This interview was carried out with Simon on the 13th February 2008 at the Beck Theater in Hayes. Audio can be found on the forum as well as a video message from Simon filmed at the same time. This is Simon in his own words (i.e. typed word for word what he said)
001 – From Clare: How have you family (Susan included) influenced your career?
Well I think mostly through their absolute continued unquestioning support for whatever I embark upon. Susan particularly is a very good springboard for various choices that I have made so I do share all the choices that I make. I think that my mum and dad particularly, it was about the honesty of what one was trying to do, and the respect for the audience. Very early on my father taught me about respect for the audience. I’m not sure I was ever really gonna go down in a daft way with it but certainly that I think has been a very important part in how I deal with the public. I’m always giving the time for other people even within a busy schedule.
002 –Lonna: Can you still fall asleep at the drop of a hat?
Yeah! I still cat nap, and I need it to survive
003 – Opticgirl: Favourite opera?
My favourite opera? It’s always hard to pick favourites ‘cos you have different reasons for loving different things. I suppose to go to one possible – Gounod’s Faust
004 – Nicky – If they made a biopic of your life, who would you like to play you?
They won’t! It’s not interesting enough. It’s a sweet question but as they never would do it you’d never know at what point you’d be getting someone to do it. (thinks) I don’t know, Jude Law, I don’t know, he’s too short I think.
005 – Kathie: Whereabouts in the UK do you enjoy appearing in theatre in most?
I have only done the one tour, I think my favourite week that I did last year was at Malvern actually. I really enjoyed it ‘cos I enjoyed the town, the audience was great, I enjoyed that a lot, but I haven’t actually played enough of the country to know. There is some other very good venues and some of which I will play on this tour which I haven’t done
006 – Sharon: Who do you prefer – The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
007 – The age difference between Andrew and Milo is usually greater than yours and Michael’s age difference – has that affect this interpretation of the play?
Yes I think it has, because what I think, you have is you have a play, in fact it’s not a question of thinking I know we have. What you have is a play where the two men by being closer in age it’s less of a bullying exercise, Andrew is less of a bully. I think there is a danger particularly in the modern idiom that if you play this with too bigger age range that Andrew becomes even more unpleasant, the unpleasant side of him is more marked. I think it’s more of a battle of wits and education and class by having the ages closer.
008 – The Sleuth tour will take you to Scotland – will a part of you feel like you’re going ‘home’? When was the last time you crossed the border?
Oh yes absolutely anytime I get close to the border, I mean I always feel like I’m going home, always. So I’m really looking forward to playing Glasgow and Aberdeen
I went there last year
009 – What’s you fave scene/moment in Sleuth
I think the bit, Andrews inadvertent confession of what he is right at the end of the second act. I think is the best part
010 – Sleuth seems quite different to most things you’ve done in recent years, so why Sleuth?
Most of the work they’ve scene of course naturally has been film and television work, which just by definition is far less theatrical. The thing about this is Andrew is a very, very big character, he flamboyant, even verging on camp it’s a big performance and although I can still be quite rangy in terms of what I do on film and television I don’t think anybody will have seen this sort of mercurial change and theatricality
011 – Do you have any superstitions or do carry out any rituals before a performance?
No superstitions. Rituals, I always warm up my voice I always like to rest so I do, going back to Lonna’s question, lie on my dressing room floor and just go off, and go through if not to a sleep but for 10 to 15 minutes to go into that. I like to spend an hour just doing gentle things, I turn the phone off and certainly I prepare my voice and body for what I have to do. I like to take the time to do that, I don’t like to get overly distracted
012 – Do you still add to your scrapbooks? Good and bad? How many scrapbooks? How, why and when did they start?
Scrapbooks have fallen by the wayside. I mean I’ve still got stuff and I still at some point will probably go back but actually there’s been so much, with the horses and everything else. No probably now for a good 10 years the scrapbooks have fallen by the wayside.
Yes because of the nature of scrapbooks, the bad sort of one didn’t necessarily have much recollection of the bad. What I was collecting was stuff when we went on holidays, not particularly good holidays would have some, I wouldn’t just not put the memory in, but very rarely did that happen. We would be going to first night events, sometimes those tickets and things every now and then. Again they’re never that bad, the really bad things yes I would keep references of funerals if I went to a funeral, death of a friend they’d go into the scrapbook as well as those sorts of things. There wouldn’t be much, when we smashed the car up, I got the pictures of that, would go in the scrapbook.
