I recently got the opportunity to talk to ‘Hollyoaks’ actor Gerard McCarthy about his role in new Shakespearean production, ‘The Merry Wives Of Windsor’. Here, Gerard talks about how he got the part of Fenton in the production, his thoughts on Shakespeare and about how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Gerard. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about ‘The Merry Wives Of Windsor’. For anyone who hasn’t read the Shakespearean text – how would you sum up the play?
‘The Merry Wives Of Windsor’ is a comedy about middle class Elizabethan England. The main plot follows Sir John Falstaff and his attempts to woo two married women.
Tell us a bit about your character….
I play a character called Fenton who wants to marry Anne Page, unfortunately Anne’s parent’s have other suitors in mind for her so Fenton and Anne have to orchestrate a way for them to slip away, get married and face the consequences when they return.
How did you get involved in the production in the first place?
After four years in ‘Hollyoaks’ I desperately wanted to get back on stage and play a character that was as far removed from Kris Fisher as possible. When my agent called me about this project, I arranged to meet the fantastic director Christopher Luscombe and the rest is history!
The play stars Christopher Benjamin, Serena Evans and Sarah Woodward – what was it like working in rehearsals with the cast and production crew?
I learned more working with those guys than I did during my whole time at Drama school. Christopher Benjamin’s career is one that every actor dreams of having and he’s one of the loveliest men I’ve ever met. Serena and Sarah are the best leading ladies you could wish for…. honestly, it was a dream cast!
What do you think it is about Shakespeare that continues to make him one of the best writers ever?
For me, it has to be his body of work. There was nothing he didn’t write about, he covered every theme possible and did so through telling some of the greatest stories the literary world has ever known.
How different would you say TV / film acting is to theatre acting? Does it go hand in hand or are there huge differences?
The essence is the same; read the script, relate to the character, understand what he wants to achieve and find a way to convey this to your audience. The only difference is how subtle you can afford to be….what works on TV won’t necessarily travel to the back of a 1000 seater auditorium.
Let’s talk about you Gerard. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I think I fell in love with the idea of pretending to be somebody completely different to myself. When I was a kid I was always dressing up and doing plays with my brother and sisters for my parents. Thankfully, my parents weren’t the type to record everything on a home video!
What advice would you give to UK actors wanting to get into the industry?
I don’t advise anyone to do it. It’s a really tough profession and if you can be persuaded not to enter it, then it’s definitely not for you. My parents and careers teachers tried everything to make me take another route…. but there was nothing else I wanted to do more.
Of course, everyone knows you as Kris Fisher from ‘Hollyoaks’….how does it feel to have been on the show for over 300 episodes?
I’m so proud of ‘Hollyoaks’; Bryan Kirkwood wanted me to play a character that had never been seen in a UK soap before and because of how much he cared about Kris, this enigmatic, misunderstood, confused boy was introduced to millions of people across the UK and suddenly he became accepted. I was initially contracted for twelve episodes and it just grew and grew. I’ll always be thankful to Bryan for allowing me to play Kris.
You’ve had to deal with storylines that focused on stuff like HIV and the PEP drug – do you think more soaps need to tackle these issues?
It’s a grey area for me because at the end of the day a soap opera is a soap opera, not an educational or training video, so an issue-based storyline has to have a fine balance of telling the story and raising awareness without being ‘preachy’. I think ‘Hollyoaks’ probably does this better than any other soap…. it presents the facts and situations to its audience and let’s them form their own opinions.
Which storyline has been your favourite?
Without a doubt it would be Kris and Zak’s graduation. I loved working with Kent Riley and Gemma Craven (Kris’s Mum!) was amazing in that storyline. I remember the day we shot the scenes after Kris had graduated and Gemma held my face and said “You’re my son and no matter what you do, or who you love, I’ll always be your Mum and I’ll always be proud of you.” Every single guy on the crew got straight on the phone to their Mum after that scene to tell them they loved them. We’re a mushy lot! Haha.
Where do you think Kris Fisher is now? What do you think he is doing?
He could be anywhere….doing anything! The only thing I’m sure of is that he’s definitely wearing something special!
What does a Gerard McCarthy day usually consist of?
The only routine in my life is that I wake up every morning and go to sleep every night; what happens in-between is anyone’s guess! There are days when I’m reading scripts and meeting people for new projects, doing interviews and rehearsals and watching theatre – and there are days when I’m just hanging out with my friends and family, they’re the most important days to me. I don’t have a day-to-day routine but I like it that way.
What’s coming up for you in 2011? I understand you’re coming back to ‘Hollyoaks’ briefly…
I’ve never made a secret about the fact that I would always return to ‘Hollyoaks’ if there was a storyline that needed Kris back and I was available. It’s not going to happen any time soon though as I start shooting a new TV series in August for four months and then afterwards I’m beginning rehearsals for a play that I’ve committed to. But never say never! I’m sure it’ll happen one day.
Thanks for the interview!
You can follow Gerard on Twitter – @Gerard_McCarthy….