Well, it’s fair to say my plan of regularly updating my blog at uni went well.
I’m very aware that it’s been a couple of months since I last posted on here, and also that my presence on twitter has been similarly lacking recently. It’s fair to say life, and work, has finally caught up with me.
Since I last posted, a lot has happened. My performances in my shorts at UEA were well received, as was my episode of Casualty. I’ve since co-directed a full-length play, entitled ‘Custard’, which received some nice reviews, and am now co-directing a forty minute play about feminism, written by a close friend. I’ve also missed out on seeing The Queen of England in the flesh by a matter of minutes, discovered the genius of Harold Pinter and agreed to live with four amazing housemates next year.
In terms of film, I’ve been lucky enough to interview Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield since I last blogged, and have been watching some brilliant films in recent weeks. For the record, I sit firmly in the pro-La La Land camp, but it’s also fair to say I was blown away by Manchester-by-the-Sea, Jackie and Lion. In considering these movies, it’s strange to consider how prevalent the theme of guilt is. In fact, sometimes I think that guilt is the strongest emotion we feel as human beings (yeah – getting deep here!). At the moment I’m planning my year ahead, and have decided that at some point in the 2017/2018 year I want to produce a production of Macbeth. Macbeth is a play that I’ve long adored, but am often frustrated by. Too often does its directors make power the principal theme of the play. I’m not saying that power is not a vital part of Shakespeare’s message, but I think the twin themes of guilt and grief are much more interesting to explore within the text – especially if you (like me) dearly adore the theory concerning Macbeth and Lady Macbeth having a child prior to the events of the play.
That paragraph went on a bit of a tangent, didn’t it?
I thought it would be best to start on this blog again, and you should blame a guy on my course called Seb Fear for constantly nagging at me to return to it. I’m hoping I’m back for longer than last time.
In a weird way, I often think about how much my time during high school mirrored Harry’s time at Hogwarts. When I turned up aged 12 in 2010, I immediately became known as “the Harry Potter kid”, mainly because I had already introduced myself as being in the next Harry Potter film. Had Snape been my chemistry teacher, I’m sure he’d have prefaced our first lesson with “Rohan Gotobed, our new… celebrity.” Like Harry, I was an object of weird fascination.Then, once the film came out and everyone realised I was only in it for six seconds (my friends counted), I felt a lot like Harry probably does about 99% of the time. However, there were always younger Colin Creevey-esque students who were fascinated with me, and I probably split opinion between teachers as to whether I was lovely or arrogant. Then, came sixth form, I began to book more acting roles and all of a sudden I knew what Harry felt like at Hogwarts during Half Blood Prince. After my episode of Doctors aired in June 2015, I suddenly had people coming up to me saying “wow, you are actually a decent actor.” That was nice.
Meanwhile, I want to skip back to Year 8; my first year at Grammar school. My excitement began in October,when my family and I were invited to a cast and crew screening of Deathly Hallows Part 1. This sticks in my mind for two reasons; partly because I met one of my heroes (Stephen Fry) in the cinema, and he was so lovely; and partly because it was the first time I got to meet some of my fellow young actors. Our mums had all been chatting, so it was that Me, Ellie, Benedict, Arthur (Albus), Will (James Sirius), Daphne (Lily Luna), Bertie (Scorpius), Ryan (Hugo) and Helena (Rose) shared a massive table at the Pizza Hut in Leicester Square. See the pictures below as evidence:
As we were lucky enough to keep our screening tickets, I still have one stuck to my desk, while another one was shut in my school’s time capsule; giving me one reason why I have to live to 2060. So I can get it back!
It was also around this time that I first got twitter. It took me a while to become vaguely interesting (tell me when I get there), but I do think I’ve been lucky enough to see very little of the ugly side of social media – thank god. Twitter did have its definite advantages at the time, for as soon as I began to build up a group of followers was I invited to Leaky Con 2011 in Orlando, Florida. Five years on, and this is still the only time I’ve been to the United States of America (or out of Europe for that matter), but that’s always liable to change. School were somehow happy to let me take a whole week off to effectively go on holiday, but before I could sun myself in sunny Florida, I had the little matter of the premiere to attend.
In the course of human history, I don’t think many people have had better excuses than me for missing my school’s sports day. Why aren’t you here? Because I’m going to be on the biggest red carpet of all time – that’s why!
The first half of July 2011 remains the best ten days of my life. It began with a tumultuous cast and crew screening on a sunday morning, where a big revelation came during the rolling credits. There I was, waiting for my name to appear in those white credity-letters, only for it to never appear. For whatever reason, the actor credited as playing Young Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was, in the cinema release, James Walters (who played the same character during Order of the Phoenix). That’s provided ammunition for my friends for years, though I don’t really mind. It’s pretty funny in my opinion. As soon as the producers heard of the mistake, dvd production was halted worldwide so that it could be corrected and, because it was too late to change the cinematic release, gifted me three more tickets to the world premiere and after party. Though I wanted to invite David Beckham, my mum forced me to bring my two sisters and dad.
I must be the best big brother ever.
The premiere itself was so amazing, words can’t describe it perfectly – though I’ll give it a go as this blog would be an anticlimax otherwise. I think we first step foot on the red carpet just after four, and the three hours it took to get from Trafalgar Square to my seat in the Odeon Leicester Square (sat just in front of Nick Moran and opposite from Jonathan Ross), were the craziest three hours of my life.
