Interview with Rhys ap Trefor
Countrycide has to be one of THE most scariest of all Torchwood episodes and its high on the list of the favourite episodes of Series One. This time the team are not dealing with aliens, but a human threat and that of cannibals. This month we were absolutely thrilled to bits to have the opportunity of an interview with one of the cast of the episode, Rhys ap Trefor, the cannibal copper. Since Torchwood, Rhys has appeared in several Welsh speaking roles (with English Subtitles), from comedies to serious roles, to voice overs for documentaries. He has such a lovely narrative voice that I would love to hear him narrate a Torchwood novel for an audio book, having spent time listening to him on Monster Voice.
A lot of the actors we’ve interviewed recently started out from the RWCMD (Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama), was it from here that you began your career as an actor, and how you were picked for the role as Huw in Countrycide?
Rhys: I studied Theatre Film and Television at Prifysgol Cymru/University of Wales Aberystwyth. The role of Huw was one of my first after graduation, along with a small cameo in 'Belonging'. But I have been acting on television since the age of 15, with familiar roles in several S4C drama's like, Rownd a Rownd(Martin), Talcen Caled(Bryn), and Tipyn o Stad(Celt).
What was it like working alongside Owen Teale who played Evan Sherman in Countrycide?
Rhys: Owen is a very strong actor, he pulls you into the scene completely with his performance. I wish I could work with him again. I saw him in a Marks &Spencer store last year, but didn't have the courage to talk to him. I was afraid it would go something like this: “Hi, Owen, do you remember me? I had a scene with you in Torchwood a few years back....no....oh, ok....sorry to bother you, enjoy your Meal for 2”
Who were your influences growing up, who inspired you to become an actor?
Rhys: As with all actors, I think, I just wanted people's attention. My mother would tell me not to 'show off' all the time. When I was about thirteen I saw a group of young people performing a play on stage, I think it was at an Eisteddfod in Caernarfon, I had had some experience performing in front of an audience in a school play and in chapel before, but when I saw these young performers, I can’t remember what the play was, or if they were any good, I decided, there and then, that I wanted to be an actor.
I think everyone influences you as an actor, you steal or mimic a little something, be it consciously or unconsciously, from everyone you meet.
After listening to Monster Voice I wondered if you’d narrated any audio books, or have you given your voice to ads and programmes and what were they?
Rhys: I have narrated a few programmes like 'Lle aeth pawb?' which is an interesting series for S4C that recreated old photographs, with the original people that featured in them. We got to know about their lives and how they've changed over the years. I've also narrated a documentary for BBC Wales – 'Wynebau Newydd', and I regularly voice promos for S4C.
Playing Huw the Police officer in Torchwood, given his character as a cannibal, were you given much of a background to the character at all?
Rhys: Background, shmackground! He was a cannibal, why? I don't know, there was probably something in the water that turned the villagers into blood thirsty psychopaths, and they would go to any lengths to secure their prey. Like dressing up as a policeman!
Where was the outside filming done for your role as Huw and how long did it take to film the entire scenes you were involved in?
Rhys: The exterior shots were filmed in an old abandoned quarry near Hirwaun, and in the woods on Caerphilly Mountain, South Wales – that's where Huw and Evan ambushed the Torchwood team. All the interior shots were done in the large studios at Trefforest. The set was amazing! There were rows of organ and limb filled jars, splatters of blood, and half eaten corpses everywhere I turned, and they looked so real. It was very, very creepy.
Despite the horror of the programme episode were there any funny moments you can share with the fans?
Rhys: My funniest moment was when I got shot in the leg! I had never worked with pyrotechnics before, so I was quite excited to say the least. Just before the shot, I thought to myself, I better get this right the first time because it took ages to get wired up. When the 'shot' came, I gave it my all, I shouted, cried, fell to ground, writhed and yelled. “Cut!”. I looked at the director and he said, “Very good, but can you fall towards the camera? We want to see your pain.” You know, after writing it, it doesn’t sound funny at all. Ah, well.
Did you ever have a fit of the giggles during a scene?
Rhys: I didn't, no. I was too nervous.
Who was the funniest person on set?
Rhys: John Barrowman was the wackiest, and had an abundance of jokes up his sleeve, fair play. Kept a very upbeat atmosphere on set.
