Micheal Ward Talks ‘Empire of Light‘ and Working With Olivia Colman and Intimacy Coordinator to Create a ‘Dance’ on Set

Awards Circuit Podcast: Also on this episode, Danielle Deadwyler talks about playing an important historical figure in 'Till'

SAVANNAH, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 24: Micheal Ward attends The 25th SCAD Savannah Film Festival - Day 3 on October 24, 2022 in Savannah, Georgia. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SCAD)
Getty Images for SCAD

Empire of Light” star Micheal Ward wasn’t nervous about having to perform a romantic love scene with his Oscar-winning co-star Olivia Colman during filming. However, Ward, 24, says that Colman, 48 was very nervous. Believe it or not, Colman’s decades-long career has never had her sharing a kiss with a man on screen. The set’s intimacy coordinator helped make the two relaxed and properly prepare for the film’s crucial scene. “It was basically making it into a dance,” Ward says. “We had counts and things [blocking] like that. And it made everything a lot easier and chill. It was something that we both knew when we were reading the script. I just wanted to do Stephen justice, first and foremost, and allow Olivia to feel like she can fly as well.”

On this episode of the award-winning Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, we talk to Ward about working with Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes on his deeply personal “Empire of Light,” collaborating with cinematographer Roger Deakins and what’s next for the young actor.

Listen below:

When Ward first read the script for “Empire of Light,” star Olivia Colman and cinematographer Roger Deakins had already signed on. That made Ward want the role even more. It took several callbacks before he landed the role of Stephen, which he found out while shooting his upcoming film “The Beautiful Game” opposite Bill Nighy.

Written and directed by Mendes, “Empire of Light” is among this season’s divisive films. However, one of the agreed-upon highlights is the quality of the performances – notably Oscar winner Colman (“The Favourite”), veteran actor Toby Jones and breakout star Ward.

Ward delivers a standout performance as Stephen, a new movie theater employee who forms an unlikely bond with Hilary (Colman), a ticket taker when they find themselves employed at the same small-town cinema in the 1980s.

Ward might be unknown to many, but the Jamaican-born piqued the interests of audiences over the last two years with smaller roles such as Lykon in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Old Guard” (2020) and won the EE Rising Star Award at the BAFTAs the same year. But his most significant role came as Franklyn in the beautiful “Lovers Rock,” one of the five films from Steve McQueen’s Amazon Prime Video anthology series, “Small Axe.”

To see the ranked predictions for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub.

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman in “Empire of Light” (Searchlight Pictures) Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.

“Empire of Light” is distributed by Searchlight Pictures and is scheduled to open in theaters on Dec. 9.

Also on this episode, actress Danielle Deadwyler talks about her role in Chinonye Chukwu’s “Till,” finding inspiration for her performance through Mamie’s words and working alongside her beloved team of actors including Whoopi Goldberg.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, who also co-hosts with Clayton Davis, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.