I plunged into the autographing chaos, signing anything and everything.
I got to say hi to some old friends.
and create an autograph collection to die for
Helena Bonham Carter was so lovely to meet, and I’ll always remember her apologising to me for killing Sirius Black!
I promise I don’t always name drop, but my autograph book from that day is really really special. Not to brag, but it contains: Ruper Grint, Damian Lewis, Ralph Fiennes, Warwick Davis, Evanna Lynch, Jessie Cave, Helena Bonham Carter, David Thewlis, Alan Rickman, Andrey Arshavin (the footballer), Nick Moran, Jonathan Ross, Tom Felton, Imelda Staunton, Mark Williams, James and Oliver Phelps, Emma Watson, Graham Norton and another three names that I can’t identify.
From that list, there are a couple of obvious missing names: Gary Oldman and JK Rowling. Sadly I’ve never met Gary Oldman, which becomes more of a shame as you grow up to realize just how great an actor he is, but missing out on meeting Jo is still a bit of a regret of mine. I came close to saying hi during the ultra-exclusive after party on the banks of the river Thames, but she was surrounded by her entourage to such an extent all I could get was a brief glimpse of her. Luckily there was a free candy floss stand and chocolate fountains aplenty to distract me from my sorrow. Here’s a photo of me at half one in the morning, a bit tired out.
Needless to say, I wasn’t in school the next day. But when I turned up on Monday, I was namedropping like hell.
On Tuesday I went to Orlando.
Even now, every single memory I have of those few days is soooo positive. Even though I’m still cringing from my clothes in the above photo (that became a running theme for the next three years), the panels with the other kids were really fun and exciting. And for the first time in my life I really got the sense of what a fandom’s like.
By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released, I had already seen it three times. Once at the cast and crew screening, once at the premiere and once at Leaky Con. Each was special. The cast and crew because you really saw the pride everyone had in the finished film, the premiere because it was the first time so many people had watched Deathly Hallows, and at Leaky Con the fans’ reaction blew all of us away. During the screening, Benedict, Ellie and I (already in a playful mood after spending the day at Universal Theme Park), made up a game where we each tried to start a round of applause wherever there was a moment which we thought the crowd would like (such as Ron and Hermione’s kiss in the chamber of secrets). I think Ben won.
The audience was awesome, and watching that film in that screening remains the best experience in a cinema I’ve ever had. Even the subsequent episode of Muggle Cast felt obliged to mention it, such as a guy who kept blowing his nose between floods of tears, while that moment during The Prince’s Tale where Snape holds Lily’s lifeless corpse was especially shattering. For those two hours, let alone the fun I had around Orlando at the convention and theme parks, I will never forget LeakyCon 2011.
Writing this series of blog posts was, like most things I do, a spur of the moment moment. In this case, the moment was spurred by my visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour last week, where I had the eleven o’clock tour on the 1st September. Though I was able to visit back during Leaky Con 2013, this time I got to show my friends around in full ego-satisfying mode. Though it was a great day, one of the greatest moments was the wand room at the end of the tour.
For those of you who don’t know, the wand room contains thousands of wand boxes – each one dedicated to someone who worked on the Harry Potter films. In 2013 we were running behind, so our visit to the room was over in a minute or so. This time I was able to spend ages and ages there, looking at all the boxes and pointing out the names of people I knew. Some of them were obvious, like Ellie or Ryan, but there were other names of cast or crew members who I’ve worked with on other programs. Then there were mine.
Yes – I have two. I don’t know why, and I might not be the only one, but it’s cool while it lasts.
Seeing your name in that magical room does take your breath away, because it makes you feel so proud. I spent two days filming at Leavesden Studios, but I was made as welcome there as someone who had spent two thousand days filming. People have spent their lives making the Harry Potter films, and I’ve always felt an obligation to justify the trust and love I’ve felt as a result of playing Young Sirius Black. At LeakyCon 2013 a French fan called Laetitia gave me a present of a Man Utd branded pencil case and writing notebook and I came close to breaking down in tears – so moved by her generosity.
So, how did Harry Potter change my life? If you look at it externally, then maybe it didn’t. It was one small acting job, and I didn’t get another major project until Hoff the Record, which filmed exactly five years after my first Potter audition. But then again, internally, being part of the Harry Potter world has made me the person I am today. Without even concentrating on how the books have changed my life, just being a tiny tiny cog in the cinematic franchise has taught me so much about fame and fandom. I’ve met some lifelong friends, learnt some valuable lessons, and wouldn’t trade it away for a million dollars. Honestly, all I can say to you, dear reader, and to you, dear harry potter fan, is…
Thank you. For a dream come true.
This was the final part of a series of three blog posts I’ve written about my time on the Harry Potter series. The first, “Harry Potter and Me” concerns how I was cast while the second, “Harry Potter and I” tells the story of my days on set. Both can be found elsewhere on this website – enjoy!
So, I had the part. Now I actually had to play it. Though Ellie and Benedict had the luxury of a locations shoot (to cover their pre-Hogwarts scenes), Alfie and I were only shooting for two days; scheduled a week apart. Still confined to “absolute secrecy”, my time at school reminds me of one of the best Dumbledore quotes: “What happened down in the dungeons between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret, so, naturally the whole school knows.”
