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Brief Encounter With … Rupert Hill

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Rupert Hill is best described as versatile - swapping the cobbles of Coronation Street (as Jamie Baldwin) for a thriving stage career playing a mutitude of roles including a paedophile in the controversial hit play Future Me and a Northern Soul boy in Once Upon A Time In Wigan. As well as treading the boards, he is also in a band, owns a pub in Manchester and is preparing for fatherhood. Currently, Rupert is touring the UK in When Harry Met Sally alongside former Hollyoaks star Sarah Jayne Dunn. The stage adaptation of the hit Rob Reiner romantic comedy starring arrives in Manchester in May.

You have done quite a bit of theatre over the last few years. How are you finding it?
I love it. I left Corrie to pursue different aspects of acting and a major interest for me was getting back to the stage. I find it incredibly rewarding and I feel I've grown as an actor tenfold in the last two years. I've played a Boltonion northern soul dancer, a barrister paedophile, a very posh manipulative 18 year old revenge fanatic and a New York lawyer in love. It's been so diverse and such a welcome change.

The film When Harry Met Sally has such iconic scenes for fans of the romantic comedy genre. Have there been any changes made for the stage version?
A few yeah, but on the whole it's pretty loyal. If you remember the film, Harry and Sally are forced to spend time together at the beginning when he drives her to New York. That would look pretty rubbish onstage, so instead the theatrical version begins with Harry arriving to paint Sally's new apartment as a favour to Sally's friend and Harry's girlfriend, Amanda.
Don't worry though, there's still an orgasm in it!

Harry is very witty, yet stubborn. Is it nice to play someone who is essentially flawed but a good egg underneath.
Of course. Harry is a dense character (rich and layered, not dense as in dumb). It's difficult to play someone arrogant, chauvinist and self righteous and still make him charming. As the play evolves he becomes much more inherently likeable, but he still has his flaws, he suffers anxiety through his divorce from Helen, and he screws up his friendship with Sally big time. He's a lot of fun to play and very difficult to get right too.
We saw Sarah Jayne Dunn on tour in Boeing Boeing and she was praised for her perfect American accent. How are you coping with the New York twang?
She's brilliant. I love working with her. My accent is coming on well. I've been a big Woody Allen fan since I was sixteen so I had a good grasp of the New York Jewish twang. The hard part Is trying not to slip into the Sopranos or Goodfellas.

The main thing people remember about the film, apart from the famous "I'll Have What She's Having..." scene is the chemistry. Had you met Sarah Jayne via the soap network before?
I'd seen her at various events but we'd never spoken before. It's very lucky that we get on. In fact the whole cast get on really well and this is priceless when it comes to onstage chemistry. You see in a film it's easier to manipulate onscreen chemistry with the use of light, score and close ups etc. Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are both amazing together in the film, but I would argue it's far harder to generate that chemistry onstage and let it unravel and grow in real time. I think we've achieved this with great success.
Future Me dealt with paedophillia in such a balanced way. How challenging was that role?
Very obviously, but Stephen Brown made it easy by writing such a fantastic script. Again the character was deeply flawed but also quite likeable. He was a very well spoken and confident barrister and that was really interesting for me, because I've never played a character like that, but then underneath he has this terrible illness and a clear self control malfunction, but also he's very charming, intelligent and funny too. How amazing to get to work with all that. I have to say that I loved playing Peter and I feel that Future Me prepared me for parenthood in the sense that I now understand the responsibility to love and protect our children with intelligent guidance and accurate information rather than tabloid scare mongering.

The last time we spoke, you were multi tasking as you were performing with your band, Yellow Dog. Are you still making music?
We are recording our debut. We've aquired two violinists now and we are re branding and re naming the band. We will start performing again in July. It's another love of mine and we keep going from strength to strength.
When Harry Met Sally will attract a huge number of females who are drawn to the genre. But what's in it for males?
This is a romantic comedy but it's not saccharine sweet. Harry and Jack are guy's guys. The whole script is very funny, and I bet the men who come to see this enjoy it just as much as the women. I know that in a recent competition to win tickets, the four winners were all men!!!! But come the World Cup, it's time for the men and women who don't like football to take a stand and come and see the show instead.

This is a long tour, but what are your plans when it's over? Will you take time off to be a dad?
I will take off some time, yes. But already it looks like there might be some more work coming my way, so I don't know how much time I'll have off. I also own the Castle Hotel Pub in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and I'll be keen to get back there too, to make sure that's going well. I'm a busy boy these days. And that makes me happy. But my baby will take priority of course. I can't wait to be a dad.

Lastly, three offers come through your door: Celebrity Big Brother, Corrie and Dancing On Ice. Which one do you got for and why?
I think Big Brother is over and the other two are no no's for the time being. Why isn't series 6 of The Wire on your list?!! (laughs).

Rupert Hill was speaking to Glenn Meads.

When Harry Met Sally is currently on tour and arrives at the Manchester Opera House from 10 - 15 May. For more details visit the website or to book, click here.


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