Leo Woodall’s CV from his days at London’s ArtsEd drama school reads more like that of an athlete than an actor.
He is “highly skilled”, he says, in basketball and football, and has experience in badminton, cricket, darts, stage combat, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball.
There is little mention of his ability on stage or screen, save for a couple of accent commands (American, Cockney and Estuary English) and a note that he can sing “high baritone” if necessary.
In fact, Leo, 27, the breakout star and heartthrob of the heartwarming Netflix series One Day, which has been watched by more than 15 million people in a fortnight, was a late convert to acting.
“When I was a kid I wanted to be a physical education teacher or a specialist,” he admitted recently.
However, from a young age, Leo’s older brother Gabriel could see that he had a star quality that drew him inexorably toward the spotlight.
Netflix One Day Ep13: Shows Dexter Mayhew (Leo Woodall) at his Café Belleville
The restaurant where Emma works, this was actually filmed at the Old Suffolk Punch pub in London.
Woodall appears alongside This Is Going To Hurt star Ambika Mod, 28, in One Day in her first lead role.
“From the moment my family and I saw Leo play Goggles The Penguin in the Year Two school play, we were all saying it,” jokes Gabriel, 31.
Meanwhile, their father Andrew, an actor who has had roles in Casualty and Grantchester, used to watch his two sons re-enact scenes from The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings at Hammersmith playground, west London, where they grew up.
Ironically, Andrew, 60, used to try to dissuade his son from following in his footsteps, telling him: “Whatever you do, don’t be a bloody actor.”
But he is not the only theatrical influence in Leo’s life. Mum Jane, 62, also went to drama school and became vice-principal at Leo’s alma mater in Chiswick.
After divorcing Leo’s father, she married Alexander Morton, another actor, best known for his role in Monarch Of The Glen.
Uncle Ed Woodall is an actor, director and movement coach, and Leo’s older sister Connie, 32, works in the industry as an agent.
The Woodalls, then, are very involved in the entertainment business. But nepotism has nothing to do with Leo’s rapid rise to fame.
Those who know him insist that only he, with that boy-next-door charm and those piercing blue eyes, which have generated comparisons with a young Brad Pitt, holds the secret to his success.
On screen in One Day, Leo plays troubled Dexter Mayhew, alongside Ambika Mod as Emma Morley, the on-again, off-again best friends in David Nicholls’ heartbreaking hit 2009 novel.
Mod and Woodall have formed a “close bond” and friendship since making the hit series.
Although Leo insists that he is nothing like Dexter (‘ad***’, he proclaims), there are some parallels: they both come from wealthy families (Leo’s family figures in The Peerage as his paternal grandmother was the daughter of a baronet). and both are, to use the actor’s own words, “a little spoiled”: Leo for being the youngest of three brothers.
As a child, recalls his proud half-sister Kerry Morton, a video maker and artist living in Essex, he was a “bouncing two-year-old” who she remembers “breaking up every sofa in the house.” [by] bouncing on them’.
Leo credits Kerry with helping him perfect his Essex accent for Jack, the character he played in the dark comic series The White Lotus alongside Tom Hollander. He also met his girlfriend, American actress Meghann Fahy, on set.
‘I’m from west London, but I definitely know a lot of people from Essex. “My stepsister is from Essex, so it was fun to lean on that,” she said in a recent interview.
Until he was 11, his family says Leo was happy. Calm and well-behaved, his father once described him as “a taciturn child.”
However, high school proved to be a struggle, exposing him to bullies and violence. A colleague pinned him by the neck against a wall; another hit him in the chest. Once, at a house party, someone threatened to stab him if he didn’t hand over a pair of gloves.
The impact on Leo was dramatic. At home he became withdrawn and introverted, too eager to leave the house. At school, he says, he adopted a character.
Leo and his brother Gabriel with their mother Jane, who also went to drama school where she met her father.
“I started shaving my eyebrows,” he said. ‘I shaved my head. I wore a hood all the time, I changed the way I spoke. I think it was a kind of survival instinct. To fit. But I wasn’t nice. I lashed out. My mom was worried.’ Today, Leo credits “the dark years” with giving him material: perhaps the reason he is so often portrayed as an anguished and tormented young man.
Studying was not his forte: “I didn’t really give a damn about my grades, so I couldn’t just go to university to study economics”, and after school he ended up working in a bar. smoking marijuana, without purpose or direction.
One night, sitting up late watching Peaky Blinders, the gangster drama starring Bafta winner Cillian Murphy, he realized that his calling had been staring him in the face the entire time.
She enrolled in ArtsEd, supported by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and graduated in 2019 with a BA in acting.
His first break was a small role in Holby City. Then came Cherry, the 2021 action thriller from the Russo brothers, starring Spider-Man star Tom Holland.
He caught the attention of directors, who cast him in their spy series, Citadel, alongside Hollywood blockbusters Richard Madden and Stanley Tucci.
English actor Leo Woodall, 27, has been compared to Brad Pitt after winning a legion of fans playing the charming Dexter Mayhew in the Netflix smash hit One Day.
Next came the Emmy-winning series The White Lotus.
On his father’s recommendation, he was actually binge-watching the first series while lying in a hotel room with Covid when the email arrived from his agent asking him to audition for the second series in 2021, doing what he has since done. has called “The best job I will ever have.”
I may be a little biased: It was here that he met Meghann, 33, a former Broadway actress from Massachusetts who appeared on Gossip Girl and Law & Order.
Leo auditioned for One Day while still filming The White Lotus. He hadn’t read the book, barely managed to see the panned 2011 movie (starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess), and could barely walk because he’d slipped a record.
At the time, he was still a complete unknown, but he says he knew he had landed the role when he saw the casting director crying during one of his screen tests.
Woodall has styled her long hair with gel for several red carpet appearances, just like Pitt, 60, used to do.
It’s been hard getting used to the attention that comes with her newfound fame. Today she lives in London with his brother, spends a lot of time with family and friends and, for the most part, avoids self-promotion.
As he says: ‘I think work is the reason we do this and… there’s some fun to do. But other than that… I’m very attached to the best people in my life and I don’t get too attached to the hoo-ha.’
He ended up watching The White Lotus, which contains several raunchy scenes, with his brother, a mistake he was not going to make with One Day, which he watched alone, logged into the Netflix account he shares with his mother.
“I was very nervous about what my family would think of me as an actor,” he admits. ‘I’ve always felt this personal pressure to achieve. And they have always been wonderful and supportive.”
So, with his acting family firmly behind him and acting in his blood, what’s next for this hot young star?
David Nicholls has compared him to some of Hollywood’s leading men: Robert Redford, Mark Ruffalo and Ryan Gosling. One critic described him as “a tornado of charisma.” He has even been tipped as the next James Bond.
And Leo? When asked about his future, he replied: “Now that you’re asking me this question, I should probably think of an answer.”
Maybe it’s appropriate for the guy who never wanted to be an actor: he doesn’t have the slightest idea.