However, just as I was getting ready for my role, disaster struck! Out of nowhere, I lost a tooth. Not literally – I just mean it fell out of my gums. Though on the set of nearly every other film every made, the producers wouldn’t bother to bat an eyelid, on Harry Potter it was agreed to send me over to Fangs FX, as a missing tooth could cause continuity problems.
For those of you who don’t know, Fangs FX is Europe’s major provider of false teeth – the ones you see in movies/TV at least. Their work includes Dracula, Doctor Who, Little Britain and, naturally, Harry Potter. Earlier on in the series, I was told, Fangs FX had had to create lots of fake teeth for the young cast as each one fell out, so off I went to their labs to get fitted.
The process was quite simple, a mold was filled with horribly tasting gum for me to hold in my mouth for several minutes. Once that was done, it would be taken away and turned into, effectively, a gum-shield that was utterly transparent apart from the new tooth. All I’d have to do on set was to slip it on. Then, when the time came in my fitting for the mold to be removed, it was pulled out for us to see – with shock – that a tooth had come out with at the same time. Now I was missing two teeth and had to come back the following week. Second time lucky proved the charm and, when I first tried the teeth on in the makeup department a couple of weeks later, I was swiveled in my chair to see Daniel Radcliffe, beaming and as caught up in the excitement as everyone else. Unfortunately I didn’t get to keep my fake teeth, and have no idea what happened to them. Perhaps they’re in a Warner Brothers’ vault somewhere, or maybe they were destroyed after filming? No idea.
My first day on set was a weird one. We were shooting the Great Hall scene, which was pretty amazing, but Alfie and I weren’t needed until later on in the day. As we were missing school, by law the film had to provide three hours of tutor-based education. This was comfortably everyone’s least favourite thing. Though the tutors were lovely people, the last thing you want to be doing is boring middle school homework when Hogwarts is literally a few feet away – and we certainly weren’t jealous as Benedict and Ellie were called away to do their scene with Maggie Smith (the short bit when Lily is sorted into Gryffindor). As lunch came and went, we’d done nothing.
A little aside, I do have to say how amazing the food on Harry Potter was. We would be guided to the Leavesden cafeteria (which I think was knocked down as part of the Studio Tour renovations), and effectively told to help ourselves. Needless to say, I would be pretty full an hour later. Cooler than the food though was the fact that all around the cafeteria were six massive cabinets, each one filled with props from a particular HP film. I saw the philosopher’s stone, the grim and several horcruxes as well as a huge stack of designs by Mina Lima. The grim teacup is the only prop I haven’t seen on the studio tour though.
Evening came, and with only an hour left to shoot (due to legal restrictions on child actors), we were summoned to the great hall for the shot. By this stage, I think most people were quite tired, but it was amazing to see the Great Hall in action. The torches were being lit with real fire every five minutes while, on our way inside, you couldn’t help but notice that the Entrance Hall was in ruins (they had already started filming the battle of hogwarts). There was a fair amount of pressure, but all I had to do was sit there and clap – what could go wrong? (Don’t answer that).
So, feeling happy with my first day, I went home to be called back the following Friday. Our final day of shooting was, it’s fair to say, much more exciting…
Though at the time this image hadn’t surfaced, there was a little thing on my bucket list that I felt obliged to complete. On the day of my screen-test, once we’d arrived back home, I had begun to reread the Harry Potter book series, cover to cover. I’m a fast reader, so to achieve my goal I did have to slow down a little – particularly for the last couple of books. It was worth it, so that I turned up to set on Day 2 and finished rereading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the set of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think that was pretty cool.
For me and Alfie, our second day involved being a lot more active as we had to run up and down a corridor about a million times. When we shot the scene, Alfie and I were actually chasing a first year slytherin, but that detail was omitted in the edit. It seemed like a pretty cool shot – a reverse track that saw us run down one corridor before crossing into the one where we smash into Snape and Lily. On the first take, which one of my friends thinks was the one that made the final cut, Alfie actually tripped on one of the fallen books and fell over. Luckily that was one omen that didn’t set the tone for the day. After barely seeing him on the first day, David was at his most approachable when we were working on the scene. Though originally the scene was without dialogue, I suggested to him that I say “Snivellus” as we pushed through Snape and Lily. David agreed that was a good idea, and even gave me a second line later on in the day, where I was supposed to say “come on James” at the end of the brief scene. As you already know, both lines were cut for release in favour of Dan’s voiceover, which makes more sense in terms of the entire montage.
So, I was done. Wrapped. I said my goodbyes, even though that wasn’t the last time I’d visit Leavesden. You see, my family had been offered a special behind-the-scenes tour around the studios, which was even better than the subsequent tourist attraction. On this tour, they were still filming, so I was able to see Robbie again – say hi – and tell him that my teacher loved Krull. To this day I’m not sure if he believed that. We were lucky enough to see the different departments, as well as seeing sets being built and destroyed all in one day. Had my association with Harry Potter ended there, I’d have died delighted.
