Category Archives: Ripper Street

RIPPER STREET 5 interview with Eddie Jackson

A TALE OF TWO CITIES:

FROM VOLANTIS TO WHITECHAPEL

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with Eddie Jackson

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Portraits of Eddie Jackson copyright © Rob Benson 2017

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DAMIAN: They say it’s a small world Eddie. Well, Ireland must be tiny because it seems as though the moment an actor finishes their work on Game of Thrones, they quickly change costumes and then wander over to the set of Ripper Street – or vise versa! What’s going on Eddie?

EDDIE: Well, Ireland is a small place and you always know someone who knows someone. On the production side of things it’s great that our country attracts so many projects to both the south and the north. Hopefully that won’t change anytime soon. It wasn’t that quick of a turn over, I filmed my first scene for Game of Thrones in September in Belfast, my second scene in Almeria, Spain in October, and I didn’t film Ripper Street till February the following year. I did however audition for them both in the same week. Though I didn’t audition for the part of Mr. Sparks that I ended up playing in Ripper street.

DAMIAN: You’ve got some exciting projects coming up including a new TV series and a horror film. What can you tell me about them?

EDDIE: Yes, I am looking forward to seeing them both. The TV series is Acceptable Risk which will be aired here in autumn. I was delighted when I got the part because it was the first time on a big production that I was playing a character that helps drive the narrative. It was great to work on because it’s really a crime drama driven by female leads and I had such a fun time working with them all. Working with actors like Elaine Cassidy, Lisa Dwyer Hogg and Angeline Ball was a great learning experience. I also got on very well with the director, Kenny Glenaan, which made the step up easier.

The horror film is Red Room, directed by Stephen Gaffney, along the lines of Saw or Hostel. It has a great ensemble cast, but too many to name them all without feeling bad if I left one out. But Brian Fortune was one name that made me more excited about the project. I had been a big admirer of Brian for a long time and got to work with him a few years back on a short film, since then we have become good mates, but never got another chance to work together. Not that we share much screen time in this. We are writing a feature together to make sure that happens soon though.

DAMIAN: And I’m particularly interested in The Man Who Invented Christmas. The film tells the story of how Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol but doesn’t it also feature characters from the book?

EDDIE: Yes it does, from the scenes I have seen it looks great. It brings to life a few characters from the book itself. So I was playing one of those characters along with Marcus Lamb and Michael Judd, who are both also based here in Ireland. Most others were flown in, so it was great to get the part. Especially since it was just before Christmas, not much work goes on then unless you do Panto.

Fresh from his success as the Beast in Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast, Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as Dickens in The Man Who Invented Christmas

DAMIAN: And it’s an impressive cast you’re performing alongside isn’t it? The great Christopher Plummer plays Scrooge, Dan Stevens as Dickens, fellow Game of Thrones alumni Jonathan Pryce (Dickens’ father) and Donald Sumpter (Jacob Marley), not too mention Dickens’ stalwarts Simon Callow and Miriam Margolyes. Can you describe what it was like working with such a prestigious cast?

EDDIE: Well I only got to work with Christopher and Dan but it was an amazing five days on set. I took it as a massive chance to learn from one of the greats, although most people know him from The Sound of Music, I knew him more from The Beginners which is one of my favourite films. I don’t know a lot of younger actors so I wasn’t sure who Dan was, though once I saw his face I remembered I had seen him in The Guest which was an amazing film. I am not really one to get star struck or whatever you might call it, I realized that when I got a chance to work with David Wilmot a few years ago, who is also in Ripper Street [as Artherton]. I’ve had huge respect for him as an actor for many years. I guess it depends on the person though and how they treat you, I’ve been very lucky so far. But yeah, on that film it was the same as any other set, actors sitting around chatting between takes.

Eddie as Belicho Paenymion in Game of Thrones

DAMIAN: Most readers will probably recognize you from Game of Thrones in which you played slave master Belicho Paenymion. I don’t know if you’re the sort of actor who still gets a little nervous as they start work on a new project but is there a kind of added pressure when working on such a celebrated and epic series such as this?

EDDIE: Well I was already a big fan of the show. I had an audition with Carla Stronge in Dublin on a Wednesday, found out I got the part on the Friday and was in Belfast on set on Monday, so to be honest I didn’t have much time to think. In terms of production, it was the biggest project I had worked on to date, but once again, everyone was so friendly it made me relax and be able to enjoy it more. I don’t get nervous about the project or the people in the project but more about the choices you make for the character, I guess. Even after you’re done you question that, but it’s not the same thing as nerves, I think every actor does that.

DAMIAN: So, let’s talk about Ripper Street. Can you tell me a little bit about the character in the second episode A Brittle Thread?

EDDIE: I play Mr. Sparks who is a bit of a hustler. He sells exotic animals that he has collected from his travels around the world. It’s kinda hard to talk much more about the character in case I give anything away. But he does seem like the kind of character I would love a chance to expand more.

DAMIAN: I interviewed production designer Stephen Daly and if the sheer spectacle of the stunning sets weren’t enough to impress on screen, his description of the work that he puts into making it all look so authentic is just mind boggling. Tell me about your first day on set.

EDDIE: I’d say I got there about six in the morning. I probably just ate a banana or something small, I usually try to eat before I leave for set. You don’t know if you will have enough time to sit down and eat when you get there. No point in getting hot food, as any minute you could get called to hair and makeup and I don’t think I could eat a cold fry-up after, plus I like to soak my porridge overnight!

I always like to run through my lines and do all the checks before I start. I was in a good mood. I had been cast in Thrones, Reign and then to be cast in Ripper Street on the back of them was exciting.

I got lucky because the set I was on was Mr. Sparks shop, so that can tell you a lot about the character. There were exotic animals like llamas, monkeys and parrots everywhere. I am a massive fan of David Attenborough so I loved the moments between takes to get a chance to look as these animals up close.

But the set was great, I got a chance to work with some great production designers over the last few years and this was right up there with them. The people like Stephen behind the scene don’t get enough credit for the passion and commitment they put into these sets. They are the first to arrive and last to leave. The attention to detail amazes me every time. Just hope I get to work on more of his sets in the future.

DAMIAN: What can you tell us about getting into the character of Mr. Sparks?

EDDIE: Well I think when you are playing a smaller character and only see the scenes you’re in, the costume and makeup department can give you a lot of ideas about how the character fits into the world, they tell you a lot about how the director wants the character visually portrayed. Which can give you more material to work with. Sometimes seeing the costume or makeup can change some ideas you had. But I was happy to be wearing trousers this time.

Killian Scott [Augustus Dove] who I’m in the scene with, I’d seen in LOVE/HATE and was a gent as he wouldn’t have known me at the time, but made sure I was comfortable and had enough room to move when the table had to be moved back for the camera, even though we didn’t spend much time together it told me a lot about the kind of person he is.

There’s always a lot of rushing about on productions like this and you get used to someone coming up and pulling at your hair, or brushing fibres off or touching up your make up. Also when you’re only on set for a day and show up in the morning and are introduced to thirty people, I get nervous I won’t remember all the names. But I am getting better.

DAMIAN: Describe working with the director Daniel Nettheim and the filming of your scenes.

EDDIE: Daniel was nice to work with, he just gave me an idea of who Sparks was. When you’re playing a character in just one or two scenes it is more important to me that you lend yourself to the overall theme or if your character interacts with one of the main characters that you lend yourself to their arch. In fact in these situations it’s nearly better if the director doesn’t have to say much to you at all, it means you’re already doing what they want. I would be more worried if he was talking to me at length but it was an exchange between myself and Killian and I can’t really say much about it without spoiling it, to be honest. We did have to record the dialogue again without some of the animals around as I think it was hard to shoot soundwise.

DAMIAN: Eddie, I look forward to seeing you in Monday’s episode and all your future projects – very best of luck with them. Cheers.

EDDIE: Nice one Damian. Thanks for the chat.

RIPPER STREET CONTINUES MONDAY AT 9PM ON BBC2

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In addition to Eddie, the following actors have all appeared in both Ripper Street and Game of Thrones: Philip Arditti, Dean-Charles Chapman, Ian Gelder, Iain Glen, Paul Kaye, Anton Lesser, Francis Magee, Michael McElhatton, Ian McElhinney, Joseph Mawle,  Kristian Nairn, Clive Russell, Owen Teale and of course Jerome Flynn.

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All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

Portraits of Eddie Jackson copyright © Rob Benson 2017

See website link below:

Rob Benson Photography

 

RIPPER STREET 5 interview with Charlene McKenna

“You think you can hide from life and perhaps another man might… but not a man such as you, Bennet Drake. You believe yourself cursed. You are not. You believe you carry only pain into other people’s lives – you do not. Bennet, you brought love into mine. A love that is keener now than ever it was. You are a good man… I will say those words until the day I die. Bennet Drake is the best of men and this life, this world, will not let him sink from its surface.”

– Rose Erskine Our Betrayal

BOATS AGAINST THE CURRENT

An exclusive RIPPER STREET interview

with Charlene McKenna

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

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DAMIAN: Rose refused to accept that Bennet Drake was cursed but he was ultimately proven to be right wasn’t he?

CHARLENE: I, with a very heavy heart have to say he was right. Rose the ever hopeful, refused to ever admit it could be true.

DAMIAN: You once told me in one of our previous interviews that to live in Rose’s head is to always have hope. Surely all her optimism has now gone forever?

CHARLENE: I don’t want to quell anyone’s hope by any means. But with everything Rose has been through from season one to the end, I’m not sure she can hold the eternal optimism she once had. She is definitely damaged beyond repair I think. It’s so sad.

DAMIAN: At what point did you learn that Drake was going to be killed off and what was your reaction?

CHARLENE: Me and Jerome both knew we were ready to leave the show, so thankfully they worked around us. But to know Jerome was being killed was heartbreaking. I think we represented an innocence and purity in the show (the characters I mean. Ha!) and to see that killed off certainly allowed a “realism”, a cynicism to descend on Whitechapel.

DAMIAN: Why did Jerome want to leave the show?

CHARLENE: There just comes a time when you feel you’re ready to move on. There were no dark motives or nothing sad behind it. Just life and time to leave the party and head home.

DAMIAN: Other than MyAnna, you must have spent most of your screen time with Jerome so what was it like to actually film your final scene together last series?

