Posts Tagged Birmingham

Titanic Love continues on the awards trail

Since its release in April 2012 the short film Titanic Love has continued to be nominated for and win plenty of awards and that trend continues a full three years after it’s original release.

Titanic Love, a short film by Darlaston producer Mark Pressdee, was filmed in November 2011 on and around the canals of Birmingham and it’s since picked up awards across the globe.  On Thursday 12th November 2015 it could further add to that award list as it’s been nominated in three categories at the Royal Television Society Midlands Awards at a ceremony at the National Motor Cycle Museum in Birmingham.

The second nomination in the Best Acting Performance (Male) category goes to Alex Edwardson, who plays Jack. Jack is annoyed with his girlfriend’s obsession with ‘the boat’ but wants an easy life so goes along with it.

The final nomination is for director Mark Pressdee in the Best New Talent (Writer/Director/Producer) category.  Inspired by a Titanic exhibition in the Black Country, Mark has picked up on the Midlands connections with the Titanic story to a short comedy that delivewrs a contemporary spin on the famous story.

You can check on the success of the film at the awards on the official Titanic Love website or the movie’s Facebook page and you can find out about any other future screenings of the short 23 minute short or it potential release on DVD.

Great to see Birmingham on film again and with such a Birmingham based cast and crew too. The movie seems to be making a huge impression worldwide, which can only be good news for the city.

Best wishes to the Titanic Love nominees at the RTS Midlands awards, I hope they continue to add to their growing award list.

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Citizen Khan Series Four – Interview with Adil Ray

On Tuesday 27 October BBC One prime time comedy hero Citizen Khan [played and created by Adil Ray] will be having a day out in the city of Birmingham ahead of the latest series, which returns to our screens on Friday 30 October at 8.30pm.  He will be visiting the city’s landmarks, patrolling through Grand Central with commuters and even taking over the train announcements at Birmingham New Street Station.

Then he will be pushing the boat out for once, treating the Khan family to a special trip to Cineworld Broad Street for a red carpet screening of the new series. Fans can see the whole Khan clan arriving on the red carpet from 5.45pm on Tuesday 27 October and should look out for him causing mischief around the city all day.

Ahead of the preview screening and start of the fourth series, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Adil Ray to chat about the new series, Birmingham and cricket, here is what he had to say.

Joy: Citizen Khan returns to BBC One on Friday 30 October 2015 for the fourth series.

Joy: Citizen Khan returns to BBC One on Friday 30 October 2015 for the fourth series of the comedy show.

I started by asking Adil how he felt that the character of Mr Khan had evolved since his early appearances on Bellamy’s People.

Adil explained, “Initially with Mr Khan, he was quite a satirical character playing a community leader, but as soon as you put him with his wife and his two kids within a family context, he actually becomes a more rounded character. He can laugh, he can cry, he can have a range of emotions, simply because of his relationships with his family members.

The very nature of a family is that it never stops growing and in the last series his daughter, Shazia, has a baby boy so suddenly Mr Khan is a grandfather and his kids are parents so it changes the family dynamic, so it feels that the character has grown in a really organic way.”

Picking up on Mr Khan becoming a grandfather I asked Adil how this might change the way he behaves in the new series.

Adil revealed, “It brings lots of great fun as you can imagine, he wants his grandson to play cricket for England, at one point he thinks his grandson has some secret powers and gets him to try to predict the lottery numbers.  He also tries to get him in, nice and early, to the local private school and this sees him [Mr Khan] going to extraordinary lengths, which involves a fitness regime around Birmingham. He’s also left holding the baby and has to change nappies, so it’s great fun.”

Focusing on the Birmingham fitness regime filming, I asked how the Birmingham public had received Mr Khan when he took to the city streets to film those scenes back in August and how important is was for Adil, as a Brummie, to bring some of the series into the centre of his home city.

Mr Khan poses for a selfie with one of the community in the Cathedral Square

Mr Khan poses for a selfie with one of the community in the Cathedral Square

His response was extremely enthusiastic. “It was really important and it was great fun actually. It was quite trippy, with members of the public not really knowing what was going on and then they spot you and they start taking selfies with you, so it was fantastic and Mr Khan was in his element meeting the general public. It was really important that we did something like this, the show is set in Birmingham and we try to film in Birmingham whenever we can, it’s a great city and it looks fantastic. We filmed around the council house, on Colmore Row and the Cathedral Park and it was really important we got some of that on camera and try to contribute to the buzz that is going on about Birmingham at the moment and people will watch the show on BBC One and think, ‘Oh, Birmingham looks nice, we might pay a visit.'”

“The reception was amazing, we were running around and started high fiving people at bus stops and they were all amazing. Buses were stopping, in fact one bus driver stopped his bus and got off to have a photo taken with me, and I was ‘Hang on, shouldn’t you be driving that bus’, and he said, ‘No it’s OK, I have to have a picture with you first’, so it was good fun.

I know it sounds corny, but it just felt like home, and it is home for me. There is something very special about the people of Birmingham, they really do get behind cultural stuff and they are great supporters and they all put a big smile on my face, it was fantastic.”

Adil seemed very proud of his home city and it’s people so I took the chance to ask what he thought about the latest addition to the city, the new Grand Central and New Street station.