Even without the gift of hindsight, I think there was always something inevitable about me and the world of Harry Potter become entwined. Growing up, like most people I was a huge Harry Potter fan. Every night I’d sleep to Stephen Fry’s impeccable audiobooks, and Prisoner of Azkaban was the first film I ever saw in a cinema. As the aforementioned cinema was only a small, independent one (a local theatre that enjoyed moonlighting), my mum managed to get me the massive display posters of both Azkaban and the Goblet of Fire, which served to decorate my room until they were replaced with Stuart Craig’s sketch of the Hogwarts Bridge. In fact, I won my nintendo wii (back when they were the next big thing) in a Harry Potter related competition. National Geographic’s magazine for kids was ran a ‘simple’ question to tie-in with the release of Order of the Phoenix. Asking me to identify the headmaster of Hogwarts, I (being me) immediately named Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Dolores Umbridge – probably throwing in Armando Dippet, Phineas Nigellus and Professor McGonagall for good measure. Needless to say, a couple of month’s later I received a massive package. The actual Order of Phoenix game was pretty rubbish, but the Wii was pretty amazing to say the least. While I’m discussing the HP video games, I have to say that; as much as I enjoyed the playstation versions of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets, or the Quidditch World Cup thing, my favourite remains the PC edition of Prisoner of Azkaban – that was fun.
So, all things considered, you can understand my delight when I was asked to audition for Deathly Hallows in October 2009. I hadn’t been acting for very long, and though I’d had castings for reasonably well known projects, this was the big cheese. At the time, long before any whispering of Cursed Child or Fantastic Beasts, I also thought this would be my last and only chance to be involved with JK Rowling’s world.
The first audition, with Fiona Weir, was at an office in Portobello Road, London. Though I was being seen primarily for Young Sirius, they also wanted to see me have a go at Young Snape. In the casting, I was tasked with an adaptation of the train scene from The Prince’s Tale. Whether or not this was ever actually going to appear in the final film I don’t know, but what’s certainly true is that we never filmed it. The only thing I can really remember was how I was asked to try playing the role less theatrically, as this was a long, long time before I really got the hang of naturalism on camera (please tell me when I do). I left the casting pretty pleased, but it wasn’t for another 2 months before I was asked for a recall at Pinewood Studios, on Monday 25th January 2010.
Though my younger sister Hattie would later film elements of Snow White and the Huntsman at Pinewood, I was most excited about the recall because Pinewood was where they shot the James Bond films (and Mamma Mia). This was a special part of the process (all of it was), where I first met Alfie McIwan, who eventually played Young James. Interestingly, it was at this stage that Benedict and Ellie also worked together for the same time, though Alfie and I were acting with other auditionees. I remember that there were a lot of people waiting their turn in a big holding room, with loads of potential Jameses, Siriuses, Snapes and Lilies. When we were called, I met David Yates for the first time. Though I know that not every Harry Potter fan admires him, and even I didn’t like Order of the Phoenix first time I saw it, as an actor he was an absolute pleasure to work with. Even when we filmed our scenes, he was always willing to listen to our ideas and you clearly saw his affinity for the relationships between Sirius, James, Lily and Snape. In the recall we were asked to improvise a couple of short conversations, and at the end (when everyone else walked out) I did something that I’d never ever do nowadays – I asked David Yates for his autograph. As a ‘proper’ actor, I’d never ask for that now, but I was young and happily ignorant. So ignorant, in fact, that I ignored the fact that he signed my autograph book “to young Sirius”.
All the way through my Harry Potter experience, I really enjoyed getting autographs from my fellow actors. At one stage I broke one of those ancient unwritten rules about getting autographs in the makeup room, when I saw Robbie Coltrane. Robbie, being a gent, was happy to sign my piece of paper, and also gave me the brilliant advice of “never getting a signature in biro, as it’ll eventually rub off.” Even now I still have a dedicated Hagrid doll that he would later autograph, as well as weird Harry Potter one inked by Dan. My favourite autograph, however, is probably from David Bradley. Growing up, Filch was one of the scariest characters in the world, so when I met him one day in full makeup and costume I was pretty amazed – even more so when he scrawled this:
Anyway, after the recall I still had to wait a couple of months before I was asked to go to Leavesden for a screen test, as well as an associated costume, hair and makeup meeting. Having been forbidden from cutting my hair (I didn’t complain) for about 5/6 months previously, that’s why it’s so incredibly long in my photo with Dan, which was taken when I was at Leavesden for the makeup.
I still remember far too much about this meeting, as it was one of the best moments of my life. My mum and I were being led from the costume department to the makeup department, as our guide mentioned that Dan was shooting that day. Already I was excited, amazed that I was in the same building as Daniel Radcliffe! Next thing I knew, we were in the corridor outside hair/makeup and a short-looking guy was talking to a little girl (who would later play Young Petunia). He turned around and – OH MY GOD – it was Harry Potter. Though I like to think that I don’t get starstruck that often, I could add little more to the subsequent conversation than a couple of nods. Dan welcomed us to the Potter family, and had to be literally dragged away when he was needed elsewhere. From that moment on, we were on first name terms.
After the screentest, everything went silent for a while. Though now I presume my mum was still in contact with the other mums (Ellie, Benedict, Alfie and I were now all acquainted), we didn’t hear anything for a few weeks. I obviously wanted the part, but at that age so much of it was fresh and fun, I didn’t really appreciate the stakes.
Then one day I came home from middle school to find a soft owl toy in the lounge. It had a piece of paper taped to it, which read “to young Sirius, congratulations on getting the part.” I still have the paper somewhere, and I definitely kept the owl. One thing I certainly didn’t have, however, was any idea of what would come…
As you might have seen on my twitter feed last week, this time next month I will be studying at the University of East Anglia. As you might have also seen, I have already become some sort of sensation in Norwich:
This time last year, I was quite close to having a breakdown over the agonising decision of which university to apply for. In retrospect, I do think there was a lot more I could have done to educate my eventual choices, like actually going to an open day. My AS level grades did give me a lot of options to play with, but it was really hard for me to pin down exactly what I wanted to spend three years of university doing. Sure, I’d also applied to a couple of acting schools (RADA, LAMDA), but they very rarely accept students straight out of sixth form. In my own egotistical head, I think I’d be comfortable doing any of 4 or 5 subjects at university. Honestly, I think I’m good enough at (and certainly enjoy) history, drama, english and archaeology to have done pretty damn well at uni.