CHARLENE: Let’s just say. All Rose’s tears were Charlene’s tears as well, both for different reasons.

DAMIAN: As we’ve discussed before in our interviews, you and MyAnna have been close friends both on and off the screen. However, last series put something of a strain on their friendship. Are you happy with how Rose’s story arc and her relationship with Susan and other characters has been resolved as the series concludes?

CHARLENE: I love MyAnna. And we had so much fun working together. As far as Rose and Susan go, boy have we come a long way. It was a very mixed bag of emotions. It was so sad they deteriorated so badly as friends and ostensibly became enemies but as actors it was charmed.

DAMIAN: Can you tell me a little bit about your last day on set – were there tears?

CHARLENE: So. Many. Tears. MyAnna came for my last scene, she wasn’t even in that day, and she brought bubbles and we all hugged and cried and then went out and got rather drunk!

DAMIAN: And what about the wrap party – did everyone behave themselves? — I’m thinking specifically Adam and Toby!!

CHARLENE: Short answer? No! – what else would you want and expect?

DAMIAN: I like to imagine Rose disappearing to America and not been heard from again until she’s middle-aged and enjoying a life of opulence and decadence during the 1920s jazz age. You’ll be appearing in the Irish premiere of The Great Gatsby at the Gate Theatre in Dublin over the summer, who do you play?

CHARLENE: Awww what a sweet imagining. I’m not sure where Rose will end up. I hope her tough street background kicks in and she makes something work. Yes, in Gatsby I play Daisy. And I CANNOT wait. The concept for this show and the scale of it, is like nothing I’ve ever done before. It’s immense, intense and SO exciting!!!

DAMIAN: The production has been described as an immersive adaptation! What does this mean and should traditional theatregoers who like to sit in the audience sucking on a bag of wine gums be somewhat concerned?

CHARLENE: They should be willing to rip up the rule book! It’s wonderful. And a rare chance to get intimate with the actors and the text and be involved. The puritans may turn up their nose but I think they’ll be highly mistaken. It’s a beautiful heartbreaking story and a rare chance to see it up close and personal.

DAMIAN: The Gate Theatre website states that the audience are encouraged to wear 1920s attire and dancing shoes are mandatory! So, if I come along, I can’t sit down and eat wine gums, but I will have to dress like a dandy and dance all evening with a bunch of flappers?

CHARLENE: Yes!!! You’re mad about wine gums! We have lots of champagne, whiskey and gin bars and should you chose you can drink all throughout! And yes, dress your best. I mean you’ve got an invitation to Gatsby’s mansion why wouldn’t you want to look sharp?

DAMIAN: I won’t dance, don’t ask me – Merci beaucoup. As with Rose’s journey from Tenter Street to Blewett’s Theatre and music hall stardom, The Great Gatsby also explores issues surrounding inequalities in social and class mobility. And again, isn’t there also a sense of doomed or cursed relationships fighting alongside an optimistic desire to transform idealistic and possibly unrealistic or impractical dreams into reality?

CHARLENE: Yes but I mean Rose and Daisy couldn’t be more different. I think Rose is beyond courageous and a fighter and will always try to trump the odds. I think Daisy is spoiled and a coward. She has lived in a world without consequences. And even after she kills Myrtle she still retreats back into her money and never had to face it. Somewhere in her soul she has to live with that but as women they are a class apart. If you’ll excuse the pun!

DAMIAN: You’ve loved, laughed and cried both on and off the set but I wonder what will be among your most treasured memories from your time in Whitechapel?

CHARLENE: I have so many! So, so many. I will always be grateful to the Ripper Street cast and crew. The laughs on and off set. The gift of Rose Erskine/Drake. It changed my life forever and for the better.

DAMIAN: Maybe there’s a young girl in Ireland reading this who is falling in love with the stage or screen for the first time. What advice would you give her in wanting to pursue acting?

CHARLENE: Acting is wonderful. And awful. And joyful. And tearful. And and and… it’s not all you think it is for better and for worse. If you want to do it. And you LOVE IT. Do it. Follow it to the end and don’t give up.

DAMIAN: You know, these interviews and this website, it all really started with Ripper Street. And, in the very beginning there was Mark Dexter, Toby, MyAnna and yourself who were kind enough to agree to being interviewed and help get me started. I will always be enormously grateful for that. Thanks so much Charlene and may you run fast in all your tomorrows.

CHARLENE: Damian, thank YOU!!! It’s been all our pleasures. Don’t be a stranger.

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The Great Gatsby at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, Ireland

July 6 – September 16, 2017

Previews: from Thursday 6th July

Opening night: Wednesday 12th July

See link below for more details:

Click here for more information and to book tickets

The fifth and final series of Ripper Street will be broadcast on Monday nights at 9 on BBC2 with the entire series also available to purchase from amazon. I’ll bring the wine gums.

All the interviews and articles on this website are original and exclusive and I would please ask that the copyright be respected. Therefore, please do not use quotes or any other information contained here without permission. Thank you.

Copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2017

MIDNIGHT TRYST AND BLACK MAGNETISM: Ripper Street interview with Leanne Best

MIDNIGHT TRYST AND BLACK MAGNETISM

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with Leanne Best

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

My first interview with Leanne Best was in November 2013 as the second series of Ripper Street was broadcast on BBC1. While she was a respected, and indeed award-nominated stage actor, she was less well known to television audiences at that point despite screen credits that included Casualty, Wire in the Blood and Doctors. Since then however, and with appearances in such high-profile projects as The Worricker Trilogy, Lucan, Fortitude and, most recently, The Outcast and Home Fires to name but a few, there has been an explosion of love for the increasingly prolific Leanne who seems hell-bent on turning up in almost every TV show – not to mention a promising new career in the movies, having played the title role in last year’s The Woman in Black: Angel of Death and soon to be seen in some exciting new films that are either currently filming or in post-production.

I wanted to interview Leanne for a second time to discuss the third series of Ripper Street, on being a Hammer Horror Monster and breaking bread with Bryan Cranston. Most of all, however, I just wanted to speak to her again while she’s still answering my calls because I predict Leanne Best is going to be something of a star…

Damian: Hello again Leanne and thanks for doing this. So much has happened in your career since our first interview but the last time we chatted was over drinks at the Brown Bear while we drowned our sorrows lamenting the demise of Ripper Street. Not only has Ripper Street returned for a third series (with the promise of two more!) but you have managed to land roles in many well-received and much-admired television dramas, big-budget Hollywood films and, if all this were not enough, also been Willy Russell’s personal choice to star in the 35th anniversary stage production of Educating Rita! – what’s going on?

Leanne: Ah that’s all very lovely of you to say! There’s a fair bit going on at the minute… Second series of Homefires is underway and I’m filming a drama for the BBC in London.

Damian: How much of this success would you put down to the exposure gained from Ripper Street?

Leanne: Well it certainly didn’t do me any harm I’m sure! Ripper Street is such a classy production and so loved by its viewers. I felt very grateful to be in such good company across the board from the actors to the writing, the direction and design. The whole thing is impressive so to be a part of that I’m sure has served me well.

Damian: Before we discuss series three, I’d like to talk about your character Jane Cobden (daughter of Richard Cobden) of Bow and Bromley Division and the adopted candidate of Liberal and Radical Association for the London County Council Election. We first meet her around the time of the public meeting of electors in the Bromley Vestry Hall, Bow Road so, at a very rough guesstimate, I’d say this was Wednesday, January 14th 1890. Your character is, of course, based on the real Jane Cobden (1851 – 1947), who was indeed the first elected female councillor and is best remembered as a pioneer of the suffragette movement. Let’s remind ourselves of how she was introduced in the third episode of the second series, Become Man (written by Marnie Dickens)…

JACKSON: I just saw the damnedest thing. This woman I just passed in the street. No, scratch that. She was not a woman. Uh-uh. She was a goddess, Reid, to make even a heathen like you believe… You should have seen her. She had gentle eyes, perfect face and the body that one imagines under the…
REID: Yes. Thank you, Captain.
COBDEN: Oh, no, please – do continue on, sir.
REID: I apologise, Councillor Cobden. He is American and therefore lacking in manners or propriety.
COBDEN: Well, then, we shall get along famously.

Jane Cobden could have possibly been an overbearingly moralistic and righteous character but the way in which she is written, and indeed performed, is simply a joy to watch and, even in her first episode, there is an immediate chemistry between her and Reid. It must have been so much fun to play her?

Leanne: I love playing Jane. In reality she was quite a firebrand who bucked most trends of the time for a woman so that coupled with the writing allowed me to be quite free with her. Part of her attraction for Reid I think was her lightness and willingness to be open to what life has to offer.

bestmacfadyen

Damian: Another scene which I love and think is so indicative of your character is the following scene that comes towards the end of Threads of Silk and Gold (S2: 05 written by Toby Finlay):

REID: It is a rare thing to find a friend in this world, a true friend. Rarer still one that might become more. There are some that do and risk all for it and, even though the world and all its might may seek to snuff out their love they burn with it, fierce and bright, like the sun. The love that I have known, the strength needed of me was not there. I failed my wife Miss Cobden. I would not have that pain visited upon you. You said the past was naught but black magnetism. If I allowed, you would help me resist it. I have had enough of the darkness if you would help me know the sun.
COBDEN: Well, Edmund, I do hope you’re not going to launch into sonnets every time you wish to take me for dinner and a dance. I should find all the swooning quite tiresome.

Quite understandably, Reid is such a sombre and melancholy character but I wonder if you could tell us what it is like to work with Matthew Macfadyen during such scenes and give us a general sense of the atmosphere on set?

Leanne: He’s a brilliant actor and a lovely presence on set and it really is a pleasure to work with him. He also does a pristine scouse accent which cracks me up.

Damian: In the grand finale of series two, Our Betrayal, thanks to the odious Fred Best (David Dawson) having written a charming little piece for The Star with the headline, “Councillor Cobden and Detective Inspector Reid in Midnight Tryst”, Chief Inspector Abberline orders Reid to end the relationship. I suppose considering this and Reid’s later dark journey, it was perhaps inevitable but do you share my disappointment that there wasn’t more scenes that showcased the delightfully playful and flirty banter between the two of you in series three?