Don’t really know I’ve not counted them up, they’re probably going back to the early 1980’s and certainly the first ones I was doing were 82 and I certainly kept them up for 10-12 years, on average there would have been 2 possibly 3 a year, so I guess we could be talking 25 books
Well because I’d always kept scrapbooks of sorts even before that, I got my whole career in a scrapbook. But actually it was because I always wanted to keep the record and I don’t like having bits and pieces lying around in boxes and things if you’re gonna have them so you can use them. Really from the moment I went overseas to Canada in the early 90’s really not done very well keeping it up so probably 15 years of not very much collection and not very much keeping it in books. I have to tidy that up, question is when. Sort of thing I might do on tour, take some of it with us, throw it in the back of the car and if I got a couple of hours just sit and sort things out
013 – Do you consider yourself Scottish or English, or British if neither? – Kilt at anytime?
I have to say I’m passionate about Scotland but in a funny kind of way I am Scottish but I don’t get particularly fanatical about deciding whether I’m one or the other. If Scotland were playing England in a Rugby match I’d support Scotland. I’m very British basically
Oh yes! I did my father’s memorial in a kilt
014 – Any scenes cut from any series/film you wish had stayed in and why?
That’s a hell of a good question. (Long think) Yeah, good question. (Thinks again) Actually one does sort of forget those sorts of things as to what we might have filmed and didn’t get put in. I don’t think I’ve had very many to be honest. I do remember in the film Stealing Heaven which I produced there was very definitely a fantastic scene that never made it into the movie as we felt that the content had all been said in previous scenes and in terms of making the movie shorter ‘cos we needed to get it done to length we cut it out. It’s a wonderful scene between Denholm Elliott and Bernard Hepton who was playing the bishop and it was a bath scene, a medieval bath scene and they were both in this great big wooden vat tubs talking and the whole design, everything about it was fantastic but we had to cut it out. Other than that, and I really do remember that one ‘cos it was such a great scene and I don’t think there’s been much of my own work that I have lost a scene in it’s entirety for any reason that I go ‘Why on earth did they take that out?’
015 – How has Harry changed over the last 5-6 years?
Harry became more of a political animal by his drive to try and save the hospital and the inevitable change possibly, anybody in senior management in hospitals has become more political over the last years as it’s becoming more politically driven, and the balance between a clinician and a manager has become a much more complicated exercise. I think in the last few months of Harry’s life at Holby he got caught up and trapped, not so much caught up in wanting to do it but trapped by the politics. Purely on a personal level I think that they didn’t perhaps get the best out of that dilemma in the last few months. Pertly because of the introductions of all the new characters and the scene time was given to them, when they knew actually I was leaving the show and I think they didn’t quite know how to deal with it. Plus the fact that it’s actually, in truth, it’s difficult to do and be interesting on television, political argument is quite difficult
016 – Most defining moment(s) that made him (Harry) who he is today?
(Long silence) Probably the death of his wife
017 – Favourite relationship your character(s) has had with another
(Long silence again) Well I would say two because one they won’t know. I love the relationship Harry had with his ex-wife in Counterstrike. Sorry Peter, Peter Sinclair. That Peter Sinclair had with his ex-wife in Counterstrike. I also love the relationship he (Harry) had with Lara in Casualty.
Guppy was a good relationship too, I like the Guppy relationship. I enjoyed that and it grew and I do think the death of his dad, Guppy’s dad was one of the best episodes. I would completely say that the Guppy relationship was a terrific one and it was interesting because the thing about the Guppy relationship was unlike the one with Lara was that Christine was already a well established actress in her own right and of course she was an established character before I came into the show. Guppy came in as a greenhorn both as Guppy and as Elyes so there was the whole of that growth process that went on throughout which was very interesting so I watched him as a boy as well which I liked.
018 – Have you kept any souvenirs from Casualty? – Relic Hunter mask?
Yes! (He stopped – Stethoscope?) Yes I have a stethoscope and I have a couple of Harry’s badges and I kept the tie, I wear the same tie in my first episode and my last episode. I’m not sure I really wore it in any other episodes (he did but only on 2 other occasions) I wore it on the first one and I saw it and I went I want that one on the last episode so I wore it on my last episode and now I have it.
I didn’t keep the mask no, I don’t know really why. I think partly because the Relic Hunter thing was coming to an end as I was going on to Casualty so it was all a bit of a rush, getting one finished and the other and I don’t know why I didn’t
019 – What was your last day on set like?
