Hattie Morahan: The Bletchley Circle’s New Girl

“This year has been exciting, rewarding and changing.  A Doll’s House has genuinely changed things for me, it’s been a mad year, it’s been lovely, playing Nora has now become so familiar, each rehearsal period we’ve come back to has been like getting back in to an old coat and it’s like ‘oh yes I remember this’, she’s a really interesting character to play and I really enjoy her contradictions and the strange journey she goes on and so to get to have another crack at it, it’s so complex and the play is so multi layered and so rich that it it’s just a really lovely opportunity to play Nora again”

Hattie Morahan has had an exciting year, since our last interview she has won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress a Critics Circle Award as well as an Olivier Nomination, all due to her performance as Nora in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House¸ which had two successful runs at the Young Vic and is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End.  I meet her in her dressing room, which is scattered with copies of Ibsen and she is dressed in jeans, a striped top and her hair is tied up.

I wonder what her awards mean to her and if they have helped her career, “that’s never been the goal of what one does, it’s quite daunting to take on a part which is known and people have opinions about, it’s reassuring to know that the consensus was I didn’t screw it up,” she laughs “I don’t consider it to be totally objective, I’m aware that it’s a part that draws attention to itself and it’s a part that has history. I think the Critics Circle I was particularly proud of, as these are people who really know their stuff and have been in the game for many years between them” she smiles.

The English Touring Company recently revealed a nationwide search to find the Nation’s favourite play written in the English language, I ask what her favourite play would be, “Oh gosh I’d say Shakespeare, As You Like It

Morahan is also set to appear as one of the main cast in the second series of The Bletchley Circle, I wonder if she could tell me a little bit about the show and her role in it, “There’s a group of women who worked at Bletchley Park during the War, they signed the official secrets act so all of their work helping the government break codes means they can’t tell anyone.  It’s now 1950s austerity Britain; there aren’t opportunities for bright women to find something that’s rewarding to their capabilities. So they start solving crimes, in the true tradition of ITV Dramas.”

“I play a character  who was in Bletchley Park and who has various secrets in her past, so she’s a guest in the first two episodes and she’s in prison for a crime, a serious crime and we don’t know what it is, and shes very enigmatic, and doesn’t give much away. Then she later becomes one of the group and I would say she has a lateral brain, lateral thinking, very logical, likes system and machines and shes a sort of geek.” She smiles.

” She was great fun to play and has very strong feelings and feels passionately about the people who are important to her. Shes not very gregarious, but shes intelligent in her own way, shes lovely to play, shes called Alice. I really love playing her.”

Clearly it’s been a successful year for Morahan, coupled with television appearances, leading an award winning show in the West End, she also has time to pursue projects on the side and she recently did a reading at the National Portrait Gallery of the memoirs of artist Laura Knight whom she portrayed in A Summer in February “there’s been this lovely exhibition there and there was this fortuitous coming to together of passions where I was really pleased to read her memoirs”

The Bletchley Circle series two starts on Monday 9pm on ITV1

Naomi Jeffreys, The Rabbit and Reel

Youssef Kerkour: An Exclusive Interview

xqsg2197cfh5km5vo1ylThe Rabbit Film Section has an exclusive interview with Youssef Kerkour, a regular performer at the RSC in Stratford Upon Avon; he has performed in New York City and on various London stages, appeared in numerous television programmes. His latest role is in ‘Hummingbird’, the latest Jason Statham film, check out what he has to say below.

It is an unusually chilly April afternoon in the centre of London, I’m about to meet actor Youssef Kerkour in the warmth and comfort of the National Theatre, a good place to get out of the cold. Youssef Kerkour emerges from the cold, a towering six foot four, dressed warmly in jeans and a jumper. He gives me a friendly handshake, I buy him (after much persuasion) a coffee, and then we find a quiet corner to chat.

Kerkour is an accomplished actor, often on London stages and an RSC regular, he is an actor who knows the value of a hard day’s work, his last run was seven months performing at Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford Upon Avon; “It’s seven months of serious work, they work you to exhaustion, my knees have given up, because they had people climbing on me in the shows and now that I’ve stopped I’m completely shattered, you can hear my voice has gone,” he explains.

