By
Jonathan Shia
Photography by
Stefani Pappas
Styling by
Sonny Groo

Grooming by Kumi Craig at Starworks Artists. Stylist’s assistant: Amanda Kyme.

Nicholas Galitzine Shifts from Rugby Player to Leading Man


Anyone well-versed in teen dramas will recognize the basic brushstrokes that define Elliott LeFevre, the brooding bad boy on the new Netflix show Chambers. He is sullen and sarcastic, moody and mercurial, the coddled son of a wealthy family that suffers excruciating tragedy. He is heedless and reckless, but, of course, just charming enough to get away with it. As played by Nicholas Galitzine, however, Elliott becomes something much more evocative than the average high school antihero, a drug addict from a shattered home struggling with loss and questions of identity after the death of his sister. Over the course of its first season, Chambers blossoms in surprising and provocative ways as well, blending domestic conflicts with existential fears and supernatural twists to form a vibrantly idiosyncratic result. “It’s very hard to place Chambers in a genre,” Galitzine offers. “People are going to naturally say, ‘YA horror,’ but I don’t think of it as conventional horror. It’s more eerie and claustrophobic. The tone is definitely something that I think people are either going to love or hate, to be honest. I guess that’s a good thing.”

What brings the two central families of Chambers together is a shared heart, transplanted from the body of Elliott’s deceased twin sister Becky into that of Sasha, played by newcomer Sivan Alyra Rose, who undergoes a near-death experience while having sex with her boyfriend. The two teenage girls are separated by only a few dozen miles of Arizona desert, but their lives are worlds apart: Sasha shares a dilapidated home with her uncle, who runs a pet store, while Becky lives in a sprawling minimalist compound with her parents and Elliott in the upper-middle-class haven of Crystal Valley. Sasha transfers to Becky’s old school as the LeFevres attempt to bring her deeper into their lives as a way of keeping their daughter’s heart—and, as becomes increasingly clear, some remnant of her soul—close and Elliott becomes a guide of sorts to her strange new surroundings. As Sasha begins to have unnerving visions, the LeFevres, who subscribe to an occult form of mysticism, are only too ready to believe that Becky continues to exist somewhere inside her.

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Chambers marks Galitzine’s first major role on a television series and offered, he says, a unique set of challenges as the first time he signed on for a character without knowing where he was headed. “We got episodes as we went, which I think is nice actually from an acting perspective because you don’t play with anything too early on that doesn’t yet exist,” he explains, an important safeguard for a show that offers as many surprises as Chambers does. Over the course of ten episodes, his Elliott grows deeper and more complicated, emotionally richer but also more tragic as events unfold. For Galitzine, that evolution and development are what keeps the show grounded, with revelations that are as much psychological as they are dramatic. “It has the appeal of making you sympathize for certain characters and then in certain cases turning that on its head,” he elaborates. “Who you thought were the ones that you could trust and rely on are not always that way. From the first episode to the tenth episode, your disposition towards certain characters changes quite a lot.”

Galitzine’s own life could be said to contain some twists nearly as surprising as the ones on Chambers. The 24-year-old grew up in London playing rugby and hanging out with what he calls the “sporting crowd” at the all-boys school he attended and hadn’t even thought about acting until he auditioned for a play some of his friends were acting in that was headed for the Edinburgh Film Festival in the hopes of getting closer to a girl he liked. “I was very gun shy at first because the idea of performing just terrified me,” he recalls. “I was always a bit of an introvert and a shy kid so the idea of performing was terrifying, but I had just graduated school and it was a fun summer holiday plan, so I auditioned for it.” He had cold feet until the moment he stepped into the audition room. “Hilariously, my dad will never let me live this down, but I was outside the theater and I called him up like, ‘What the fuck am I doing here? I’m not an actor, I’ve never done this before, this is silly, I should come home,’” he recalls. “He convinced me that it would be a fun, new experience at the very least and I’d probably regret it if I didn’t do it.”

T-shirt by FRAME.

As is so often the case, his father was right. Galitzine landed the part, headed up to Scotland, and was scouted by an English agency during the run. “Suddenly it was, ‘Do you want to be an actor as a job?’ which was never even an option. I would never have even considered it,” he recalls. “It felt very strange. It was such a particular feeling that I remember so distinctly even what room I was in in the house when the idea of becoming an actor was suddenly presented in my mind for the first time.”