I had two very busy days so actually the Monday and Tuesday the 7th and 8th January I was literally working wall to wall. So in a way, I said when I finished and when they made the speech on set afterwards I did say actually this had been a strange day because it’s literally been business as usual to get through to get the day done, it’s only now at half past 7 that I realise that actually this is my last moment in this building and I’m on my way. It was emotional, of course it was, but we also shot episode 27 after episode 28 my actual goodbye scene had been shot before Christmas when I still knew I had some extra work to do, so actually that took some of the emotion-ness for me in that I wasn’t saying goodbye on the same day I was saying goodbye. Which would have been quite tough to play so I was actually playing other scenes that were not quite emotional in their content. In terms of my last day, it was a tough day
020 – What will you miss the most?
Weill I’ll miss Harry, he was a good character. I love turning up to work to deal with the challenges of Harry everyday and the challenges of him as a character and him and his medical world and all those things. I will miss it; I will miss the fact going to that place and working everyday. This is very different, I’m back in the big world, I might never work again after July, you know I’m back in that arena. So I will miss a piece of that, the security of a character like that of Harry. No I’ll miss Harry most, he had a lot going for him.
021 – What won’t you miss?
Well I wont miss, is the very thing that I miss actually in a way, is the unpredictability of the schedule and the fact that I could never make hard fast plans to see people and to do things because I was frequently letting people down, the one thing about doing the play is I pretty much know where I’m going to be at any given time on any given day between now and the beginning of July. I know where I’m going to be sleeping overnight I know what time I got to be in the theatre I know therefore I can give a Tuesday morning at 12 to a phone call. So that’s part of it is what I won’t miss, is the unpredictability of scheduling and the relentless grind and the fighting to tell the truth under pressure. Fighting to tell the truth under pressure in television is very tough ‘cos you’ve got scenes that just don’t make any sense they’re not very well written because of the nature of the beast it’s nobody’s fault and you’re just feeling the pressure ‘I want to get this right and I don’t have the time to get it right’
022 – Preferred nickname?
I’m called a number of things. I was often Mack, just plain Mack. I have a number of friends who call me MacCork. I became Corky all the way through Casualty, very early on because it just happened we had myself Simon, we had Simon Kaminski and we had one of our doctor advisers was called Simon. So one of the very early days there were 3 Simon’s effectively being addressed on set so the First Assistant Director ended up calling me Corky that day, which I had been Corky many times in my life, but Corky really became and sat through all the years I was Corky to an awful lot of people and will remain so. I still get texts to Corky
023 – What’s the most important/valuable lesson you’ve learnt in your career or in life?
Well there’s slightly different answers to different parts of the question. As a total answer, to be humble, anything that I have is luck and I’m no better than anybody else, I’m no different from anybody else and I really genuinely believe that. Being humble is the lesson I’ve learnt throughout. In terms of acting I would say telling the truth as a performer is the most important thing you have to do.
024 – All the stage reviews I’ve read have always been much better than any TV or film one, how do you react to things like that? Constructive criticism or don’t worry about them?
I don’t even think about it. Things like Casualty don’t get reviewed very much generally. Film reviews go back now quite a long time. Theater is reviewed in a different kind of way. I think the fact for the most part I’ve not been in a kinda project or entity that’s gained that kind of critical acclaim. Death on the Nile would be the biggest, and of course I was swamped completely by all the other perfomers who were who they were. It wasn’t a part that lead itself to being completely ‘you’re just a leading man, doing leading man basic stuff’. I think my potential for good reviews is in front rather than behind me. When you go into something like this you stand a chance of being reviewed well. Television, I mean I’ve done 200 some odd episodes of Casualty and hardly any of them get reviews I’ve had some very nice comments but most of the time you get either just left out, I don’t think anyone’s written any negative comments about Harry that I ever recall having seen.
025 – Do interviews you do reflect current roles? Alan Titchmarsh interview seemed different to previous ones – More Andrew like?
Well yes I suppose in some extent I think that probably the truth is that one is on a different kind of energy. You have a good energy for television and at the same time it’s a controlled energy in a kinda way. Theatrical is a bit bigger and feeling good about that whole process I think that a lot of people are saying my energy seems, I seem brighter right now because. But then, you know, you’re doing theatre and when you do that you’re out there it’s a bigger performance, you’re life is bigger your more exposed and your, you get this instant feedback from the audience where I you’re more genuine. I think it’s the same thing, you go to work on Casualty you get up in the morning you go to work and you plan your day all the way through it’s a steady whatever, so that’s your motive. So you come into something like this and you know over the course of the next hour I’ll be able to build up and hit it at the beginning. I think there’s a little element on the show, I went on I was in a rush I had to do that, I had to go to the theatre so I think I was less laid back. So I think there’s an element of the kind of work you’re doing will reflect somewhat in how you present yourself.
