know.” I kept getting called back for Alex, because they just wanted to see me do more stuff. It wasn’t until the chemistry reads with Ronkẹ and Otto that they said, “Would you go for Tom instead?” I was like, “I’ve been saying this since day one. Let’s go, guys. Let’s go, I’m ready.”

I also got a fairly brutal note in my chemistry read from Andreas. I came into this full day of reads halfway through, so they’d been going since about 10 that morning. I arrived at 2, and it was just this room full of exhausted people seeing others disappear when they were being cut from the room. I felt I had to bring this new energy to the room, so I went in and went a little bit too much. I just went in with very hammy acting, and Andres went, “Okay, it’s good. Maybe less… melodramatic?” I just went, “Yeah, good note! Thank you, mate. Cheers.”

I knew Otto was our Alex. Whether I was Tom, I knew Otto was Alex. So, I took his number down and saved him in my phone – he still saved as Otto Rider to this day. We said that the minute we found out, we’d text. And we found out within five minutes of each other. He dropped me a text saying, “Have you heard?” I went, “Yeah, I heard!” And then we just called each other and just started screaming down the phone, and it was great.

Jack has been with the family for six years, but how does her position as a guardian and friend to Alex evolve as the season progresses?

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo: I don’t want to give away any spoilers. But when both Alex and Jack find themselves in a situation where she has to be an adult for him, I think she steps up. Before, I think the whole six years is just, “Oh my God, London!” She’s got this job in this house; she doesn’t really feed the kid, but they get along really well. It’s fun; she’s having a great time until seriousness lands.

I think she goes, “I have to prove myself here. To myself and to this wonderful human that is Alex.” As the series progresses, it’s funny because Alex discovers more about himself – and I think in parallel, Jack is also discovering more about herself. But she’s not letting anybody knows; she thinks she’s got her stuff together.

Tom seems to have a pretty normal upbringing. But as soon as Alex gets thrust into a new world, Tom also has to step up in his own way to be a good friend and sidekick. What is it about Tom and his friendship with Alex that makes that possible?

Brenock O’Connor: I think the thing about Tom that really resonated with me was that everything he does, he does out of care for the people that care for him. If someone values him, he will value them back. That’s something that’s really pure about Tom that I love.

So, when Alex gets driven into this world of espionage and drama and adventure, of course Tom is going to go along for the ride. But Tom doesn’t know how to deal with that, so he often gets it wrong and does the wrong thing and gets himself into stupid situations. I think that’s a very relatable situation: if one of your friends is going through some dark part of their life, you’ve got to step up, even when you don’t know what you’re doing. But doing something is always going to be better than doing nothing.

You both mentioned having a connection to the books. Did you read them for research, or were you following the script and the direction to understand your characters?

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo: I had never read them before, obviously. So, I went and started reading. I should have paid attention, but we started at the second book. I was reading the first book and was like, “I can read this for leisure, but really, I should be reading the second book.”

As I was reading the second book, I was also reading our episodes along with it. I got to the end of the second book, and I thought it was great. But – this happens all the time, from books to screen – you become really invested in what happens in a book. I was like, “Okay, that was fun. But now this is the story we’re telling.” That was just as invigorating.

Brenock O’Connor: Yeah, I read the books growing up. I don’t think there was there was a kid in my class that didn’t read them, or at least didn’t know who Alex Rider was. So, I was quite well-versed in the world. As soon as I got the call through about getting the gig, I reordered myself the entire set of books so that I could binge them again. I did it with the idea that I would read them for research, and what I found going through was that it wasn’t really helping in the way that I wanted it to. Because Tom doesn’t come in until book five, and we were shooting book two, he was being inserted into a story that he wasn’t in.

So, I ended up going, much like Ronkẹ, “Okay, I’ll read them as two separate entities. This is the script we’re working on, and then there’s just a deeply enjoyable set of books to read if I want to find anything specific about how my character would react to certain situations. But, all in all, I think the books were just a great escape when I was shooting. To go and read those stories, and to find a different Alex Rider story to the one we were telling was great.

Backstories from those books aside, how did you work on developing the chemistry that’s so important on set. Was there any cast bonding or discussions with the director and fellow actors about what came before?

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo: Yeah, we had a decent amount of time where we’re all in this disused building in Holborn, which was really good because we’d just sit in these rooms – some were cold and some were hot – just going through the scripts and talking about the backstory.

Honestly, I think Otto was in one of those rooms every single day before we shot, doing that work. So, whenever you wanted to have a chat with Otto, you’d know to just go to that building, and he’s gonna be in there somewhere.

Brenock O’Connor: In terms of bonding, when Otto and I read the scripts, we realized that there’s a lot of talk of movie nights between Alex and Tom. We thought, “What better way to bond than to have a couple of movie nights?” So, I went and stayed round Otto’s for a couple of nights. We had we had a couple of sleepovers and just watched a couple of films that we thought these boys would watch. We started Reservoir Dogs, and then moved on to more spy-based things: I think we’ve watched a couple of the Bournes. There was Michael Clayton, I think. It was just a really organic way to build the relationship in the specific way that the script was insinuating it had been built, which was a really lovely experience.

This is a very important movie question, then. Do you hate Spider-Man like Tom does?

Brenock O’Connor: Not at all. I think he’s an incredible character, and the ways that  character has been changed throughout the years is phenomenal. I’m more Miles Morales than Peter Parker, though.

Ronkẹ, I know you’ve said before that you’d love to do more action-based work, like James Bond. We’re inching closer to that with Alex Rider. Have you learned anything on set that could help you with those future roles?

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo: Not yet! Maybe one day. But I do go to Muay Thai, so I can kick people really well. I’m gonna put it on my resume: can cook and can kick people really well.

How do you think that Tom and Jack would fare if they were in Alex’s position?

Brenock O’Connor: Tom’s dead in a week. I’m so sorry, but that’s the only reality. There’s very few people on this Earth who could do what Alex Rider does, in terms of the show and just in terms of Otto. If I had to play Alex Rider, I’d be dead in a week.

I think Jack’s got some smarts, at least.

Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo: I think Jack’s got some smarts too. She needs to learn to where her power is, and she needs to keep her secrets secret. Jack can’t climb any buildings, but I reckon if she’s fight or flight, she’d fight. She’d lose, but at least she fought.

More: 5 Things Stormbreaker Got Right About The Alex Rider Franchise (& 5 Things It Didn’t)

Alex Rider‘s first season will be available to stream on IMDb TV.