An interview with The Last Kingdom actor David Dawson – Part 2

This is the second part of my interview with my cousin David Dawson. Click here to read Part 1 >

David Dawson The Last Kingdom

Let’s take a step back in time and talk about growing up…

Did you have an acting hero when you were younger?

“I always say that Charlie Chaplin is one of my acting heroes because he was a working class fellow who worked incredibly hard and made his own work. A very clever man. I’m inspired by him. I love wonderful character actors like Julie Walters, Steve Buscemi, Gary Oldman, people like that. People who can transform and surprise you each time.

When did you decide you wanted to be an actor? I can’t even remember a time when you didn’t want to be one?

“I think that’s it. I was like two, I liked dressing up as characters and I’d spend a whole day being that character. And also like Grandad, he’d pretend to be the Great Stromboli at Christmas time and do the circus in the living room for the family… and that’s one of the things when I was really little that struck me – this feels good when you’re clapping and stuff.

I remember playing Batman and Robin in Nan and Grandad’s back garden after school. And you always liked interesting films.

“I used to love Clue [an 1985 movie based on the board game Cluedo].”

Clue the Movie

Now I’ve just got some questions about Widnes [our home town] because some of the children I’m working with are doing a series on inspirational Widnesians…

Growing up, what was your favourite part/memory of Widnes?

“I used to love the Spike Island Fair, I’d get excited every year when I was little and performing at the Queens Hall but that’s not here anymore. I used to love going to that drama club.”

Lunt's Heath BadgeWho was your favourite teacher at school?

“I loved Mrs Marshall at Lunt’s Heath [Primary School], she was a legend because she was very creative but you also wouldn’t mess with her. You had lots of fun with her, I liked teachers like that.

“There was a man called Mr Holmes [at Fairfield High School] a history teacher who used to jump on the tables to re-enact battles and things. That was really fun.”

Were you in any plays in primary school? Did you have any big parts?

“I was Joseph in the nativity. When I was five or six.”

What advice would you give to a school child in Widnes who want to be an actor?

“I’d say, watch loads of films, read lots of plays because I think being an actor is about experiencing life in all its forms and drama in all its genres so if you can, watch history films, horror films, love films, comedies… get a knowledge about everything that a human is capable of. Also, be brave and the less your care about making mistakes the better you’ll be. Always remember that every time you fall or don’t achieve, it’s only making you stronger so that you will achieve. It’s a tough business and you’re gonna be facing auditions and there’s going to be knockbacks as well as jobs.”

What was it like moving to London when you were eighteen? We all [the rest of our family] live within a mile so what was it like making that decision?

“I just knew it was something I had to do for acting. I love London. It’s a creative hub. Full of theatres, galleries and history. I know you don’t have to, but drama school is well worth looking into if you want to be an actor. I loved my time at RADA.”

[A big thank you to everyone who submitted questions for this interview]

An interview with The Last Kingdom actor David Dawson – Part 1

This Boxing day I had the pleasure of interviewing my cousin David Dawson. David is best known for playing King Alfred in The Last Kingdom and Fred Best in Ripper Street. He’s currently playing Homer in The Dazzle.

Interviewing David was a lovely experience because I could ask him anything I wanted. My daughter Lizzy joined us, and kept shouting “Charleeeee” and asking for biscuits. “Charleeeee” (or Charlie to everyone else) is David’s mum’s dog.

I meant to take a photo of us together to accompany this blog post but I forgot. You’ll have to use your imagination and add 30 years to this pic! (I’ve been in awe of David for a long time as you can tell.)

David Dawson and Sarah Oliver

Let’s start by chatting about The Last Kingdom and see where we end up!

What was it like doing the battle scenes?

“Brilliant. Especially when I’d got the hang of the horse. I learnt to horse ride for this job so it was a great feeling once I knew that the horse was listening to me and would move were I wanted him to go.

“I’ve never worked on anything as epic as The Last Kingdom. When you arrive on set and there’s three hundred stunt men all fighting, that’s quite cool. It also makes it feel a lot more ‘real’… you understand how scary it would have been back then. I felt very nervous the day I had to do the big battle speech because literally all the principle cast were there and I wanted to make sure I got that right.”

David Dawson Last Kingdom

When you were filming and had a long break in-between scenes what did you do to relax and prepare for your next scene?