Leanne: I think it’s an interesting dynamic. Although I’m sure she still has feelings for Reid it’s perhaps more dramatically honest at this juncture to see how they are with each other as friends and allies when he has made it clear he can’t or won’t ever be able to be with her because of a world in which they both have very different paths to tread… I’m an old romantic but this is Ripper Street so I’m not too surprised they didn’t skip off into the sunset together, or not yet they haven’t anyway!

Damian: Reid writes Cobden a letter which we see her read presumably breaking off the relationship, can you remember if there was anything actually written on it – I’m just wondering if there was any information regarding the contents that might have been cut?

Leanne: I can’t remember what day it is most of the time so I couldn’t tell you to be honest! No content was cut as I recall. It was simply that he didn’t feel he could be with her.

Damian: The final moments of series two were stunning with Drake and the villainous Jedediah Shine (Joseph Mawle) slugging it out in the boxing ring with Reid screaming at Drake to finish him off. There is no dialogue between you and Matthew but the scene is just so powerful. Cobden simply stares at Reid as he shouts “No, Sergeant! You kill him!”. Was it a look of disappointment, disbelief or even disgust – what was going on inside Cobden’s head at that point?

Leanne: Despite what Reid had told Jane about who he was and the world he inhabited she refused to ever see him as a monster. In that moment I imagine she did see, and was devastated by it.

bestmacfadyen2

Damian: It’s crazy to look back and consider this scene could very well have been the last we saw of Reid and friends. At what point did you find out that Ripper Street had been saved by Amazon much to the delight of the thousands of fans who petitioned for its return?

Leanne: I heard through my agent. I was genuinely chuffed to bits. Irrespective of my connection to the show or whether we’d see Jane again, I felt it was the wrong thing to take away from its very loyal fan base, the opportunity to see what would happen to a world they had really invested in. It’s a great drama, and what a testament to that that its fans saved it from the chopping block!

wib3

Damian: I’d like to take a moment to discuss some of your other work. How  flattering was it to be cast as a Hammer Horror Monster?

Leanne: I’ve played a few dead women now… I must have that glow! It was really good fun. Hammer Horror is an iconic part of British cinema so it was a lovely thing to have the opportunity to do.

Damian: Given the intense make-up effects and FX prosthesis, were you not worried about your eyebrows?

Leanne: My eyebrows were OK surprisingly but I lost a layer of my epidermis I’m sure when the face came off after a long day.

Damian: Is it true that the original script was quite different from the film that was shot in that the idea involved the government acquiring the Eel Marsh House and converting it into a military hospital for the insane?

Leanne: I’m not sure about that. The draft I worked on was the one that made it on screen. It’s based on the second Susan Hill book but how that idea was developed for the film I don’t know.

wib1

Damian: Were some scenes cut because I’m sure I saw images either from the trailers or stills that featured you, particularly a scene at the grave in the woods where we see you quite closer than the way the scene appeared in the film?

Leanne: I think I know the still you mean and I think that was a press shot not an actual scene from the film. That being said there are always things that are lost in the edit so maybe?

Damian: Do you believe in ghosts?

Leanne: I do actually, yes.

Damian: What can you tell us about your role in Bryan Cranston’s new film The Infiltrator and how you became involved?

Leanne: I’m not sure I’m allowed to say too much about the film but it was a pinch myself moment working with him as I’m a proper fan. And he was such a gent. Bloody brilliant. And it was a good old fashioned audition that got me the gig. I did a self tape on a matinee day doing Educating Rita so no one was more surprised than me when I got the gig!

RITA4

With Con O’Neil in ‘Educating Rita’

Damian: I want to talk more about Educating Rita because I’m a fan of Willy Russell and along with Blood Brothers and other plays, I think his writing still has some very powerful things to say about social mobility and class structure. I imagine from our previous interview that some of the themes and motifs of Rita have a special resonance with you personally?

Leanne: I could write a thesis on why it’s still a vital beautiful tragic essential piece of work. I was given that play at drama school to read when I was really struggling. I hadn’t done much acting and was on a scholarship to study drama when I didn’t have a clue who I was or what I was doing there. I sat in my college library and cried as it resonated with me on so many levels, and it does that with so many people for so many reasons. I loved it.

RITA2

Damian: What is Willy Russell like in person and why did he want you specifically to play Rita?

Leanne: Willy is amazing. He’s a brilliant fascinating man with so many stories and a hero of mine. I was thrilled to be the choice for the anniversary production with Con O’Neil who is an extraordinary actor but far be it from me to guess why. Maybe he’s a Ripper Street fan!

thewomaningreen

The Woman in Green! At the ‘Ripper Street III’ premiere with MyAnna Buring and Charlene McKenna

COBDEN: Five acres, in which reside 6,000 individuals, and the rate at which they die here is four times that of the rest of this city. As you know, I plan to replace these shanties with modern and sanitary dwellings in which people might live out of choice, not obligation. However, this I cannot do unless the party, or parties, that own these lands permit it. Currently, all our surveyors encounter is violence from hired thugs. It is for this reason, ladies and gentlemen, that I invite you here today – to urge you, in print, to shame these opaque and hidden powers into good faith and negotiation. To ask them to stand forward and have a care for the future lives of their tenants. I thank you.
REID: Councillor. The investigations I have made for you. You wish to cause men shame, it’s better for you to have a name with which to do so – Obsidian Estates…
(Our Betrayal Part I – Richard Warlow)
SUSAN HART: Know this Duggan. Every moment I felt your foul breath on my face, your murderous fingers on my body, I thought of this. Dreamt of it. Your lawyers, your estates and holdings – all will now be made to work for me. Everything that you have built, I will make it mine…
(Our Betrayal Part II – Richard Warlow)

Damian: And so back to Ripper Street. What can you tell us about Obsidian in series three and Jane Cobden’s part in it?

Leanne: Long Susan is now the sole owner of Obsidian estates in series three and has used the money and prestige to create many opportunities to educate and employ vulnerable women in Whitechapel. She has sought Jane’s council and support to legitimise the enterprise.

Cobden with Mathilda Reid (Anna Burnett)

Cobden with Mathilda Reid (Anna Burnett)

Damian: I discussed the role of women in Ripper Street in my interview with MyAnna Buring. She said that characters like Susan and Cobden were integral characters in the show and that they challenged the perceptions of what women can do. However, I’m wondering how the completely incorruptible Cobden could justify going into business with Susan given her unforgivable actions in series three?

Leanne: There’s a lot of information that Jane isn’t privy to about Susan’s past and her actions. In her haste to help her do good she may be guilty of being naive about the situation. Fundamentally she respects Susan and the work she has undertaken to improve the lives of the impoverished of Whitechapel and may be guilty of having done harm in order to do good. As a woman in a man’s world I’m sure she sees Susan as a kindred spirit.

Damian: Seeds were planted for series three’s story arc as early as episode four in the second series (Dynamite and a Woman) with particular reference to Cobden’s mission to improve working class education, the renovation of St. Paul’s Wharfside and housing for the poor. Were you aware of Richard Warlow’s grand plan for Cobden when you first joined the show?

Leanne: I wasn’t no, but it’s been great to watch it all unfold and always nice to be asked back.

Damian: In discussing the character of Cobden and her battle to protect the poor, the reader may be forgiven for drawing contemporary political parallels with many of the issues highlighted in Ripper Street. With the recent Conservative victory at the general election still fresh in their minds, issues such as relocating the poor away from London to more “suitable and appropriate” areas or “social cleansing” as some might call it, in addition to what some perceive as an ideological war against welfare might resonate more than perhaps they should. I wonder who you consider to be the Jane Cobden’s of today?

Leanne: Well that’s a question! I’m a firm believer that whether it’s the front bench, back bench or park bench, you will always find inspiring women from all walks of life trying to make a difference in or out of the public eye… I’ve come across many and it’s always galvanising I have to say. Give it time and I might have a go myself!

Damian: Miss Best, my thanks. Time with you is, as ever, educative.

Leanne: Always lovely to talk to you.

~~~~

Ripper Street series three concludes tonight at 9pm on BBC1

~~~~

My first interview with Leanne Best can be found on the link below:

Leanne Best talks Ripper Street

Leanne_Best_Playhouse

Leanne in rehearsals for ‘Educating Rita’

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edrit

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Ripper Street interview with Toby Finlay

NOTE: This interview contains spoilers that are best avoided until you have seen the first three episodes of Ripper Street Series III

This is how Grandmother will tell the story, a hundred years hence:

Exposed unto the sea, which hath requit it,
Him and his innocent child; for which foul deed
The powers, delaying, not forgetting, have
Incensed the seas and shores, yea, all the creatures…

The Tempest – III.3

Talking Cure & Chimney Sweeping

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with Toby Finlay

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015
Images copyright © Toby Finlay/Will Gould
Toby Finlay and Richard Warlow

Toby Finlay and Richard Warlow

Damian: Toby, you have written the following episodes of Ripper Street: The Weight of One Man’s Heart (Series 1. Episode 5), Tournament of Shadows (1.6), Threads of Silk and Gold (2.5), A Stronger Loving World (2.6), The Beating of Her Wings (3.2) and Ashes and Diamonds (3.3) not to mention your collaboration in devising the overarching story. You are therefore, the most prolific of cuckoos in Richard Warlow’s nest. How so?

Toby: Well, I suppose you’d have to ask Richard that question. We knew each other from before Ripper Street was even a twinkle and we’d got along and had a mutual respect, but it was during Ripper that we found our writing was simpatico in a lot of ways and intriguingly different in others. I think we pushed each other a bit over the three seasons, and it’s always good to be working with someone you want to beat.

Damian: To what extent was the aforementioned overarching story and individual plots for series three planned prior to the news of Ripper Street’s cancellation last December?

Toby: Back in September 2013 – before the cancellation – Richard and I (along with Joe Donaldson our superb script-editor and Will Gould, the exec producer and godfather of the show) went off to a hotel in the countryside for a few days and started throwing ideas around. What we storylined were the big beats of the first four episodes. We had the bones of the stories to a greater extent in some episodes than others. (For instance ep 3 with the clairvoyant was just something we kept bandying around as a joke about a dead clairvoyant who didn’t see it coming, and it was very much later that I realised there was actually a story in there, so I kept the line as a little in-joke). And then, as we were all set to work deeper on the stories and Richard and I were primed to commence eps 1 and 2 – the show was axed. So everything was on ice. It was only in February or so of this year that we got the green light again and suddenly realised we had to work out those stories and indeed the rest of the series.