He joked, “It’s amazing, I’ve only got lost three times so far,” before continuing to say, “It’s brilliant and long overdue as Birmingham train station of old really needed something to be done about it but this is fantastic and I think that without King’s Cross in London, it is by far the best train station in the country. For you to get off a train in Birmingham and see that as your first view of the city is brilliant. With everything else that is being developed and the plans for up towards Victoria Square in years to come, the new tram system as well going down to the business quarter, it’s looking really, really great and I just hope Mr Khan gets a slice of it somewhere.

The only thing that’s missing around Victoria Square is room for a Mr Khan statue, that’s really important. I think it’s about time Birmingham showed some respect for it’s leaders, you know there’s, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Chamberlain and Mr Khan, it’s got to go that way.”

With the series four preview screening due to take place on Tuesday 27 October on Broad Street, I asked Adil what we can expect from the event.

Mr Khan hands out high fives to the Colmore Row bus queue.

Mr Khan hands out high fives to the Colmore Row bus queue.

Adil sounded like he was really looking forward to the event, explaining, “It’s going to be great. It’s a chance for us to get back into character, we’ll turn up on Broad Street in the yellow Merc and it would be great if people could come down. We love it, I know the cast love it, so it would be great to speak to as many people as possible, have pictures taken with as many as possible, so come down if you can at 6pm on Tuesday at Cineworld on Broad Street, it will be really good. It seemed like the right thing to do, we worked really hard and it’s nice to be able to give something back to Birmingham and share the moment and celebrate it with people from Birmingham.”

On Friday 23 October, Adil was on the judging panel for a Monologue Slam event at The Rep theatre, so I asked him about his involvement.

Adil seemed thrilled to be involved, saying, “What these guys put on is just brilliant. People can just turn up and take part, it’s basically for the next generation of actors and they come up and perform a one or a three minute piece, whether it’s something they’ve written themselves or they can do a bit of Shakespeare, or a scene from a play or anything they like I guess.

It’s a real privilege for me to sit and watch them because there will be some fantastic performances, and I’m not saying in any way that I’m an expert, but if it means that I can give people some sort of words of encouragement that helps them continue in their careers then that’s only got to be a good thing. I’m really looking forward to it, it should be really good and it’s at the Birmingham Rep, which is a fantastic venue.”

Staying on the theme of theatre, I asked Adil if he might follow Lenny Henry’s lead, following the staging of his radio show Rudy’s Rare Records at the Rep, and bring Citizen Khan to a live stage.

Adil revealed, “Yes, it’s something we are thinking about right now, doing a live tour of Citizen Khan. There are lots of logistics that go with it and it depends on the size and scale of what we’d want to do but it’s certainly something we are considering and hopefully we’ll try to do something like that next year.”

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30th October 2015.

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30 October 2015.

My final question was really aimed at the character rather than the actor as I asked Adil what Mr Khan would make of the latest from the England vs Pakistan test series and particularly the performance of Adil Rashid.

Adil started to answer on Mr Khan’s behalf, before being interrupted by the Sparkhill community leader himself, who said, “At the moment, I’m a Pakistani, Ok. At the moment I support Pakistan, but in five years time I will support England, you know why?  Because they will all be Pakistanis by then.”

Adil took over again and jokingly explained, “What’s happening there is a sign of the times, you’ve already got Adil Rashid, Mooen Ali, there will be no Cooks, there will be no Indians they will all be Pakistanis and that will keep Mr Khan very happy indeed, and he’ll be looking forward to that day.”

Citizen Khan will be back on screen with seven new episodes from Friday 30 October on BBC One at 8.30pm and don’t forget to look and listen out for Mr Khan all day around the city on Tuesday 27 October and tweet your sightings using the hashtag #CKtakeover

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Free preview screening of Citizen Khan in Birmingham

Registration is open for preview screening of Citizen Khan

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30th October 2015.

Series 4 of Citizen Khan starts Friday 30th October 2015. Image Copyright: BBC

A preview screening of two episodes of BBC One’s award winning, primetime sitcom Citizen Khan is to take place in Birmingham city centre on Tuesday 27 October and the BBC is giving local audiences an opportunity to be part of the event.

Birmingham-born Adil Ray (Mr Khan) along with and co-stars Bhavna Limbachia (Alia Khan), Abdullah Afzal (Amjad Malik), Adlyn Ross (Naani) and Krupa Pattani (Shazia Malik) will be in town for the red carpet screening at Cineworld on Broad Street, and audiences will have the chance to join them for a night of comedy.

Details of how to register for tickets for the event are now live via the BBC Shows and Tours website: bbc.co.uk/showsandtours

Now in its fourth series, Citizen Khan is a sitcom set in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham. The show follows the trials and tribulations of larger-than-life self-appointed community leader Mr Khan and his family. The opening episode to be screened at the preview sees the return of comedy legend Peter Bowles (To The Manor Born) return to our screens.

Adil Ray, creator and lead actor in Citizen Khan, said he’s delighted that the screening will be taking place in his home town.

“I’m very much looking forward to celebrating the new series of Citizen Khan with the people of Birmingham. I owe so much to our great city so it’s only right that we share this moment together. Plus Mr Khan needs to shift a few DVDs. He’s currently flogging VHS copies of Crossroads if anyone’s interested?”

Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Birmingham says: “We’re really pleased to be holding the screening of Citizen Khan on its home turf, Birmingham.