“There was a nice company feel on set and we all got really close because we were on set for seven, eight months together. We’d hang out really and we used to play tricks on each other. Once we did up Alexander’s caravan like a horror film, like Blair Witch Project. [Alexander Dreymon plays Uhtred in the show]. We put things outside to freak him out… we did that to a few people. Because we were all close we’d just hang out and have a laugh.

“To prepare, I used to like to go off and be on my own. Be a bit quiet for a bit. I’ve got a thing were I make a big map, because it’s all shot out of sequence. I make the map so I know what I’m doing and were I should be in the story for the next day.”

David Dawson acting in The Last Kingdom

You’ve acted in lots of historical TV shows and Shakespeare dramas, do you prefer acting in historical settings over modern?

“I love history and I think it’s really fun to explore periods of time that aren’t now, because then you’re entering a completely different world. The way people, societies were in those different times really fascinates me… how people dealt with education, the roles that women had as well… I’m fascinated by it. I love that element of it, it’s a completely different world.”

David Dawson acting in Romeo and Juliet

If you could be offered any part, past or present, what would you love to play?

“Clockwork Orange is one of my favourite films and I’d have loved to have done that.”

Do you think you’ll be on the BIG screen anytime in the near future? Any plans to do movies

“I don’t really have a plan. When I sit with my agent we always say ‘as long as we make sure the next things I do different to the last thing, it’s a new challenge.’ I don’t mind what I do, I love theatre and I always want to make sure that I go back to the theatre. I’m just excited to see what the future brings.”

What can we look forward to seeing you in in 2016?

“I’m in the Dazzle, in the West End till the end of Jan, then I’ve filmed a thing called Maigret with Rowan Atkinson, that should be out at some point on ITV. I’ve filmed The Secret Agent with Toby Jones which a four parter for the BBC and it’s out later in the year.”

David Dawson in The Dazzle

You’ve written a couple of plays in the past, are you still writing any plays?

“No”

Do you think you’ll ever write something that you could be in yourself?

“I’ve written a book, a novel. It’s just up to me now to pluck up the courage to try and get a publisher I suppose.”

What sort of novel is it?

“I’m a huge fan of horror and gothic fiction so it’s in that vein. I love Dickens and Edgar Allan Poe so it’s a bit like that.”

This is a tough one so you mightn’t be able to answer it… what are the top 3 things that you’ve done? If you could only pick three…

David Dawson Road to Coronation Street“I’ve got to pick The Last Kingdom because on screen I’ve never played a character that’s had such a huge story arc and change from being a frail little bookworm to a warrior king, that’s quite cool and very special to be a part of. I think Road to Coronation Street was very special to me too because it was North West and all our family have loved Corrie haven’t they, for years and years. To meet the man I was playing and to become friends with Tony Warren, I think was very special, and to work with actresses I’ve loved for years like Celia Imrie, Jane Horrocks… and to film it at Granada Studios was a real treat. I think the other one’s got to be playing Smike in Nicholas Nickleby at the theatre because that’s where I learnt so much. I was working with actors who were seventy, actors who were nineteen, 26 actors all together with a band going around the country, in the West End, Canada. That was amazing for a twenty four year old to experience.”

How does it feel to have a fan-site, a Facebook page and fans in general?

“I’ve never been able to thank Julie [who runs daviddawsononline.net] before so I’d like to say it’s very humbling and I’m very chuffed that she’s created the site and Facebook page. I’m grateful to those people who are supporting projects I’m involved with. It’s a lovely feeling and it certainly gives you confidence when you’re doing things that people believe in you.”

Click here to read Part 2 of this interview >

Exciting Taylor Swift book news (& a little angel)

Merry Christmas everybody, hope you all had a lovely time. I had a great Christmas and I’m feeling so blessed to have a wonderful family. I enjoyed singing in church on Christmas morning, going to my mum and dad’s for Christmas dinner and then visiting my friend Emily in the evening.

I wanted to share this picture – hope it makes you smile. Every year my sister takes photos of Lizzy at Christmas for a family calendar and this is one of the outtakes. I’m not quite sure what I’m saying/singing but it was probably Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

angellizzy

I’m very excited about what God has planned for me in 2016 – I hope to write lots more books and do lots of author talks in primary schools. I’m praying that more tots will join my Sunday School class as currently Lizzy is the only girl :-)

Have you got anything exciting planned for 2016? I’m looking forward to my Taylor Swift book coming out on the 7th April. Originally it was going to be called Around the World with Taylor Swift but we’ve decided to change it to ‘Taylor Swift: Everything Has Changed.’ I love the title and the cover so much. Do you like it?

taylorI wouldn’t have been able to write the book without the help of hundreds of Swifties from around the world. Every chapter in the book is a different country – approx. 30 countries in all. The book will be released worldwide and translated into different languages. If you want to preorder it, please visit Amazon or the leading book retailer in your country.

