Chris Evangelou was known during his professional boxing career as ‘The Flash’, performing live on Sky Sports when signed to Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing promotions.
He received the news that no professional athlete ever wants to hear when a hand injury forced the talented champion from Enfield to retire prematurely.
Despite the unexpected blow, he abruptly turned straight back to his first love – acting. He dove headfirst into his new career and has been rewarded handsomely for his industriousness and tenacity having landed several leading roles and most recently appearing in a Guy Ritchie film.
Now 34, no longer is Chris known as ‘The Flash’, as he’s now reinvented himself as ‘The Actor’.
What inspired you to change careers?
“So, my first love was acting when I was very young. I’ve always been a showman, always wanted to be the centre of attention, I was a talkative kid, really active, and a little bit naughty you could say! My first memories of acting was in my church, where my dad is the minister, doing sketches to make people laugh but with a biblical theme behind it.
After I was presented with a special award for getting a 100% grade in GCSE Drama and becoming the first ever student to achieve that, I went on to continue my studies at Woodhouse College in North Finchley, regarded as one of the most successful sixth form colleges in England, where I achieved a 94% score in A-Level Theatre Studies.
When I was 17 going on 18, I was a boxer and actor at the same time, then I had a sparring session with a pro one day, and I was really sluggish and didn’t perform well because I had an acting job the day before and they had kept me there for 14 hours, so I had to decide between the two – either acting or boxing – I can’t do both. As boxing is a young man’s sport, I decided to put acting on the shelf and didn’t do another acting job for 10 years while I focused on my boxing career.”
Do you have a mentor?
“Yes, James Cosmo, who was recently in Game of Thrones. I actually first met him when I was sparring in Manny Pacquiao’s gym in LA. I sparred his son Ethan over 10 years ago now and we have remained friends ever since!
He kindly played the role of my dad in a film I co-wrote and co-produced, ‘Shadow Boxer’. When I originally asked him, he was due to be out of the country, but by a stroke of luck he became available and stepped in and I was so pleased.”
What character has been the most fun to play?
“Mason Mendoza from ‘Shadow Boxer’ because I was able to get back in the ring and have a pro fight for the cameras in front of crowds just like I was fighting again, and also because I got to show my skills as a boxer, so that was fun to play.
Because of it being so big, ‘Primetime’ from ‘The Gentleman’ was such a cool character to play. I’m in this amazing Guy Ritchie film and I just had a lot of fun with the character.
Guy Ritchie was so great to work with, he leaves it to you how to play the role, he’ll tell you what he wants but most of the time its up to you how you play it, because he doesn’t necessarily micro-manage his actors and will only pull it up if it’s not right.”
What character has been the most challenging to play?
“I think playing Tony Sparks in ‘Card Dead’ was probably the most challenging because the character was such a way off from who I am in real life. So I had to really think about just why this character is such a nasty guy; the swearing, the abuse, the violence. I’m an actor so I can play the roles, but I needed good motivation as to why he was the way he was, so I researched and came to a conclusion why, because there had to have a reason for him being like that.”
What makes a good scene partner?
“When you rift off each other, you understand where you’re going together. Everything as an actor is a collaboration, you need to work with each other, you need people that go where you want to go.
Some can want to be a scene stealer, but others will work with you, they’re on board, and that’s someone I like to work with. Me and Steve Aaron-Sipple had a scene together in ‘Card Dead’ where we’re in the toilets and I threaten to beat him up and he knew he had got under my skin, but it worked out so well because of our chemistry and it was just a good chance for us build the scene together.”
What do you usually do during filming breaks on set?
“Usually I like a bit of a joke on set depending on what type of set it is, of course! Generally, you talk to each other, get to know your fellow actors, and I like to keep the morale up.
Working with colin Farrell, it took 40 minutes to set up the lighting, so I used the time to learn quite a lot from him. Obviously, it’s also a good chance to go over any lines and adjust to what’s next.”
Which actor you have worked with has taught you the most?
“On the business side of acting and how to make it in the industry, it’s definitely Colin Farrell. When you talk directly to someone about how they made it, especially a guy at the top, it’s great and, say you want to learn how to be a boxer and you get chance to speak one on one to a world champion, if you get that chance to ask questions to one of the top actors in the world, then you take it.
James Cosmo is an amazing mentor to me, whenever I come up to a crossroads in my life or a big decision, he has been able to answer me when I have had no idea what to do. If I needed to make a choice on something and I was worrying about it, he just tells me ‘don’t stress about it, this is what I would do if I was you’, and it’s just great to hear that and takes away the fear.”
Have any of the roles you’ve played ever affected you personally long after filming has finished?
“Yeah, it would be Mason Mendoza, definitely, because it was pulled from inspiration in my life that left with me those feelings. It was a story based on personal experiences and anxieties I felt.
I do make myself feel what the character is feeling, so it stayed with me the rest of the evening after we filmed it, and the next day because I was recalling, reliving all those old feelings.
I feel proud that I can conjure up those emotions and use them in my acting, which is pretty much what acting is – telling the truth about the character – so if it comes from within then it’s the truth. You are only that character for a certain amount of time, so I am able to return to reality eventually.”
What medium to enjoy the most?
“That’s a tricky one, because it depends. I love theatre, I love a musical, my favourite is Les Miserable. I love a good TV series where I’m really involved in the character for a longer time. I just like everything there is to offer!”
What was challenging about bringing the Shadow Boxer script to life?
“The challenging part was to get it exactly how I wanted it to come across – the feelings I had, the message of what that boxer – me – went through.
It wasn’t literal, so we wanted to come up with an interesting way to keep people involved in the story and put the message across.
I wrote the story, but I had never met Craig MacDonald Kelly before, who wrote the screenplay, but I needed to trust him with my story, because it was mine and personal to me, but to be fair, as soon as I read the first draft I was so happy with it.”
What sort of person would enjoy watching this film?
“Not necessarily someone depressed or down, but someone who wants to see someone who isn’t perfect, they may achieve but still aren’t happy, because it’s something else they’re trying to get. It isn’t always achievement and materialistic things, it’s about self-development, and people that need to be inspired by themselves, not things.”
Are you looking to write/co-produce more films in the future?
“Definitely, 100 per cent, I would like to do more projects like this. When you’re in charge, you get to make those major decisions. I cast Humzah Awan and James Cosmo, who played my opponent and his coach, who was also my on-screen dad. Also, the directing of the actual fight, so I directed all the choreography because, naturally, I’m the fighter.
Sometimes, when you’re working on a project and you think something isn’t working, but you’re told to go with it still; well, when it’s your film it changes because you get to say what does or doesn’t go, you’re your own boss, so you get to make it exactly how you pictured it.
Although it was collaboration between Ross McGowan as director; Craig MacDonald Kelly as the writer, actor, and co-producer – they’re both part of Deadline Films UK – and David Hepburn who was an actor and co-producer too.
The full script for the feature film version is done and we’re ready to get investors now that we’ve written the whole story.”
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
“Jon Bernthal, he’s guy who plays ‘The Punisher’, he’s a wicked actor so he would be good.”
If you had a magic wand, which role would you give yourself next?
“I would love to be in the Lord of the Rings TV show that’s coming out soon on Amazon. I’d like to play someone like Legolas, I do like him but just don’t think I’m dainty enough to play an elf! So it would have to be someone like Aragorn or a soldier.
My ultimate dream role would be a Marvel superhero.”
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