Between roles, Irish actor ALLEN LEECH keeps it low key on weekends in LA, enjoying a round of golf, farmers’ markets and time with his fiancée …
I moved to Los Angeles two years ago after living in London for ten years – I fancied a change once Downton had finished and wanted to try somewhere new. I was already familiar with LA from Awards season. This was a novelty and seemed glamorous, but the awards are really all about networking. Nowadays I am more selective about walking the red carpet. I live in Studio City with my fiancée Jess [actress Jessica Herman] who has family in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.
I have established a routine for Friday nights. We go to Laurel Hardware bar in Santa Monica, owned by an Irishman, with friends, which means that Saturday morning we are in recovery mode. After a lazy start, we go to Joan’s on the Third – a great deli which does brunch. Compared to my London lifestyle, my eating habits have definitely changed since I’ve been in LA, and I’m much more aware of healthy choices.
The afternoons can be quite busy. Our usual routine is to head up Franklin’s Canyon for what the locals call a hike, though to me it’s more like walking up a trail. For something more intense, I will be coerced into going to Training Mate gym, owned by my friend, former Australian rugby player Luke Milton. I find the weekend training sessions are the most challenging. Afterwards Jess and I often take her nephew or niece to the beach or to a museum. On Saturday evening we usually go out for dinner – sushi is huge here and my favourite place is Sushi on Sunset [Boulevard].
For the last three months I’ve been back in London working on the Downton Abbey film [due to be released in spring 2019]. It’s been surreal revisiting the character of Tom Branson [chauffeur turned estate manager] but good to be back with the cast who are like family. We’ve just been at Highclere filming the set pieces; it has a different feel to the TV series and the script is excellent. As Americans are such Downtonites, I’ve always received a very positive reception as an actor in the US.
During filming I’ve been staying at The Doyle Collection’s Kensington Hotel and have become one of the family – they tell me I’m their longest staying guest. It’s just beside the Science and Natural History museums, so it’s been great to visit those during downtime. I used to live in Shoreditch and became entrenched in that area. I like clothes [Leech was named GQ’s Most Stylish Man in 2015] and also love the fashion scene in London. I enjoy discovering unique pieces as I don’t believe in disposable fashion. In LA, I shop in Venice at Abbot Kinney Boulevard or 3rd on West Hollywood. Most Angelenos wear jeans and a sweater despite the hot weather and they never leave home without their sunglasses – something I constantly forget so I am always squinting when I go out driving.
This year I’ve been lucky to see more of my family than usual. I spent time in Belfast filming the real life story Doing Money about the human slavery and trafficking trade (I play DCI Dougie Grant). I hadn’t been back to the city since I filmed Man About Dog and couldn’t believe how vibrant the scene was. My friend, the actor Aidan Gillen [of Game Of Thrones fame] gave me a list of places to visit, including Coppi and James St South. When I’m home in Dalkey, my friends all converge on Finnegan’s for a catch-up and, if the weather is good, a ritual is to swim off White Rock in Killiney.
Back in LA, on Sunday mornings we’ll usually head to one of the farmers’ markets – either Mar Vista, Westchester or Melrose. Like most ex-pats I’ve built up a few pals. I play golf on a Sunday morning with Corkman Ronald Walsh – we take in a round on a public course as membership fees of private clubs are extortionate. We don’t have an extravagant lifestyle.
Sunday evening after dinner with Jess’s family, I’ll review the week ahead. I don’t have a PA to keep my diary: it’s already outlined because of the film schedule. I often get work off the back of other jobs so I am waiting to see how my role of Paul Prenter, Freddie Mercury’s former manager, in Bohemian Rhapsody [released at the end of October] is received. It was quite a challenging role. Prenter was a divisive character within Queen, introducing Mercury, played by Rami Malek, to the gay party scene in Munich from which he contracted AIDS, and also selling him out to the UK press. I tried to find a delicate balance in the character portrayal – no one is completely bad in my eyes – and I felt they were both very lonely individuals.
Looking ahead, I will be spending my first “hot” Christmas away from home. I am not looking forward to that, though I have a few friends coming to stay. Also, I’ve never cooked a turkey! My family is flying over on New Year’s Day. I am getting married in January and at the moment we’ve tentatively booked our honeymoon in Hawaii. Neither Jess nor I has been, but actors are notoriously nervous about making any sort of travel arrangements in case jobs come up.”
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