“It’s fantastic to have a major BBC One peak time comedy set here and I look forward to watching our city on the big screen alongside our audiences.”

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Behind The Scenes of Doctors Hour Long Episode

Back in May 2015 I was invited on set for the filming of the special hour long episode of BBC Doctors. Now the episode has been on TV I can share some of the images of the filming I took on that day, but beware, if you haven’t seen the special episode yet there may be some spoilers included in the images below.

For those that missed the hour long episode it can be seen on BBC iPlayer until the 10th October 2015.

Letherbridge Cars prop as seen on the set of BBC Doctors

Letherbridge Cars prop as seen on the set of BBC Doctors

The set of the Doctors special episode in Centenary Square as viewed from the Library of Birmigham

The set of the Doctors special episode in Centenary Square as viewed from the Library of Birmingham

A number of market stalls were set up in Centenary Square to create the set

A number of market stalls were set up in Centenary Square to create the set

Is there a Doctor on set? Chris Walker (Rob Hollins), Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Midlane (Al Haskey) pose for a group photo

Is there a Doctor on set? Chris Walker (Rob Hollins), Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Midlane (Al Haskey) pose for a group photo

Some of the regular cast pose for a big group picture with the Bhangra dancers in front of Baskerville House

Some of the regular cast pose for a big group picture with the Bhangra dancers in front of Baskerville House

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) wait for their next scene.

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) and Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) wait for their next scene.

Not a doughnut in sight, but Sgt Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) has found the coffee shop

Not a doughnut in sight, but Sgt Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) has found the coffee shop

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) takes a relaxing break in the sun during filming in Centenary Square

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) takes a relaxing break in the sun during filming in Centenary Square

Lorna Laidlaw (Mrs Tembe) and Cornell St John (Rick Joseph) exchange a few words

Lorna Laidlaw (Mrs Tembe) and Cornell St John (Rick Joseph) exchange a few words in a scene rehearsal

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) mingles with the crowd in the Birmingham market in Centenary Square

Ian Mercer (Andy Weston) mingles with the crowd in the Birmingham market in Centenary Square

Lenny (Grahame Edwards) tries to sing his song while Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) tries to talk him down

Lenny (Grahame Edwards) tries to sing his song while Mrs Tembe (Lorna Laidlaw) tries to talk him down

A shot rings out and a man is down. The

A shot rings out and a man is down, the market crowd scatter. The man in the heart costume points out where the gunman may have been firing from to Rob Hollins (Chris Walker) while DCI Driver (Elizabeth Rider) checks on the victim.

Doctors’ executive producer Mike Hobson said: “This is our homage to Birmingham, to say thank you for last 15 years since the show started.  We wanted to set it in the heart of the city. It’s an exciting climax to a hard-hitting storyline.  They are our biggest scenes yet, involving more than 200 people including dhol players and Bhangra dancers.  Drama has always been part of the DNA of BBC Birmingham and the Drama Village in Selly Oak, continues this tradition.”

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BBC Drama Village celebrates tenth anniversary with a ‘Doctors’ special

BBC Doctors Trailer for the special one hour episode that airs on Thursday 10th September 2015 at 1.45pm.

Bhangra dancers filming in Centenary Square in May 2015 for the special one hour episode celebrating 3,000 episodes of the daytime soap.

Bhangra dancers filming in Centenary Square in May 2015 for the special one hour episode celebrating 3,000 episodes of the daytime soap.

Birmingham’s BBC Drama Village are this week celebrating ten years of creating top quality daytime drama with an hour-long special episode of BBC One soap, ‘Doctors’.

Not only is the Drama Village celebrating their tenth anniversary but they’re also marking the milestone of producing 3000 episodes of the daytime favourite.

The episode, which airs on Thursday 10th September at 1.45pm, was filmed earlier this year in Birmingham city centre hot spots like The National Sea Life Centre, Brindley Place and Centenary Square.

Ian Kelsey (Howard Bellamy) sits out a scene in Birmingham’s Centenary Square

Doctors’ executive producer Mike Hobson said: “This is our homage to Birmingham, to say thank you for last 15 years since the show started.

“We wanted to set it in the heart of the city. It’s an exciting climax to a hard-hitting storyline. They are our biggest scenes yet, involving more than 200 people including dhol players and Bhangra dancers.”

Drama has always been part of the DNA of BBC Birmingham and the Drama Village in Selly Oak, continues this tradition.

Will Trotter, head of daytime Drama at The Drama Village, says he’s delighted with the Drama Village’s success over the years.

“We, at the Drama Village produce nearly 130 hours of programming every year, including Father Brown which has seen global success; WPC 56 which returned for a third series earlier this year, and our latest commission – The Coroner is set to be on screens early next year.  Not to forget our classics episodes of Dalziel & Pascoe and The Afternoon Play Series.”

Eddie Redmayne as Rob Huntley in a 2003 episode of Doctors called 'Crescendo' Image Copyright: BBC

Eddie Redmayne as Rob Huntley in a 2003 episode of Doctors called ‘Crescendo’

Set on the grounds of the University of Birmingham, The Drama Village employs well over 100 people.

“By being based at the University, we’re always looking at ways of working together, with filming locations, workshops, mentoring and work placements.”

