Solly McLeod was not a scholar of 18th-century writer Henry Fielding before he landed the title role in Mammoth Screen/PBS/ITV’s prestige miniseries Tom Jones, to be launched later in 2022.

He thought he might be auditioning instead for a biopic of the Welsh singer, and jokes, “I was worried because I didn’t know his music that well.”

Once he got the script it all fell into place to audition for Tom, a young man on a complicated quest for love in the 1700s. “I learned from playing Tom how to be more open and enjoy the little things, like picking flowers on the side of the road,” says McLeod. “He has an innocence so I tried to bring that from my younger self.”

McLeod, 22, grew up in Orkney before moving to London at age 10. He was working in café and bar jobs when he decided to join London’s “brilliant” The Unseen acting school just before lockdown. The school’s online showcase landed him an agent and his career has taken off quickly. Starting in April 2021, McLeod shot four projects back-to-back with only one day to reset between each job.

In Sky’s The Rising, he plays the boyfriend of a young woman who has been killed, and who has a complex relationship with his father. McLeod identified with his character as “he struggles with knowing how to get through his emotions”. On playing a knight in HBO’s Game Of Thrones prequel fantasy series House Of The Dragon, he says “there were probably 1,000 people on set the first day I shot, with five or six cameras in my face. Just being part of a production like that was an experience in itself.”

From there, he moved to Belfast to film Tom Jones for three months followed by a Kosovo shoot for Will Gilbey’s indie survival thriller Jericho Ridge, in which he plays a police officer in Washington State. “That was fun. He’s the funny comic-relief character in a quite dark, violent film at some points.” McLeod’s latest project is Andy and Ryan Tohill’s Scotland-set Beach Boys, about partying youths staking their claim over a beach.

He admires the varied careers of Stephen Graham, Tom Hardy, George MacKay and Jodie Comer. “I would love to keep exploring. I’ll try everything until I find something that I’m like, ‘I can’t do that.’ That hasn’t happened yet.”

Contact: Roger Charteris & Harley Morton-Grant, The Artists Partnership