In 2010, Julian Barratt took part in a one-off TV series for Sky1 entitled Little Crackers. The series sees a selection of the cream of British comedy talent take over the directing reigns, to tell their own personal tale of childhood high and lows; Barratt’s tale tells of his teenage ambitions of musical stardom. Actor Paul Conway took on the task of playing the young Barratt, and our reporter, Paulyne, caught up with him for a candid chat about his acting career and what it was like to play the part of the man who’s directing you.
You’re still only 21 years old; how long have you been acting?
I’ve only graduated this year, but I’ve acted for about 5 or 6 years. I started as amateur when I was about 16.
And how would you say it’s going so far?
I did a feature film this year which comes out next year – that was my lucky break even though it was a really small part. But when people in the industry see that on your CV it brings more work. I find that if you get one job you get another from it. When you’re working you just have a different aura about yourself. But it was unexpected.
Were you fan of the Mighty Boosh prior to working with Julian?
I wasn’t actually. I’d heard of the Boosh and I’d seen bits of it – I have friends that are really keen on it, but I’d never really watched an episode!
Did you end up doing any research for the role?
I watched a lot of the songs on youtube. That’s something Julian seems to really love doing in all of his projects.
So after you’d looked into Julian’s work, what were your expectations about this episode of Little Crackers?
Before the audition we were told it was a comedy, but it was an understated comedy – as is The Boosh. I almost knew what to expect because of my research – it helped me get a better insight into what I should be doing.
Was Julian very involved in the auditions process? How did it work?
The first audition was just a gathering of actors that had been noticed – you do your audition to camera, then that goes off to the producer. I met Julian in the recall.
What were your first impressions of Julian when you met him?
I knew he was a big name and that was quite exciting. When you’re an actor you meet quite lot of people that have done a lot of TV stuff and you feel almost star-struck! He was actually late for the audition, so when he came in he was sort of head down and ‘”Sorry I’m late” and straight into the room. You got a sense of his character from just that – very quiet.
Why do you think he picked you to play the part?
I went in there with Alex (one of the other actors in the show), and I guess it was the way we flowed with each other and fed each other lines. It just worked, and he liked a lot of add-libs too.
Did you think you’d get the part?
It’s really hard to tell; when you walk out you never want to think ‘I nailed that’ because more often than not you haven’t. This time I never really thought anything, then the next day I got a recall, so I was really happy with that. In the audition Julian and the casting director were laughing quite a lot so I said “Are you watching something else?” and they went “Oh no it’s really funny,” which was really nice – being appreciated there and then rather than waiting a few days to hear.
What was Julian like to work with as a director?
I’ve got nothing bad to say about him as a director. We did a workshop with all of the cast where we rehearsed everything; on occasions when he has an idea and we also had a suggestion for how to play it, he would act it out and then say “Actually split the difference.” It was helpful because he’s been an actor himself, so he could judge what we were thinking and where we could take it.
Did you feel a lot of pressure playing a character from real life while at the same time being directed by the person you were playing?
I felt an enormous amount of pressure because I didn’t want to offend him. For instance I didn’t want to say anything like “He’s a bit geeky here” as I would never say that Julian’s a geek . The other cast members could create their own characters, but with me I had to keep my character very minimal. In the film it comes across as quiet, whereas I’m not really like that. I had to keep it very ‘Julian’ – he has a very dry sense of humour and is quiet and to the point. You’re playing the director, so you’ve got to be very careful about how you say something cause only that person really knows.
Did you try to mimic his mannerisms?
In my audition I went in for the part of ‘Nick’ so I did something of my own. Then I transferred some of Nick’s characteristics to Julian’s character, rather than copying Julian’s mannerisms once I’d already been cast. I reckon that whatever you do in your audition should be what you do on set, as that’s why they picked you.
Is it true that Julian spent some of the shoot dressed as the devil for his cameo appearance?
We filmed his scenes on the last day so he was all deviled-up that day. It was a great costume, everything looked perfect and it was just really funny. I was on set with him and I had to stop myself from laughing every time I looked at him, because he’d be talking to you really seriously like he would normally – but at the same time he was dressed like the Devil wearing stilettos. Just really weird. On set one day he said he’d love to make a horror movie as he loves dark things. Well we’ve got him dressed as the Devil in this.
The Little Crackers series starts Sunday 19th December at 9pm on Sky 1 HD and Sky 1. Julian’s Little Cracker where you can see Paul’s cracking performance as a teenage Julian, will air Monday 20thDecember.