Emilia Clarke as Saskia Mayer in a 2009 episode of Doctors called Empty Nest

Emilia Clarke as Saskia Mayer in a 2009 episode of Doctors called Empty Nest

“‘Doctors’ in particular is somewhat of a training ground for new talent both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Many writers, directors and performers have their first break in TV drama through this unit including Hollywood stars Eddie Redmayne [Birdsong, The Theory of Everything] and Emilia Clarke [Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys]. ”

“I’m proud to say that the Drama Village has become a gateway for young talent to hone their skills, craft and creativity. It’s great for the Midlands.”

Eddie Redmayne’s success continues as he is currently filming the film adaptation of J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them where he plays Newt Scamander. Emilia Clarke recently completed filming Me Before You which is scheduled for a June 2016 release.

You can learn more about the special hour long episode in a series of interviews with some of the cast of Doctors from the filming day back in May 2015 available on the links below.

Chris Walker – Sgt Rob Hollins

Ian Kelsey – Howard Bellamy

Ian Midlane – Al Haskey

Lorna Laidlaw – Mrs Tembe

All Images Copyright: BBC

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Doctors Celebrating 3,000 Episodes – Lorna Laidlaw Interview

Back in May 2015 the cast and crew of Doctors went out on location in Birmingham city centre to record scenes for a special hour long episode to celebrate the milestone of reaching 3,000 episodes of the popular BBC daytime soap.  With the special hour long episode due on screen on 10th September it won’t be long now before we all get to see what happened

The official press release is cloaked in secret but does give a hint of what to expect in what promises to be an exciting climax to an ongoing story of police corruption in Letherbridge.

A shooting in a city centre, A dance with a whiff of romance, A damaged child saved…and corruption exposed.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with a few of the cast in between scenes. My final cast interview of the day was with, the ever-bubbly, Lorna Laidlaw who plays The Mill receptionist Mrs Tembe. Lorna was extremely popular so I teamed up again with Roz Laws from the Birmingham Mail and we were also joined by the team from What’s On TV to put some questions to Lorna.

Lorna Laidlaw with a photo of herself as Ursula in the Frank Skinner comedy "Blue Heaven" from 1992

A smiling Lorna Laidlaw with a photo of herself as Ursula in the Frank Skinner Channel 4 comedy “Blue Heaven” from 1994

Before we started the interview I gave Lorna a set of photos from episode two of a 1994 TV series called Blue Heaven. One photo shows Lorna, sporting a red baseball cap and a catering uniform, along with that trademark smile, playing trolley attendant Ursula at Stourbridge Station.  Her reaction to the photos was fantastic (see left), and it put a huge smile on her face as memories of filming the show nearly 21 years earlier came flooding back to her.

Roz started the group questions by asking about Mrs Tembe’s role in the special episode.

Lorna explained, “Mrs Tembe has organised a health promotion day and they are trying to get more people to donate more organs and to give blood and specifically people from ethnic minority groups and the other person who is organising it, Mrs Tembe has what I’d like to call a little, mini, romance with.”

The What’s on TV team asked Lorna if she had any particular stand out stories that Mrs Tembe had been involved in.

Lorna said, “Oh my gosh, there have been quite a few.  When I first started it was all about establishing the character to get people used to what she’s like.  Then we did a massive racism story, which was pretty harrowing, and it was fantastic as we had Mrs Tembe leave at the end of it, to go home just to recover from it. We had loads of people saying ‘Please don’t let her go, please’ so you get a picture of what they think of the character.  Then we had the romance of course, with the vicar, which was very popular and people really embraced that and they really wanted it to happen, they were ready for her to have a romance.  It was a very slow burn, the romance happened really slowly and people started to buy hats, I thought, don’t they know it’s Doctors, someone is bound to get killed off somewhere.”

Lorna Laidlaw takes time out to check her phone while waiting for her next scene in Centenary Square

Lorna Laidlaw takes time out to check her phone while waiting for her next scene in Centenary Square

Lorna explained what was great about the show by saying, “You can suggest things. You can go, I’d really like a romance, so you’d talk about what you want and they will write it. I said to them, I really want to do something about forgiveness, because forgiveness for a Christian is a big thing and also we choose what we forgive, so I said it needs to be big enough so she has to struggle to forgive this person and that is how the rapist story came about. [You can suggest] even little short stories, I said I’d like to do a story about Mrs Tembe having a bad back and her having to go for massages and again, that thing about people living on their own [dealing with] physical contact, so it’s really interesting that you can go there and suggest things, it’s absolutely brilliant.”

It was clear from speaking to Lorna that her accent and that of Mrs Tembe were quite different, so I asked how she had managed to perfect Mrs Tembe’s Botswana accent.

Lorna joked, “It’s when you are at the supermarket and somebody goes, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know you were a Brummie’. I’ve done a few shows in a South African accent and the Botswanan accent is just north of South Africa so you just soften all the edges on it. I did go to a voice coach, and she was the voice coach of the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, so I was in good hands and I really trusted everything she said, and she said ‘your accent is really brilliant but I’d just soften it,’ and that’s all I did, and she said ‘that’s perfect’.  I’ve met some people from Botswana and they absolutely thought I was from Botswana.”