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Often seen on our stages, he has been in The Orphan of Zhao, Boris Gudanov, Measure for Measure and Written on the Heart for the RSC.  I wonder why Shakespeare is so important for British Culture, “I think it’s very important, but not in the sense that people would think, that he is just a part of our British Heritage, so therefore he important, it’s to do with the ‘Human Condition’,” he smiles  andcontinues; “We need to remind ourselves as a society of the human condition, what makes us tick, what love means, what betrayal means, the stories that we have amongst us, the general transactions we have against one another, the more we can be reminded of them the better,”

“And Shakespeare’s greatest gift is his insight in to human nature and insights that still continue to surprise people, you know, you can read Shakespeare again and again and again you will gain new information” Kerkour answers “It’s like looking at a tip of an Iceberg, when you look at the tip of an Iceberg there’s a whole mountain underneath, that’s what his plays are like, floating tips of icebergs but there is so much underneath it and just exploring it teaches you more and more about who you are, he does that, he’s good for British Culture.”

Clearly, Kerkour knows his Shakespeare, but that was not always the case. He was born and raised in Morocco in 1978; his mother is English, his father Moroccan. He was educated in the Rabat American School, where he started acting at the age of eight, “I kind of haven’t stopped since then,” A self-confessed “below average” student, it was in Drama where he achieved the top marks, “I always got As and A+s with Drama and Theatre

“I moved to New York when I was 18 and studied Dance Drama at the Bard College in Upstate New York, from there I did four years of University and got a BA in Theatre, and moved to New York City.  I was an actor there for two and half years, and then, I was in a show that was leaving the US it was going to Singapore, September 11th had happened just before that and I have an Arabic name and it was hard, at the time to get work if you were Arabic, very difficult,” he reflects “And immigration lawyers had just said look, ‘you have a British passport, go to England, work for a little bit and come back’, so that was the plan, and I’ve sort of been here [London] ever since”

“I moved here the tail end of 2002, I did near two years in London without knowing anyone, then I went back to Drama School. He went to LAMDA in 2006 and England has become his home, and any thoughts of returning to the Big Apple have been put on the backburner.

galileo-stuart-clark-11-541x361 I wonder what the differences are for a working actor in London and New York; “Good question, in America, the main difference, as a jobbing actor, is that in America you assume you’re not going to be paid,” he laughs “Whereas, in England you always assume that you are gonna be paid, unless you’re told otherwise,”

He goes on to describe American values for a working actor, “There is a drive and a fire in everyone’s belly, if you have a chat with one of your mates about a project you’re gonna work on and someone hears you next door then everyone starts chiming in, you’ll be working with them by the weekend making a short film, writing a script, at the very least they are in your work, and this idea of growing a network is so important over there, whereas here, you don’t need a network because the system is in place.”

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There is refreshing frankness in Kerkour’s tone, it is sometimes misunderstood how much work goes in to becoming a real working actor, he admits that: “I hustled so much, I think that’s what’s made the Actor I am today, I am really lucky to have worked with some really quite big names and big productions, but I am, I wouldn’t classify myself as a leading actor…”

One of the big names Kerkour has worked with, most recently, is hard man, Jason Statham, star of ‘The Bank Job’ and ‘Snatch’, often known for his gritty roles.  Kerkour admits that Statham is making a departure from his usual roles. I wonder if he can offer the University of Essex students an exclusive insight in to the film and his role in it.  “the film is written by Stephen Knight who wrote Dirty Pretty Things, which he was nominated an Oscar for;  this is his Directorial debut and you wouldn’t know it from working with him he’s incredible.” he smiles.

What’s the plot? “the story is about a Special Forces Soldier who is homeless, addicted to drugs and alcohol, through a series of chance, gets his life back together across one summer, and uses his new found position amongst the criminal underground to make right a lot of the wrongs in his life, with a lot of the baggage that he’s carrying around” Clearly, this is a Jason Statham film which has more of a journey, his character physically changes, his character journey is more pronounced.

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“The film is a departure for him, it’s more of a journey, he has some depth to his character and he is covering that really well. He is a very good actor, I mean he’s in his element and knows exactly know how to react to it, what moves look good, what don’t look good, he knows how to sell action on scene, he’s in his element and knows exactly know how to react to it.”

And Kerkour’s role? Well, he is one of the only actors who can say that he has beaten up Jason Statham, an impressive statement, we both find this amusing; “seeing it from my perspective” he continues,  “I beat him up in the beginning, he runs away from me, I then chase him down Soho, he hides from me in a flat and then in the flat he hears an answering machine message and learns that he’s away for the summer, so he decides to stay in the flat and to take on that person’s identity and that’s how he cleans his act up, then he comes back mid film and then beats me up.” He laughs.