The main problem here was that, through the UK University application service – UCAS – you could only write one 4000 character personal statement for all 5 choices. This ultimately detered me from applying for archaeology, while I chose against studying history formally at university after an open day visit (I did go to one!) at the university of Oxford, when I decided I didn’t really “fit in” but still decided to apply (for English). As I submitted all of my application forms in October 2015, my five choices read:
Oxford to do English
2. UEA to do Literature and Drama
3. Royal Holloway London to do English
4. King’s College London to do English
5. Southampton to do English
The Oxford application went wrong almost immediately. I nearly missed out on sitting the English aptitude test, while the sample essay I was asked to submit had been graded a B by my teacher (I would elaborate on this, but I’m not going to). However, elsewhere the news was exceedingly good. I received an AAA offer from King’s College London only a few weeks after finishing UCAS, while I also got offers from Royal Holloway and Southampton on the same day in October half term. By November I was no longer under consideration at Oxford (I blu-tacked the rejection letter to my bedroom door),though I did have an applicants/audition day booked for January at UEA. For this I was asked to prepare two monologues – one modern of my choosing (I went for a piece from Five Kinds of Silence; a play I had done as part of year 12 drama) and a Shakespearean monologue from a pre-decided list.
To be honest, I’m still a little surprised at the kind of monologues the panel had selected. Out of the seven, only three were male (which is understandable considering how many girls do drama at university). What was more intriguing were the characters they’d selected. None of them were what I’d class as A list, and all three would usually be played by middle-aged actors rather than 17 or 18 year olds. But still, one would have to make do, so I selected a speech from The Winter’s Tale (as I was seeing Kenneth Branagh in the part during December), and began to prepare…
The applicant day in the middle of January was truly brilliant, and it was that that ultimately made me choose UEA over King’s College. My dad, despite living in Dorset for twenty years, has never got round to leaving his Norwich-based optician, so made an excuse to visit him while I went alone. Though I didn’t learn much about the English side of the course, I barraged our tour guides (drama students) about the extra-curricular opportunities at UEA. The University has 2 drama groups: Minotaur theatre, which is exclusive to Drama students, and Drama Soc (which is much more inclusive). As you can probably guess, I’m planning to be a major part of both.
One of the best things I learnt during the tour was how UEA has a starring role in the biggest cinematic franchise of all time. The Sainsbury centre, which is a futuristic-looking art gallery on campus, doubles as the new Avengers facility in Age of Ultron, Ant-man and presumably some of the upcoming films. Whether or not this means Robert Downey Jr will come visiting for tea and biscuits I’m not sure, but it’s pretty cool isn’t it!
In the afternoon, I was one of the first (literally the first) to audition with one of the course tutors. We spoke over my personal statement at first, and I got to brag about all the drama stuff I’ve done, then I got up and performed. A week later and my letter of unconditional acceptance came through, which I immediately blu-tacked over the rejection from Oxford.
Don’t get me wrong though, it was still far from a done deal. When I visited King’s College in March, I was really impressed (even though I didn’t want to be). In the end, however, I decided that I wanted to study drama at Uni, which was not a subject offered by KCL.
As is mentioned in the Eastern Daily Press article, I do have a lot of family near Norwich. My Grandma lives on a disused farm about twenty minutes away, while my aunt and uncle work in the city itself. This means I have spent a fair amount of my holidays in Norfolk. The first time I saw Skyfall, for instance, was at the Vue in Norwich, while the first time I watched Man Utd play (live) was when Ryan Giggs scored a 90th minute winner at Carrow Road (best birthday I’ve ever had). I know my way around most of the sites of Norfolk, whether it be the market, the waffle house or the beehive (the much acclaimed bookshop), while I also like Alan Partridge. I’m very much hoping that the match was made in heaven, especially if I decided to stay with my Grandma for my second and third years.
The only problem that I do see, which is utterly unavoidable, is the certainty that the drama students tend to enjoy partying. University is famous for its drinking games, but that only makes me worried. You see, I don’t like alcohol – genuinely can’t stand it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much, based on some of the embarrassing situations my friends have gotten themselves into, but I am certainly not a clubber.
One of the questions I’ve been asked a fair few times over the past eight years is the seminal, “how did you get into acting?” Which is a question I’ve routinely answered poorly. Therefore I thought I would go a bit biographical this Sunday, and tell you about my origin story as an actor, in case Marvel or DC want to add me to the Avengers or Justice League.
