Interview with Chris Wilson
Walk on, Stand-in and body double
Hi Chris, You played three roles in Torchwood from S1, Ghost Machine, S2, Exit Wounds and S4 Miracle Day: Categories of Life – the characters were completely different in each episode. As a walk on actor would it be fair to say that you could have appeared in all episodes of Torchwood, in different guises and not affected the continuity of the show?
A lot of your characters seem to be from the Emergency services – police and paramedics and a few military roles, is this a role you are cast more for, or part of your profile that you prefer these kinds of roles. I mean I have to say you do look the part in uniform!!! But are these the roles you’re more likely to be chosen for than any other roles?
Chris: Yes that’s very true; a few years ago all I was playing were Police Officers. Once Producers, Agents, and Casting Directors see you in uniform it is inevitable that you will receive offers based on this president, as you have proven that not only can you play the part but that you also look convincing in the part. I see a lot of people playing uniformed roles that just don’t carry it off! These days however, I make a concerted effort to play a wide variety of characters as well as uniformed roles.
Currently (probably due to my age and the grey hair) I seem to be playing more High Rank Police Officers such as Assistant Chief Constable on Harry Brown, a Commissioner on New Tricks, Deputy Commissioner on Babylon and more recently, Police Commissioner Cummings in a new film called Kicking Off, due for release around 1st June 2015. I also continue to play Military Roles, including Herman Goering, George Patton, Wilhelm Bergdorf, and many others.
What was your first ever role?
Chris: My first ever “Paid” role was around 1969 for a Richard Attenborough film called Loot (by Joe Orton) I was at Brighton Racecourse with a few of my school mates and someone from the crew came over to me and asked if I wanted to be in the film. All I remember was that I was watching and reacting to a hearse being chased by a Police Car? I think they gave me a tenner for what was my first reaction shot.
A few years later when I was a musician (bass guitar) and not very old, I was asked to cover a bass player who was ill and would not be able to appear on the talent show “Opportunity Knocks” hosted by Hughie Green. This was filmed at Teddington Studios. I agreed and learned the song in the van travelling up to Teddington. When we arrived we went into the canteen, where there were a number of Romans, and German Soldiers sitting eating (at the time very bizarre). I later found out that the Benny Hill Show, and the Kenny Everit shows were both filmed there around this time, hence the Romans and Germans!!
I loved this and thought that’s the way to earn a living.
Who is your role model?
Chris: I don’t really have one, but I greatly admire and respect Ray Winstone, Michael Caine, Michael Gambon, Pierce Brosnan Kelsey Grammer and Alan Ford. All of which, I have been lucky enough to work closely with on various productions. They are all effortless in their work, and are the ultimate professionals.
You were / are a stand in or body double for a number of A list actors, including Richard Griffiths in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1, Kelsey Grammar, Alan Ford, Ron Perlman, Mark Addy, Martin Trenaman,(Simons dad in The Inbetweeners) and as body double for Ray Winstone in Father’s Day, and did you say you were also standing in for Ray in another film? I am in awe of you – Ray Winstone!!! #bitofafan
Chris: Yes, that’s true. I have very recently been working again for Ray (Winstone), but unfortunately I am unable to reveal any further details at this time. However, I am able to say that I was Ray`s stand in on The Gunman, recently released at the Cinema, working alongside Sean Penn, Edris Elba & Javier Bardem.
I also stand in for a number of other great actors. Every time I am on set, I learn something new, I am just extremely lucky to have the great honour and absolute privilege of working alongside, some of the world’s greatest talent.
How do stand in and body double parts come about – is it about being in the right place at the right time?
Chris: No, it’s a lot more than that, firstly you need to be the same size and build as the principal actor. In some cases you are playing their roles, in others you are just standing in. This is where the main actor is off set, and you, the stand in simply stands on the actor’s marks whilst the lighting and cameras are set up. Sometimes you will duplicate the actor’s moves for a camera rehearsal, perhaps sometimes even running the dialogue for timing purposes. It does vary from actor to actor or Director to Director each normally has their own individual way of working, and you have to learn and adapt fast. Which I love!
Is it fair to say that in this job you travel a fair distance for roles? What is the furthest you’ve travelled for a walk on part?
Chris: For me it’s not about distance, It predominantly depends on what it is that’s on offer and the production. If it is a stand in or body double job, the production office always take care of everything, I just turn up, and do as instructed. If it’s a programme I like, I will go out of my way to get a part, or to get involved somehow. I’m a great fan of Touch of Frost and managed to wrangle my way onto two episodes. ‘Dead End’ where I play the Police Officer interviewing the bus driver and ‘When Dogs Run Free’, the final episode, in which I play a Dog Fight Ringleader. That part was only small but it was an absolute privilege to be involved.
You’re in the new film Fury, now out on DVD and Bluray, what was your role in the film and were any of your scenes with Brad Pitt?