But the shorter answer is, we knew we wanted the train crash – that was something Richard had harboured for a while, I think – and to bring back Mathilda. And to make this overarching story Reid versus Susan, really put them both through the ringer. We certainly wanted to make Susan at the fore of this narrative and give her a sort of Breaking Bad journey into darkness. So the core of series 3 was definitely planned prior to the axe, even though the individual stories were very much in gestation and much of the work came after Amazon saved us.

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Richard Cookson, Will Gould, Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay

Damian: I find it difficult to believe that series three would have begun four years later in 1894 if the show hadn’t have been cancelled at the end of its second series. There must have been sacrifices made in terms of story and certain characters?

Toby: Actually the time jump was always the plan. I’m not sure we’d settled in 1894 specifically but there was definitely the intention of leaving a few years for the characters to have developed or sunk or fallen apart in the intervening time. Luckily, everyone who we wanted to bring back was willing to come back. The end of series 2 was such a cliffhanger that it felt unexpected to drive forward in time like that. And if it’s unexpected, it’s interesting.

Damian: And were there any creative conditions imposed by Amazon?

Toby: None. In fact they were keen to exploit the lack of scheduling or watershed restrictions, which is why the Amazon versions are longer and in some cases more explicit in language and image than the versions which will eventually screen on the BBC. The Amazon versions are, if you will, more like the “writers’ cuts”.

Damian: Before we turn our attention to your two episodes for series three, I wanted to follow up on an issue that troubled me from our previous interview when I asked you to what extent the views of Faulkner (the antagonist from The Weight of One Man’s Heart) might reflect your own personal political ideology and you respectfully declined to answer. While I respect your decision to keep your politics to yourself, I was disappointed that you went on to say that your own personal views as a writer are not important. Would an interview, for example, with Stanley Kubrick regarding Dr. Strangelove or A Clockwork Orange not be enhanced by a discussion of his political ideology or perhaps a discourse on the protest genre and radicalism with Bob Dylan?

Toby: Kubrick and Dylan were/are notoriously tricky interview-f*****s who would refuse point blank to be pinned down. I’m sure an interview with Dylan about the protest genre and radicalism would be thrilling, but you won’t find one. You’ll find him telling you to keep a good head and always carry a light-bulb.

I stand by what I said last time, which is that I write partly to play with ideas and weave masks… but you can assume generally that I wouldn’t put fire behind the writing of it unless on some level I believed in it. Beyond that: read the tale, not the teller.

fink5Damian: And from politics, we naturally move on to religion. A wise man once wrote that a man without faith is a man without hope. For comedic effect or otherwise, you have sometimes portrayed yourself as a “Bad Jew”, do you entertain any particular religion or spirituality?

Toby: I believe in Larry David.

Damian: There is actually a valid reason that I ask you this but rather than repeat previously documented material, I would direct the reader to our original interview with reference to your visual fetish with birds. However, I would like to explore the possible psychology behind such riffs pertaining to winged creatures in more depth and point out that in The Beating of Her Wings alone, the following are referenced either visually on screen, spoken through dialogue or described in possible wordplay or puns through action notes: cockerel, capon, rookery, vultures, swallow, lark, pupa, butterflies, fairies as well as a parrot outside the exotic bird shop adjoining H Buckley: Antiquities & Curiosities and also mention of da Vinci (famed for his human-powered ornithopter designs and possibly the first European interested in a practical solution to flight).

So, back to the original question of spirituality which can manifest itself in a variety of different ways from organised religion to the more personal such as private prayer or reflection, meditation or yoga. Given that our brain processes sensory experiences, it is inevitable that we will look for patterns and pursue their meaning. To what extent would you give credence to the following interpretations?: the pre-totemistic soul-belief of the Semang and other tribes believed the bird was one of the earliest of spirit animals which had to be killed so as to release the soul, the Holy Egyptian bird was a symbol of resurrection, transformation and immortality, mediating between the earthly realm and the heavenly world – perhaps the human soul undergoing spiritual development, the soul’s desire for transcendence or desire to escape (freeing a bird from captivity as was the case in The Weight of One Man’s Heart relating to the release of one’s own emotions or primal energies) and for Freud, birds were obviously carnal symbols representing the penis…

Toby: They’re penises. All of them.

I have no problem with any interpretation. I am apparently drawn to birds for some reason, as we discussed in the last interview. The imagery and… I suppose the word is “symbolism”… speak to me. But I couldn’t tell you what they say exactly. I try to feel the pulse of whatever I’m writing and sometimes if I feed it with interesting things it will throw back interesting things in return. I remember reading an interview with Paul Auster a long time ago about his brilliant novel Moon Palace, when he was asked a similar question about the imagery and language of the moon, which is everywhere in the book. And he said, basically, that some of it is deliberate and some of it happily accidental – but borne of the fact that you’ve harboured these ideas and notions for a long time, and so certain elements of language and image will just find their way to forming connections and spilling out onto the page.

Damian: Was the appearance of the aforementioned parrot a visual allusion to the historical Edmund Reid and his eccentric future in Hampton-on-Sea?

Toby: Yes.

Damian: You’ve told me in the past that character is the key thing for you as a writer and if it came down to choosing between compromising the integrity of a character’s story or bending history, you would always choose to sacrifice the history. Obviously Ripper Street is not a documentary, however, I thought it was clever of Richard to incorporate the history of Joseph Merrick and the timeline of his death (2.1: Pure as the Driven and 2.2: Am I Not Monstrous?) into the events of series two without deviating too far from the known facts and remaining true to the man, the character’s psychology and motivations. In complete contrast to this however, and I speak with specific reference to Reid’s actions towards the end of series two and the shocking climax of The Beating of Her Wings, is there not a moral argument to be made against possibly changing the perception and reputation of real characters from history?

Toby: That’s an interesting point, and I think there absolutely is a moral issue. In fact I have a general rule that I won’t do biopics or true stories because I feel very uncomfortable about the dramatic liberties that are invariably required. I mean, I’ve seen some great biopics or factual dramas. But I have a problem with approaching that kind of material myself.

However, the Reid of Ripper is very much a fictional construct who happens to share a name with the Reid of history. I have deliberately never even read a biography of the real Reid, which is perhaps how I handled the issue I just mentioned. So in other words I just hid my head in the sand for my own moral convenience.

fink3Damian: So Richard and yourself have never been creatively constricted by the destiny and historical events of characters such as Reid and Fred Abberline in terms of telling your story?

Toby: No. At least I never felt constricted. I realise what I’m saying seems to run directly counter to what I said to your previous question. But I never claimed to be anything more than a confused mess of contradictions.

Damian: There are several omitted scenes from The Beating of Her Wings, which is often the case with writing for films and television where there is always a pressure to adhere to certain running times. The first cut of some episodes (such as your A Stronger Loving World) can be as long as eighty minutes which then have to be whittled down to sixty for the final cut. I’m particularly curious about scene seventy (from TBOHW) but can you also give us a flavour of what we will unfortunately never see from your two episodes for series three?

Toby: No. It doesn’t matter. I’m not sure what scene 70 was and I don’t want to return to the script now. It’s made, it’s done, it’s gone. It was probably something transcendentally awesome but I don’t want to look back. We shark onward, to meet the next black wave with teeth bared.

Damian: The themes and motifs of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, including power and control, betrayal, revenge and forgiveness, not to mention Ariel, a spirit of the air!, were well-suited to The Beating of Her Wings (as was the case with Antony and Cleopatra and The Weight of One Man’s Heart) and beautifully interwoven throughout your script. It strikes me as an inspired and profound analogy and yet there is almost an element of inevitability surrounding its use as though it had been part of a shared vision from the very beginning.  At what point in the genesis of this episode did it become apparent that there was such a close connection to water and sea creating disaster in the lives of the main characters in both The Tempest and Ripper Street?

Toby: The story of Reid and his catastrophe on the boat with Mathilda – and therefore the notion of water as nightmarish – obviously goes back to the beginning of the show, but the Tempest parallels and motifs came about only as I was writing The Beating of Her Wings. I’m not sure exactly at what point it occurred to me, but all of that was very deliberate. I suppose it was similar to the process of The Weight of One Man’s Heart in that there was a stage during the composition where I realised I was riffing on certain things – in this case water and fairies – and I wanted to throw The Tempest in. I do these things largely for myself because… I don’t know. I suppose it keeps it interesting for me to make these connections.

Damian: In addition to The Tempest, we can’t ignore other possible references although I’m not sure to what extent they are all intentional or not. There is a certain young lady named Alice who is introduced in The Beating of Her Wings who previously went by the name Mathilda which just so happens to be the same nickname of one of Alice Liddell’s sisters (Tillie, short for Matilda was Edith Liddell’s actual nickname).

There is also the matter of the caterpillar but in your second episode, Ashes and Diamonds, you also have Alice say to Long Susan Hart, “You’re the Queen around here” (thus Hart becomes the Queen of Hearts). Additionally we have various riffs on mirrors and their reflections (perhaps for the benefit of those in the cheap seats Alice also remarks, “So many looking glasses”) referencing Carroll’s second Alice story, Through the Looking Glass, which features a chessboard and is indeed structured like a game of chess in terms of its narrative – you also make copious allusions to Kings, Queens and pawns throughout both of your episodes. Furthermore, and if that were not enough, it would be remiss of me not to remind the reader that Lewis Carroll has since become a Jack the Ripper suspect – albeit an extremely unlikely one. Curious to say in the least or are some of these observations the ramblings of a pretentious madman?

Toby: No. All of that was deliberate layering and weaving. But it’s also Moon Palace syndrome again. Some things happen unconsciously and then you realise it and follow those new threads down… well, down the rabbit-hole I suppose. But as with the Tempest references, this sort of game-playing is a thing I do, for myself and for whoever might wish to grab the strands.

fink1Damian: There are also at least two references to King Arthur (in Ashes and Diamonds) but I particularly wanted to ask you about “the Wicked King” (The Beating of Her Wings) which Alice is so afraid of. I did a little digging and found the Romanic folktale entitled The Wicked King: Tales from the Lands of Nuts and Grapes (published in 1888 – such a memorable year!) and also The Tale of the Wicked King: A Story from the Field of Blackbirds (1915) which contains the following extract: “So he (the Wicked King) kept on, as long as the horse would go, even farther into the snow-covered wilderness of the mountain, until he was lost to human sight.” For me, this certainly resonates within the context of TBOHW but what is their significance to you?