026 – Would you like to work with Susan on a film or series with both of you in front of the camera and not behind?
Yes absolutely with the right project, absolutely
027 – How did you and Susan first meet? You knew each other before getting together so was there something at the back of you mind saying ‘yes she’s the one’
We met at a charity concert in the Grosvenor House in London in 1977 when I was married and she had a boyfriend. We sat on a celebrity table it was an Oscar Peterson/ Ella Fitzgerald concert for charity. And we met that evening and then became good friends over the next 3 or 4 years or so before I got my divorce and I then saw Susan a couple of times with her boyfriend in California. Then came the day when she and he split up and I said well it’s my turn to take you out to dinner so I took her out to dinner and then 6 months later we were dating, so we started off as friends.
No, it was extraordinary we were just good friends it never occurred to me at all that’s where we would end up.
028 – Last thing you do before going to bed?
There is no pattern; there is absolutely no pattern which is probably not a good thing
029 – What did you spend your first pay check on?
Ah! My first pay check. I can tell you exactly. I paid my first pay check before I had been given it, on a jacket to do the job I had to do. I was doing a commercial in London and bought myself a new jacket, sports coat to do it and it cost me 30 quid and I think me commercial fee was something like 30 quid.
030 – First childhood memory?
Well you don’t know whether it’s something you saw a picture of and just remember because of the picture. I think in truth, see I’ve got images I can remember, think it’s only because they are stimulated by the photographs that exist. I think my first real memory was when I was about 3 ½ maybe coming up to 4 sitting in front of a black and white television at my grans house watching Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne Du Maurier with Errol Flynn and being absolutely spellbound by the story, I think that’s where my love of story telling and film and everything started. It wasn’t long after that I went to my first pantomime and therefore my first live show, and literally my grandfather said ‘did you have a nice time’ and I told him the story from beginning to end including what everybody was wearing and my grandfather said ‘I think we’ve got a problem here’
031 – How many elephants left and in collection at its largest?
I think I had about 70, but I now have I think I’m down to about half a dozen
032 – Who would you like to work with again?
Gosh! Well in recent years I’d love to work with Christine Stephen Daly again. I think we got on really well on stage, I mean on set, certainly out of Casualty. I loved working with Christopher Plummer when we worked together on Counterstrike in Canada and although I didn’t do very much with him we had a few moments together on Dinosaur Hunter when we did that. Interesting. There are some people I’d love to work with again who I can’t work with again, people like Bette Davis and so on. Maggie Smith I’d love to work with Maggie again, I adored Maggie.
033 – Who would you like to work with?
I’d love to work with Judi Dench or Helen Mirren, that kind of calibre of artist, I really would
034 – Most enjoyable episode for Manimal?
Well, different one for different reasons, I had one or two that I didn’t enjoy as much so that was easier to deal with. I think in a funny kind of way I liked the wolf girl episode, can’t remember what it was called now, because I just felt it was the one that was beginning to get closest to the idea of what I thought Manimal should have been, much more about the human relations and how he interacted, it wasn’t about police case in this one quite the same way. That one and on episode called Scrimshaw I seem to remember I liked a lot ‘cos again it wasn’t so obviously just a police show in disguise.
035 – Most enjoyable episode for Casualty?
Much harder for Casualty ‘cos there were so many really good episodes. I really loved the episode we had that was the end of Guppy’s father. I thought that one was beautifully constructed. I really loved my big helicopter episode I thought there was a lot of good things in that, that I enjoyed getting into early on. I enjoyed, I remember enjoying enormously the refugee episode that was another good one. There would have been plenty of others, but if you wanted to pull of three.
036 – Most challenging episode for Casualty?
Probably the death of Beth, the death ones are hard, the death of Ellen too, that was a tough one, tough for me physically ‘cos I had not long since come out of some surgery (DON’T ask) so I was not, I was fighting that, I should have been on leave. So I was actually having to work very hard around being very post operative. And that was hard because of the emotional element of it and not wanting to repeat ‘cos then I had already had a few death ones and I wanted to do things that were different and not the same
037 – Most challenging episode for Counterstrike?
