Actor Alexander Lincoln on gay rugby film In From the Side: '70% of the cast were of the community'

Exclusive: Rising star on toxic masculinity, training with inclusive rugby clubs and his own rugby-playing past


Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: Provided

Pre-pandemic life is a distant, hazy memory for most of us. Imagine, then, the strangeness of being an actor and seeing a film you made in the year 2019 for the very first time.

That's the treat in store for Alexander Lincoln, whose new movie In From the Side, examining the lives of gay rugby players on and off the pitch, is screening at this month's BFI Flare: London LGBTQI+ Film Festival on 26 and 27 March before a wide release later this year. Alexander and the rest of the majority LGBTQ cast will attend a private screening together next week.

"I've actually only seen little clips of it from when we were doing the ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement] session 18 months ago!" says the 28-year-old, who played Emmerdale's Jamie Tate from 2019-2021.

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"I'm excited but nervous! Obviously you're always growing and evolving as a performer. Then you see a project from a long time ago and you're like: 'Oh, that's interesting - I took that choice rather than this one.' Not that one's better than the other - but it's about perspective."

Alexander says director Matt Carter, who's also created the film's score, has spent a long time "getting it as perfect as it needs to be," adding that movies can be "clouded by people having a creative say on every single level."

"But when you've got someone with such a clear vision, as Matt does, and taking as long as he needs to finish the film as he wants it, it's an incredible feat," he explains.

"I played rugby a lot growing up"

Alexander - also starring in the BBC's upcoming TV adaption of author Dolly Alderton's book Everything I Know About Love - describes IFTS as set in "a hyper-masculine environment. It follows Mark, a player, and Warren, who joins his squad, and their secretive and sordid affair and how that impacts them, their relationships and the other characters."

Here, the rising star reveals all about his own rugby-playing past ("it brought back euphoric memories around camaraderie") and his belief that sexuality is on a spectrum.

Hi Alex! Do you have a background in rugby?

I played a lot growing up. It was fun but nerve-wracking getting back into it... The skill-set was there, but I wasn't very good!

Did you play with any LGBTQ players back then?

I've got friends who have [since] come out, so I suppose, yes. At the time, no. Rugby has massively changed, with people like Gareth Thomas and the referee Nigel Owens coming out.

Is there any of you in the character?

The choices that my character Mark makes... he knows this affair is wrong, morally, but believes his being a good person justifies that. He's self-destructive in it, and puts his own lust before the feelings of those around him. I think we can all relate to that. I know I do, whether it's wanting to see a certain person, or eat a whole packet of biscuits! In moments, you follow your lust, and deal with the fallout afterwards. We're only human after all. So, I suppose, yes - but not in the affair!

Tell us about your character's love interest...

Alexander King [below, top-right] plays Warren, a hyper-masculine dominant force. He's a lot bigger and more muscular than Mark, my character. The attraction for Mark is Warren's bravado. Mark is more sensitive in comparison.

What's your view on non-LGBTQ actors playing LGBTQ roles?

It's an interesting one. My view has always been of sexuality as a spectrum, and I’ve felt most in tune with myself when I’ve not prescribed any labels to it. For me, sexual attraction has always been more to do with the person than their gender.

So for me, personally, I think that if people can relate to the idea of being an outcast, in a way, or not feeling like they belong to a community, it's very much the same. Acting's all about being able to research and relate to the character you're playing. I'm playing a character at the moment [in my current project] where I'm a posh wanker with a gun and a trust fund. I am from Surrey I suppose... but that's not me! I feel that it depends on what the director or producer ultimately want and whether the sexuality of that character is entirely what that character's about - like, whether your sexuality entirely defines you as a person, which I don't think it necessarily should. That's my take on it.

That said, was there a big LGBTQ presence among the cast?

There was! I won't name names, but I'd say about 70% of the cast were of the community. Some weren't, but we had these really open discussions about sexuality, and again, this sliding scale of it. Some guys were bisexual, some were gay, some straight - it was a melting pot of different experiences, and no judgement.

Did you reach out to any LGBTQ rugby clubs for research?

The director Matt has been involved in inclusive rugby for a number of years and members from many clubs he knows helped out as extras on the shoot. We trained with them and had conversations around the bar. It was lovely to speak to them. We talked about why they moved from non-LGBTQ rugby clubs, and how the bravado melts away a little bit. Don't get me wrong, it's still rugby: a physical, difficult game. 

Did you seek any advice from your old Emmerdale co-stars Max Parker and Kris Mochrie?

I know them very well I think I did speak to Max about it; we had a few conversations about him playing LGBTQ characters in the past, that kind of thing.

What are you filming at the moment?

It's this thriller action film, which we're shooting at this massive stately home in Herefordshire. It's an ensemble cast and my character's the comedy relief, which I haven't done before. I'm excited!

In From the Side plays at the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival on 25 and 26 March 2022. Coming to UK cinemas on 16 September.