Toby: I’m delighted those books exist but I didn’t know of them. What I did know about was the general obsession with fairies and fairytales which pervaded parts of Victorian culture and I wanted to engage with it. The Wicked King was something that sounded right to me, but as far as I knew it was something I’d conjured. If it was provoked by anything it was probably – though I’ve only just thought about it – the Yellow King in True Detective.

Damian: Why do you insist on having characters speak the episode titles, either word for word or phrased slightly differently, through their dialogue?

Toby: Actually this is a Warlow tic. I think he got it from Deadwood. It was something that I was not only always indifferent to but in fact ended up sailing against twice. There are only two episodes, as far as I know, where the title is not spoken verbatim – and they’re both mine. One is A Stronger Loving World, which is ALMOST but not quite spoken. The other is Ashes and Diamonds, where the title is not actually spoken but is engraved on the silver pocket watch which Olivia once gifted her husband and shows Drake. You can just about make it out if you freeze frame the close up of the watch.

Damian: Series three is rattling along at a staggering pace and many plot strands from the previous two years are being resolved surprisingly quickly. Is there a sense that both you and Richard are bidding farewell to Whitechapel?

Toby: Well. I can’t speak for Richard. And his connection to this show is longer and deeper than mine. But for my own part… Yes, I think that melancholic, valedictory tone in Ashes and Diamonds was not accidental.

fink3Damian: Again, I would direct the reader to our previous interview [see link below], but I’m pleased to see your fascination with the Western endures (mainly through the character of Captain Homer Jackson) and there are references to the genre in Ashes and Diamonds. Also, as I’ve told you before, I particularly enjoy your affinity with the character and in A Stronger Loving World, Jackson says to Reid, “This entire day can kiss my holiest of holies… First, I’m gonna drink this. Then I’m gonna throw up. And then, (reaching for another bottle) I’m gonna drink this. And then I’m gonna pass out. Now, you wanna make use of my brain, do it now.”

This is pure Toby Finlay – won’t you miss writing for Jackson?

Toby: F*****g right I will. I’ll miss a great deal about writing for Ripper. Not only the key characters, but writing for those actors is a privilege I don’t know if I’ll experience again. I mean, I hope I’ll work with Matthew, Jerome, Myanna, Charlene and Rothenberg again – but probably not all together.

Amid all of that, though, the character who comes most naturally to me with his self-loathing and rage and bottomless romantic yearning is Jackson, and I have never before experienced a professional pleasure that comes close to writing that stuff and seeing Rothenberg nail it like the drawling dirt-bag he is.

fink5Damian: Given our references to pupa and the butterfly, might your decision not to work on Ripper Street again mark something of a chrysalis and the transformation of your own career as a writer?

Toby: I don’t know. I just feel like it’s time to do other things. I’d never written television before Ripper, and now I’m going back to writing film for a while and I feel like I’m having to learn to write film all over again.… So… I don’t know. The uncertainty and terror is useful, an electric shock out of complacency.

fink1Damian: Of all the episodes that you’ve written, what do you consider to be your greatest contribution to Ripper Street?

Toby: In terms of contribution, you’d need to ask Warlow. It’s his show. But since you’re asking me…

I think The Weight of One Man’s Heart was a significant episode for Ripper in that it was the first ep in which the crime story intertwined deeply with an intense personal drama for one of our main characters; and a lot of Drake’s backstory and his own dark myth came into being through the composition of that episode. I think that ep made both Warlow and I take a slightly shifted angle on the show as a whole.

Damian: And so we come to end of our final Ripper Street interview. Toby, on behalf of the birds, butterflies and indeed all the winged creatures, I wanted to say that Whitechapel will be a less interesting place without you in it. I admire your talent and I appreciate your inspiration. So long cowboy.

Toby: Keep a good head, friend. And always carry a lightbulb.

~

“O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”

~

My first interview with Toby can be found below:

