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 >