The actor behind Dickie Blazer (as well as several other supporting roles) and production assistant Wink Taylor chats to SteamTeam about his life in the showbiz industry, Basil Brush, Theo the Mouse and of course, Sooty!
1. How did you first get into the showbiz industry?
I started as a Primary School Teacher, but there was a fatal flaw in my plan - I was rubbish! The only thing I was any good at was reading stories to children and putting on silly voices, so I decided to become an entertainer!
2. How did you first become involved with Sooty?
I was asked a long time ago to take over from Richard on the live shows as the main Presenter of the Sooty Show, but turned it down to work on Basil Brush. Whilst working on Basil - I met Richard who was directing the live Basil Theatre Shows, we hit it off immediately as we share the same stupid sense of humour. When Richard bought the rights for Sooty he asked me to contribute ideas and become a member of the writing team. I was more than delighted to accept, as I totally shared Richard's desire to take Sooty back to the Corbett vision.
3. You mentioned that you also worked with another icon of children's television: Basil Brush. Was this as fun to do as Sooty?
As a child of the Seventies - you started off loving Sooty and then when you got older you moved on to Basil. I adored Basil Brush and to end up as his writer/assistant was a dream come true.
4. You've written countless episodes of Sooty. Where do you find the inspiration for each episode? Is it easy to keep coming up with fresh ideas?
I watch a lot of Television, I go to the cinema every week, I watch many theatre shows, I read a lot of books and comic strips. I then take all these experiences of other people's work and nick the best ideas for myself!! Tee Hee Hee
5. Did you watch Sooty when you were younger?
I am hugely proud of the fact that I am one of the only people on the production team to have met Harry Corbett. Every Easter he would come to the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre and my Grandmother took me to see the Sooty Show every year; and I even met him backstage. He was magical and rapidly became one of my idols. When Richard Cadell kindly credited me as a writer alongside Harry for the recent Space Rocket episode - it was a very proud moment.
6. Aside from writing for the series, you're also the production assistant. What does this job entail?
My job is to liaise with all the departments to make certain that Richard's vision ends up on the screen. I am also there to help with any last minute rewrites and the hardest job of all - help Richard learn his lines!! I am also very much involved with the Guest Artists - from casting to welcoming them on to the set and making certain they are briefed on what scenes are being shot and where. This is probably my favourite job, as I like to make certain that all guests wander away from Sooty having had the best time!
7. Can you talk us through a typical day on set?
I'm afraid I can't, there is no typical day - every single day is different!
8. You've made countless background appearances. Are these fun to do? Which role has been your favourite?
I love doing these background appearances, I used to be an actor and really enjoyed playing support roles. I hated playing the lead parts, I always just wanted to come on for a couple of scenes, overact and then go home. With this in mind - I love the Old Man, he's just such a daft character and is very much based on one of my heroes: Clive Dunn.
9. A lot of your cameo appearances are very phsyical and involve a lot slapstick? Do you have any training in that area? Have you ever hurt yourself?
I lived in a circus for a time and have worked as a clown. No, I've never hurt myself thank goodness, which is a surprise as I am naturally very clumsy!
10. Do you have a favourite episode from the new series?
Ooh, too difficult!
11. Do you have a favourite guest star?
When I wrote Pranks and Presents - it was written with Brian Blessed in mind, but I never expected him to say yes! If I could go back in time and tell my ten year old self (who adored Brian in "Flash Gordon") that one day I would write a script for this man - not only would he have not believed me, but he would also have called social services!! Mr Blessed was an absolute delight and we got on straight away. Another proud moment thanks to that little yellow bear!
12. You also have your own puppet show about a cheeky mouse named Theo. Wendy Abrahams tells us that you're in panto later this year. Are you looking forward to that? Any Theo-related plans for 2014?
Yes, we have a lot of plans for Theo for 2014. He will be recording a number of video interviews with various Sooty Show celebrities to promote the Series and DVD releases over the next few months. He will be making a large number of appearances around the country in his theatre show; and he is releasing a song as well. He's going to be worn out!! Check the Theo the Mouse Facebook Page for further details.
13. Did you meet Matthew Corbett when he guest starred in Series 1? What was he like in person?
Another career highlight. I first met Matthew at the Cheltenham Everyman during the Sooty Easter Show when I was about six. In fact, he dragged me up on stage and I promptly wet myself in front of six hundred people! I'm delighted to tell you - that didn't happen when I met Matthew for Series One. In fact we spoke about Harry's love of Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers. I have a theory that Sweep is Harry's tribute to Stan Laurel and Sooty is a tribute to Harpo Marx!
14. Who is your favourite Sooty character?
Sweep! He is a pleasure to write for and I also happen to adore working with Brian Sandford.
15. You can act, puppeteer, perform voices, write, produce, direct, play the piano, juggle, ride a unicyle...the list goes on! We're dying to know: is there anything you can't do???
16. Do you have a message for all the Sooty fans out there?
Yes, thank goodness for Richard Cadell! As a life long Sooty fan - it was horrible for me to see Sooty become a retro brand that no television company wanted anymore. I was around during Richard's early negotiations in trying to bring Sooty back and it was grim. However Richard never gave up and it was his energy and passion that instigated the whole revival. Harry Corbett started it all, Matthew took over his father's established work and took it to new heights, but Richard had one of the hardest tasks of all - he brought Sooty back when no TV Company wanted him!! Without Richard - there would be no new Sooty, as simple as that! We Sooty fans have a lot to thank him for. Now with two Series under the belt, the most exciting merchandising opportunities and incredible ratings - the future looks very bright for the yellow bear. Thank you to the fans for their unbelievable support, but huge thanks to Richard for fighting so hard to bring the little fella back. Sooty is now no longer a brand of the past - he is a relevant and legendary figure in today's Children's Television schedule. Hooray for Sooty!!