If you have helped with the book I want to say a massive THANK YOU. You are amazing.

lots of love

Sarah

xxx

PS There is still time to enter my Justin Bieber book prize draw >

 

A special friend

Six years ago, I was the editor of a celebrity website which was the number 1 site for Robert Pattinson and Twilight news. Every day I wrote around six articles on Rob and the rest of the cast. One day, I decided to run a competition to find the number 1 Robert Pattinson fan in the world.

sarah barry williamsI can’t remember who won but after the closing date a woman called Sarah Barry Williams emailed me. She wanted to put her daughter Chariss forward but alas she’d missed the deadline. She told me that she’d written a song about her daughter’s love for Rob called She Wants to be Mrs Robert Pattinson. I thought the song was great and asked Sarah for her permission to write an article on her song. She agreed, not knowing that my article would bring her thousands of fans and change her life.

After my article was published, Sarah was inundated with requests from Rob’s fans wanting her to release the track and so she did. It did really well worldwide with thousands of people downloading She Wants to Be Mrs Robert Pattinson and she was inspired to write more Twilight inspired songs.

One of my favourites was the New Moon fan song:

Making Chariss’ dreams come true

Meeting Rob for the first time back in November 2009 was amazing and when I was invited to meet him again at the Remember Me press conference and premiere I was really excited. I wanted to see him again but I wanted to make Chariss’ dreams come true more. I emailed Sarah as soon as I could to tell her that I was giving up my place so that her daughter could meet the man of her dreams. Sarah couldn’t believe it.

I made Chariss a special badge, as she was representing my magazine and she tried to look older than her years as she was only sixteen and had to look at least eighteen to get past security. I needn’t have worried as Chariss was tall for her age and actually looked more grown up than me!

Even though I couldn’t go onto the red carpet because I’d given my pass to Chariss, I still made the trip from Widnes to London because I was eager to meet Sarah and Chariss, face to face. As soon as we saw each other we ran over and started hugging. We only chatted for a few minutes but it was worth the long trip.

It feels like only a year or so since I met Sarah and Chariss but it was actually 5 and a half years ago. We met on the 17th March 2010 and we’ve been friends ever since. We mightn’t speak very often but even if years pass between our emails it doesn’t matter. I support her and she supports me. We’re just two women, living our dreams.

Sarah’s just released her first book – A Shooting Star is not a Star and I’m so happy for her. It’s a wonderful book and I’m so glad Sarah sent me a copy. It’s part 1 of sarah barry williams 2a series called The Crystal Bloodline and I can’t wait to read part 2. You should definitely check it out, why not download it onto your Kindle?

Reading Sarah’s book has made me even more keen to write and release a children’s fiction book in 2016. I can’t wait to get started!

 

An exciting week

This week I’ve been thinking about all the books I want to write in 2016. I really want to write some children’s fiction books and I’ve been brainstorming possible ideas. I love writing books so much that when I’ve not got a book to write I’m at a loose end. I’ve spoken to my agent Jennifer about my ideas and she’s going to speak to my editor Chris about them. I mightn’t hear back till after Christmas but that doesn’t stop me checking my emails every five minutes!

This week I’ve enjoyed two Christmas parties with my daughter, lots of dogs walks and met up with some writer friends. I think it’s really important for writers to meet up and discuss their writing projects. I’ve also written some travel blogs and looked at ways I would improve two websites. This is my freelance writing work and is something I really enjoy. I’ve always been good at social media so sometimes I help companies with their Facebook pages. Have you joined my Facebook page yet? I’ve only just set it up so please join if you like reading my books.

It might be Christmas next week but I’m not rushing around. I want to enjoy this time and remember what Christmas is all about. I don’t enjoy the commercial side of Christmas and prefer to spend my time doing crafts with my daughter, attending carol services and meeting up with friends and family.

donkey1Have you got anything exciting planned for Christmas? I wish I’d been able to go to the carol service at Island Farm Donkey Sanctuary on Thursday night. I always keep up-to-date with what’s happening at the sanctuary and always remember John and his team, especially at this time of year. John never takes a day off and will be happily looking after his 80+ rescued donkeys on Christmas day. He really is a selfless man and I’m so glad that I got to write about his life in my book Pollyanne.

