Sunday, February 10, 2008
Guy Burnet interview
Guy Burnet, the man behind one of Hollyoaks' most iconic characters, has filmed his final scenes with the Channel 4 soap and, next week, his Chester character bids farewell to the village to embark on a new life in Ireland.
'It started with a kiss' as the song goes and it's most certainly been a bumpy ride for Craig Dean over the past seven months in a long-running storyline which began with him kissing his best friend, John Paul McQueen. As a result, the plot proved a massive hit, gaining a cult following amongst fans.
Digital Spy caught up with Guy for an exclusive and rare interview in which he spoke openly and candidly about the reasons behind his decision to quit the show, what it's been like playing a gay character, his appreciation of fans and what the future holds.
What happens in the aftermath of John Paul and Craig's affair coming out?
"A lot of the aftermath stuff is really good. We changed a hell of a lot of it. It came out initially [at script stage] and it's in the same week as another major storyline so we went and spoke to [the producers] and manipulated the scripts slightly with the director, Nigel Keane, and the consequence was a fantastic four episodes to end it on, I think. Something real.
"When Sarah discovers Craig and John Paul together, it's almost about her, I feel. Everything's been about Craig and John Paul and I thought that it was important in the aftermath to remember that a Sarah isn't forgotten.
"It's easy for everyone to love the JP and Craig storyline for the two of them being together, but it has to be understood that what makes the story is Craig's love for Sarah and Sarah's love for Craig. So it was important in the aftermath to show the confusion of Sarah – forget the confusion of Craig for a minute – the confusion of Sarah who's been as much part of this storyline as we have.
"In the episodes surrounding my leaving, you'll see a different and very important viewpoint - that of Sarah."
Do you think if Craig had a choice he's have carried on with the way things were?
"It was one of those things where he blanked out everything. He basically had his cake and he was eating it. He was happy for it to stay the same way but I don't think he considered the consequences of what would happen. He didn't think about any of it.
"He was going to Ireland with Sarah then he was going with John Paul. It's purely based on confusion within himself, not necessarily the social acceptance – that's not an issue until he comes out – it's the sexual confusion within himself which leads to the audience being confused as well.
"The thing that I wanted more than anything was to convey confusion – if Craig could go and sleep with John Paul and afterwards the audience can say 'hold on a minute – maybe he's not gay'… If I've provoked that question, then I've reached the goal I wanted to reach. If I'm confused, in turn Craig is confused and so is the audience – that's the way I see it."
What were the reasons behind your decision to leave?
"Initially, the thing that threw me over the edge to say 'right, I am going to leave Hollyoaks' was when I was sat at home thinking 'I'd love to go to Tokyo; I'd love to go and live in Mexico; I want to go and live in Costa Rica; I want to go and do these things now while I'm young and can still do them'.
"I learned so much at Hollyoaks. I loved the place and it was the most difficult decision almost purely based on the people, your best friends who work there – like Nick Pickard [Tony Hutchinson], Jimmy McKenna [Jack Osborne] and Carly Stenson [Steph Dean] – they're my family. They're people that before I even made my decision to leave, I went to and spoke to them about it. I remember having a conversation with Nick Pickard and saying 'I love it here, it's great but I feel that I want to move on but the thing that makes me want to stay the most is you guys'. He said to me 'go, don't let that hold you back'."
Would you ever rule out a return?
"The door's been left open for a possible return. Bryan Kirkwood's been so good to me. He's such a good guy. The show will just go from strength to strength. He's done a lot for me and I've learned so much, especially since he's been there. He's left the door completely open for me at the moment and I really appreciate that. God knows what the future holds for Craig.
"I really appreciate the freedom and the opportunities that they've given me to really make something different of this storyline, not just the conventional 'coming out' storyline – it's been a sexual confusion storyline. For James, it's been a 'coming out' storyline but for me, I really didn't want to mimic that or mirror it any way. It's important to show something different, something original and they gave me the freedom to do that. I'll never forget that.
"I'll miss the place and I'll miss the people so much but I'm really happy."
Have you enjoyed the Craig/JP/Sarah love triangle storyline?
"If anything, my main goal within acting is to provoke a reaction and I don't just want to provoke a good reaction - I want to provoke a reaction that's hatred – hate me, but hate the character. If I've achieved that, then that's great. Variation is fantastic."
What's been your reaction to the fan reaction?
"I don't get to see the forums much and I don't read too much [on the internet] but I do through James – he reads a lot of the online stuff – and he lets me know. It's so moving that so many people actually care about the storyline.