You’ve appeared in other roles in Cymru Fach (2008) and Mum’s Not In (2011 – Short) have these been similar roles to Huw as in evil and nasty? Can you tell us more about them?
Rhys: The role in 'Mum's Not In' was not a pleasant character, he was a foulmouthed bully that posed a threat to “Mum”, turning up at the front door, presumably wanting money, not pleasant at all.
My character in 'Cymru Fach' was just a bit of a prat, really. A (very) young director taking advantage of young women, selfishly self-promoting, and having an affair with a mature woman who he believed that would help broaden his career.
I think the best character I've played is a dumb, monosyllabic teenager called 'Iolo' in the S4C comedy set in a pub called 'ISTAN'BWL'(there is a play on words here, as it also means 'Sitting in the Bull' in Welsh), I had a lot of fun with him.
When you’re not working how do you relax? (other than pointing out bilingual errors on Twitter)
Rhys: I have a 7 year old boy, and he keeps me busy. When I'm not working I am a stay at home dad (I know a lot about Disney cartoons and Skylanders video games by now). I also write a little. But my hobby, which I take very seriously indeed over the summer months, is Petanque. The French boules game. I play for Clwb Petanque Cwins Caerdydd, and we are part of the WPA league. Wednesday nights are sacrosanct: boules, friends, beer and the odd bat flying overhead. Trés bien.
Acting is such a tough industry, what other jobs did you do in between – during resting periods?
Rhys: I have worked in a fish and chip shop before, which didn't help my diet plan, but I did learn how to cook a great chip, and the patrons of the chippy were an ideal source for creating new characters. I tried to get a job behind a bar in the past, but when they asked me if I had any experience, I said that I once played a barman in a TV sketch show, the employer laughed and showed me the door.
What would be your dream role?
Rhys: A postman on 'Pobol y Cwm' – no, only joking, I don’t know to be honest. My dream is to be able to carry on acting in, as you say, a tough industry, and if a good role comes along now and again, brilliant.
Are there any new projects you’re working upon that you can share with us?
Rhys: I have just done three series of a show called 'Gwaith/Cartref'(Home/Work) for S4C, a drama about the lives of Teachers, the first series has also been shown on Eurochannel.
I am currently filming a detective series for pre-school children, again for S4C, titled 'Llan-ar-goll-en', I'm playing the bungling detective who has an animated dog as a partner (she's the clever one). It will be aired from Christmas onwards.
What was your favourite programme growing up as a kid, and what is your favourite programme now?
Rhys: I watched a lot of television when I was young, my favourite was coming home after school and relaxing to 'Supermarket Sweep', they're being repeated on one of the digital channels at the moment – the jumpers, and Dale Winton's suits are priceless!
My favourite programme at the moment is a toss between 'Breaking Bad' and 'Parks and Recreation', if you haven’t seen these yet, drop everything and find them now, dvd, online, Netflix, your neighbour's Netflix, anyhow. They are brilliant.
Are you following in any family footsteps in acting, a parent, grandparent, brother, sister?
Rhys: Not really, my Grandfather wrote a few plays, and my father acted a little in college, but otherwise, me and my two cousins, who are also Cardiff based actors are a little out of the ordinary in our family.
If you were playing the lead role who would be your leading lady?
Rhys: Scarlett Johansson. Or if it's an all male cast, Javier Bardem. Why not?
Claudia Lindner: I would like to know if he likes horror stories like Countrycide. It's a kind of classical horror with lots of body horror. Is he a fan of that genre in general and if so, does he prefer this classical handcrafted horror or does he prefer the hightech cgi'd things?
Rhys: To be honest, I don't like horror stories, not after naively watching the film 'Pet Sematary' with a friend of mine when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I just don’t like being scared. I tried to face my fears a few years ago and watched 'The Ring' with my partner, not again, I couldn't take it, I'm still afraid that a ghostly Japanese girl is going to break out of my TV at any time.
Karina Longman: Have you ever working in theatre?
Rhys: I worked a lot in theatre after graduating from university, working with Sera Moore Williams at Cwmni Arad Goch in Aberystwyth and Hijinx Theatre Company, here in Cardiff, but in recent years television has been my main stage.
You can find Rhys on Twitter
And listen to his lovely voice on here at
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