Did you know the leading man of Superman prequel series Krypton, Cameron Cuffe, was originally rejected for the role?
After learning about the high-profile project through his agent, the Londoner submitted his audition tape for the show back in May 2016 and met with TV director Colm McCarthy (Sherlock, Black Mirror) about a month later.
“The audition went really well but I didn’t expect much,” Cuffe recalls in an e-mail interview with Star2. “A few weeks later my agent called and said that I hadn’t (gotten) it. I had known they were casting all over the world for it so I wasn’t terribly surprised.”
However the show’s producers hadn’t quite moved on from the actor yet.
“I kept on working in TV, in Britain and in the States, but Krypton kept cropping back in the form of other tapes and auditions. Eventually I was working on an American TV show in New York when I was told that I had been selected to screen test for (The Dark Knight trilogy, Man Of Steel screenwriter) David Goyer in Los Angeles! It was pretty incredible.”
Cuffe still remembers that very moment he learned he had landed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He was having dinner with his brother when he got the call. “When they broke the news, we were yelling and crying and laughing. About 48 hours later I was in Serbia filming the pilot!” he enthuses.
Cuffe has dreamt of being an actor since he was a child. He reflects: “So much of my childhood was spent in a dark theatre looking up at the screen and letting my imagination run away with itself. I’d come home and mimic characters and performances. I’ve kind of always been acting.”
After graduating from performing arts college The Lir Academy in Ireland, Cuffe starred in a handful of minor roles. One of his first major projects was the Meryl Streep-starring Florence Foster Jenkins back in 2016. He also had a recurring role on British period drama The Halcyon last year.
“When I graduated, I initially had a bit of success. This made it all the more difficult when the rejection started. Like every other actor I went through long periods of being out of work and being desperate for things to pick up,” he recalls those trying times.
Cuffe acted mostly in stage productions and indie films. “The hardest thing was not to take the rejection personally, to not let it dampen my self-belief or self-worth. It’s not easy and I’ve been far luckier than most, but to any actors out there who may be reading: keep believing,” he says.
In his first role as leading man, Cuffe plays Superman’s grandfather, Seg-El, set 200 years before the birth of the red caped-superhero in the planet Krypton. Cuffe went all out to look the part of Seg-El, adding 7kg of muscle in just four months.
“The physical prep was an essential part of the process to me. I knew I wanted all of the muscle to be practical. There’s no point looking like a cover model if you can’t lift serious weights,” he says.
His fitness routine included weight training, cardio, boxing and mixed martial arts plus a diet of mostly chicken or fish and greens.
“I went to my trainer and said, ‘Train me like we’re training for a fight’. Seg’s body is the product of having to fight to survive and I wanted my training and appearance to reflect that. I trained like a fighter,” he notes.
So much so, when the time came for Seg-El to fight, Cuffe was raring to perform the stunts.
“I performed almost all of my own stunts and it was so much fun. That’s also where the training came in useful. A big fight scene for us can take a whole day to film, keeping up the intensity level is a real challenge,” he says.
When it came to inhabiting the psyche of Seg-El, Cuffe had his work cut out for him as there weren’t many past depictions of the character on screen.
“There was a lot of work that went into building the character of Seg. Mostly it came from the script … I did draw a lot of inspiration from various comics and films,” adding he read up on works by DC Comics writer Geoff Johns and watched Christopher Reeve’s iconic turn as Superman in four movies between 1978 to 1987.
Despite the immense pressure that comes with portraying a lead role for the first time, the actor remains unperturbed. “The strangest thing was how calm I felt. The only thing I can think that can explain it is that I knew we had a stellar team working on this show and amazing actors to work beside,” he says.
But there is one thing that ruffles his feathers. When asked what’s his Kryptonite, Cuffe replies: “Red onion. I’m not a fan.”