I know it is a cliche, but it is true to say that I have loved acting as far back as I can remember. I think something I adore most about it is the ability to do more varied and exciting things than you could ever imagine. When I was four I wanted to be a policeman, but changed my mind aged five when I realised that being in the police had its risks. However, as an actor I can play a policeman, but I could also play a serial killer (though that was not what I was thinking about aged 5), or I could play a talking lion, or even be a wizard. It was this kind of thinking that endeared acting to my imaginative mind, so that I engaged in our school plays with the distinct desire to show off. The first school play I ever did was the Nativity, in Year 1 (don’t ask me for the American equivalent, as I don’t have a clue). There, I played the incredible role of ‘Guest 2’ with – well, um… I played the role, at least. To be honest, it wasn’t until year 3 that my first major role, as Ciaphas (who was painted as the main villain) in ‘The Easter Story’, dawned. It’s funny to talk about it now, but when I was in year 3 I had my first (and only) diva-esque strop. Originally my teacher had given me the role of Pontius Pilate, who appeared in one scene with a hearty monologue, only for me to shake my head and announce my disapproval – I wanted Ciaphas! I still remember the teacher-director giving me a dressing down later that day, but on the next I did get the part.
Despite my acting exploits in First School, it wasn’t until the age of 10 that I had my first taste of fame, beyond having a small photo in the local newspaper. Though it would’ve been around this time that I acted in two local pantomimes at the Tivoli Theatre (playing Half-wit the pirate in Sinbad and a policeman in Aladdin), I auditioned for and appeared on a now-defunct CBBC quiz show, Get 100. Presented by Hardeep Singh Kohli, I got invited to spend a whole day in Glasgow to take part. For those of you who don’t know, Get 100 was a quiz show that (sadly for me) was mathematically-based. You were asked a question with an answer between 1 and 99, which was what you scored if you got it right. The aim of the game was to finish as close to 100 as possible. I quite enjoyed the experience, up to the point when maths became involved. Unfortunately I think the footage has been lost from everywhere apart from the BBC archives, unless it turns up on one of our older recording devices, but it’s fair to say I didn’t do very well. If I remember correctly, I finished on a grand total of 12 points, which I scored for saying how many months there were in a leap year. It could have gone better, to say the least. Nonetheless, I did get to visit Scotland (which I hope to do so again one day), and I had fallen in love with the screen.
Buoyed by this experience, it was only a year or so later that I joined my first acting agent, Abacus Agency, who are well-known for bringing through young ‘stars’ such as Keira Knightley. I still remember the workshop day, which served as an audition to join the agency, vividly well. We had to do all sorts of improv and script work, but then had an interview (of sorts) with the agents. There I had to sing a portion of a song from Oliver and perform a poem. I can’t remember which song it was from Oliver, but I don’t thing it went very well, as I’ve always had an estranged relationship with my singing voice. However, I can clearly recall doing my presentation of ‘The Owl and the Pussycat went to see’, in which I gave the pussycat a kind of flirtatious Spanish accent similarly to Puss-in-Boots from Shrek. Midway through, as I burst into my energetic voice, one of the agents whispered to the other “he’s a natural”. Or at least I’m fairly sure she did, unless I misheard her and she actually said “let’s never put him up for a role involving accents”. To shorten the story, I joined Abacus Agency, and within weeks I had my first auditions – for a KFC advert, and for what would eventually become the Ewan McGregor/Naomi Watts film “The Impossible”. Naturally I didn’t get either of them, but Harry Potter was waiting…
I must confess that I’ve been feeling pretty guilty over the past year about how I’ve allowed this blog to languish in a cobweb-ridden labyrinth of halfbaked ideas. To be honest I would’ve liked to have made more posts, giving my thoughts on a few of the dramatic things to have happened in my sphere since summer 2015. I’ve now left school, having completed my A levels, and am looking forward to enrolling at the University of East Anglia in September to read Literature and Drama. I have a whole summer ahead of me, one that others my age have labelled ‘the summer of your life’. I have a feeling that may be hyperbole. However, I do feel bound to redeem this blog by bringing it back to life with the same vitality as Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’. There are a few weeks before the official lease on my website with wordpress expires, and this could be considered a trial period. If I feel that there is an appetite for my writing, whether this be in the form of confessions, articles, reviews or even creative snippets from material I’m working on, then I will continue. If, come August, I feel bored, then I will stop.
I would write more, but I need to be getting to bed now (there’s probably a joke in there somewhere), as I’ll be in London in 12 hours time to see some people about a short film. Hopefully that goes well.
Today (and tomorrow) marks the first ever Bournemouth Film and Comic Con to be run by Showmasters at the Bic. Having previously done a signing in Milton Keynes back in 2013, and also looking forward to attending Cardiff Film and Comic Con in October; I really enjoyed going to my first convention as a fan rather than a VIP guest. I was lucky enough to get a couple of free tickets from Laurence Wreford, and so one of my friends and I found ourselves exploring the giant conference centre earlier this morning. I figured that some of you would like to hear about what we got up to.
Who did I meet?
Thanks to some great organisation by Showmasters, I was able to meet and get the autograph of pretty much everyone who I had wanted to meet beforehand. Having previously met Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) and David Prowse (Darth Vader) at Milton Keynes, I was really happy for my friend Harry as he bought a Boba Fett action figure for Jeremy to sign. I, meanwhile, managed to meet Sylvester McCoy (Best known for being the 7th Doctor and Radagast the Brown in the Hobbit) which marks the fifth time lord I have been lucky enough to meet (the others being David Tennant, Paul McGann, Colin Baker and David Bradley – who is pretty much an honorary candidate). Sylvester was lovely to chat to, and I asked him about his experiences of working on The Hobbit; and especially on how it was working the green screens and the special effects.
