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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

Luke Antony Neville of ‘Back to the Future’ Musical & more


Luke Antony Neville has been a working actor since his graduation from The Academy in 2017. After amassing theatre credits as both an actor and choreographer, he recently made his Broadway debut in Back to the Future - The Musical. His story is below.


The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


We’re doing this piece for Pride Month. And I wonder if you wanted to start with growing up, your move to the States, those things?


Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Luke Antony Neville. I grew up in the northeast of England. If you’ve ever seen Billy Elliot, that was where I grew up…but I was not a miner or a ballerina, but pretty close [Laughs]. Watching Will & Grace growing up, which was one of my mom’s favorite TV shows, I was like, “Oh, okay.” It was, thankfully, a pretty smooth coming-out process.


Around age 16, I started doing theatre. One of the local theatre companies in the Northeast of England, Gala Theatre, was doing a production of Les Miserables, and they were looking for guys to audition for the show. They just wanted to pad the ensemble as much as possible. So I auditioned, and I ended up getting Thenardier. It was the first thing I did at the ripe old age of 16.


And being queer in the northeast of England in the early 2010s…it was much more accepting than I’m told it had been. I never found it to be an issue. It was definitely an identifier–it was how they sort of categorized me–but it wasn’t done with hate. It was done to identify who I was.


I’m not sure that’s the same for everyone in the Northeast, but that was my experience growing up. I think the safety of being in theatre was a big part of where I found my tribe, so to speak, and my people. I went to college in the UK and was looking to specialize in acting, not musical theater, I wanted to study the roots of acting.


It’s funny. It was sort of a bold move; I didn’t visit The Academy before moving. I was a completely trusting customer. I was like, “This is not fake, this is not a scam, and I’m going to this school.” And I had a great experience, and I absorbed all the teachings there.


Through that process, you know, sort of talking about queer identity; I now use he/they pronouns, but I don’t identify as non-binary. A lot of my artistic self exists in this sort of queer space. And so I sort of love that I am comfortable in who I am, but also there’s this other part of me that can be expressed with my pronouns. And so that’s sort of where I exist today. And I’m proud of where I am with my queer identity.


I think we’ve got a long way to go in the industry in terms of representation across the spectrum of identity, gender, and race, and I’m happy to be a part of it.


Before we delve more into that, I just have to say that I love that Thenardier was your first role. You started doing theatre when you were high school-aged. What’s been its impact on you?


I think for a while I didn’t understand that I could grow alongside the parts that I loved playing when I was younger. They gave me some sort of respite from the hardships that I was going through at the same time. I tend to throw myself into the work. I love playing other people; the challenge of having to justify a character you may not personally agree with. Empathizing with a character has always drawn me in. Imaginary circumstances, with that structure around forms of expression, are like a big playground.


With “Back to the Future,” I feel the same way. We know what it entails, and there are these parameters, but to play in that space has been so fun. That’s been the biggest draw for me. I love putting myself in other people’s shoes, just running away with it and escaping for two hours. It’s allowed me to be a more empathetic person in my personal life. It’s allowed me to feel more human and see people in a different way. The pursuit of this career has helped me see different scenarios and perspectives.


Let’s talk Back to the Future - The Musical. What was the process of getting the role and rehearsals? 


It was crazy. My audition for the show was just after Thanksgiving, an almost seven-month process so far. The tour, which I initially auditioned for, has only been running for a few weeks.


And I think, like everyone, I was feeling the toughness of coming out of the pandemic. There were productions that were promised prior to that having a tough time getting off the ground. Not all hope was lost; I was excited to get this huge role at the time. My sister lives in the UK and saw the London production, and she said, “You are so right for this!” I got the audition while I was in Boston for Thanksgiving. I saw the Broadway production that Saturday and loved it, and had this weird gut feeling. It was fantastic.


My initial call was on Monday, followed by a callback the next day and a working session on Thursday. Within about a week, I found out I booked Strickland and the cover for Doc Brown on the tour.


I got a call from my agent in January. He asked me if I was sitting down, and I said, “Is the tour canceled?” I guess there were some residual pandemic issues…things were still up in the air. Then the question came, “How would you like to make your Broadway debut?” Strickland is a principal role and the Doc Brown cover. They were running low on swings and understudies; there was an illness and some injuries in the cast. So I was called to the Winter Garden that Saturday learned the tracks, and trailed the other actor in the wings. It was a dream come true and happened to me in the most “me” way possible; no preparation whatsoever [Laughs.].


The craziest part was learning the hoverboard. The stakes were high, and not wanting to eat mud on the floor every time I crossed the stage was a lot of fun. That was my Broadway debut, and I stayed with the company for another two weeks.


We’re thrilled you made it in such an exciting way. Tell me what you put into your work; what would you like to be known for?


My tendency is to find “the funny.” I love living in a comedic space. My hope is that people remember the times we’ve laughed, audiences, and friends; there’s nothing more satisfying to me than cracking up with people. It’s a tonic in the current world we live in.


If I can be part of someone’s respite for the day, you know, make someone chuckle, I hope that’s what I’m remembered for. Being part of this show, where audiences have so many memories of it, I hope to bring good memories to people. My sister is going to see the show in Chicago this summer; I can’t wait to do the show for her.


As an actor, what might you say about being yourself and bringing yourself to the work and your career?


I think it’s a daily practice. That’s where the magic is. You can’t compare yourself to others (that’s sort of inevitable in this industry), so choose to bring abundance. I’ve in no way mastered the art of staying true to myself, but I try to stay true to my essence or core. People, casting directors especially, want to see what you bring to the role. That’s why when 10 people who look the same show up for an audition, they end up picking you. You have to be yourself. 


The last question I always like to ask is what’s coming up and where can people find out more about you?


Right now, I’m trying to enjoy where I am. I take the time to give myself permission to enjoy. I live on my toes as a person; I’m already anxious about what next summer looks like [Laughs].


Congratulations on the Broadway debut and continued work. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Keep in touch with us.


Thanks, August. Good talking to you.


You can find more about Broadway actor Luke Antony Neville through his website.


More on The Academy can be found at aada.edu.

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