Lorna Laidlaw gets some finishing touches to her make-up

Lorna Laidlaw gets some finishing touches to her make-up on set in Centenary Square

Lorna explained the fans reaction to Mrs Tembe by describing the character as “…like Marmite, you either love her or can’t stand the sight of the woman, but she’s a brilliant character to play. Sometimes people that are in love with her say, ‘I didn’t like that storyline’ and people who didn’t like her before go ‘Oh my God, I’ve seen another side to her that I didn’t know was there.’ I find it quite interesting how you can play with people’s emotions and they are with you sometimes and against you others and that is brilliant, I think it’s the whole idea of really good drama. I think on the whole they absolutely LOVE her, they really do love her, because she’s quite complicated. She’s Christian, she’s quite forthright and the romance story has softened all the edges, but people quite enjoyed seeing that, she’s quite vulnerable, I think she’s a very interesting character to play.”

Roz asked if Mrs Tembe would still find love, Lorna replied, “Do you know what, I think her time has come again, and again I think it should be complicated and difficult. I think it would be really great to get somebody that Mrs Tembe would never think she would be with. I think she really loves people in professional roles, she’s very respectful of that, but actually somebody like a plumber, I think it would be really interesting if it was a struggle for her to try to find a connection, but who knows with the world of Doctors.”

On the subject of romance, I took the opportunity to ask Lorna who she would cast as Mrs Tembe’s love interest. Lorna had already clearly give this some careful thought, and said, “Ok, listen to this, I’ve already put it out there, because sometimes when you put it out there it happens. Me and Denzel [Washington]. I’ve already put it out there, because sometimes you never know, he might be looking at Hello magazine or something like that, and be like ‘Oh that’s interesting, I’ve not seen that lady before, she looks hot’. I think it would be awesome, me and Denzel.”

Lorna spoke briefly about the recent TV soap awards and was thrilled that all the other soaps congratulated Jessica Regan on her Best Newcomer award and said it was about time they were recognised. She added, “It’s really brilliant, because actually there are just twelve of us, just twelve people hold this show together for a year and you think of the vast cast in Emmerdale and Eastenders and Hollyoaks, we have a tiny amount of people, so it’s a big thing. When we were in triple banking at the beginning of the year, we were juggling twelve scripts, that’s a big thing. The budget is tiny, you know, two pound fifty and a packet of wine gums, that’s not going to get you anywhere love. It’s not going to get you Denzel.”

Mrs Tembe has some issues with Rick Joseph

Mrs Tembe clearly has something to say in the special hour long celebration episode.

To finish with I asked Lorna what she thought of Lenny Henry’s recent stage adaptation of Rudy’s Rare Records at The Rep and if she planned to do more theatre shows herself. Lorna said, “I thought Lenny’s show was absolutely fantastic, again really celebrating Birmingham and Handsworth, places like the canals, it was just fantastic, and I’m just waiting for it to come on telly. I went to the live screening at The Drum and it was just great, real good belly laughs. I was at The Rep last year, I did a [Bertolt] Brecht [The Mother], I did a show in The Studio [For The Past 30 Years], I write and I direct as well, so I juggle all that in between Doctors. If you are working with a young writer then you help them, because one day you know they will pay you back, so let’s get you doing what you need to do, because there is no money for new work at the moment, and it’s a real shame. Supporting new work and developing new work is absolutely crucial.”

Lorna ended by saying, “I’m very lucky, I love theatre and having that creativity in Doctors, you can suggest things, you can work on the script, so that creativity is still there, I KNOW I am very, very lucky and the thing about Denzel, I’m still pushing it.”

More photos from the day will be published later this week after the special hour long episode has been broadcast and the Doctors filming location now features in the Birmingham TV & Film locations walking tour that operates in conjunction with Film Birmingham.

You can see What’s On TVs video interviews with Lorna on their website, where she talks about Denzel and Romance.

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Doctors Celebrating 3,000 Episodes – Ian Midlane Interview

Back in May 2015 the cast and crew of Doctors went out on location in Birmingham city centre to record scenes for a special hour long episode to celebrate the milestone of reaching 3,000 episodes of the popular BBC daytime soap.  With the special hour long episode due on screen on 10th September it won’t be long now before we all get to see what happened

The official press release is cloaked in secret but does give a hint of what to expect in what promises to be an exciting climax to an ongoing story of police corruption in Letherbridge.

A shooting in a city centre, A dance with a whiff of romance, A damaged child saved…and corruption exposed.

Ian MIdlane on set

Ian Midlane plays Doctor Al Haskey in the BBC daytime drama.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with a few of the cast in between scenes. My third cast interview of the day was with Ian Midlane, who plays Doctor Al Haskey and this time I teamed up with Roz Laws from the Birmingham Mail to put some questions to Ian.

Roz opened the interview by asking Ian about his costume for the episode.

Al Haskey's Kidney Costume

The Kidney costume worn by Al in the health drive campaign.

Ian explained, “The story is that there is this blood and organ donation drive going on and Howard and Mrs Tembe have convinced Al to take part and he didn’t quite know that there was going to be a very silly costume involved. So I’m dressed as the kidney, and we have the heart, liver, kidney and lungs.”

Roz asked how it was being dressed as a kidney all day, to which Ian responded, “On this job I’ve had a few funny costumes to wear over the years. I played ‘gonorrhea’ in an episode and that was a massive thing, I looked like one of the Monster Munch people. It was a university thing where we were trying to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases. I also played a Mummy in a Halloween episode with bandages all over me, in the height of summer, which seems to coincide with silly costume season.”