Pollyanne is a very special donkey who was going to be slaughtered to make salami but was rescued by John. She was in a bad way but John got her back to full fitness. She was chosen to be in the opera Carmen at the Royal Opera House and has also appeared in lots of TV shows including Not Going Out, Midsummer Murders and a magical trick show. (Pollyanne is 31 just like me so this always makes me smile). If you want to find out more about the book you can click here to read an article in the Daily Mail.

pollyanne

I haven’t managed to take my daughter Lizzy to meet everyone at the donkey sanctuary yet but I hope to take her in the spring, she’ll love it. She loves animals so she’ll love meeting the donkeys, ponies, chickens, goats and pig.

My favourite ever book signing was at the sanctuary when the book came out. So many people came that day. I signed the books, then John signed them and then Pollyanne signed them by stamping her hoof on them. It’ll probably be the most unusual book signing I’ll ever do for sure!

Here is a good video a man called Peter Crowther has posted on YouTube, it brings back many happy memories for me…

 

A Marvellous book!

If you’re looking for a present to buy your Dad this Christmas then I can highly recommend the biography Marvellous – Neil Baldwin, My Story. I read the book in August and I couldn’t put it down.

I’d been keen to get my hands on a copy as I’d watched the Marvellous film on BBC 2 last year. It was one of the best things I’ve ever watched. The story was so compelling, I cried quite a few times and it left me smiling from ear to ear too. If you didn’t see it, then check out the trailer below:

Here’s a brief summary of the book (and Neil’s life):

Bishops and archbishops, top footballers, politicians and actors…they all count him as their friend. Prime Ministers and senior royals stop and listen to his opinions. He’s got an honorary degree and his very own football club. There was even a movie about him on national television. But who is Neil Baldwin? At Keele University they hold regular celebrations and chapel services for the decades he’s been the friend of students, academics and vice-chancellors. But he’s never been a student, or a teacher, or had any formal connection with the place. At Stoke City Football Club, he’s ‘more famous than the players.’ He’s even got a dialogue going with the Queen, though that one’s still a little one-sided. But who is he, and what’s he famous for? When he was a boy in a working-class part of the Potteries in the fifties and sixties, the education system wrote him off. But Neil thinks ‘you can get things by asking for them.’ He also thinks his late Mum wanted him to have a happy life, and it’s his duty to her to have one. So he does. This is the inspiring and, at times, hysterically funny story of Neil’s extraordinary life.

My view:

I loved the book, it was interesting to hear stories from Neil perspective and his famous friends too. I think Neil’s attitude to life is something we should all admire:

IMG_0365

The world be a much better place if we all “put nasty things” behind us. Neil’s story is remarkable and this book is a must-read. At the start of this blog post I said it was ideal for dads but really anybody would enjoy reading this book. I hope I get to meet Neil one day and shake his hand… maybe I need to take a trip to Keele University!

 

Signing books with my little helper

Tonight my daughter ‘helped’ me sign copies of my books for the library at St Michael’s Catholic Primary School in Widnes. I had a great time giving an author talk there a few weeks ago and they wanted a full set of my book’s for the school library. I didn’t give them every book as some are too adult for them but I think they’ll love the thirteen I’ve picked out. I think the boys will love the Superheroes vs Supervillains A-Z and Justin Bieber books and I think the girls will love the One Direction books and Pollyanne.

Which of my books is your favourite?

books10 books11 books12

A great day writing (and having quality time with my little girl)

snowman

Today has been a busy day but it’s been so much fun. I finished checking my second draft of my Taylor Swift book and emailed it across to my editor Chris first thing. I’m so excited about this book and can’t wait for it to be in stores. I want all the Swifties who’ve helped me to see the finished book ASAP. I wish I could hand-deliver a copy to each of them when the book comes out next spring. I would give them each a hug and we could dance to Shake It Off together!

After breakfast, I took my little girl to the tots group in my church (and we made snowman biscuits and reindeer food), then after picking up a Christmas present from the Post Office, I enjoyed cake and a chat with one of my best friends. This afternoon I worked on my website and went on a dog walk with my mum and two of her dogs. We went to Pex Hill which is a wood and quarry in my home town. It’s the best place to walk dogs because they can run free and enjoy mixing with other dogs. My little girl loves playing in the leaves and we always get muddy at this time of year. She was wearing a black and white cat outfit today so she looked soooooo cute.

PS I know our snowman melted a bit but he tasted yummy!