The Oscar-nominated 12 Years a Slave star recalls an inspirational teacher
Ed Wilson had a massive impact on my life.
He ran the National Youth Theatre from 1987 to 2004. He had such passion. So many of us back then at the theatre – Daniel Craig, Matt Lucas, David Walliams – worked with Ed. He was a major influence on my life, my artistic pursuits, not only in theatre but my life around it, too.
He was an inspirational person with an extraordinary belief in young people.
He oversaw Julius Caesar when I was 16, and we did Othello when I was 19. He was somebody who had an idea that young people shouldn’t be patronised, but encouraged and allowed self-determination. I remember at 16, on our first day, he asked us all to look round and said, “There are several people in this room you’ll know for the rest of your life.” It was very true.
There was one moment with Ed that really stands out…
When we were rehearsing Othello, Ed had [recently] lost his partner to cancer, and he was talking about an emotional monologue where Othello is talking to Desdemona about betrayal. It became quite clear he was talking about the responsibility of life and loss through Shakespeare, how Shakespeare’s interpreting that. There was a sense you were being treated as an emotional and intellectual equal.
Ed is someone that all of his students miss.
I was [at the National Youth Theatre] for three summers before going to drama school at 19. I kept in contact with Ed until he died in 2008. He always came to see the shows I did. There was a sense of being part of a wider artistic community and tradition, which was empowering and exciting.
He still inspires me, and he always will.
He was very formidable, impassioned and engaging – an extraordinary person to have met and worked with.
See Ejiofor in a short film to promote The Venture (Theventure.com), a competition for social entrepreneurs launched by Chivas with a $1m prize fund