Only Fools and Horses Star in New Drama
Veteran star Denis Lill is best known for playing Alan Parry on Only Fools and Horses and Mr Rose in The Royal but now taking on the world of theatre in the gripping and critically acclaimed courtroom sensation The Verdict.
Describe the character that you are playing in the Verdict?
He’s a seventy five year old, rather tired and rather clapped out Jewish lawyer in Boston and he’s the man who plucked our main character of the play, Frank Galvin, off the boat, straight from the war in his U.S Royal Marines uniform. Taken him under his wing, coached him and mentored him throughout the course of his career.
As an actor what is the biggest challenge when you are discovering a new character?
The biggest challenge, apart from learning the words and getting them all in the right order, is about getting under the skin of that character and finding out what makes him tick and what makes him sound right as well. For me it’s very important for a character, particularly an American character to actually sound right, he has to be believable, the last thing you want is an audience saying he doesn’t sound quite right, sometimes an English actor doing an American accent doesn’t quite sound right, but in our case we are very lucky, we have a great cast and everybody seems to be able to do exactly what they are asked to do.
Is it difficult for you to do an American accent?
No, it’s never been a problem for me. I was born and brought up in New Zealand and during the war, when I was a baby we used to have American soldiers billeted in our house from the Pacific Theatre and I think possibly subconsciously when I was one or two I got used to the sounds of these American voices, plus the fact that I was brought up on American movies and I love Westerns.
Do you share any of the same personality traits as Moe Katz?
Not a single one I don’t think, Moe Katz drinks Earl Grey Tea, which is something that I do from time to time not a lot else in common though which is actually good as it means I can reinvent myself as the character, right from scratch and it works, which is a nice part of being an actor. You have to have that chameleon charisma about yourself, so you can adapt, adopt and steal outrageously from people.
What do you like about the play The Verdict?
That’s easy, the quality of the writing is without parallel and having waded my way in the past through tours and plays which have been either been badly adapted or badly written, it’s such a relief to come across literary quality like this because it does a lot of the work for you. Also I’m a great stickler for discipline, writers don’t use a word just because it’s a word they use it for a specific reason, and I’ve met some actors who just regard the script as a rough guide as to what they are going to be saying but I stick to it as I have a great respect for writers. I try to be as accurate as I can as far as their script is concerned and this script is no exception, in fact this script is probably an essential as the quality of the writing is just so wonderful.
You are a very familiar face from T.V roles in Only Fools and Horses, The Royal, Rumpole of the Bailey etc… is TV or Theatre your true love?
I have a love hate relationship with the theatre, it’s a very inconvenient work place as far as one is working very unsociable hours, particularity if one is working in the West End, at the end of the show one is spat out and you have to get your head down, head for the nearest tube station and go home. But by the same token the creative process is very, very exciting unlike television or film where you are literally thrown in and you’re cast mainly by the way you look. Television I enjoy, I like the hours, film is even better as you are out there in a field somewhere, your sword in one hand, hacking away at people and galloping around, that’s great fun, it’s brilliant fun! There are lots of pros and cons in every medium, but as far as my favourit?… films pay the best but theatre is more satisfying!
When touring, what is the hardest thing about being away from home?
It’s the constant searching for a half way decent place to live, if there was a digs fairy in every theatre company who could sort out our accommodation for every theatre tour or if we could take a particular house with us where ever we went, that would be wonderful.