http://dmbarcroft.com/an-exclusive-interview-with-writer-toby-finlay/

All interviews and articles on this website are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

~~~

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Ripper Street Interview with Charlene McKenna

Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask you now to give your full attention to the voice of gaiety – Miss Charlene McKenna…

QUEEN OF THE COSTERS

An exclusive ‘Ripper Street’ interview by Damian Michael Barcroft

Damian: Before we address Ripper business, congratulations on the award-winning production of Richard Eyre’s version of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. Indeed, the production was so successful that you not only took Ghosts to the West End, but I understand you’re also heading for the bright lights of Broadway?

Charlene: Aw, thank you Damian. We are going off Broadway to BAM, which is a very very cool theatre indeed and we are super excited to pick the show up again.

Damian: Life does seem to be imitating art! Of course Rose Erskine wasn’t always the toast of the town and indeed when we first met her she was one of Long Susan’s ladies working Tenter Street. Nonetheless, by the fifth episode of series one (The Weight of One Man’s Heart written by Toby Finlay), Rose confides in Drake and tells him of her dream to banish the dark world of prostitution and escape into the limelight of the stage. However, towards the end of the second series, and despite her noble dreams and aspirations, Rose is at the very bottom of the playbill appearing at Blewett’s Theatre of Varieties singing like a reed caught in a March gale with lyrics such as “Randy-pandy, sugardy candy. Buy me some almond rock”. In spite of this, and with a little help from a certain friend, Rose transforms into the voice of gaiety and four years later as series three begins, Queen of the Costers! Where would Rose be in 1894 without Long Susan?

Charlene: Long Susan and Rose have always had a good relationship, she (L.S) has always tried to do right by Rose, and she definitely gave her the kick start she needed, which was an incredibly rare thing to get in those days, so there’s always been a great bond between them which makes what happens in season three all the more harder for Rose to stomach. As to where Rose would be without her? I’m fairly sure Rose would still have made it because she’s very streetwise after her experiences in the brothel and around the hard back alleys of East London, she doesn’t quit, and she won’t settle so i think she would have fought tooth and nail to get herself a better life.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

“All my days, all of them, whatever happens, I will always be grateful to you.”
– Rose to Long Susan in Our Betrayal (Written by series creator, Richard Warlow)

Damian: Inevitably we must discuss another of Rose’s guardian angels. I found the scenes centered around Rose and Drake at the conclusion of the last series to be profoundly moving and her loyalty to him truly heartbreaking: (Rose to Inspector Reid) “I search for Bennet Drake. There’s twice, sir, I owe my life to him. I walk this way twice a day and will stop only once I have found him. I cannot forsake him.” Drake missed Rose’s first bravo performance at Blewett’s but is there hope that she may sing for him yet?

Charlene: To live in Rose’s head is to always have hope. So yes, there is indeed hope she will sing for him yet. That quote proves my last statement, which is that no matter what it is, Rose will not fold easily, she’s like a dog with a bone, when she has decided she wants a certain thing she goes after it with all her heart.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: It may not have been a passionate relationship in the past but it strikes me as something much more paramount than that, perhaps a more consistent, steadfast and enduring kind of love. How would you describe the relationship between Rose and Drake in series three from her perspective?

Charlene: Well this is a little hard to answer without giving it all away. There has been six years from when we first saw Rose to when we see her now. She has done a hell of a lot of life in those years, she has been the victim of some very dark crimes and also has been privy to many of the finer things life in the late 1800s had to offer. She has done a hell of a growing up. So she sees Drake much differently now that she did when he first asked for her hand. So I think while their relationship is built on much more than passion, that passion is there now burning all the deeper for having missed it all these years. And that is where their love is at now in season three.

ROSEandDRAKE.jpg

© Tiger Aspect

“I am your true friend. I know that I have been cruel to you in the past. And you must look at me now and see nothing but a reminder of your pain. But I am your friend and I will not desert you. So you go back to your graves and your dosshouses, and you be sure of this: As the day begins and the night ends, you will find me waiting for you.” *

Damian: Jerome Flynn was deservedly BAFTA-nominated for his outstanding performance in series two and I personally think you should have received a nomination for best supporting actress yourself. Quite apart from Richard Warlow’s epic scripts and often poetic dialogue, I’m wondering how as an actor, you approach scenes with so much intensity and raw emotion as those at the graveyard (RS2: 07) with such subtlety and sensitivity and yet make them dramatic. Presumably you rehearse and discuss scenes such as this with Jerome and the director (Andy Wilson) but can you please describe your journey from reading the script right up to the point of filming?

Charlene: I’m blushing. Thank you Damian. You know what sometimes we do talk it out and sometimes we just do it. I never like to be over rehearsed or rigid in my choices because it makes me less malleable to the changes that the other person may bring to the scene. So I never want to be locked in my own ideas and decisions. I like to know my lines obviously and have thought about it and then I like to go to set and see what the rest of the team are bringing. Then for me it comes down to instinct and how it feels.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: In our previous interview you described Rose as “chasing a dime losing a treasure” with reference to Drake. Series 3 sees Rose engaged to Edgar Morton, the proprietor of the music hall. However, there was a line from Rose in the aforementioned episode, “Miss Susan, I have never known what it is to lie with a man I love” – I’m curious if this still remains true?

Charlene: There are different types of love. Lets just say, the love she was referring to in that line above, at the start of season three, remains true. You can draw your own conclusions.

Damian: Thank you Charlene. All that remains is for me to wish you well on Broadway but please don’t wander off with any strange Americans…

Charlene: I really will try – might go see if I can find Jackson someplace!! thank you Damian, pleasure as always. And a quick, HUGE thank you to all the fans who petitioned to have Ripper Street brought back. I think we have made a great season three for you all. Hope you enjoy.

~

*The full quote deserves to be read in its entirety owing to its beauty and grace:
“You think you can hide from life and perhaps another man might… but not a man such as you, Bennet Drake. You believe yourself cursed. You are not. You believe you carry only pain into other people’s lives – you do not. Bennet, you brought love into mine. A love that is keener now than ever it was. You are a good man. You are a good man. I will say those words until the day I die. Bennet Drake is the best of men and this life, this world, will not let him sink from its surface.”

~

All interviews and articles on this website are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

Follow on twitter for more exclusive news and interviews:

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

Ripper Street Interview with MyAnna Buring

Hard Medicine and Bad Money

An exclusive Ripper Street interview with MyAnna Buring

Interview copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

Damian: At the conclusion of our previous interview for series two of Ripper Street, we briefly mentioned the stage production of Strangers on a Train produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson which you’d just begun rehearsing. What was it like to work with the custodians of the James Bond franchise?

MyAnna: Great fun. Barbara was very hands on and has a work ethic, generosity, and positivity that is simply extraordinary. I know that might sound over the top but she is a very impressive human being and great to work with. Having met them it is not surprising that her and Michael have managed to keep the legend of Bond flourishing all this time.

Damian: While we’re on the subject of trains… No, I’m only joking – it’s more than my life is worth to reveal too much for those who haven’t seen it yet. However, I’m reminded of our discussion about the series two opener last year when you said that “the episode should bring Ripper Street crashing back into people’s living rooms”. Do you think Whitechapel Terminus, the first episode of series three tops this?

MyAnna: I think it does. I must have some sixth sense to have phrased it so last year – or maybe my phrasing last year planted some seeds, subliminally, in the writers minds? Or not… In any case, the show is definitely coming crashing back into living rooms once again.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: Previous press releases have promised that we will see you returning in more of a “starring role” this time. Was this something that you personally championed for or is it simply the natural evolution of Long Susan’s character given the story and plot lines for series three?

MyAnna: No – you can’t champion for such things… if the story doesn’t have a place for you then it doesn’t. You can’t force it to, and it is not my place to force writers to write for me if they don’t feel it’s right – I would never even attempt such a ludicrous thing! Having said that, I have always felt that Rose, Susan, and Cobden were integral characters in the show, so it makes sense that we continue to be so… Richard Warlow and the producers had always had an idea that this is where Susan would end up in her character arc – a kind of Godfather of Whitechapel is how they put it to me – and as Richard, Toby [Finlay], and Will [Gould – executive producer] mapped out this season they felt it was right to go there and I am very glad and grateful they did, as she, as always, was such fun to play.

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: Series creator/lead writer, Richard Warlow, and Toby Finlay, who has written more episodes than any of the other contributing writers have provided Susan with many outstanding dramatic scenes and dialogue over the past three years but I’m wondering who knows your character best. Do you ever give Richard or Toby notes on their scripts with reference to Long Susan Hart?

MyAnna: Toby and Richard both get Long Susan and as they’ve gotten to know me I have definitely found Susan using language that I myself use – for example, words such as ‘delicious’ crept into Susan’s vocabulary this year which is a very me thing to say… Also I think they know all of us actors so well now – not only personally, but also what we can do as actors – and they seem to have written very much with that knowledge in mind – this season in particular I’ve noticed that… I’ve never given them notes, although we’ve had chats about where we feel Susan is emotionally – just to confirm that we are on the same page.

Damian: You’ll undoubtedly remember some negative comments regarding the portrayal of women when the first episode of Ripper Street was broadcast back in 2012 and before such hasty commentators had even given the show, or indeed, its female characters a chance to evolve. So, it’s with a certain degree of amusement to observe that Susan, in addition to exhibiting enormous strength and determination herself, has chosen to align herself with some incredibly powerful women such as Jane Cobden (Leanne Best returning in her role from series two) who was the first woman to be elected to the London County Council and helped shape the women’s suffragette movement, and also Dr. Amelia Frayn (a new character played by Sherlock’s Louise Brealey) partially inspired by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Whitechapel-born political campaigner and the first Englishwoman to qualify as a doctor. “Obsidian” was introduced at the end of the last series, can you tell us a little bit about how this has now transformed into a clinic and Susan’s relationship with Jane and Amelia?

MyAnna: Yes even as a feminist – I struggled a little with the misogynistic comments… It is absolutely important in our industry that we keep an eye out for the messages we put across in our story-telling: we do still live in a society where there is inequality and in a culture where casual sexism, racism, prejudice does not help to address this inequality… we need to insist on change.

It is to be celebrated that we can voice our concerns, and as valid and right as that sometimes is, I would argue that at other times this right allows us to make bold statements about whether or not something is or isn’t misogynistic based on a crumb of evidence: one scene, one image… a little more attention may reveal the context in which the scene is shot and may flip our initial knee jerk reactions to it.

RipperStreet is at its core, structurally, a procedural cop drama set in the streets of Whitechapel – streets still reeling from the violent aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s horrific murders of local prostitutes. At its helm is a male police officer flanked by two “helpers” – one brains and one brawn – (there were no female police officers at the time, and even though the show takes liberties with the truth – there are certain constraints by which it abides in order to make the “world” of the show believable).

This is the core structure of Ripper Street and it is the streets of Victorian Whitechapel – this dirty, poor, socially unjust back drop against which all the Ripper Street characters wrestle out their lives… it is against this back drop that the characters question and challenge, and try to fight the misogyny, the corruption, the social and moral bankruptcy – without the images of inequality all around them the show could not make a case for the importance to fight it… the characters are not necessarily any of those things themselves – Reid, Drake, and Jackson are all supporters for the most part of the women in their lives, I feel they are quite evolved in this respect, and the women they are surrounded by are to a large extent written as fully fleshed out humans like the men are as opposed to simply caricatures – if they are victims of their circumstance then I would argue that all the characters in Ripper Street – male and female are fighting those very circumstances.

The nature of a TV show means that some characters develop quicker than others in order to drive the story telling – which is perhaps why some of the female characters may have felt less developed to begin with… It takes time to get to know some people, the same goes for characters… We always knew Susan was at odds with the limitations her society placed on her sex and that she would always be drawn to people and situations who challenged them, the writers had discussed this at length and that was why I was drawn to the project in the first place three years ago… The inclusion of the characters of Cobden, and Frayn was not, I believe, a response to the critics of the first episode, but the natural evolutionary result of a story based in this particular place and this particular time with these particular characters.

So, like I said, Susan always struggled with the injustice of the world she was born into and for her, especially towards the end of the last season, she becomes clear in her conviction that to swing the pendulum of power to favour a woman she needs money and a financial hold over people. She tells the dying Duggan that she will amass his wealth, make it her own, and with it take his place as the most powerful person in Whitechapel.

Cut to season three, four years later she has done just that… however, her dream is to use this power to build a better Whitechapel for its people…She builds a clinic – Obsidian clinic – and brings in a female doctor to run it, and is in the process of building affordable housing for which she has received governmental support in the shape of Jane Cobden. Two women who, like her, are challenging the perceptions of what women can do – however, in the case of the first she is doing it, not through business, but through her education and medicine, and in the case of the last through the means of politics: political campaigning, engaging with and drumming up the support of the disenfranchised people she represents… all equally impressive means to achieve the same end…

Damian: In previous interviews with female Ripper Street cast members, I’ve discussed the Gilbert and Gubar feminist theory concerning how women during the Victorian period were portrayed in fiction as either “angel” or “monster”. To be absolutely clear on this, I have always defended the women of Whitechapel as depicted in the show as incredibly complex and multifaceted but I found Susan’s actions in series three, with particular reference to end of the second episode, The Beating of Her Wings (by Toby Finlay) to be unforgivable and, indeed, truly monstrous. Does the end always justify the means and, on a moralistic level, has Susan passed the point of no return?

MyAnna: It is an incredibly monstrous act she commits… I would argue it is no more or less monstrous because she happens to be a woman – wouldn’t you agree?

Damian: I dare not do otherwise!

MyAnna: It is written – as are so many of Rippers’ scenes – precisely so, in order that we question whether the end justifies the means – that is one of the over riding themes of Ripper – we keep coming back to it… There is a wealth of source material in the world to draw from; look around us at the acts committed everyday in the world – that we, our communities, politicians and bankers justify… what is justifiable? Ripper does beg the question, however, from whose perspective are you shown the series of events? And how does this influence our judgement of them? Susan is driven, due to the world she has suffered in and for, by a vision of a greater, safer, fairer world – an altruistic vision – which without her to ensure it’s manifestation will simply never materialise – not in the way she sees it.

She feels incredibly strongly that she needs to protect this vision. Also, she has been presented with information that makes her question the behaviour of Inspector Reid – and until she is certain his actions were innocent she will definitely NOT risk losing all she has strived so very hard for to protect him – but it’s not as if it doesn’t cost her…

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: Although I fully empathise with Susan’s history, ambition and protective loyalty towards her friends such as Rose Erskine, why can’t she forgive Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) despite his copious collection of flaws and certain peculiarities of temperament?

MyAnna: Come ON?!?! The love of her life, her husband – the only man she has ever truly loved – has due to his idiocy, gambling, and inability to take clear action (that doesn’t involve running away), forced her to essentially sell her body to the filthiest, most corrupt and vile human being in all of Whitechapel. I’m sure if you had that dirty corruption hammering away over you and into your body, taking physical and financial ownership of you, stripping you of your precious independence, turning the only small place of safety you had in the world to ruin, you would feel pretty resentful of the person who you feel helped make it happen… or perhaps you are more forgiving than Susan? Or perhaps Jackson’s sweet charms would mean you wouldn’t mind taking one for the team for him?

Damian: *Clears throat*

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

MyAnna: Having said all this there is and always will be an inexplicable bond between these two characters – that unquantifiable and mysterious connection, gravitational pull some people just have between them… so the question lingers will that ultimately pull them together despite the deep hurt between them? Or have the actions of the past cut scars too deep and wide to overcome?

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: It seems to me that almost all of Jackson’s actions leading up to the shocking climax of series two were made because of his love for you. There were some truly heartbreaking scenes between the two of you as evidenced in the following excerpts of dialogue between the two characters from the last year’s grand finale, Our Betrayal (by Richard Warlow):

SUSAN: A moment comes in a woman’s life when she may no longer deal in dreams. This? This is fantasy… or is it death? – and it might well be both. No. Captain Homer Jackson. Matthew Judge. Husband. No. I will have no more of you and your dreams. The world is what it is. And I must live with that.
JACKSON: Look, whatever it takes darling, till my blood be spilt, I will find what it takes to make you smile again. Only allow it. Allow me the opportunity, this opportunity.

Without any more pain to feel, has Long Susan Hart become the heartless or might she smile again?

MyAnna: I don’t think anyone ever becomes heartless, but the protective wall Susan has built around her heart, is thick and tall… She cannot allow herself to feel too deeply, because to do so is too painful…she wrestles with this, but, ultimately, the best she can hope for is to help those in need and less fortunate than herself, to create some kind of monument to make her existence worthwhile, and to protect herself, make herself infallible to all the people who threaten her independence, her dignity, and to the man who took her heart and smashed it to smithereens…

© Tiger Aspect

© Tiger Aspect

Damian: For me personally, and I’ve told you this before, one of the many pleasures of the show is watching the relationship between Susan and Rose, played so wonderfully by the voice of gaiety herself, Charlene McKenna. I remember thinking that one of the tragedies of cancelling Ripper Street, and I genuinely mean this, was the thought of your two characters not sharing the screen again. Did you and Charlene keep in touch during the show’s hiatus?

MyAnna: We are all aware of your soft spot for dear Rose and Charlene – we all share it with you and join the queue! She is simply joyful. Rose is one of Susan’s few close friends and luckily for me Charlene is one of mine. We all keep in touch – it is a very close show…

Damian: Charlene painted a wonderful portrait of the relationship you both share when she told me that the two of you “snot, sing and laugh all over each other”…

MyAnna: Yup – pretty much sums it up!

Damian: MyAnna, it is always a great pleasure and a privilege to do these interviews – thank you very much indeed.

MyAnna: Thank you.

~

Damian Michael Barcroft

~

https://twitter.com/MrDMBarcroft

All interviews and articles on this website are copyright © Damian Michael Barcroft 2015

RIPPER STREET: Best TV Soundtrack

Congratulations Dominik Scherrer!

~By~

Damian Michael Barcroft

dominikscherrerThe 59th Ivor Novello Awards took place on Thursday 22 May 2014 at the Grosvenor House, London. The Ivors celebrate, honour and reward excellence in songwriting and composing. They are presented by BASCA and judged by the writing community.

Ripper Street, composed by Dominik Scherrer won the prestigious Best Television Soundtrack Award. The other nominations were for Mr Selfridge composed by Charlie Mole and The Thirteenth Tale by Benjamin Wallfisch.

I spoke to Dominik earlier today who gave me the following quote regarding his much deserved win: “It’s rare that they let us composers out of our studios, but didn’t quite expect this! To be in the company of some of my heroes such as Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Nile Rodgers is awesome… The Ripper Street soundtrack is successful because it involves many great collaborations: The Ripper Street production team, directors and the writers were always in favour of pushing things further and creating something unique. A great music team and we had very creative and accomplished musicians playing on it.”

Dominik is currently working on the much anticipated Ripper Street soundtrack album which is due to be released shortly although the exact date is yet to be confirmed.

Did you know?

Crimson Noise Ltd, Dominik Scherrer’s recording studio is located at Brick Lane in Spitalfields, the same area where Annie Chapman, Jack the Ripper’s second victim was murdered!

The Daily Mail complained about the use of banjo and fiddle in his score and suggested that the sound of a barrel organ would be more appropriate for the 1890s. The barrel organ was actually used in the score!

Other instruments included Mandolins, Mandola, Sethar, Dobro and the solo on the theme tune is played on a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle.

Dominik and series creator, Richard Warlow, wanted the music to have a Western feel and portray Victorian Whitechapel as a kind of Wild West.

