Interview extra

Michael Praed, Emmerdale July 29, 2016

The former TV Robin Hood is now behind bars, as Michael Praed makes his Emmerdale debut, playing jailbird Frank Clayton, the errant father of Tracy, who receives a surprise visit from David. Michael, who also starred in Dynasty, chats to TV Choice about the nature of fame…

When you take on a new job like this, do you have to think a lot about how you might fit in with your new colleagues?
As you get older I think that does run through your mind. If you’re on a long tour in the theatre, you can be f****d if everyone doesn’t get along. It happened to me once. I was much younger and I hadn’t figured out a way to resolve the problem. There was a very charismatic member of the company who was in the ensemble, and he was in his mid-thirties. The rest of us were still in our early twenties. And this guy, for whatever reasons – and this is my take – he was bitter his career hadn’t gone the way perhaps he thought it should. But because he was charismatic, he attracted around him a coterie of people, little acolytes if you will. Very, quickly, what happened was there were two camps. There was the acolyte camp, and then there were those who weren’t. Both sides loathed each other with a passion. What was really interesting was the audience could sort of sense something was not quite right. If a TV show gets into that territory, it would just be a ruinous, ghastly experience.

Perhaps the problem is, big egos often have people around them telling them they’re wonderful?
Well, I mean, listen. What a minefield it must be if you’re, let’s say, a pop star and you’re 20 years of age. If, to the question, ‘What can I have?’, the answer is, ‘Well, actually, anything I want,’ it must affect you. I remember I was starring in a TV series [The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, 2000] and Patrick Duffy was coming in as a guest in one of the episodes. I’d been a mammoth, mammoth fan of his, principally because I grew up watching Dallas. I was really nervous to meet him, but what was really interesting was that, because my name was number one on the call sheet, Patrick deferred to me. I thought, ‘Okay, this is really weird. It should be the other way around.’ I learnt a tremendous lesson. He’s just a normal bloke. He is, by the way, one of the nicest men in the entire world.

You talk about other actors, almost as if you’re not famous yourself!
Real stars are people like Montgomery Clift, James Stewart, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood… They’ve all got their different styles, but the one thing that unites them – it’s a really, really difficult thing to do – is when you see them, you believe them. It’s just telling the truth. That’s damn hard to do. That’s why there are very few, as it were, bona fide, genuine, what I would call movie stars. There are thousands of famous people, but movie stars? There are very few Usain Bolts, you know what I’m saying? Very few Maradonas. So I suppose, that’s where I put the bar on fame, and – let’s be scrupulously honest here – I’ve done a lot. But the stuff that people will principally remember me for was a long time ago. You know what I’m saying? I don’t want to imply that’s a burden or a problem for me. It really isn’t. Being allowed to just work as an actor is tremendous. So I try not to have a notion of where I stand on the ‘fame-o-meter’. I’ve always thought that’s a dangerous undertaking, because what good does such thinking get you? You’ll find actors (and I did it myself when I was younger) playing the comparison game. You look around and go, ‘Well, John’s been up for an Academy Award,’ or, ‘Blimey, he’s just worked with Martin Scorsese.’ You start to think, if you haven’t done those things, you’re somehow less worthy. Hey, listen, I’d love Hugh Jackman’s bank balance, and not to mention the parts he gets offered. But he’s Hugh Jackman and I’m Michael Praed.

ITV, weekdays

Graham Kibble-White

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