Allen Leech makes the move from Downton to Tinseltown

The smash success of Downtown Abbey has made Allen Leech a household face, if not quite a name to remember yet. Now, with a scene-stealing role in new Irish horror film In Fear, the Killiney-born actor’s career is definitely looking up

Fri, Nov 15, 2013, 00:00

Why has it taken so long for Allen Leech to become a household name? It is a blasted outrage. Those bally blackguards in the media should be horsewhipped (to use the language of his most-watched vehicle).

Now a fresh-faced 32, Leech has bounced around film and TV for more than a decade. In 2003 he secured a leading role in David Gleeson’s likable dramedy Cowboys & Angels. A year later, he starred in the domestic hit Man About Dog. Aside from having a good-looking mush on his shoulders, Leech has the sort of positive personality that tends to appeal to casting directors.

Sure enough, he worked reasonably steadily: roles in Rome and The Tudors; sound indie pictures such as Rewind. But it took the unstoppable Downton Abbey to make our Allen a velvet-robe celebrity. As Tom Branson, the dishy Irish chauffeur who marries into the “upstairs” family, Leech sets a million hearts aflutter every Sunday evening.

“It’s really only in the last couple of months that I’ve noticed the Downton thing taking off,” he says in his sparkly way. “Generally people leave me alone. You just see the odd one take out their phone and take a picture. It’s a bit random when you start getting iPhones stuck in your face.”

His current visibility proves useful for the makers of a nifty new horror film called In Fear. It’s an intriguing beast. Following a young couple as they encounter violence and mayhem down remote Irish lanes, the picture was largely devised through improvisation. Only Leech – who plays the villain – was appraised as to the details of the plot.

“It’s the most interesting thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “They’d rehearse in the morning. And I would come in during the afternoon. What was genuinely fascinating was how people changed in those circumstances. There was almost a physical aspect to the paranoia.”

The rehearsal structure must have put Leech in a peculiar position. The other two actors were swimming in uncertainty while he savoured all the scary twists.

“Information was power,” he laughs. “And I had the most power on set among the three of us. We were constantly playing the game – off-screen and on. It is definitely the most malevolent character I’ve ever played. And that was great fun too. It’s not often you get to play with something that’s so different from what people know you from.”

Leech gives good interview. Indeed, he’s such an accomplished chat-machine one suspects that, if he ever tires of acting, he could take up some class of TV presentation. In short, he’s a natural. Yet it doesn’t seem to run in the family. His dad was in computing and most of the surrounding clan had equally grown-up jobs.

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