Well Counterstrike was always challenging it was an extraordinary series ‘cos we we’re talking about 13 odd years ago or even 15 years ago was the last one. We worked massively long hors and they were all like little movies, they were really, really challenging. Again I think, well I had two that I remember particularly, that had everything going for them. I think one would have been episode 22 it may have been the last episode of the first season, which was an IRA story. It was very tough we were shooting it in the winter, and it was very physically demanding I mean I got beaten up and tortured and hung from chains and Christ knows what else in a very brutal series and then I had to come out from that and it’s also emotionally tough ‘cos I remember it was the episode I had to play with my ex-wife. I was having a big storyline where I was having serious doubts about whether I should or shouldn’t continue this job. The episode was I had gone to boss and said look when I came to join to work with you this wasn’t about killing people and everyday we go out and win these battles and shoot people. I said that’s not what I can into, killing too many people is not the answer, you’ve got to catch them and get them put away, and not end up just blowing people’s brains out and I didn’t want to work on it. So I quit the job and then got caught up in an IRA scam. And it was tough. That was probably one of the toughest ‘cos it was also through the winter, winter in Canada and working outdoors, I remember scenes when I was literally standing out on the lakeshore where one’s mouth was freezing as you were speaking and you couldn’t do more than 20 minutes at a time without having to go in and warm up and thaw out. Think it was episode 22 of the first season.
038 – Last film you watched? (Quite funny as he can’t remember the name of the film)
Last film I watched was. . . God almighty Simon! I watched it two nights ago. . . It was one of the academy nominated pictures. . . Um. . . Jesus Christ Simon! I do this you see as I watch them late at night, it just shows that ones brain is tired. What did I just watch? . . . I watched . . . the film . . . that was called, and it’s coming back to me, Driving Bell and the Butterfly.
039 – Last piece of music/song you listened to?
Well I was listening to the duet from Pearl Fishers yesterday, I haven’t turned any music on today
040 – Last book you read?
Was a books called The Secret, which I’m in the process of reading actually
041 – Last TV programme you watched?
Would have been the BAFTA’s
042 – What do you do to unwind?
Well I watch movies late at night, I do the crossword, occasionally I use the Sudoku to go to sleep by, I do the cross word everyday, telegraph crossword. I watch movies and I watch some, what one would call garbage television, the sort of Dancing on Ice thing, stuff like that, stuff you can enjoy but is not exactly taxing. I will read but generally I don’t use reading to unwind, things to unwind are things that are a little bit more brain required but not necessarily, like the crossword I do that late at night I find.
043 – Who makes you laugh the most?
Probably my dog. Tenor, T-E-N-N-O-R, Tenor the Irish Setter. He is human.
044 – Do you watch yourself back?
Not all the time. There are tons of episodes of Casualty I’ve never seen, but I’m not afraid to. I don’t enjoy it always very much but I’m quite happy to depending on what the work is, if there is a movie I would never not see it. Something like Casualty many episodes have gone by, but I’ve got them all I might at some point.
045 – What’s been a disappointment or low point of your career?
Well a disappointment but not a low but a disappointment was the fact that Counterstrike never played in the United Kingdom. That it got caught up in a whole bunch of the political non-sense around at the time it came out and different management companies running the stations and we just never sold it here. When you thin of all the rubbish that comes out on television I think it’s a bloody good show and it never came here and it had two actors how were well known here. It’s always strange that it never came here and I was very disappointed about that and as a result I’d been away for 3 years doing it and of course nobody knew and nobody really ever saw it. I think if it had come here, it might have, something like Casualty might have come along sooner here. I still did other things everywhere else and still busy and doing things so it wasn’t like I wasn’t doing things I didn’t really have any complaints but I think I gave 3 years of a lot of effort into a show and it didn’t get the exposure in this country that I would have liked. But I don’t think it’s ever been seen, it’s one of those things I keep thinking about talking to the management company, say look can we bring it over still even now ‘cos there are still channels that put stuff on.
The other disappointment was Manimal got shut down, I mean that was a disappointment it wasn’t a low point, well actually at the time I suppose it was a low point I have to say it must have been. I went on to do other things fairly quickly afterwards but actually yes it was a low point ‘cos I had a big American television series that only did 8 episodes, subsequently became a cult show and actually I could have been a cult, as it were star, sooner had they held on to it. ‘cos once they put it out on a Saturday/Sunday in American it really took off by which time they had cancelled, so yeah I guess that was a low point.