Dark Side Magazine at FrightFest 2022 – James Whittington chats with actor James Fleet, star of Wolf Manor. 

James Fleet is one of the UKs most respected actors and can be seen in Dominic Brunt’s wild creature feature Wolf Manor. We had the chance to speak to this charming man before the world premiere.

DS: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor and when did you get your big break?

JF: Drama wasn’t mentioned at my secondary school but I remember being in a short play at primary school and strangely my first part was a wolf. It was some kind of cautionary tale I think but I certainly wasn’t a werewolf. I don’t remember the plot just the ill-fitting costume. When I was young, I watched Steed and Mrs Peel and dreamed of being in MI5. Is it the same world of glamour and pretence?

DS: Are you a fan of horror movies?

JF: I’m a fan of films and some of the best ones have a supernatural twist. I don’t like chainsaw slashers, I don’t get it, I’m looking for subtlety. 

DS: You’ve played the father of a werewolf, back in 2011 in the series Being Human, do you enjoy such quirky roles?

JF: I was the father of a werewolf and faked my own death, I forget why, the werewolf side of things never came up. Werewolves don’t like their parents getting divorced either, and the story was about my son helping me win back my wife’s affections. All I get offered are quirky roles but I’m happy with that.

DS: How did you become involved with Wolf Manor and what did you think when you first read the script?

JF: I was desperate to do it after a long phone conversation with Dominic Brunt, the director. His enthusiasm is infectious. He makes everything easy.

DS: Do you get nervous when you walk onto a set or on stage for the first time?

JF: Not so much; what’s the worst that can happen? It’s like a carpenter walking into a hardware shop, nerves don’t come into it. Besides, filming is teamwork and there is no sense worrying about things you can’t control. That’s the producer’s job.

DS: Your character, Oliver Laurence is a prime “luvvie”, how did you prepare for the role, and did you base him on anyone?

JF: There’s a £25 fixed penalty notice in our house for using the “L” word. Actors are nothing like the way they’re presented in fiction. We just good humouredly go along with it. Or maybe I’m too close to the trees, maybe I’m exactly like Oliver.

DS: Was all the film shot on location and if so, how hard was that?

JF: Yes, all on location in Shropshire and there was nothing hard about it apart from the night shoots and the cold weather. I had a hot water bottle under my cloak between takes. That’s very Oliver Lawrence, we should have written it in. The hardships are forgotten, the laughter and companionship remain.

DS: Oliver is filled with anecdotes; do you have any from this shoot?

JF: I can’t abide actors telling anecdotes. I just walk away and leave them to it. And yes, this is often perceived as rudeness. Sorry. But from Wolf Manor I only have happy memories. Wendy should get a special mention for cooking meals day after day for the cast and crew.

DS: You’re worked extensively on radio, TV, theatre and movies, do you have a preferred medium?

JF: Films obviously. But films and TV are the same nowadays with the experience being defined by the size of the budget.  Filming spoils you, you get used to people driving you to work, bringing you coffee and asking you what you want for lunch and you end up expecting to be pampered on every job. Stay humble, that’s my advice, and always hang up your costume when you take it off.

DS: Would you ever like to direct?

JF: Once upon a time but now I just want to go home early.

DS: So, what are you up to at the moment?

JF: I’m playing a corrupt pillar of society in another series of ‘Dodger’ for the BBC. Set in Victorian times, I’m basically Oliver Lawrence with sideburns.

DS: James Fleet, thank you very much.