David Neilson Interview

June/July 1996

Mike Plowman 1996

Full name?
David Neilson

Birthdate? Birthplace?
I was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire on 13th March l949.

Schools Attended?
I attended Garendon Secondary Modern School and left when I was l5 years old.

Married? Offsprring? Current home town?
I now live in Bristol. I am married to Jane and have one son, Daniel.

Fave colour?
I had to ask my family what they thought my favourite colour was and they reckon, green and I think they're right although Leicester City play in blue so I'm also quite fond of that.

Fave Films?
Favourite films are many, the latest being Il Postino. All time favourites would include Jean de Florette and the Ealing Comdies; Man in the White Suit, The Lady Killers etc.

Fave singesr/groups Fave Record
Favourite singers would include Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Van Morrison.
Current favourite record : Van Morrison's Days Like This.

First Record Ever Bought?
The first record I bought was the Beatles, Rubber Soul.

Fave TV Progs
Favourite television programmes currently include; Father Ted, Harry Enfield, Rory Bremner, The Day Today, Reeves and Mortimer and The Fast Show. All time favourites Coronation Street (of course), Fawlty Towers and Heimat: An epic German serial which followed the life of a community from before the First World War up to the sixties.

Car owned?
At the moment I drive a Saab because I have to do a lot of miles and they are reputed to be very safe. but I don't particularly like cars and would love to do without one. In town I try to cycle or walk.

Former Occupations before acting?
I have Worked as a gas fitter, plumber, ice cream salesman and barman. Since becoming an actor I have also had stints as a theatre director, (running the Little Theatre Company in Bristol and directing the premiere of Raymond Briggs' when the Wind Blows at the Whitehall Theatre, London), taught drama at RADAR Central and Rose Bruford and written plays: Robin Hood The Truth Behind The Green -Tights currently playing in Estonia, is published by Samuel French, pre-dates and is funnier than Mel Brooks's version which has a similar title!

At what age did you decide you wanted to act?
I was 20 when I decided to try for drama School.

What was your first role? How old were you?
At 23 I left Central School of Speech and Drama to go into rep at Watford. My first role was Gonzalo in the Tempest. Gonzalo is the oldest character in the play and L was the youngest person in the cast. I was awful but feel there were mitigating circumstances. Also in that production was one Ken Morley playing Irinculo. In the next snow, John Osborne's A Patriot for Me, I also shared the stage with John Savident as well as Marianne Faithful and various other bods.

Did you have to audition for the role of Roy?
I was interviewed for the part of Roy having been recommended for it by Coronation Street writer, Stephen Mallatratt.

The character of Roy is, as with many CS characters, evolving from the charcter that initially appeared. How much, if any, input have you had in the development of the character?
It is difficult to say how much input I have in the development of Roy's character. Toe main meat of the character obviously comes with the scripts, I guess the way I then do it might give the writers other ideas. The character was initially flown to do just six episodes so there is clearly an element of seeing how it turns out, nobody is quite sure until the show is broadcast and various reactions are gathered. It's an elongated process where things are constantly reviewed.

The characterisation of Roy is excellent. Did you base him on a particular person or persons?
My interpretation of Roy is obviously influenced by my experiences of people and elements of him are based on people I know or have known. I wouldn't name them though.

I read on your biog that you played a character called Mr Webster in Eastenders. When was this and what was the character?
My appearance in Eastenders was very brief when as Mr Webster, along with Mrs Webster, I tried to buy Nick Cotton's house.

Script editors decreed that the purchase should not go through and so the bubble was pricked on an embryonic Soap legend!

Have you found that you are recognised in public now that you are in CS? If so, how do you feel about it?
Being recognised in public is something you have to experience to understand. When you're in a show like this it happens constantly and I think I'm getting better at dealing with it. Most of the time it's good fun and you get to meet people you wouldn't normally meet. It depends on the mood you're in and how people approach you. I remember one bloke on a cross channel ferry who felt it was his duty to inform every passenger in the loudest possible way that I was the weirdo from Brookside. It's surprising how small a cross channel ferry can suddenly feel and I wouldn't have regretted nearing he'd gone over the side. The flip side of that is that on a recent flight one of the air hostesses turned out to be an avid Street fan and her attention didn't bother me a bit. I guess you've got to take the rough with the smooth.

Were you previously a Coronation Street fan?
I have always been a fan of the show and therefore suddenly being in it is brilliant. Getting to do a scene in the Rovers for the first time was a real landmark for me, a bit like Jim Had Fixed It, here was me doing a scene with Jack and Vera and I loved it.

Who were/are your favourite characters?
There are so many characters that have been in the Street it is impossible to nominate favourites.

The little details about Roy are a constant source of fascination to his fans in the newsgroup. The Saturn V rocket in his flat, the omnipresent shopping bag, the Titanic book plastered in Post-It notes and the front door key on elastic etc. Who is responsible for these touches?
Details like the shopping bag, post-its, key on elastic are things I have given the character. The Saturn rocket in his room is down to the designer, who does talk to me about what should be in there and I have a couple of ideas for bits and pieces if we ever go back to his room again.

What role do you play in the ,as yet unreleased, Mike Leigh film listed in your biog sheet. Have you any idea when it might be released?
In Mike Leigh's film Secrets and Lies I am just one of the subjects of Tim Spall's photography sessions. I don't even have a line but I am proud to be associated with it and delighted that it won the Palme d'Or at the Canne Film Festival.

Do you have any other up and coming appearances on TV or Film, or any stage work? Or are you now fairly tied to CS?
I am now fairly tied to CS and had to miss out on a part in my friend William Ivory's Common as Muck series for the BBC. So other than the odd repeat - I believe my episode of Heartbeat is coming up - I am only to be seen as Roy Cropper.

What hobbies do you have?
Apart from being a passionate supporter of Leicester City Football Club I have little time for hobbies. I am doing an Open University degree in humanities which has used up most spare time for the last seven years. I graduate in December so my Christmas cards this year will be from David Neilson BA Hons!!

What ambitions do you have, as an actor or personally?
I tend to keep quiet about ambitions as so much is down to luck and circumstance. If my family can remain happy and healthy, that will do me.

What makes you laugh?
You can get an idea about what makes me laugh from my favourite television programmes. Coronation Street is consistently funny.

What makes you cry?
Terrible tragedies like Dunblane and Hillsborough have made me cry. Like many people. I also find it hard to watch programmes like Great Ormond Street. I have been known to cry in sentimental movies, leaving me with a feeling of self disgust at having been such a sucker as to succumb to tears and terrified that lights will come up and reveal this fact to the rest of the audience.

How would you feel about a romantic interest for Roy?
I guess if Roy is to remain as a character in the Street there will inevitably be some romantic attachment. I can't imagine who with at the moment though, perhaps it will be Samanttna the Rover's new barmaid!

If you could be anyone else, who would you be?
I don't think I could cope with being anyone else! It's a full time job just being me. I do admire the philosophical courage and bravery of many of the parents in Great Ormond Street and Tim Parry's parents, (one of the children from Warrington who was blown up by the IRA) have been inspirational in trying to find the positive in such mindless barbarism. I would like to possess these qualities but if tested to the same extent I doubt if I would measure up.

Finally, if you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for?
Three Wishes? My son says you can always lie and put 'world peace'. But I Won't.

1 To speak any language and play any instrument.

2 To be healthy and happy.

3 Leicester City to win the European Cup.

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