"From my understanding, DS is a community of fans – without the fans, there is no show so I think the genuine way to move forward is to base a lot of plotlines – obviously if they're realistic – around what fans and communities want. At the end of the day, it's purely based around them.
"One thing I've learned is that there's a lot of politics around television and awards shows – a lot of it is bullshit. But when it comes to the fans, they're genuine. You can't beat the people. It's not a communist society. There's a great power there."
Have you received a lot of fan mail?
"I've had a lot of fan mail and I haven't replied to all of them and I'm really sorry. But I promise I really will reply to everyone. There was a point where I was completely focused on the storyline and I didn't go and collect the mail for a period of time. I managed to send off about 200 or so letters. But everyone who did send me letters, I've read them all and I really appreciate all the words. In time, I will write back to everyone. More than anything, they are the most important thing to me. Fan appreciation is great – I even appreciate if they don't like Craig, hate him even.
"I really want to thank all the fans – I'm genuinely overwhelmed. I'm not from an acting background and for three or four years I was perhaps in the background and a lot of fans probably didn't recognise I was there. That was fine for me but I wanted to prove my worth."
Have you had many offers since leaving Hollyoaks?
"In terms of offers, you just wait for your agent to phone you to say 'go up for this audition'. No one's ever phoned to say 'here, we'd like you to play this part'. I'm not one of these people who's expecting it. I don't expect someone to come knocking on my door because I've been at Hollyoaks for five years. In the time that I've been there, one thing that I've seen is that people come and people go – different talents of different variations – but one things that I've seen is that a lot of them don't go on to do much at all.
"Some of them do but usually the ones that do that are pro-active – leave the show and go on to prove that they can do something different, go on and prove that they can do another job. So they go out, they go looking for jobs, knocking on people's doors. Then you have the others who sit down and rest on their laurels and just wait for someone to come and knocking on their door. It never happens. Well, in my experience it never does.
"Initially, I thought I'd leave and take some time off, relax a bit and, in a way, I have because I've come back down to London to see my mates. I haven't done much relaxing, I've just been partying. I drove around Europe to do some surfing, too, and got back the other day. So I've been doing bits and pieces."
There's been a bit of speculation about you having been approached to join EastEnders…
"I've never, ever heard from EastEnders. They've never spoken to me, never approached me. Whether they have approached my agent, I don't know but I find it unlikely."
I'm presuming you'd never say no to a role with them?
"It's difficult. One of the reasons I left Hollyoaks was that I wanted to try different avenues, so perhaps moving from a soap to a soap isn't the cleverest thing to do because Hollyoaks was a good thing – why should I leave Hollyoaks to be in something that runs parallel, that runs in the same genre?"
There have been similar claims about you possibly appearing in Dr Who and Torchwood…
"These things are big things, so in a way it'd be an honour to be approached by them but I haven't. I've been for a couple of auditions for a couple of new BBC pilot shows which have had great scripts but I haven't heard anything back as yet. There's something called 'Mrs Inbetweeny' that I went up for which is a fantastic script – it really will be a popular show. There's something else called Liberty, too. There are a few BBC Three shows which I'd love to be involved in as well.
"I go to these auditions and I try my best. There's positive feedback but unless you sign on the dotted lines it means jack unicorn."
What about character-wise – do you think you'll ever be able to leave Craig Dean behind?
"If it was a completely different character, I'd be happy to go and meet and discuss it and go and audition – I'd be happy to do that.
"I do a lot of writing and I do a lot of short films. We enter them into a lot of competitions and since I've left, I've constantly been doing short films and acting in short films, from psychopaths to murderers to famous movie stars. We do it on FilmMaker.com and they're also making me a website, so we'll be putting some of them on there. It's stuff that's completely different to what I'm used to doing.
"The thing about Craig – whatever character you play is always going to slightly similar to you. Whoever says that they're completely different is lying because it's your face, its your expression – it is you. The personality might be completely different or something like that and personality-wise I'm nothing like Craig. There are a lot of parts that are similar, things that you draw from reality. My job now is to move away from Craig and try and show that I can play a different character."
James Sutton has hinted that he could leave in a year's time – what would you say about a JP and Craig spin-off?
"What, where we're in Ireland and carry on the story itself? We'll have to see. James is as ambitious as anybody. As long as he's getting good stories, he'll be happy there. I've been there for a lot longer than he has so I'm sure he can afford to do a bit more time. Whether he's getting restless, I don't know."
Would you do a late-night spin-off?