Back in London, Galitzine started to come to terms with his decision, which worried his parents, both of whom worked in finance. “I’m sure they were so pleased after paying for an education for me that I was pursuing the road of an unemployed, broke actor,” he laughs. He managed the win the first role he ever auditioned for, an aspiring teenage musician seeking mentorship from a faded rock star played by Luke Perry in The Beat Beneath My Feet. “No way was I expecting to get it. When they called me back a day later and said I was going to be the lead in a film, it was nauseating,” he recalls. “I had to go for a walk in the park. I remember sitting on a bench being like, ‘Oh now I’ve really stuck my foot in it.’” The next year, he traded his guitar for a violin in the romantic comedy High Strung, about the budding relationship between a ballerina and a subway busker. He candidly admits that those first films were “even at the time, not what I wanted to be doing creatively,” but he says playing the lead in two films in a row gave him the confidence he needed to start taking himself more seriously as an actor, which proved useful for his next project, Handsome Devil.

Coat by Valentino. T-shirt by FRAME.

Detailing the unlikely relationship between the rugby star Conor and an introverted loner played by Fionn O’Shea at an all-boys boarding school, Handsome Devil was a breakout for both its young leads, allowing Galitzine to showcase his abilities in a more consequential light as a gay teenager dealing with homophobia and bullying. He says he was able to pull from his own experiences as an insecure and creative student who was interested in music and architecture at a school that emphasized athletics, although he emphasizes that of course, the situations are not comparable. “I had this jarring feeling of doing something that I did really love, but that progressively got more claustrophobic to me,” he says about playing rugby and football throughout his youth. “There is a whole culture that comes with being a young male sportsman of misogyny and bigotry and on the other hand, I was a sensitive, emotional kid who had a lot of other ideas. It was definitely something really interesting I could draw on.”

His next film, Share, offers him another opportunity to dissect the issue of toxic masculinity, although now playing, along with Charlie Plummer, the perpetrator rather than the victim. In Pippa Bianco’s directorial début, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year and will screen at Cannes later this month before airing on HBO this summer, Rhianne Barreto plays Mandy, a sixteen-year-old who awakens from a blackout on her front lawn after a night of partying and discovers that a video of her being sexually assaulted is being circulated among her schoolmates. Galitzine’s AJ is the one behind the attack but, in the age of revenge porn and #MeToo, the film is careful to tease out the situation’s ambiguity. “It’s a really important story that I think we in particular as young white males need to familiarize ourselves with,” he says, “what is appropriate and what is the right way that young women should be treated.” He points to the organization It’s On Us, which encourages bystanders and especially men to intervene against sexual violence and harassment, as an important catalyst for accountability which he sees as sorely needed. “I definitely wanted to be a part of something that had something to say about sexual assault,” he adds, “and hopefully can be educational to other young men.”

T-shirt by FRAME. Earring, talent's own.

As he takes on increasingly complex roles, Galitzine easily admits that he is still learning as he goes. Having recently moved to Los Angeles—where he says his Greek half appreciates the seaside lifestyle after years of dreary London weather—he is fully committing to a career that seemed impossible to imagine just a few years ago. Every job is, he says, an opportunity for him to discover something new about himself, complicated and confusing as it might be. Even playing the villain, as he does in Share, proved revelatory. “Even while we were filming we both felt this sense of guilt that we were playing characters who both potentially had a hand in something really nefarious,” he says of himself and Plummer. “We came to the conclusion that it’s very rare that you find someone who is all bad. We still believe good people can do really, really bad things. As an actor, I have to play it as though that’s what I believe. It’s definitely thought-provoking to think of it like that. Not in any way to minimize the struggles that the young female lead goes through at all, but from my perspective that was certainly an intriguing thing to play with.”

Chambers is now streaming on Netflix. Share is out on HBO this summer.

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By
Jonathan Shia
Photography by
Stefani Pappas
Styling by
Sonny Groo

Grooming by Kumi Craig at Starworks Artists. Stylist’s assistant: Amanda Kyme.

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