As we were on the subject of costumes I asked Ian if he was disappointed that the character of Al was not involved in the period costume elements of the Austenland episodes, especially given Ian’s love of a good time travel story.

“It massively disappointed me. I was kind of in the real world, setting up the fantasy stuff and ever since I’ve been asking what’s next as I want to wear some costumes. I worked in the theatre before I came here, at the RSC, so I’m used to wearing a wig or a fake beard.”

I followed up by asking what ‘time period’ Ian would take Doctors to if he could dictate the story line.

Clock Tower

Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower at Birmingham University.

Ian confessed, “Well, I’m a big Back to the Future fan, so I’d go a little bit into the past, say like the 50s and 60s. It would be interesting to see how The Mill would be at the start of the NHS, so kind of late 40s into the 50s would be interesting…and then you’ve to go to the future haven’t you. There is a big clock tower in Birmingham University and I often say to the boss, ‘Let’s do a Back to the Future pastiche because we’ve got a clock tower there, I reckon we could get away with that”

I asked Al how thrilled he was for Jessica Regan (Niamh Donoghue) after she won the Best Newcomer prize at the 2015 British Soap Awards.

“Oh, it’s fantastic. I wasn’t there because I’ve been on holiday. I was driving Route 66 and I’d just got into California, when I got all these texts from Owen [Brenman] and Dido [Miles]… I’m sure she thanked me at length.  I’ve only been [to the awards] once as I was on holiday last year as well, but it’s quite an event, It’s great that we’ve finally broke our losing streak as it’s been a few years, and I’m delighted for her. We were up for screen couple as well, but Eastenders had such a huge year.

Ian continued to explain why he finds working on the show so enjoyable, “Doctor’s is a bit special, five episodes a week for forty odd weeks a year and there are only 12 or 13 recurring characters, so we really carry our weight, the amount of dialogue that one gets to do on this job is amazing. One of the best things about the job is every other week you get to meet a new guest actor and kind of  share a story with them and then they drift off and some actors come back again and again.”

While we were on the subject of ‘guest’ actors, I asked Ian who he would like to work with if he could choose anyone to guest in a Doctors role.

A thoughtful Ian said, “That’s such a good question. I’ve got lots of friends so I’d try to get them a job, but I’m a big fan of Holly Hunter, and bearing in mind time travel, I’m going to go Holly Hunter, from 1987, and my favourite film, Broadcast News…then you go, Daniel Day Lewis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, they would be amazing.”

Ian continued, “One of the things that I think would be amazing for us to do, it may never happen, would be a musical episode. You know there are lots of singers and musicians on the show, Laura Rollins, who plays Nurse Ayesha, went to the Royal Ballet School, so she can dance a bit too. I think we could do, you know, sing live, piano backing, I mean it would take a bit of doing. Sometimes our audience are a little wary of us being too crazy and out there, but we can get away with a little bit of silliness. One of my first big episodes, I’d been here about six or seven months, was an episode kind of based on  conspiracy movies, like China Town. I was very lucky and I won the RTS award for it, but some of the audience reaction to that was ‘that’s the worse piece of  television I’ve ever seen’, but that’s what’s so nice about this job, because you get to do things in different genres. I think we’ve earned our position in that we can be quirky and a bit peculiar but also we can bring it back to social realism and the afternoon play, and I think Cathy Come Home, you know, that’s our heritage.”

At the time of the interview an episode had just aired where Al had just been in a hostage situation with a shopkeeper played by Derek Griffiths.

Ian discussed filming these scenes with us, “I’ve kind of known his work from The Royal Exchange in Manchester and they used to tour to Bedford, and he had just the best stories. We spent a lot of time just sat on the floor of that supermarket, with our hands tied behind our back, him telling the funniest stories of corpsing on stage.  That’s just another example of three other actors coming in and you spend three days really getting to know each other, so I really enjoyed that. I’ve not watched it yet as I’ve been away on holiday so I’m looking forward to seeing it.”

Recalling a conversation with actress Jessica Regan, who claimed she was getting a lot of flack from viewers after Niamh had split up with Al, Roz asked Ian about the his characters handling of a love interest,

Ian was very clearly on the side of ‘Team Al’, saying “What can you say, the course of true love never did run smoothly. Relationships are messy aren’t they. Obviously, it’s very difficult, as I’m on Al’s side, but I think it’s too late for them. I think he grieved, he got over it while she was still angry with him and I think she catches up and maybe still has feelings for him, but he’s regressed into kind of childishness.  However, there ‘might’ be a new love, coming on the way for Al, but whether he’s mature enough to move on and go into another relationship is another thing.”

I asked Ian about his first role in Doctors, when he played a character called Brian Flannery, a role he remembered well.

Ian recalled, “In 2004 I was in an episode called ‘Coming to Terms’, I played a strange chap who was a carpenter who was living with the widow of his best friend, and he hadn’t quite come to terms with their relationship and the fact that he’d died. I remember at the time thinking ‘This is a great job, they film so quickly’ and, you know, ten years later I’m aware of how quickly we can go.”

Roz had already asked Ian about his background, where he explained he grew up in Bedford, but had family living in the Birmingham area, who he now sees on a regular basis, and to finish with Ian offered this view of living and working in Birmingham.

