|On Acting and Theatrical
|Elsa F. asks: If you
could play any character in literature, right now, in a quality
production, who would it be?
|I've just read a
draft of a new play by Steven Berkoff, as yet unproduced,
called The Secret Love Life Of Ophelia. It's in the
form of love letters between Ophelia and
Hamlet that begin just before her arrival at Elsinore and
continue, off-stage so to speak, throughout the whole timescale of
Shakespeare's story. They decide between them that
they should conceal their passionate affair
from their families, even if it means Hamlet pretending
he can't stand the sight of her. Needless to say, things don't
go entirely according to plan and someone ends up
getting drowned. Great stuff, though. Very
sexy. Hope he let's me play The Dane.
Who else? I'd love to play
the Wraysford character in Sebastian Faulks's novel
Birdsong, for reasons which shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me.
Or the poet Hart Crane. Or the poet Sergei Esenin. Or
that decadent in A Rebours. Or what about the
fella in the Song Of Solomon. Now you're talking.
|Mary Ellen asks:
I've wondered for some time if there's any way you could describe
what goes thru your mind when you're deciding whether or not to take
|Since starting out
(twenty years ago this week, believe it or not) my reasons for
taking or declining a part haven't changed much. Leaving aside the
money jobs---the ones I can't turn down even though I should---I
tend to choose quite simply. Is it well written? Will I be able to
enjoy it? Am I sure I'm not repeating myself, something I've done
before? Will it stretch me enough that I might learn something? Who
am I working with? Do I admire them? Will we get on? Where will we
do it? How long will I be away from home? That sort of thing. It's
only when one looks back it all resembles a career with career
moves. It rarely feels like that at all.
|Lynn E. asks: Is
there an actor or actress you have not worked with that you would
like to star opposite?
What genre of film would you want to do with that actor/actress?
often find the best actors to work with are the good ones just
starting out. The
ones with little attitude and no fear, who haven't yet acquired the
tricks that come with a reputation. If I had to choose a star
actor to work alongside it would be somebody like the brilliant
Robert Downey Jr, who always looks, for one reason or another, like
he's just starting
out. Perhaps we could play brothers, then I could pretend I wasn't
|Katie (age 9) asks: What
made you start acting?
loved being in the plays we did at school, even though I was quite
shy. It didn't matter whether they were funny or sad, so long as
they were good stories. I could also sing a bit, and being a small
and rather pretty boy I played girls too (we didn't have any at our
school). This was OK, unless it was a romantic play and I had to
kiss one of my mates. I think this gained me as much respect as if
I'd captained the football team, and even the school bully shook my
hand. Years later, the teacher that directed the plays persuaded me
that I should travel to London and become a professional actor. So
it's all his fault, and I'm glad I listened to him.
|Judi G. asks: if you
could have had another vocation besides acting, what would it have
been and why?
school I was a talented track and field athlete, and used to dream
of going to the Olympic Games. At about eighteen I realised that my
new fascinations with wine, women and song didn't quite tally with
the dedication required, so I ended up an actor. But sport was then,
and still is, a real love, and I think that's what I'd have tried to
|Denise R. asks: I
think your audio readings are some of your best work-and I was
curious about the whole process. Could you tell us what a recording
day is like?
book days are sometimes exhilarating, and always exhausting. Quite
simply, it's just you, sat at a desk with a lamp and a microphone
for perhaps seven hours, playing all the parts. In the next room,
usually visible through a window, are the producer and the engineer.
You start, you stop, you start again. You break for lunch. You keep
going till the end, then they call you a cab. I've always liked
doing it. As well as being another skill to grapple with, it's
something akin to pure story telling.
|Estelle M. asks: I
recently saw Hotel and wondered if the cast had a good time making
this little movie.
