Gary Beadle, became a household name playing the infamous Paul Truman in the UK's most popular soap, East Enders.
I came to know Gary from here and there, mostly through frequenting the same party circuit and bars. We had a habit of pouncing cigarettes off each other, whilst a packet of Silk Cut was hidden in our pockets. Gary kept his in the breast pocket whilst I've always been a man who likes to stash them inside my jacket, invisible to the human eye. Our first line into a conversation was, "Got a fag?” Although I have no idea why but whoever received the cigarette, secretly basked in the glory of his victory over the other.
This interview was prior to a comic strip venture, " The Glam Metal Detectives". Gary thought his ship had finally come in after a few years of struggling, alas no. The programme was axed after one season, Gary would have to wait another 8 years for his real break. When he did resurface, he did so with a vengeance, setting Albert Square alight. This interview relives a star in the making. His self belief and self confidence exudes from all angles.
“It is the saddest, most earth-shattering day in a young man’s life when he wakes up and reasonably says to himself – I WILL NEVER PLAY THE DANE”
I have a special admiration for people who choose acting as a career. It must be the loneliest profession. Musicians may face the same rejection and heart break but at least they have their fellow band members to rely on for encouragement and moral support. But actors face it alone, many of them experience years of poverty and torment. Endless auditions and never a job at the end of it. I have an image of it in my mind , like the early scene of Withnail and I, of a young actor sitting in a dirty greasy spoon café staring into their coffee that they’ve made last all morning, waiting, praying for their luck to change.
In this Issue of PEOM we look at the career of a very special young British actor – Gary Beadle, he is involved in a number of exciting projects at the moment, we ask first of all-Gary have you ever been there?
Gary – Yes definitely. There’s been times when my spirit was been completely broken. Back in August of ’92 , I was writing but none of the ideas had been bought yet. I was staying at home, watching TV, getting very bitter.
A year on Gary’s fortunes have changed remarkably. We find him in the not exactly plush but functional COMIC STRIP offices in Soho. He is not only acting in the new COMIC STRIP series, but co-writing it as well. When we ask him to tell us about this new series that will be aired in early 94, Gary gets ultra excited.
Gary – it’s going to be 6 half hour shows, not sketches, bit more of a concept idea where it’s like Cable Westminster, where you’re punching from channel to channel and we have our own channels- we’ve got our own sports , our own advertisements, we’ve got blood sports like people being battered outside the BLIND BEGGAR on a Friday night and we have commentaries by two blood sport pundits like Saint & Greavesy. We have this other one, a domestic over a game of monopoly, but it’s all black eyes, bleeding lips, bloody noses and the commentator outside on the lawn is saying – it’s been a real punch up tonight he landed on chance , she took a chance, he took a community chest , he had to go to jail but he wasn’t having it- and it all went off and Grandad had to get involved.
We have this other running character called Colin Corleone who thinks he’s the Godfather – Colin and his two mates live in Peckham, they wear ill-fitting suits, drive around in FIAT UNO’s and hang around Pizzaland totally against the grain of the real world. They get clamped and they say to the clampers “Mr Corleone wouldn’t like it” And the clampers say “I don’t care who Mr Corleone is. You not allowed to park outside Pizzaland on Friday between 2 and 6.
We have our own advert, I play a character called Mickey whose a real sex object with side burns, cod piece, afghan coats and the advert runs captions “Old Man get it up. Call Mickey on 0898…
It’s like short sharp shocks punching from channel to channel to channel. The great thing is that we can bring some new faces not just use the same people.
PEOM – Who are the core people in the Comic Strip now?
Gary – Pete Richardson is the main man, Phil Cornwall who’s the voice of Mick Jagger on Steve Wright in the afternoon, and myself. We’ve just received 1.7 million from the BBC, which isn’t a lot, but a good amount for a new project. It’s going to be shown on BBC2. The great thing about BBC2 is that they don’t give a damn about ratings but concentrate more on quality. We’re aiming it as a cult thing like the original Comic Strip was.
PEOM - When did you join the Comic Strip?
Gary - I’ve been with Comic Strip for five years now, GLC was the first one. I was working with Keith Allen on MAKING OUT, who asked me to do a little in GLC. Peter Richardson liked what I did and started giving me bits and pieces and gave me a big break in QUEEN OF THE WILD FRONTIER with Josie Lawrence. That show got the highest ratings. But the new series will be nothing like the last, the new series is complete madness. I would compare it a little bit to Monty Python.
PEOM - Comic Strip was a launch pad for the careers of Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Robie Coltrane, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders; Keith Allen the list goes on. Are any of these names involved in the Comic Strip now?
Gary – They are nothing to with it any more. It’s ended on good terms though. It’s just like professionals moving on to do their own projects.
PEOM- So, is this Comic Strip Part 2?
Gary – It’s more the like C.S. productions, it’s a whole new concept, new faces one or two might make a little appearance but we’re more into bringing in some new blood.
PEOM - Did you train as an actor or as a comedian?