Ian told us, “If I walk, and I do walk everyday, it takes me ten minutes to walk into work. If it’s a really early start or if I’m being really lazy it takes me about 90 seconds to drive to work.”

Ian ended by explaining how he has now made Birmingham his home,  “I’m a Brummie I suppose, I love the city the people are so friendly, it’s beautiful, it’s cosmopolitan. You know, Broad Street, I love the cinema and the theatre and really nice restaurants, it’s a great city and I feel at home. I think as an actor you long to put down roots and I think finally it’s happening for me, which is a delight, I’m really lucky and I love playing Al.”

You can see and hear more of what Ian Midlane had to say during the filming in a video on the What’s On TV website.

My final interview and further photos from the day will be published later this week in the lead up to the special celebration episode on 10th September and the Doctors filming location now features in the Birmingham TV & Film locations walking tour that operates in conjunction with Film Birmingham.

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Doctors Celebrating 3,000 Episodes – Ian Kelsey Interview

Back in May 2015 the cast and crew of Doctors went out on location in Birmingham city centre to record scenes for a special hour long episode to celebrate the milestone of reaching 3,000 episodes of the popular BBC daytime soap.  With the special hour long episode due on screen on 10th September it won’t be long now before we all get to see what happened

The official press release is cloaked in secret but does give a hint of what to expect in what promises to be an exciting climax to an ongoing story of police corruption in Letherbridge.

A shooting in a city centre, A dance with a whiff of romance, A damaged child saved…and corruption exposed.

Ian Kelsey plays Howard Bellamy

Ian Kelsey waits on set during the filming of Doctors 3000th episode in Birmingham.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with a few of the cast in between scenes. My second cast interview of the day was with the soon to be departing, Ian Kelsey, who plays The Mill’s Practice Manager, Howard Bellamy.

Ian is no stranger to TV soap drama, having played Dave Glover in Emmerdale for 6 years in the 1990s, so I started by asking Ian how the filming schedule on Doctors compared to other serial dramas he’s worked on.

Ian was very clear on the pressures of working on the BBC daytime show, “The speed, I’ve never worked on anything as fast as this, never. It takes you a while to get used to it, well actually you never get used to it. Even after three years there are still scenes that slip by that you could have done a lot better but because of the speed your quality content just drops, you have to drop your level of acceptance of what has just been filmed because you can’t say can I have another take, it just doesn’t work on a show like this.”

“On other jobs you do have time to get it right, I’m not saying we get it wrong but there are sometimes when it’s a situation that if all the right words are in the right order and the boom [microphone] didn’t show then we’re moving on.  It’s tough because you are against the clock, but it’s also the content you have to learn. Once you’ve finished a big day you’ve got to go home and put another fifteen scenes in your head.”

The five times a week show films on a triple banking shooting schedule with three different crews filming different stories across multiple episodes at the same time, so I asked Ian how much this contributed to the busy workloads the cast often find themselves under.

Ian explained, “There are three of four of us that get hit every year, when the extra director steps up, carrying three episodes himself, so at any point during a triple strand you’ve got nine episodes in your head and you are crisscrossing all day long onto different blocks. You’ve really got to be on your game and know, have I had an argument with that person, have I kissed her yet, have we fallen out yet and even has she had her baby yet, it’s ridiculous and it’s tough. It’s mainly me and the receptionists, when it’s that time of year, we get hammered, because it’s just like working in the Queen Vic, you’ve got your fingers in everybody’s pies as our position in the show means we know about everybody’s goings on.”

Playing Practice Manager, Howard, means that Ian has to work with most of the other cast on a regular basis, so I asked him how he prepared for all the different relationships he needs to maintain throughout the show.

Ian gave huge credit to the writers in his response, “Sometimes you have to make it up yourself and eventually the writers pick up on, very quickly on this show I may add, if I put a character trait in, and keep my eye on how often I can do that, then the writers will grab hold of that and you’ll find within weeks or months, what you’ve developed somebody will have put in for you. It’s like when I read a script the other day, I’d got a scene with Ian Midlane who plays Al, and that writer has absolutely nailed his rhythm, everybody has different rhythms, and when I was reading it I could just absolutely hear him talking and that writer has obviously paid attention and nailed Ian Midlane’s delivery.”

With Ian completing over 400 episodes as Howard, I asked if there was any particular one that stood out as a personal favourite of his and after a bit of thought he said, “Well, the one I wrote myself, that was [a] brilliant [experience]. It was such an interesting learning curve having to write to the perimeters of a budget. Only having three people, other than cast members, to tell your story, and you can’t have a fourth, and you realise just how difficult it is to tell a story with just three people. You are always needing them to talk to someone else, so you are having to engineer phone calls or conversations away from camera and they have to come back and say ‘have you heard what they have just said’. Of course getting Caroline Quentin in to play my sister was a laugh, as she’s good fun.”

With a stream of guest actors coming and going in Doctors I took the opportunity to ask if there was anyone in particular that Ian would like to bring in to work alongside. After a short pause he went for, “Sandra Bullock, that would be good, she could come in and be my girlfriend I suppose.”

With news of Howard’s departure still fresh, and his final scenes to be filmed on the 10th July, I asked Ian what was next,

“I don’t know, that’s the exciting thing. I’m writing a ten or twelve part kids with Justin Fletcher (Mr Tumbles), we went to drama school together, and we are developing this kids series at the moment. He’s just finished working for the BBC recently, so hopefully we’ll get some time together to get that off the ground. Let’s see what happens, that’s the exciting thing about taking my leave. I’ve had a lot of fun [on Doctors] but when it’s time, it’s time.”