Chris: I played the 2nd armoured Division Chaplain. I don’t think the scene made the current film edit, but I understand there may be other edits so this scene may still end up in one version. However, the still from the scene was used as publicity for the film and was also used as a Lobby Card, which is a great honour. Brad Pitt was indeed present, he was on the Sherman Tank which drove past my back as I was conducting a sermon for the GIs.
As a walk on actor, your characters are often a case of blink and you’re gone, as folks are only ever interested in the main characters in a programme (unless they’re me!!!). Out of the three episodes of Torchwood that you were in, which of the scenes took the longest to film and which were the most memorable?
Chris: On ‘Exit Wounds’ where I played the Police Assistant Chief Constable, we didn’t shoot in order, so in the first scene of the day I was laying dead, and covered in fake blood. After this we rehearsed another scene, one before we were all killed! When this scene was lit, my hair reacted to the fake blood and on camera it looked fluorescent green. Quite funny at the time, I think they ended up having to dye it.
On ‘Everything Changes’, I was booked as background. This was the first of the new Torchwood series. At the rehearsals for whatever reason; I was asked if I could do a simple stunt with the Stunt Coordinator. This involved being pushed out of the way of a principle character that was being chased down an underground pedestrian tunnel by Gwen (Eve Myles). Very memorable and great to be involved in the action!
On ‘Categories of Life’, once again I was booked as background, but as production knew me I was lucky enough to be escalated to a Walk On character, seen arguing with the holding camps management about not being killed.
Although you’ve played characters visually, have you ever played characters heavily disguised, such as monsters wearing some form of prosthetics and if there were such a possibility of doing this, would you?
Chris: No not heavily disguised, although it’s something I would love to do. I once doubled for Alan Ford (Bricktop in Snatch) where, on one shoot, he had been killed by a Werewolf, I played this part for him, with Sarah Douglas (Of Superman Fame) I think this is possibly the closest I have come, been made up to look like you have been mauled by a werewolf, but even then not a great amount of makeup required.
Not only a Walk On you’ve also been involved behind the scenes roles, such as production runner, production assistant, location assistant, production manager and third assistant director and assistant director, are there any roles that you would still love to do within the film industry?
Chris: I love everything about Film and TV, and just love being involved, but I would love to do more on the comedy side.
On the subject of crew side of film and TV, I was lucky enough to work as a Production Runner on The Tube, (The Tube was a live Music Programme from Newcastle Upon Tyne starting late 1982) Again, I love the pressure, and just being involved, and the fact that anything can happen.
You’ve worked in television and films but have you worked on stage productions also?
Chris: Yes, quite a few, I appeared live for a few nights at the 02 Arena as a (badly) dancing postman with Lee Evans, (on The Big Tour & DVD). I have also worked on the live elements of, Not Going Out, Miranda, Eastenders, Green Green Grass, Teenage Kicks (Ade Edmonson).
In a previous life I was a session musician, for around 17 years, I played bass guitar, for many bands, comedians and shows, mainly on cruise ships but also many theatres all over the world.
You’re a really interesting guy, from the list on IMDB that is so impressive (gee I sound like a prospective employer – sorry), out of all of the roles that you’ve been involved in, from The Bill, Torchwood, Harry Potter, to the television commercials, to your latest outings, what have been the most memorable that you could tell us about?
Chris: I am very lucky, over the years, I have worked on some brilliant productions; but most definitely one of my favourite films to work on was the Dark Knight. Heath Ledger was simply superb and Chris Nolan allowed so much freedom to ad lib during the scenes.
My favourite TV series was Extras. I played the cameraman on the Daniel Radcliffe and Warwick Davies episode. Again Ricky Gervais just allowed so much freedom to those involved.
The IMDB profile doesn’t really touch the surface of the work I have completed over the years.
This year alone I have worked on some great productions, unfortunately I am under various NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements) so I’m unable to disclose any details as yet.
As long as I am working and learning I am happy.
Do you have any advice for anyone wishing to become an actor and do what you do?
Chris: I didn’t do any formal acting training until around 10 years ago, I wish I had done this sooner, but you live and learn. I do not market myself as an actor and as such I do not feel qualified to give advice. However I would say to anyone thinking of going into acting, you need to join a good reputable drama school, study hard, listen well and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. Also most importantly, don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself, something I have done on many occasions!
On your list of Alternate Names on IMDB, where does the name Timothy Dolphin come from, and why is there often a need to change your name for roles?
Chris: I have no idea, where the name originally came from it just made me laugh, (I have a very immature sense of humour) I have tried to use it on a number of credits but production always end up using my real name. But I am determined to get Timothy Dolphin in the credits somewhere!
When you’re not filming how do you relax?
Chris: I don’t really get much time to relax but when I do I just prefer chilling out at home, watching tv with my partner Jacqui and our cat Harry. I also love going to the cinema and enjoy a good curry.
Thank you for an awesome interview, Chris!
All photos courtesy of Chris Wilson