There's a special place in my heart (deep in the cockles as Denis
Leary would say) for funny silly things like this flick which suited
my mood at the time.
can tell you, though the cast of Hotel made the best of the three
weeks we were together, we did succumb to that creeping terror
unique to performing comedy. Particularly bad comedy.
|Michele S. asks: What's
the next big project you're working on? I'm waiting with bated
wishing to tempt fate, as it's not a done deal, I'm think I'm about
to sign for a two-part film for BBC Television. It's the story of a
university professor who, as a side-line, arranges elaborate
revenges for people who feel they've been slighted. No title as yet,
but watch this space.
|Annie M. asks:
Somewhere or other a production of Willie Russell's John, Paul,
George, Ringo & Bert was listed at Basingstoke in 1982. Is it so
and, if so, what part did you play and roughly which dates did the
John Paul George was during my first professional stint,
for which I received not only the union basic of
eighty-five pounds a week, but, more
significantly, a union membership card, which would mean one less
shop I'd find closed.
The show ran in the spring of 1981, May into
June, at the Horseshoe Theatre.
I played George Harrison, who, in the play, as in The Beatles, had
very little to say. Instead, I did lots of listening,
while well meaning southern colleagues
strangled my mother tongue. Can't remember much else of significance.
Oh, yes, I fell in love with the assistant stage manager and ended
up marrying her.
|On Doctor Who
|Tom K. asks a
classic question (soon to be found in the FAQ): This
is going to seem like a really, really lame and boring question... I
promise not to ask such a lame one ever again, but in asking I hope
to be able to settle a long-running argument within Doctor Who
a costumer, it's one of those things that's been bugging me...What
colour was the Doctor's frock coat in the TV Movie, and did you
*cough* 'acquire' it after production? (like half the set of
dear, I realise that whatever I say becomes sort of official, and
I'm afraid I'm not sure either!
And no, I didn't acquire it at the end, mainly because they
rather hoped we'd be using it again soon after. As a costumier
you'll no doubt appreciate that one has to be accurate when
describing such things, so I'm not going to fob you off. And if, by
any chance, Philip Segal gets to read this: Phil, could you please
take a look at the wardrobe sheet if you still keep it, and settle
this matter once and for all!
F. asks: When you were playing the Doctor on the Big Finish audios,
did you find yourself conceptualizing the character any differently
than when you played him originally? Is there any difference in the
way you approach an audio role?
as it sounds, film characterisation is about a look, while radio
playing is all in the voice. As a film actor I've always enjoyed
suggesting ambiguities in a character, as I believe it keeps an
audience guessing and, therefore, interested. And it's surprising
what you can achieve by doing very little. I think The Doctor loves
joy but is prone to melancholy, is adventurous but sometimes wants
for confidence, reveres peace but harbours anger. On film I might
try to suggest these things; in audio I'd have to talk about them.
That's not to say radio isn't without its advantages, of course.
Freed from a screen, a listener's imagination can create a set as
wide as a universe.
|Kate Orman asks: A
number of people have told me that you've read some of the
"Doctor Who" novels. I've co-written some of the Who books
with my husband, Jon Blum, so I was very curious to
find out if you had found time to glance at any of them!
think I've read two or three of the novels---for the BBC---but not
for a few years. What I've tended to do lately are audio plays made
under licence for CD release. Sure, I've glanced at a few of the
books in my time, possibly even one of yours. There's a great shop
near me called Area 51 which I know stocks them all. I'll look out
for one of yours and let you know. Maybe I could fulfill another
ambition and pen a review!
|Kate S. asks: I
admire your acting greatly and am particularly impressed that you
are willing to take the time to answer the questions of fans. I'm
interested in what inspires you to interact with the masses. By the
way, were you disappointed that your version of Dr Who was so
short-lived? I know I was.
very kind. I have to say I'm no natural when it comes to interacting
with the masses, particularly when it involves sharing a room. This
kind of interaction, though, suits me better and seems like fun.