~~~

My exclusive interview with Dominik will be published right here at dmbarcroft.com in the autumn to coincide with the broadcast of the third series of Ripper Street.

Damian Michael Barcroft

https://twitter.com/mrdmbarcroft

~~~

RIPPER STREET III: An epic year in Whitechapel…

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

Good evening Whitechapel and a huge welcome to both new fans and those friends who have been with us from the very beginning. Against all of the odds, Ripper Street is back and in the words of Will Gould, Tiger Aspect’s Head of Drama and Ripper Street’s Executive Producer, it’s going to be “an epic year in Whitechapel.”

As many of you will have heard by now, Ripper Street has just begun filming and speaking on location in Manchester, Matthew MacFadyen said, “I’m delighted and excited to be back for a third series of Ripper. Thank you to Amazon, thank you to our fans who wanted more, and thank you to our wonderful writers and producers for giving us the most thoroughly brilliant, gripping and heart-rending episodes.” Series creator and lead writer, Richard Warlow, added: “It’s a day many of us thought we’d never see, but it is particularly wonderful to be able to say that cameras are rolling on Ripper Street once more.”

So, what can we expect from the eagerly anticipated third series? Plot details and official confirmation of all the actors that will be joining Matthew MacFadyen, Jerome Flynn and Adam Rothenberg are still a closely guarded secret but Tim Leslie, Vice President of Amazon Instant Video in the UK assures us that “the third instalment of the show is set to be grittier and more exciting than ever.”

However, we do know that MyAnna Buring will be returning in more of a “starring role” as Long Susan: “It’s so exciting to be able to come back and continue Long Susan’s journey… As a cast and crew we’ve become a kind of family so to be reunited is beyond lovely… And to know it was made possible by the support of fans of the show makes it all the more special.”

I’ll be keeping you up to date with all the news and developments including exclusive interviews with the cast and crew but for now, I’ve compiled the following list of frequently asked questions to tide you over…

When can we watch it?

The third series of Ripper Street will be made available exclusively to Amazon Prime Instant Video members in the autumn. BBC1 will screen the series a few months later and will continue to be distributed globally by BBC Worldwide.

In addition to the DVD boxsets, the first series is available for unlimited streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video now and series two will also be launching on the service from 2nd June.

Why isn’t Ripper Street filming in Dublin anymore?

While filming has just begun in Manchester, the shoot will then move to Loughborough before finally returning to its traditional production base in Dublin. Filming is expected to be completed by late August.

How many episodes will there be?

The third series is going ahead as originally planned (i.e. before it was cancelled by the BBC late last year) with eight episodes as was the case with both series 1 and 2.

Who will be writing and directing the third series?

Episodes 1, 4, 7 and 8 will be written by series creator Richard Warlow. Episodes 2 & 3 by Toby Finlay and episode 5 by Rob Green. Block 1 will be directed by Andy Wilson while Anthony Byrne will direct Block 2.

Will the story follow on from the end of the last series?

The new series will move forward and begin in 1894. However, it will still deal with the aftermath of the dramatic series two finale.

Can you reveal any details regarding the storylines for series 3?

No, not really… However, here’s a clue: One story will revolve around the infamous Macnaghten Memoranda and if you’re unfamiliar with this report by Sir Melville Macnaghten, google it – I assure you it’s bloody good fun…

~~~

Well, that’s all for now but as my dear Granny always advised before making my way home through the fearful abyss, don’t talk to strangers and if in doubt, ask a policeman. Speaking of which, I leave you with Sergeant Bennet Drake himself, Mr Jerome Flynn…

“I am just thrilled that we are getting the chance to do another season of Ripper, to inhabit that world and the wonderful character that is Bennet Drake…all I can say is that what I’ve seen of the scripts so far is very exciting…we really hit the ground running dramatically and all our characters are taken on intense journeys. It’s going to be quite a ride.”

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

With thanks to Iain McCallum and Ian Cubbon

BREAKING RIPPER STREET NEWS!

Ripper Street nominated for Best TV Soundtrack

– Damian Michael Barcroft –

Dominik Scherrer’s stunning and innovative music score for Ripper Street has been nominated for the prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Best Television soundtrack. This is possibly one of the biggest awards for the soundtrack industry.

I spoke to Dominik earlier and he is “very pleased that there is recognition for such an unusual soundtrack”. My full and exclusive interview with the composer will be posted soon on this website.

The Ivors celebrate, honour and reward excellence in songwriting and composing. They are presented by BASCA and judged by the writing community.

The 59th Ivor Novello Awards will take place on Thursday 22 May 2014 at Grosvenor House, London.

Congratulations Dominik and the very best of luck!

Best Television Soundtrack Nominations:

Mr Selfridge
Composed by Charlie Mole
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing and Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Ripper Street
Composed by Dominik Scherrer
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing and Sony/ATV Music Publishing

The Thirteenth Tale
Composed by Benjamin Wallfisch
Published in the UK by Du Vinage Publishing

RIPPER STREET – H Division Files: Waldo Mason

Damian Michael Barcroft interviews the prosthetic make-up effects and creature FX genius that is Waldo Mason. We talk Ripper Street, the Elephant Man and our love of movie monsters!

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Waldo Mason with Joseph Drake as the Elephant Man on the set of the second series of ‘Ripper Street’

Phossy Jaw, severed heads, dismembered bodies and burnt, mummified, putrid corpses – welcome to the weird and truly wonderful world of Waldo! One of the leading make-up effects artists in the country, Waldo Mason has been creating everything from subtle scars to complete silicone bodies and alien creatures for over twenty years. As a fan of horror and monster make-up effects since early childhood, it is my pleasure and a privilege to present this exclusive interview…

Lon Chaney: One of the early pioneers of makeup effects and truly a man of a thousand faces

Lon Chaney: One of the early pioneers of makeup effects and truly a man of a thousand faces

DAMIAN MICHAEL BARCROFT: I was practically raised on horror as a child by my two uncles who would let me stay up late and watch all those great monster films of Universal and Hammer Studios whenever my mother was foolish enough to leave them in charge of babysitting. I’ve studied and written about these and more contemporary horror films as an adult but I’ve never forgotten the power and potency of those early movie monsters. I imagine you must have been similarly attracted to the genre in your own youth?

WALDO MASON: Yes, the Hammer and Universal films were the first exposure for me too, I would stay over at my friends house and watch midnight double bills of The Mummy, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man etc. The 70’s TV movie of Steven King’s Salem’s Lot was also an early influence and whereas the early Universal films were very atmospheric if not that scary, that film made me sleep with the light on afterwards!

The classic and arguably definitive monster movie makeup designs from the Universal Horror Cycle of the 30s & 40s

The classic and arguably definitive monster movie makeup designs from the Universal Horror Cycle of the 30s & 40s

DAMIAN: The great Lon Chaney was perhaps the most celebrated of the early makeup artists but other influential greats include Universal’s resident maker of monsters Jack P. Pierce (creator of such iconic creatures as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy and the Wolf Man) but I also admire Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton for their classic Hammer Horror films. I was wondering to what extent any of these films and filmmakers have inspired and informed your own work?