I also met one of Sylvester McCoy’s best-known companions from his tenure at the controls of the TARDIS – Sophie Aldred, who played Ace back in the 1980s. I also briefly spoke to Dan Starkey (Strax in Doctor Who) about his time on Celebrity University Challenge which he seemed to appreciate. I know actors always love to talk about other projects, and I’d be surprised if he’d been asked about University Challenge beforehand.
Outside of Doctor Who, I was ecstatic as a Man Utd fan to meet two of the club’s greatest players. Bryan Robson remains a legendary captain of the club while Denis Law was a member of the United Trinity and scored 237 goals in all competitions for the red devils. Though their autographs set me back £45, I was pleased to add their names to my little book on Manchester United which has already been signed by Paddy Crerand and Stuart Pearson. Just along the table was Geoff Hurst; whose hattrick won England the World Cup, but I resisted the temptation to grab a signed photo.
What did I buy?
The above print (which I got signed by Sylvester and Sophie); is a blown up version of a pencil drawing by a young man called Christopher Baker. Christopher is only nineteen years old and suffers from aspergers which meant that he was quite uncomfortable with the crowded hall. Nonetheless, his artistry is truly outstanding and we couldn’t believe how realistic some of his drawings were. If you’re intrigued, then you can find him on http://www.cjbart.com while his mother told us that they were going to be on Good Morning Britain come Tuesday morning. Sophie and Sylvester both admired the print when we got them to sign it, and it is now decorating my cabinet quite proudly.
Another good purchase of mine was a homemade cushion bearing the direwolf and ‘winter is coming’ quote of the Stark family from Game of Thrones (my chosen house). I even found a stand which was selling Harry Potter bits of pieces, and ended up walking away with a bottle of butterbear under my arm. One thing which I didn’t end up buying was a signed telegram sent by Sir Laurence Olivier to a ‘Mrs Bennett’ back in 1953 to thank her for sending a christmas card to him and Vivien Leigh.
So in the end I came away from the event with my moneybag considerably lighter than it was beforehand, and I’m really looking forward to seeing some of you in Cardiff come October 25th!
Hi Guys, as I mentioned on twitter recently – I want to say sorry about the lack of content over the past week or so, but that is OVER! I thought you would all enjoy a bit of self-indulgence as I reminisce over the exact reason why I’ve been suspiciously absent. For the first time in years, our family decided to go on holiday to the Loire Valley – which is one of the most beautiful areas of France. After buying a huge caravan, we decided to finally use it in a constructive means; and so we found ourselves driving through Paris with an 8 metre monstrosity behind our land rover.
DAY ONE (Monday 17th August):
Okay, so for the first day of our “vacation”, we did precisely as my mum wanted; and spent much of the day by the pool and relaxing. Not really much happened I’m afraid, but I did finish reading the Annie Proulx novel ‘Postcards’ which I had to read for English Literature. I thought that it was quite an interesting story and found the main plot line (following a character named Loyal Blood) to be really intriguing and thought-provoking. With my summer reading becoming revitalized, I then began to reread my favourite book series of all time – The Belgariad by David Eddings, which was the subject of my blog post Why you should read The Belgariad a couple of weeks ago. http://rohangotobed.com/2015/08/02/why-you-should-read-the-belgariad/
DAY TWO (Tuesday 18th August):
On the second day, we decided to go on an adventure. The Royal Chateaux of Chambord was built in the 16th Century under the original stewardship of King Francis I, though he was dead by the time it was actually completed. It is also believed that part of the castle was designed by a certain Leonardo DaVinci, who had moved to Amboise in 1516 after being employed by the excited young king. The campsite where we were staying was only a twenty minutes cycle ride from Chambord, and so we took a comfortable hour to travel along the Loire and cycle on to the Chateaux. Chambord is a beautiful area, and we were lucky enough to have tickets to an enjoyable carriage ride through the royal forest (with the sights including a family of wild boar) and a horse show that featured more costume changes than stunts. The inside of the castle was quite drab, because of how rarely it was actually used in the years gone by, but the view from the top was something to be rivalled! Today I also read the second book of The Belgariad, intending to read all five books in five days, and bought a small music box that plays ‘La Vie en Rose’ which was made famous by Edith Piaf.
DAY THREE (Wednesday 19th August):
We didn’t do much again; though I did read the third book of The Belgariad, and began to read the fourth.
DAY FOUR (Thursday 20th August):
Being very bored with staying at the pool, I decided to go exploring this day; and thus spent a couple of hours in the nearby village of St Dye sur Loire. St Dye is a historic area, and has links to figures such as D’Artagnan and Moliere. The titular saint is also entombed in the local church, which was a stunning place to visit. I also ventured upon a small local museum, ‘Maison de la Loire’; which was incredibly interactive and was very keen to explain the geology and history of the Loire valley. Before returning to Muides-sur-Loire, I also decided to walk along the Loire river, which was as stunning as you could imagine it to be.
