20 Questions with ... Joe McFadden
Date: 1 June 2012
Joe McFadden is appearing as Ed Reiss in Torch Song Trilogy, which runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 12 August.
The comedy, which is directed by Douglas Hodge, tells the story of torch-song singing drag queen Arnold's search for love and acceptance. It stars David Bedella as Arnold and Sara Kestelman as his mother. Torch Song Trilogy was last seen in the West End in 1985 following its premiere in New York in 1983.
McFadden is best known for his TV roles in Casualty, Heartbeat and Cranford, but has also appeared in many acclaimed stage productions, including at the Chichester Festival Theatre and the Royal Court.
Date & place of birth?
9 October 1975 in Glasgow, Scotland
Lives now in?
What made you want to become an actor?
As an introverted kid I always enjoyed getting to play at being someone else in drama classes at my school, Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow. A director came there looking for someone to play a kid whose dad gets killed in Taggart and I got the part. I remember being mesmerised by these brilliantly eccentric actors and found the whole process of making a television show thrilling. Everyone always says how monotonous filming can be but it's never stopped being hugely enjoyable for me.
If you hadn’t become an actor, what might you have done professionally?
I'd maybe have followed my family into the building trade. Whenever I hear actors moaning about their lot, I always remember how hard my dad and brother have to work and realise that we don't really have it that bad.
First big break?
I consider my break to be having the brilliant drama teacher Camille Skilling, who was instrumental in getting me my first few jobs on TV. I really do owe her everything.
Career highlights to date?
I've been very lucky that I've gotten to work on some fantastic productions that I'm really proud of but I particularly enjoyed working with the incredible cast of Cranford.
One of my best mates is Emma Cooke who played my wife in the TV show Sex, Chips and Rock 'n' Roll. She came up to Yorkshire and did an episode of Heartbeat and we both said what a surreal experience it was working with someone who you know so well.
The novelist and playwright Andrew O'Hagan who wrote The Missing which I did last year for the National Theatre of Scotland. I actually played him in the play and with any other writer the experience might have been daunting. As well as being one of the cleverest people I know, he's also one of the nicest and most fun.
What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
I remember being quite young and seeing a production of Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. I wouldn't say that I really enjoyed it because of its difficult subject matter of sexual abuse but I do remember being amazed at how powerful theatre could be.
And the last?
I loved the David Greig play The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. It was a brilliantly inventive play that was part pub lock in, part Scottish fable, with the actors playing all their own music brilliantly.
What's the best advice you have ever received?
I don't know if it's the best, but a veteran Scottish actor told once told me that in the theatre “ages and wages are never discussed” and the older I get, the more I like it!
Do you often get recognised? If so, for which role?
Doesn't happen that often without the motorbike and police outfit but at the moment it's for Heartbeat, which I did for two years.
Are there any parts you would particularly like to play?
I can't believe that no-one has ever done the story of Scotland's bard, Rabbie Burns. He's such a charming character who accomplished so much in his short life, so in an ideal world I'd love to play him before I'm too old!
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Favourite holiday destination?
Cap D'Antibes in the south of France
Why did you want to get involved with this production?
I try to see most of the productions that go on at the Chocolate Factory because they're always of such an exceptionally high standard. I've had some of my best nights out at the theatre there. This coupled with the fact that it's such a fantastic script made me jump at the chance to work there.
What's Torch Song Trilogy about?
It's a very funny and touching play about family. It has these wonderfully entertaining but damaged people who are struggling to find love, but first they must decide what they're willing to compromise in order to get it.
What's it like being directed by Douglas Hodge?
I know Dougie from acting with him in a pilot for an ITV detective show ten years ago where we were colleagues in the murder squad and I had a brilliant time working with him as he's such a funny, lovely man. We're only a week into rehearsals but working with him has been an enjoyable experience so far and we're taking lots of time to dissect the script and get to the heart of what Harvey Fierstein intended the play to be. We have such respect for the writing and it's great that Dougie's giving us time to find the characters and not expecting us to jump straight to performance levels in the way that a director who hasn't acted might do. He's such a brilliant actor too that it's fascinating to get an insight into what his creative process is.
What’s your favourite line in the show?
"I could probably make love to anything … as long as it kept its mouth shut”
What have you got lined up next?
I'm doing a tour in the autumn of the Alan Ayckbourn play Haunting Julia with Duncan Preston and Richard O'Callahan.
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