“Tom Baker was MY Doctor”
What inspired you to become an actor?
It all happened by accident. I was a sculptor and had been for 10 years. I was offered an audition for a role by someone who thought I was an actor. I figured, well, this should be a laugh and so went and did the audition. I got the role and flew out to Venice Italy to play ‘Casanova’ in a film about his life. When I got back I decided to see if I could get an agent. When I got an agent I thought I should focus on acting and see if I could make a career out of it… crazy things just happen in your life if you let them and you’re open to them. So, what inspired me to become an actor? I thought it would be a fun adventure.
You portrayed the role of The Trickster in numerous episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures – how was this experience?
I love the BBC and I’ll do anything for the doctor who team…including wearing that damn mask!
They’re a great team and create a really cool working environment. Cast and crew were always so much fun. But being the Trickster? 3 hours in make up and then you’re unable to breathe through your nose so you breathe through your mouth, which dries out your mouth so you have to drink lots of water which means you need the bathroom a lot but you can’t see where you’re going so someone has to take you… JESUS!… It was always a relief to say tear off that mask at the end of the day.
You have played parts in Doctor Who and its spin-offs Torchwood & The Sarah Jane Adventures. Were you a fan of Doctor Who before appearing in these shows?
I was a big fan when I was very young…. Tom Baker was my Doctor and could never accept anyone else. So I didn’t watch them again until I was offered the role. I sat and watched the whole of David Tennant’s 1st series. I thought they were great and got very excited about working on the show.
You have played many roles in both TV and Film which has been your favourite and why?
I recently played Simon in ‘Son of God’… spiritual leader of Galilee and Jesus’ first adversary. The shoot itself was amazing… 3 weeks filming in the Sahara with a great bunch of people. I can honestly say that it was perhaps the best 3 weeks of my life… so much fun and a lot of job satisfaction as Simon was a great character. Powerful, yet insecure. Arrogant and self-serving but also very concerned for his community. Oh, and I got to shout at Jesus a lot.
Moving on from acting – what can you tell us about your business MacSmiths of Hackney and how you came up with the idea?
In 2008 the stock market crashed with as big a thump in the UK as it did in the US and the film industry suffered miserably. I had 2 movies that I was contracted to make and they had their funding immediately pulled out of them. Everyone it seemed was instantly out of work. I just needed to make sure that I could still put food on the table and the occasional beer in my belly so, figured I should start something up based on some of my other abilities.
I’d always worked on my own macs and my friends so I put up some ads locally saying “I fix Macs”. Hackney in East London is the creative hub of london and everyone has a Mac there and I had a call within minutes of putting up a flier in a local cafe. The girl who called had just come back from the Genius bar at Apple and was in tears. She had been quoted £300 and 1 week to replace her hard drive… they also informed her that all her data was gone forever. She brought it to me and I fixed it for her and recovered all her data the same day for £150. She cried and hugged me when she picked it up… I don’t think I’d ever felt such a sense of doing good with my work until that moment. That day I had 3 further calls from her friends asking for my help. By the end of the week I had a business and by the end of the month I was overwhelmed and employing help.
It’s gone from strength to strength since then. In 2013 I expanded the company into its new premises. This year I opened a cocktail bar on the premises and am about to open a school for Mac. The MacSmiths ethos is that we don’t separate the machine from the person. We are all individuals and therefore our computers should be tailored to us specifically. The shop itself is not what you’d expect, resembling a cross between a Victorian curiosity shop and a mad scientist lair… I love the Steampunk aesthetic, mixing old with the new and people love the space when they walk in which gives me so much pleasure. More than anything else, we represent the opposite of the Genius bar…. we actually have geniuses working there.
What was the first Apple computer you owned personally, and the most recent?
My first was a G3 PowerBook from 1998. It had a 233ghz processor, 32mb of RAM, 2 GB of HD storage and a screen that you could no longer see if you moved your head 2cm to either side. I loved that machine! I currently have a 13” retina MBP in my bedroom, a mac mini in my office and a 12core MacPro at home.
I should also tell you guys, I have an Apple Museum… almost every machine since 1976 including an (incomplete) Apple 1, Apple Lisa, the original 128k Macintosh, an Apple graphics tablet from 1979 and a prototype 12” Powerbook.
How do you feel Apple has faired as a company in the post Steve Jobs era? Were you an early adopter of devices such as in the iPhone, iPad & iPod?
I have a strange relationship with Apple… it’s a Love/Hate/love relationship… I love the products, hate the way Apple treats people but love that they’re so terrible because it has allowed me to create a great company that fills that void.
I was always very intrigued by Steve Jobs but I certainly never deified him (though I deified Woz!). I think that Apple are losing a grip on their customers… a ridiculous thing to say about the most successful company in the world, however, I meet and talk to 100 of their customers every week and I can tell you that people are starting to really hate Apple. They still love the products but are starting to feel cheated, painted into a corner and are realising that when they contact Apple, they are not being treated well and come away fuming and dissatisfied. I believe Apple has got complacent and arrogant and, though I have no idea how it could possibly happen, we all know from history that this is how companies crumble.
How much of this is down to the demise and death of Steve Jobs and can’t possibly know but when I watch Apple Keynotes now? God, they make my skin crawl. The excitement and passion of Jobs seems to have been replaced with smugness and cringe-worthy affectation. But I and everyone else will stick with Apple… and we can all go to hell in a handcart together.
What is your personal favourite film of all time?
I tell people that it’s ‘Amelie‘, but it’s not… it’s ‘Back To The Future‘.
If you play any role which would it be and why?
Doc Brown in the remake of ‘Back to the Future’.
“ONE POINT TWENTY ONE JIGGA WATTS!!??”
Of course, we all now know that it’s pronounced ‘Giga’… but would I change the line in the remake? That would be sacrilege.
Any upcoming projects?
For the last 2 years, with the expansion of my company, it’s been very tricky to leave for an acting job and I’ve had to turn down a number of projects. But I’ve just stepped away from the MacSmiths to let others run the company so I’m only just starting to really think about getting back into it. I just did an episode of ‘The Big Finish’ in September… the Doctor Who audio book… great fun! I think it comes out in spring 2016… not sure how much I can talk about it so I’ll keep schtum…but it’s a great story with Paul McGann playing the Doctor. Other than that… we’ll have to see!
Please check out Paul’s business Macsmiths of Hackney.
Check out our other Doctor Who content.
Also check out our interview with Director & Mac fanboy John V. Knowles.