Happy maniversary to you, too. We met all those years ago when my hair was my own! How I got started???? Cutting a long story short I did not come from a theatrical background. My father worked at an oil refinery and my mother was a housewife. In fact, my father could barely read or write. From a very early age I indulged in amateur theatricals and school plays but I always wanted to work as an actor. At the age of 18 I gained a place at Birmingham University reading drama but after one year I realised I wanted a training as an actor not an education in theatre and so I gained a place at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and spent two years there before graduating and moving into professional employment as an actor and Director.
All of my directorial jobs were exciting and challenging, be it as the Associate Director at the Old Vic in London, as an Associate Director at the Chichester Festival Theatre or as Artistic Director of Compass Theatre Company in Denver as well as directing "Antony and Cleopatra" and "The Taming of the Shrew" in London's West End. They brought with them highs and lows but I cannot single out one position that brought me most satisfaction. The hardest role I played was Vincent Van Gogh in my one man show "A Certain Vincent." Hard because in a one man show you are out there on your own and it is impossible to hide! As for awards, I am not fond of them. I have been the recipient of "Best New Theatre Company" and "Best Classical Production" (Cyrano de Bergerac) and "Best Actor" (Iago) but have sometimes felt that those do not necessarily reflect what I feel were the best. I am left with an acute feeling of what I didn't do rather than what I did.... One symptom of restless perfectionism.... Something we all endure.
You’ve played a number of the theater’s most iconic roles: Cyrano de Bergerac, Iago, (and…?). And I know you have a special place in your dark little heart for Richard the Third. But what is or was your all-time favorite? I know you’ve mentioned Lear. Is that the one role you’re dying to play or is there another?
I have played many classical roles since I love classical texts. Cyrano de Bergerac, Iago, Richard III, Cassius, Fagin, Smike (in Nicholas Nickleby) Quasimodo and Hamlet. Richard III is and will always be my favourite. Indeed, although I am a rabid supporter of the real Richard I have managed to play the role on three occasions. Lear remains the final mountain to climb but I doubt I will get the chance.
The swordplay in your Cyrano de Bergerac was very impressive. Having played the role myself, I don’t think we ever approached the speed or creativity you did. How much training have you had with swords and/or what is the standard regimen in English drama schools?
I have worked with some extraordinary Fight Directors and Combat both armed and unarmed is standard in training in the UK, as well as horse riding…. It can make the difference between getting cast or not in historical productions or films.
Have you ever been wounded onstage?
I was wounded only once when I played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.
Some actors place a sword in their hands and a red mist descends…..They must be avoided for your health’s sake. Stabbed in the ribs… Slight pain and then I got off stage I found I was bleeding and it wasn’t the blood capsule I used. The actor and I have remained firm friends despite his act of lethal insanity.
You’ve crossed paths with a lot of famous folks – Lawrence Olivier, Alan Rickman, etc. – can you shed any new light on these legends? Which of them surprised you the most in private? Who was most down-to-earth and who was most impossible?
Most of the famous actors I have worked with display an enormous ability to observe. Their process is quiet and composed. They approach their work like a very skilled surgeon, delicate, obsessed with the text and self-assured. They all possess extraordinary technique both vocal or physical and they always take huge risks. It is like feasting with panthers, the danger is half the excitement.
There appears to be more overlap between stage and television in England. Do you have aspirations in that direction?
There is great overlap between those forms and I am longing for the chance to explore that.
We used to talk for hours about Black Adder and, in particular, Baldrick – a character I think you could have played as well as the original actor (whom you’ve met/worked with?) Any stories there?
Regarding Black Adder I have no tales to tell. As Iago says… “I never shall speak word.”
You do a lot of different dialects in Steel, Blood & Fire and once coached me in Yorkshire. Do you have a favorite? Is there one you avoid?
As for accents, there was a lot of emphasis placed on speech and voice in my training. As importantly we were made to train the ear. Once you can listen you can break down an accent into its components. I don’t personally have much difficulty with accents and have no favourite but the hardest is the North-Eastern accent known as “Geordie.”
Have you watched Game of Thrones on TV? If yes, what do you think of the story, the dialect work, etc.? If not, what the hell’s wrong with you?
I have NEVER watched Game of Thrones. I prefer to sit on one. I feel at home there.
As a child, you were hit on the head with a loaded bedpan and have mistakenly been a Broncos fan ever since. Have you considered corrective surgery?
I was never hit on the bonce with any implement but I did entertain dreams of being a starting Quarterback for the Broncos. But, since I am metrically challenged (5’ 5”) they have never invited me to training camp. Shameless, don’t you think?
Yes, well, enough about that (Go, Seahawks!). What drew you to this project, narrating Steel, Blood & Fire?
The sheer scope and invention of the project was instantly exciting. The books are an amazing accomplishment of imagination and style. I always begin by trying to create a thumbnail picture in my head of the character and usually voice becomes clear. The narrative I just relied on my own voice. Without doubt the hardest voice to invent was "Anders." I did not to want to rely on any melodramatics but once I found him he became the most enjoyable company. Since I have moved on to the next book it is like meeting up with old friends. I just want to engage the listener in one more adventure.
Thank you, sir. You’ve been most generous with your time and energies. The audiobook sounds fantastic, and I look forward to hearing more!
For those interested, you can listen to a sample here: