Maverick Spirit Award: Tom Cullen

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The penetrating brown eyes, pitch-black hair, and rugged good looks belie the depth of actor Tom Cullen’s talent and versatility. Be it the conflicted, gay lover Russell in Weekend, the suave Anthony Foyle (aka Viscount Gillingham), desperately pursuing Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey, or the courageous Holy Grail-chasing Landry du Lauzon in his current series Knightfall, Cullen always seems to find the truth in each of his characters and imbues them with a riveting, vibrant honesty. He slips so completely into roles that one can’t be sure if it’s the same actor. Nevertheless, there is little doubt about Cullen’s ability to draw audiences into whatever worlds his characters inhabit.

The son of an Irish father and English mother (both writers), Cullen was born in Aberstwyth, Wales. In his formative years, he was deeply interested in music, but switched to acting during his studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, from which he graduated with honors. His film career began early, while still in college, with a part in the BAFTA-Wales Best Film nominated Daddy’s Girl. His breakout role came a few years later, in 2011, playing a gay Nottingham lifeguard in the powerful romance, Weekend. Cullen’s performance garnered increased recognition, as well as the Most Promising Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards.

2011 proved to be a lucky year for the young actor. Filmmakers were starting to take note and more roles came Cullen’s way, such as Britain’s Channel 4 mini-series World Without End. It was while filming End that Cullen met fellow Cinequest 2018 honoree Tatiana Maslany. They fell in love and have been a couple ever since, appearing together in films (the acclaimed Canadian indie The Other Half) and TV, including an episode of Maslany’s hit series Orphan Black.

But like Maslany, Cullen isn’t blinded by the stars in his eyes. He remains a committed artist and continues to hone his craft, also stoking his creative fires with writing and directing projects. At 32, Cullen has solidly established himself as one of film’s most magnetic actors. Now that audiences have begun to discover and appreciate his work, they understandably can’t wait to see what he’ll take on next. – P.D. Crane

Event includes a moderated conversation with Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen, award presentation, and expanded conversation on their new film Souls of Totality

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