You see things in a new light, I think it happens to everyone – you realise this doesn’t last forever.

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After saving up money to move to New York, small theatre productions turned into larger roles, such as the lead in an off-Broadway show called Murder In the First, for which he received rave reviews and today, Burnet has appeared in a number of films, including Two Jacks alongside Sienna Miller, and Mortdecai with Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan Mc Gregor; he also plays Casey Finney, in the Showtime series Ray Donovan.

Glass spoke to him about the transition from Hollyoaks to his work now, the difficult in-between years, and what has inspired him along the way. Photograph: Justin van Vliet So are you mainly based in LA now? it’s been very back and forth and I’m kind of based wherever the work is, in a nomadic way.

Well, there are a lot of us out there vying for the same positions and so I want to keep working hard at getting the next thing, there are a few film projects that I’m looking at.

I’m about to do a London-based film called Burn about a kid who’s just got out of prison and is trying to find his way, and after that I don’t know, whatever I can find.

I also went for a commercial audition for Orange [mobile phone] and booked that and the next day I was asked to go up to Liverpool, so I had to pay my own ticket up there to audition for Hollyoaks… I’d never experienced anything like it, I felt like an absolute outsider.

A couple of days later, I was visiting my dad and they rang up to say I got the part, I was just in shock. Photograph: Justin van Vliet What would you like to do next?

But I’ve found as I’ve got older and turned 30-31, even my face started changing a bit, maybe a bit rougher round the edges, like life has taken over and given you a little bit of a beating. I look back at years ago when I was doing television in England and I don’t even recognise myself …

So you don’t look quite so happy all the time and maybe that helps more diverse characters come in to play. Photograph: Justin van Vliet Do you feel as you get older you have more emotional depth to give to your characters? something happens where you let go, you kind of just accept ‘ok this is who I am now, and who I want to be, and this is who I used to be.’ Do you find that too?

I’ve been doing a show called Ray Donovan, which we’ve been shooting over here in LA and then in between that I’ve been off to do a film in Germany [The Have Nots] directed by Florian Hoffmeister, who’s just brilliant…it was a nice opportunity to jump from American television into a European art house film. At the end of the day you prepare as much as you can for any character …

the Ray Donovan thing is something I’ve enjoyed maybe more than anything I’ve done – doing a cable show as they call them that’s slightly more cinematic – it has a film quality to it but also the fast pace of TV drama … For the German film everyone was abundantly polite and very welcoming, it was very much a family atmosphere, with everyone working together to make it as good as it can be artistically, on a small budget.

In the years that followed, he says he went right back to the beginning of his trade, often questioning whether acting was something he could continue with.