It's what the web was invented for. Yes, I was disappointed that my
tenure as The Doctor was short lived. We had some good plans for
|David F. asks: I
cannot describe how much I enjoyed hearing you as the Doctor again
in the Big Finish audios. You have made a lot of fans very happy
(especially me as you are my favourite Doctor). Any chance that one
day you will do a convention or a signing anywhere?
of my being knocked from my horse in a blinding light while hearing
a voice telling me to go a convention, I can't quite see it
happening, I'm afraid.
|Jo W. asks: What
sort of music do you listen to? Do you have any favourite
musical tastes are pretty broad. When I make tapes for the car,
friends usually laugh at the combinations I come up with. If I made
one of current favourites it might include, say, Curtis Mayfield,
Limpbizkit, Bill Evans, Polly Harvey, Glenn Gould, Stockhausen,
Thomas Tallis, Eat Static, and Lefty Frizell. In a week it'd all be
different. My hero is John Lennon. Billie Holiday had the voice of
the century. Jeff Buckley is the saddest loss.
|Estelle M. asks: In
the Monocled Mutineer you play the piano a bit and in Paper Mask you
strum the banjo. What
instruments do you play and what kind of music do you like to play?
Do you have a band?
and my brothers often played and sang in groups. In Liverpool it was
football or music, or both. We learned guitar early--country
style--it was a cowboy town. I still play OK, though not as well as
Mark does. At RADA there were pianos in all the rooms, so I taught
myself to play a little. More recently, I've turned roadie for my
twelve year old son's group, sometimes having to play bass as well,
as none of them is big enough to manage one yet. Also, for the last
couple of years I've been taking him to drumming lessons and, rather
than sit and wait for him, I've been having lessons too. You should
hear my Bernard Purdie shuffle!
|Cathy W. asks: I've
heard that you are a WWI buff.
What is it about WWI that interests you?
hard to say what gives us an affinity with an event or an era from
before we were born. Both of my grandfathers served in that war, but
there's more to it than that for me. To live here in England is to
live in a country still feeling its effects. When the great
volunteer army first saw action at the Somme it wasn't just the
blackest day in British military history, but a catastrophe that
would alter the very social make-up of the nation. And in Picardy,
even now, some farmers till their fields by wire, such are the
dangers still remaining from what they call the Iron Harvest. It
|Steph asks: What
was your favourite book/series of books when you were growing up?
don't recall any Harry Potter type hit, or some must-have series.
The American moon shots during our childhood meant that most of us
had a taste for books on space and the universe. Later, that meant
science fiction yarns and those specious theory books like Chariots
Of The Gods---all about how aliens built the pyramids. Also, my
mother was constantly reading to us as children; lots of Shakespeare
and narrative verse. I think it gave us an early taste for poetry
and drama. By secondary school, the popular hits like The Hobbit and
Lord Of The Rings didn't do much for me, as I preferred stories
about humans. I remember at twelve or thirteen reading Dorian Gray
and loving it, also Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and some Edgar Allan
Poe. Catholic tastes, no doubt.
|Caz asks: What
was it like spending Christmas in Nepal? I imagine it was very quiet
quiet and relaxing up in the hills. Mad as hell down in the
|Annie M. asks: I've
always wondered whether it's more than coincidence - Sebastian
Blenehassett's uniform in Monocled Muntineer and Mrs Blenehassett's
("Call the police, Mabs!") cakes and ale in Withnail. Just
serendipity or did someone REALLY like that name?
never noticed that! I think we should pretend that they're related.
Old Mabs is, in fact, poor Sebastian's younger sister.
|Estelle M. asks: What's
your middle name?
middle name is John, after Pope John XXIII, 'the Beloved'. Or so I'm
|Estelle M. asks: I
was just wondering whether you had any questions you might like to
ask us the fans. Hopefully
you won't provide a William Shatner -like (Star Trek's Captain Kirk)
admonishment to "Get a Life."
questions at present; though that's not to say I won't be setting
you all an exam before the summer holidays.
|Andie asks: Do
you have any plans to come to America anytime soon? If so, where? If
not, where would like to go?
plans to go to America soon, but I'm always thinking I'd like to. I
miss seeing my friends there, for one. Perhaps I'm due another stint
of hanging out in California, pretending to be looking for work.
|Susan B. asks: So,
who's going to win the Cup?
FA Cup final will finish Arsenal 0, Liverpool 1. So there.
Paul xx (the beloved)