Most of the time Gabe is in extremis, either on the verge of a panic attack or in the middle of one. De Caestecker is also in virtually every scene. They filmed for 10 weeks: he was exhausted, which took its toll. “I don’t like to talk about acting too much, because there are much more difficult jobs, like working in a real-life control room,” he says. “But sometimes, when you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you do start to take on some of those anxieties.
“It did actually catch up with me. While you’re filming, I think your body knows to hang on tight, but I remember a couple of weeks after we finished, I had quite an anxious episode. I had to go and talk to someone about it. I’d never had to do that before.”
So what compelled him to do it? Exactly that; it was compelling. The script was a page-turner. He was invested in Gabe immediately. The stakes kept rising. “But you don’t realise sometimes how those things creep into you when you’re acting. So, it isn’t fun to do it, I would say. It would be much nicer to be filming sitting on the beach having a nice chat.” Since making The Control Room, he has been asking his agent for anything that would involve being on a beach. No dice so far, he says wistfully.
De Caestecker started acting a child. He shared a room with an older brother who taped entirely unsuitable films off the television after their bedtime to watch later. “I think I watched Goodfellas when I was eight. I had nightmares and stuff but, through my brother, I developed an excellent taste in movies. And we always enjoyed acting. We would devise plays and when my mother came home from work we would make her come upstairs and watch. I suppose a lot of people did that, but we never stopped.”
He also went to drama classes outside school. It was at one of those classes that he was spotted and cast in a short film when he was eight. He knew from that moment what he wanted to do. His brother used to work on film sets, but runs a bed and breakfast now. “And very happy doing it.” Their parents are both doctors. The family is supportive, but doesn’t watch everything he does.