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Bouzanis is Kerkour’s character name, a “tax” man, a muscle man, something which Kerkour has often played on stage and screen. Kerkour admits, he is built for those muscle roles, a towering 6 ft. 4, “I’m a big guy and haven’t got any hair” he admits, but his physical presence has been the source of his income for his career. Kerkour himself is nothing like these characters, which is a testament to his acting, kind, funny, and a very giving actor. The work he’s most proud of? “I did a Charity gig once called Support Dogs, it’s run by two very lovely women in Yorkshire, it was incredibly emotional, no-one’s heard about it, I do a lot of things out of love for other people, but nothing like that before, I think I’m more proud of that than anything than any TV series I’ve done.”

Clearly, the hours in his career spent working for no pay in America have stood him in good stead to become a real working actor, his career has been successful and varied, he is currently keen to go back to Stratford-Upon-Avon, working amongst creatives, actors, directors, like-minded people, people he has been surrounded by since he was eight.

He’s found his home in London, where he is able to do the job he loves, I wonder if he has any advice for any students at the University who want to become actors? “My main advice is: know who you are, you need to ask yourselves questions, when you’re young, such as, would you be considered as a romantic lead? How do people see you? And then how do you see yourself? How does that match up with you?”

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“You need to do that type of introspection and you need to know who you are. That feeds in to what I used to say, you really gotta know what you want to do with your career, do you want to be famous, or do you just wanna work? You have to identify that. If you can’t bear to make a living doing anything else, then you need to focus on making a living as an actor. Are you willing to work above a pub, in some tiny town in the middle of nowhere, if it pays you more than you’d get on the dole?” Make a decision about who you are and who you want to be.”

Kerkour was perfect company during our interview, funny and interesting. He has had a steady career, often on sought after London stages and through his extensive work with the RSC, his diary about being an actor at the RSC Whispers from the Wings is in the works to become a book. It seems Youssef Kerkour has an exciting time ahead, keep an eye out for him and go and see him in Hummingbird.

Hummingbird is out in cinemas on May 17th 2013.

Naomi Jeffreys, Film Editor

Samantha Bond: An Exclusive Interview

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“The past is history. The future is a mystery. This moment is a gift, which is why it’s called the present.” Samantha Bond, Daily Mail, 2012

It’s not yet sundown, and Samantha Bond and I meet in a busy National Theatre she glides in to the NT foyer, gives me a firm handshake, then I’m whisked off to the coffee counter. We find a quiet corner upstairs; Bond is dressed in a black blazer and black jeans.

Bond is the daughter of actor Phillip Bond and television producer Pat Sandys. She trained at the Bristol Old Vic. Her desire to act began at the age of fifteen: “What I wanted to be was a ballerina and I used to dance regularly after school and then when I got to fifteen, which is when you apply for ballet school, I did puppy fat in a major way “she says wittily.   “It’s funny when I talk about it now, because it should have been something that broke my heart and I don’t remember that feeling”

Samantha Bond has had a seriously successful career, on stage and on screen. Perhaps best known as Moneypenny in the Pierce Brosnan years of ‘James Bond’; “I mean the bit that is alarming is that I haven’t made one of them for ten years and will never make another one” But being a ‘Bond girl’ does have its advantages, “it changes the way the press view you because I had no idea before I did the ‘Bond’ films just how huge the franchise was, if you’re trying to push something from a charity point of view, it’s a huge bonus” she smiles.

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Nowadays, you can often see Bond making guest appearances in ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Outnumbered’, she is quite often heard on the radio, and on various London stages. “My favourite is the theatre; I love the immediacy of it, no-one can edit your performance, no-one can light you so you look more beautiful. It is absolutely about, your integrity, your honesty, so that’s my first love”

I ask if she has any advice for students who want to become actors; “Yeah. You have to want to do it so much that the idea that you couldn’t would break your heart. “

“There’s a terrifying statistic, which means that of a 100% of actors, only 4% work all the time and 11% earn a living. And you need to know that if that’s what you want to do. It’s very interesting because the media talk to people who are successful, but for every one of us there are 4,000 who never will be.”

“It’s very easy to just buy the success of people like Benedict Cumberbatch, but the reality of this job is very different.”

Bond has had to work hard to achieve her success. I ask if she has anything planned for2013 “No not yet, it doesn’t worry me anymore. It used to, it’s much more fun not to worry”

For now, Samantha Bond is heading off to a Tim Minchin concert with her husband, then is off to dinner. Throughout our interview she was witty and entertaining.

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Naomi Jeffreys, Film Editor