"It'd depend. I can't say yes or no. It'd depend on the script. I really do base everything I do on how good a script it is and how much freedom you have to move within the script. In terms of a spin-off – I've always said this: Hollyoaks did some great late-night shows and I'm aware that they're not doing them again but I always felt that there was room for a 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' late-nighter; a bit more comedy rather than everything being sexually dramatic all the time with a few swear words. I think a 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' would work wonders as a Hollyoaks late-nighter."
What was it like portraying a gay character?
"I'll always be completely honest. I'll always be real. The truth is that it was difficult to play. It was talked about for a long while and I felt uncomfortable with the idea because I didn't think it was justifiable. I thought 'how can you make a straight guy who's a bit of a cheeky chappy, loves the girls and has a sort of camp sense of humour, gay?'
"It was sitting with Bryan and the other producers, discussing it and saying 'right, if we're going to do this, it's not a story about a character being gay, it's a story where we have to justify the guy's sexual confusion – why is he like this? And the most important thing is that he still has the love for the woman in his life'.
"And whether the conclusion is that he goes to Ireland now and he's gay, I don't know. In my head, he'll go to Ireland and he'll still be after girls because it was a love for this one person which threw him. Craig was always a lonely character. He never had that many friends surrounding him, even during the times of Bombhead and Lee. These guys were in a different year to him. He was always a lone soldier. JP was not only a best friend but when he came out, it was a coming to terms moment for Craig - asking himself 'perhaps these feelings are OK to have for JP and I don't want to lose him as a mate'. It's confusion but it's also a love story – an obsession almost.
"Even towards the end, it was always difficult for me… You've got to remember that the room is full of people and it's not so much that which bothers you, but you're sitting there and – this isn't meant in a homophobic way – I just didn't feel comfortable doing it. It literally would be a silent set, we'd do it and hopefully it was one take and it was out of the way. That's a genuine answer.
"The gay community likes the story in some ways and I love that. In some ways, I sympathise with a lot of people who have come out and it's been difficult for them. I hope that I've justified it not just for them but for people in different positions, people in positions of sexual confusion. It's for them that I hope they've enjoyed the story.
"Realistically, I wasn't comfortable but I did it and I've learned an incredible amount from it."
How did James react to playing a gay part?
"James was always good about it. James has played gay characters in the past from my understanding, in theatre roles and the like. He was quite comfortable with it, which, in turn, made things easier for me because I wasn't comfortable. It was difficult for me to do. James is a good actor and he's also very understanding.
"I can sit and talk to him and I'll give him advice and he'll give me advice and we won't ever take it offensively. We work well together because we can both tell each other 'actually, I don't think that was right, do it like this' or he'll say to me 'listen, Guy, do it like that'. In turn, we balanced each other out."
What about heading across to America to pursue your career? Can you do an American accent?
"I do some accents and I can do an American one. With me, I always say 'I'm as ambitious as anyone you'll ever meet' but I'm not stupid. I'm not extremely blazé. You need to build yourself up. I need to be at the point where I know I can be the best that I can be to go over there.
"And if I were to go out there, I wouldn't be going for a holiday, I'd be going out there to graft, to work. It'd be back to square one. Perhaps in the next couple of years I'll go out there but I'd do it quietly, I wouldn't tell anyone and I'd attempt to start afresh.
"It's difficult over there and you have to be realistic. I've applied to drama schools over in New York, so it's dependant if I get work over here or not. At the moment, I'm just looking for work in the UK and whether the future lies over in America, I don't know. I speak a few other languages, so I'd like to do some European cinema and I'm a massive fan of Asian, Japanese, South American, Oriental and even Bollywood cinema, too. So I don't just want to say I'm going to America. I'd love to travel. I'd like to go to Japan and perhaps if they're looking for a western-looking actor, I'd do a film out there.
"I'm attempting it all and I've got nothing holding me back at the moment - I'm just going to try everything."
Do you manage to catch any US series on TV?
"I'm a massive fan of the Sopranos. I just think it's great television, great scripts, great filming. 24 – I'm a massive fan of that, too. CSI's fantastic, as well."
Do you watch any other soaps?
"I haven't seen any other soaps. I only rarely catch Hollyoaks when I'm on but other than that, I watch football, boxing, sports in general and a lot of American shows."
Would you ever do reality TV?
"No. But then again, you say no and then suddenly someone says 'here's £200k will you do this?' You get asked to go and meet people but I've refused them all. Even pantomime, I've been offered that. It's just not for me. It's not about the money. I have goals that I want to achieve but I want to do it my way. Once – and if – I achieve my goals, I can say 'I did it my way'. I'm not driven by money whatsoever."
Thanks for chatting to us, Guy, and good luck for the future.
Source: Digital Spy