Gary – I briefly trained as a comedian, I did this double act called Swift + 2 Club Bouncers long before Hale & Pace. We did a big famine relief gig once, a posh do with numbered tables- Neil Kinnock, Billy Ocean and some members of the royal family were there. We weren’t briefed about what sort of audience we were going to have , so we went on stage and did this really hardcore act which involved a gay sergeant major , a cucumber and a kinky private. It was a well kinky sketch. At end there was no laughter – you cold a hear a pin drop, the organisers were livid. Before the show we were sharing a table with a hair production, they were saying to us before the act “GOOD LUCK”, we went on, died, came back to our table and they totally blanked us.
PEOM – What other projects are on the go at the moment?
Gary – I just got the lead in the new Joe McKay film JOHNY WAS, we start filming next year. It’s like DO THE RIGHT THING someone gets killed – the community is outraged by it, the character I play ends up with a gun in his hand, holds up Notting Hill Police Station and talks to the press through the window. I am also acting in a film called The Imitators which is a black comedy about a bank job that goes horribly wrong.
PEOM – You seem to be getting offered a lot of work these days ? Do you turn things down?
Gary – My philosophy is some things I do for money, some things I do for nothing, but I’ll never do anything just for the money. There has got to substance to it. I am thinking more long term, I’ve done a couple of adverts, but that was in my young formative years. I don’t do them anymore. I believe TV is a powerful medium that influences the way people think. I’d rather be at the helm trying to influence the way people think then be upstaged by a packet of crisps or a tin of paint in some TV advert.
You don’t see De Niro doing adverts. Michael Jackson does adverts but that’s a case of the product needs you more than you need the product.
PEOM - Where did you study acting?
Gary – I went to a place called Anna Scher in Islington. I went there because I was a bit of a terror on the street and it was a well known training ground for people from that background (Editor- this is where Phil Daniels and the Kemp Brothers studied acting) I went there when I was 10, Anna Scher is a tower of strength only four feet tall but when she’s teaching she looks a hundred feet tall. If you’re working class she teaches you to speak other ways but she’ll never take away your identity. She’ll never make you change the way you speak. She teaches people new skills and new tools to put in their toolbox working on the actual core of the person and enhancing it as opposed to destroying and building it up like with most drama school kids. I mean if you’ve never been battered how can you act being battered?
PEOM – Do you think you have to be a bit strange to be in showbiz?
Gary – Nearly all the people in this business have personality problems that’s why they are in this business. I’d be the first to admit I have a personality problem one minute I’m rave on Mental and the next moody and quiet. It’s hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Everybody in this business is a vain fucked up person and it’s the only job they can do. That’s the same for everybody in the creative arts , there’s a price, you’ve got to sacrifice something, and ten times out of ten it’s your personality, you can’t be nice all the time and be famous… unless you’re a stage school kid (cheeky laugh)
PEOM – What do think comedy should reflect?
Gary – The truth, because all humour has an element of truth. No matter how sick it is , you don’t laugh unless you can relate to it.
Everybody’s got a secret side and I like to bring out things in people they normally wouldn’t think of. Bernard Manning as much as I can’t stand the bloke – I know where he is coming from and will laugh not out of respect but because he’s seen it as it is. Some people just don’t want to hear the truth, but comedy has got to reflect the truth or there’s no point in doing it.
PEOM – Which do you think is the best way of getting a message across, the traditional kitchen sink drama or comedy?
Gary – They are both equal as far as I am concerned. I suppose kitchen sink drama has a tendency to shove things in your face to the point of getting bored with it. It’s like preaching to the converted I believe in converting and I am the converter. Rather than play to an in-crowd at a Red Wedge gig. I’d prefer to play to people that don’t know what’s going on like at a cocktail party with a bunch of upper class cunts.
PEOM – Have you found it hard being a black actor?
Gary – It’s easier now but the struggle is not over – not by a long shot. As far as I can see from watching TV – black people don’t use soap, don’t use soap-powder, don’t eat cereal but they do shop at Kwiksave apparently. You get your black voice over for Um-Bongo in the jungle or something like that. But black actors like myself are willing to die before we do any of that crap. The only way forward is to make a stand.We still haven’t grasped the foundation for writing and producing we’ve got to mature.
PEOM – How about Spike Lee, he’s moved the black film movement in the states on a bit.
Gary – Yes, but the black community in Britain has only been here since the fifties. The USA is soaked with the blood of injustice. A lot of people have grouped together to make a stand. We haven’t got a proper black radio station yet. Football’s a good example no black managers yet except for Viv Anderson, but a lot of good players.
You have to be better than most to get noticed but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want to get there on merit not being this black quota, through liberal feeling sorry for you, giving you a squeeze.
PEOM – What’s Peter Richardson like to work with?
Gary – Peter always used to have this hands on policy. He wouldn’t let anyone direct, hardly anybody write, if you wrote he insisted on co-writing with you. Whereas on this series he’s given more people a bigger say and a lot more freedom. We can bounce off ideas. It’s much easier to do things on an informal basis. If someone gives you an idea formally like “here’s an idea take your time to read it” straight away the pressure’s on – you have to phone them back and tell them you don’t like it which is awkward. If it’s done informally they can tell you the story and you just don’t laugh which is an easier way of saying “I don’t like it” In that sense it might be cliquey, but nobody wants to use something that isn’t funny.
PEOM – Are you funny Gary?
Gary – Of course I am!
And that’s what it’s all about Self-belief
NOT THE END
© Words Matteo Sedazzari /ZANI Media