DAY FIVE (Friday 21st August):
This was a long day! We decided to drive into Amboise, which is about an hour away from the campsite. Hopeful of going to a mini Chateaux, we instead visited Close Luce, which was where the aforementioned Leonardo Da Vinci (not DiCaprio) spent the final few years of his life. Always eager to build a museum and generate tourism money, there is now a large museum and garden which is fully dedicated to the life of Leonardo Da Vinci. The tour begins in the room where Da Vinci died, and the garden contains working dioramas explaining a great many of his fabulous inventions. On one of the hottest days we were there, it was excruciating; though I did enjoy having a ham and mushroom omelette at the expensive museum restaurant and I walked away having purchased a book about Da Vinci as well as postcards depicting the Mona Lisa, the Vetruvian Man and the last Supper. This day was also great because I finished reading The Belgariad. Five books in five days was quite an achievement in my mind, and I know that I’m going to have to continue onto the sequel series – The Mallorean – as soon as I’ve finished reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
DAY SIX (Saturday 22nd August):
With my mum and sisters deciding to spend another day sunning themselves by the pool, I had lost interest by noon as I began to read the highly impressive translation of ‘Confession of the Lioness’ by Mia Couto. Bored, me and my dad decided to have a look around in the nearest city – Blois. We began by visiting the museum dedicated to the French Resistance and moved on to the royal chateaux which was the home of four French Kings between 1391 and 1610. Blois had a lot more interior decoration than Chambord, with a huge entrance hall as just one of the highlights.
DAY SEVEN (Sunday 23rd August):
For our final day before a long journey back, we decided to visit another chateaux as a family; and opted for the Chateaux of Cheverny, which is perhaps best recognised as the inspiration for Marlingspike Hall in the Tintin Comics by Herge. A highly interesting exhibition showed off the quirky landscape of the Tintin story, but there was also an incredible garden and interior of the castle. The highlight (for me) was a large weapons room which was filled with everything from katanas to full plate armour and crossbows. There wasn’t a better way to spend our final full day in the Loire Valley, and we all returned to the caravan completely satisfied with our holiday before spending another couple of hours in the pool.
The journey back began as being highly comfortable, and we spent a nice evening in a campsite at Calais before catching the ferry back yesterday morning. As we arrived in Ashford, giving my mum and sister Hattie a lift to the station, the problems began to occur. Our land rover broke down, with the back of the vehicle looking as if it’s more than a bit lopsided.
It ultimately took us nine hours to travel from Dover to Dorset, courtesy of spending a few hours at Maidstone services while waiting for a courtesy car to take us home. After getting in the courtesy car, my dad then decided to drive seventeen miles back towards Dover before realising that we were going completely the wrong way. Well, they did say we were going to get experiences!
One of the greatest boons of having an unusual name comes from meeting new people. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to spell my name out slowly for a receptionist, or how many times I must confirm that, yes, R-O-H-A-N G-O-T-O-B-E-D is my actual name. Don’t get me wrong, it has never been more than a middling irritation; and I would never dare send a letter to the government requesting to have it changed. Today for my blog post, I thought I would begin to explain some of the origins of my surname; which I hope a lot of you will find quite interesting.
According to Forebears.co.uk, there are around 238 different claimants of the Gotobed surname worldwide (though I am unsure whether this signifies 238 different individuals or 238 different families). This makes ‘Gotobed’ the 777,740th surname in the world, an excellent achievement in my opinion.
According to the Surname Database; “This very unusual surname, one of the most interesting listed anywhere, is English. First recorded in the 13th century, and now found as Gotobed and Gotbed, over the seven centuries since its “creation” in early medieval times, it has undergone many changes. The meaning is uncertain. The late Professor Reaney, the acknowledged authority on English surnames, gives the meaning as “what it says”. From this we deduce that he meant that beds were such rare things in ancient times, that to have one, was a matter of local comment to the point where the person concerned was named from this piece of furniture. Certainly early nicknames were bestowed for much less reason than this. However it also has to be said that the medieval period was renowned for its Chaucerian humour which was almost always direct, and often obscene. This might imply that the first known nameholder one John Gotobedde of Barnwell, Cambridge, in 1269, had other uses for his bed! The trouble with almost all nickname surnames, is that without actually being present when the name was given out, it is impossible to be absolutely certain of the true meaning. Other early recordings include William Gawtobedde of Sussex in 1332, and John Godbed of London, in 1760.”
However, that account is contradicted by the following paragraph, which comes from the Historical Research Centre’s official stance on the family name history.
The English family name Gotobed is classified as being of nickname origin. Surnames which are derived from a nickname are said to constitute one of the widest and most varied class of family names. This particular category encompasses many different types of origin. The most obvious are those names which are based on a physical characteristic or personal attribute of the initial bearer. In this instance, the noted scholar M.A. Lower states that the surname Gotobed was originally applied to someone who was more than ordinarily attached to their couch or bed. Variants of the surname include Gotbed and Godbed.
One of the earliest written references to the surname in its various forms is a record of one John Gotobedde who appears in the “Liber Memorandorum Ecclesie de Bernewelle” for Cambridgeshire in 1269 while Richard Gotobedde was recorded in the Subsidy Rolls of Bedfordshire in 1309. Research is of course ongoing and the name may have been recorded earlier than the date indicated above. Later references include William Gawetobedde who was listed in the subsidy rolls of Sussezin chancery in 1580. Ann Gotobed was mentioned in the calender of Wills in the Court of Husting in 1621 and Charles Godbed married Penelope Cooper in St. George’s Church, Hanover Square, London in 1760.
Records relating to the departure of bearers of the surname to the New World include John Gotobed, from Cambridgeshire, who emigrated to America during the Summer of 1773. Up to the present time, there is no record of bearers of this name being granted a blazon of arms.
So, ending on a bit of a downer there; I am a little disappointed that none of my ancestors were capable of getting a coat of arms. Nonetheless, I thought some of you may be intrigued as to where the surname Gotobed comes from, and I hope that you may be inspired to investigate your own surname.