Ian Kelsey Interview

Ian Kelsey being interviewed by What’s on TV

Since the interview it’s been announced that Ian will be touring the UK in the lead role of banker Andy Dufresne in the stage play of The Shawshank Redemption alongside his former Casualty co-star, Patrick Robinson.  The show opened in Windsor on 18th August and can be seen at theatres around the country until November, when it finishes in Cardiff.

You can see and hear more of what Ian Kelsey had to say during the filming in a video on the What’s On TV website.

I’ll publish more of the interviews and photos from the day in the lead up to the special hour long episode on 10th September and the Doctors filming location now features in the Birmingham TV & Film locations walking tour that operates in conjunction with Film Birmingham.

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Lenny comes home – bringing Danny and the Human Zoo

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Dudley Premiere of Lenny Henry’s Danny and the Human Zoo on 20th August 2015 and now I have watched the 90 minute drama, I can confidently say you are in for a Bank Holiday treat.  The wonderfully entertaining 90 minute premiere was followed by a Q&A, hosted by Radio WM’s Adrian Goldberg, with questions put to director Destiny Ekaragha, writer Lenny Henry and lead actor Kascion Franklin.

Danny and the Human Zoo is loosely based on Lenny’s own early life in Dudley and his rise to fame through the ATV Talent Show, New Faces, which was recorded at the recently demolished ATV Studios on Broad Street, Birmingham.

Danny and the Human Zoo Review

Following an opening text that claims the ‘events are real…honest’, a needle drops onto a vinyl record and we are treated to a brief burst of Mille’s My Boy Lollipop and introduced to a dancing Danny, way back in 1964.  The next decade soon arrives and so do the hits of the era, which cement the action firmly in the seventies, and bring a recollective smile to the faces of many of the lucky few that have obtained tickets. The music throughout is wonderful, it even has a theme tune, Pharrell William’s Freedom, that is so catchy you will be humming it for days to come.

As well as the music the 70s fashions, cars and even the TV shows of the era are all perfectly represented with clips from Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game, Mike Yarwood and Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em featuring on the family TV. Director Destiny Ekaragha made an amusing reference to the Dudley Zoo chair lift in the Q&A, stating she was scared to ride it as she thought it was a very authentic 1970s attraction, to be corrected by Lenny Henry who informed it it WAS the original 1970s Dudley Zoo attraction she had ridden.

The title role of Danny is played by Wednesbury actor  Kascion Franklin, in his first major role, and if this is the standard of his performance then he has a long and successful career ahead of him. He absolutely shines as Danny, playing comedy and tragedy with seemingly effortless and equal measure and creates an extremely likable character that you warm to immediately.  Danny struggles with racist bullying both in and out of school and there are a few phrases that were difficult to hear in our modern era, but that only helps to recreate the social environment of a 1970s era Dudley.

Throughout his story Danny is supported by his Black Country mates, who have some great lines all delivered in a wonderful local dialect by the young cast, however, they are knocked firmly into second place in the accent stakes by Danny’s Jamaican family, in particular Cecilia Noble, who puts in an award winning performance as Danny’s mother Myrtle.  Lenny Henry’s role, as Danny’s dad Samson, is also perfectly played and while his screen time is quite limited, he puts in a perfectly measured performance while letting the other characters and his heartwarming and honest script take centre stage.

Other familiar faces to look out for include, Arthur Darvill (Dr Who) as Danny’s manager Jonesy, Mark Benton (Waterloo Road) as a not so pleasant compare, Syd Bolton, at a Working Man’s Club, Cherrelle Skeete (Ordinary Lies) as Danny’s policewoman sister Dee Dee and Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter) as Danny Irish barmaid girlfriend, Bridget.  There is even a brief appearance by Richard Wilson as promoter James Broughton, who thinks absolutely nothing of adding the young black impressionist to the line-up of his Black and White Minstrel show as well as appearances from James and Oliver Phelps (Harry Potter) who play the twin managers of the Queen Mary’s Ballroom at Dudley Zoo.

There are plenty of location spotting opportunities throughout with scenes filmed at Dudley Zoo, Netherton Canal and a factory in Tipton as well as some scenes that were filmed in Moseley and Birmingham, including the Banqueting Palace at Perry Barr.

The show is witty and funny with some laugh out loud moments but it also has some darker moments with family tragedy, manipulative agents and those brief racist moments that will no doubt leave those viewers too young to remember the seventies open mouthed in shock.  What comes across really clearly is that Lenny loves Dudley and as he said in the Q&A he could not have made this film anywhere else and he seemed genuinely proud to bring his story back home.

Even though I’ve seen it already, I can’t wait to watch it all over again on Bank Holiday Monday.

Further Coverage

Birmingham Mail

Express and Star

Radio Times

BBC Midlands Today

 

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Danny and the Human Zoo – Trailer

Due on BBC One Bank Holiday Monday, 31st August (9pm), here is the trailer for Danny and The Human Zoo.

A one off drama inspired by the life of Lenny Henry and filmed in the West Midlands earlier this year, it tells the story of young Danny Fearon (Kascion Franklin) as he makes his way through his early years in show business.

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