WALDO: I loved Jack Pierce’s monster designs, particularly the Frankenstein makeup, because it was made for a black and white medium and so was very theatrical in its execution, giving it a very classical, iconic look. But I preferred Phil Leakeys more gruesome take on the same character in Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein, made all the more impressive by the fact that it was done without moulds and created from scratch with cotton wool and latex every day! This illustrated to me that the things we make don’t always have to be sculpted and moulded, but can be fabricated directly. I’ve had to do makeups at very short notice this way and also use this approach for the anatomical details in autopsy bodies.

hammer1hammer4hammer2hammer3DAMIAN: The world of creature and makeup design was revolutionised in 1981 with the release of An American Werewolf in London which featured stunning prosthetics and robotic body parts by Rick Baker. Can you describe the first time you saw this and the impact it had on you?

WALDO: I watched it on a pirated VHS copy as I was about 13 at the time and stood no chance of seeing it properly, and it was a revelation. I lost count of the number of times I watched the transformation scene, trying to work out how it was done and I honestly believe it has never been bettered to this day.

an-american-werewolf-in-london-w1280

‘An American Werewolf in London’ (1981)

DAMIAN: Rick Baker revisited the world of lycanthrophy for the remake of The Wolf Man. Unfortunately the film was a critical and box office disappointment which I thought was a shame because it is actually quite good and remains faithful to the 1941 original while still delivering a few shocks and twists of its own. However, I was disappointed by the reliance on CGI which detracted from the power of Rick Baker’s makeup – what went wrong?

WALDO: It was a troubled film, suffering from the departure of the original director, Mark Romanek and the original makeup and costume designers which may have affected the decision making process regarding the effects required and the build time involved. Ultimately I’m not sure why there was such a heavy reliance on CGI but I know that the original intent was to do as much as possible for real which was the reason Rick was on board and we actually made practical versions of some of these effects which for one reason or another ended up being achieved digitally.

WOLFMANrickbaker

Rick Baker on the set of the 2010 ‘Wolf Man’ remake starring Benicio Del Toro in the role made famous by Lon Chaney Jr

DAMIAN: Can you talk me through the work you did on The Wolf Man and did you get to meet the great Rick Baker?

WALDO: I was involved in the post attack carnage which covered limbs, bodies and injuries. These included actor David stern’s freshly killed body, the death of the Ben Talbot character and the viewing of his body, various limbs being lopped off in the gypsy camp attack and a man torn in half with his intestines spread over the ground, to name a few! And yes, I met Rick Baker who was really cool and had some great stories going back all the way to American Werewolf, so I was very pleased to have worked on The Wolfman for that, if nothing else!

daVIDSTERNSILCONEHEAD

‘The Wolf Man’ – Waldo’s silicone likeness of David Stern

'The Wolf Man' - Waldo's silicone body of Ben Talbot

‘The Wolf Man’ – Waldo’s silicone body of Ben Talbot

DAMIAN: Many Ripperologists such as myself loved the idea of Inspector Abberline investigating the werewolf murders in The Wolf Man which brings us nicely to Ripper Street. You worked as prosthetics designer on both the first and second series, how did you become involved in the show?

WALDO: I was working on a film called Byzantium in Ireland and heard rumours about a Ripper themed show starting up over there, so after making some enquiries I contacted the show’s line producer Cait Collins who was very receptive to my suggestion of providing some prosthetic content, and after the first series was completed I was invited back for the second run which was even more ambitious both in storylines and the effects needed to facilitate them!

ernestmanbyDAMIAN: For the second episode of the first series of Ripper Street you created the body of Ernest Manby who was brutally beaten to death. The head, neck and arms were fully articulated and the mouth opened to reveal the tongue which was cut out and even gold teeth. Reminding the reader of aspects of your work such as hair-punching (every hair has to be individually inserted with a tiny needle into the “skin”), how long does this process take from the initial design concepts to the finished piece ready for filming?

WALDO: We had four weeks to make Manby’s body and we started with a lifecast of David Coon’s upper body and pulled out a clay positive which I cleaned up and sculpted the wounds into. We only built an upper body due to cost & time and the body would be having a sheet covering his modesty anyway! Rather than doing initial designs I used descriptive points from the script along with photos of the belt buckle that leaves marks on his face and emailed progress photos to director Tom Shankland as we went so that he could have his input (“More, nastier”!). When he was happy the body was moulded by Robin Schoonraad and we set an armature into the mould and filled it with silicone.

Work on progress on Ernest Manby's body

Work in progress on Ernest Manby’s body

The silicone was then tidied and painted by Nikkie Grimshaw and the hair punched by Katy Hood. For the finishing touches I gave him mutton chops & stubble, chopped up the fiberglass core in the head and inserted dentures with the gold teeth for Jackson to discover in the morgue at Leman Street.

A physical reference model to depict a sufferer of Phossy Jaw

A physical reference model to depict a sufferer of Phossy Jaw

DAMIAN: The first two episodes of the second series of Ripper Street are notable for the appearance of the tragic Joseph Merrick better known to the world as the Elephant Man. Obviously audiences will remember David Lynch’s classic 1980 film with John Hurt playing Merrick and wearing the celebrated makeup by Chris Tucker who is one of the world’s leading genetic makeup experts. You must have been rather apprehensive about taking on such an iconic figure as the Elephant Man?

WALDO: Chris Tucker’s work on The Elephant Man is so definitive that it’s what most people visualise when you talk about Joseph Merrick, simply because more people have seen that version than photos of Merrick himself so yes, we had big shoes to fill.

DAMIAN: I believe the makeup for your vision of the Elephant Man consisted of a silicone cowl, pre-painted cap plastic encapsulated face pieces for each shooting day, knotted hair pieces, upper and lower dentures, a slip-on deformed hand and a padded undersuit to distort the body shape. Can you tell us how many artists were involved during this process and how you managed to coordinate each individual creative aspect?

WALDO: I was fortunate enough to have some very talented people on the crew, and luckily sculptor Ivan Manzella had always wanted to create a version of that makeup so I was happy to let him! Justin Pitkethly sculpted the misshapen hand alongside Ivan doing the face to maintain consistency and both were moulded by Tom Packwood. Nikkie grimshaw ran and painted the silicone cowl, hands and encapsulated face pieces and the hairpieces were made by Barney Nikolic. Chris Lyons from Fangs FX made us dentures based on photos I sourced of contemporary Proteus Syndrome sufferers’ teeth and finally Cerina Knott fabricated a padded undersuit to alter the actor’s body shape. For the shoot Emma Sheffield joined us to help apply the makeups, which generally took around three hours.

waldoelephantmanteam

Joseph Drake as the Elephant Man with Emma Sheffield, Justin Pitkethly & Waldo Mason

DAMIAN: There are still many Merrick medical records and artifacts stored at the Royal London Hospital, what research and reference materials did you consult?

WALDO: I had attempted to contact the hospital regarding this but had no luck, so being that we were on a tight schedule we worked purely from web sourced reference photos of Merrick, his death mask and his skeleton.

DAMIAN: Tucker didn’t want the audience to be appalled by Merrick’s appearance and tried to make the face sympathetic and sad rather than hideous. Mike Barlett also created Elephant Man makeup for From Hell with perhaps a more horrific focus, what was your vision for the character?

WALDO: We decided he should definitely be sympathetic, as his story arc called for him to be vulnerable but you can’t take too many liberties with his look because it’s so distinctive and we wanted to stay as faithful to the reference as possible. So it really became an exercise in making sure that such a large makeup could still be very mobile and expressive so that Joseph Drake could convey that vulnerability through his performance, both facially and vocally, which he did beautifully!

DAMIAN: We couldn’t possibly discuss all of your film and television work but I wanted to remind the reader of some of the other incredible projects you’ve been involved on: Alien vs. Predator, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Prometheus, and The World’s End, to name but a few. What’s been your most challenging or rewarding job?

WALDO: I would have to say The World’s End was probably the most challenging because of the breakneck pace of the shoot and the weeks and weeks of freezing night shoots in winter!

DAMIAN: And who has been the most demanding director to work with, I’m guessing Ridley Scott (Prometheus) who is so creatively involved in every aspect of production, right?

WALDO: Actually Edgar Wright was the most demanding, just because he is completely focused, has a very clear vision of what he wants and is a total perfectionist, all of which are good things, you just have to work harder… Ridley was surprisingly laid back actually, I thought he would be really tough to work with but he was great and knows exactly how to shoot a tricky effects setup to make it work.

DAMIAN: Was Ridley chomping on a cigar when you met him?

WALDO: No-one gets to smoke on a soundstage anymore, not even Ridley Scott!

DAMIAN: One of your recent projects is Fox’s new production of Frankenstein starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe who is a rather curious choice for Igor considering how the character is usually portrayed. The film is written by Max Landis (Chronicle) and directed by Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) and I imagine this is going to take a completely revisionist approach – what can you tell us?

WALDO: Very little I’m afraid, as Fox take their confidentiality agreements very seriously! I was originally going to do more on it than I have but due to schedule conflicts I had to scale back my involvement. But what I have seen of it looks great!

DAMIAN: I like to imagine your home as somewhat similar to Hannibal Lecter’s kitchen (Waldo did in fact work on the prequel Hannibal Rising) with shelves full of anatomical reference books and various body parts casually littered about the house. However, in all seriousness, do you think there is a rather dark side to your nature that attracts you to such a profession that is frequently so grisly?

WALDO: Haha! That’s actually a pretty good description of my workshop! No, there’s no dark side, I’ve just been lucky enough to combine my love of art with my love of film and make a career of it and shows like Ripper Street keep things very interesting for me!

DAMIAN: Waldo, thanks for this interview, I think you’re an absolute genius and your work continues to astound me. I wish you and all your silicone friends the very best for the future!

WALDO: You’re very kind, thank you!

~ Damian Michael Barcroft ~

https://twitter.com/mrdmbarcroft

https://twitter.com/RipperStreet

~~~

Later that evening…

Murwillumbah, New South Wales, Australia

I’m a celebrity get me out of…

Alas, for Declan it was too late…

RSdec

Declan Donnelly by Waldo Mason for Millenium FX

Thank you Waldo, one down – one to go…

REVENGE – Ripper style!

RIPPER STREET WILL RETURN…