During Oct/Nov 2003 I interviewed Spencer Leigh and David Morrissey, the actors who played the two young protagonists Icky and Billy in One Summer. They were both very generous with their time and delighted to talk about a memorable period in their lives. Their memories as teenagers on their first professional shoot were of hard work, excitement and a lot of laughter.
Below are some excerpts
from David & Spencer's interviews, including their memories of the
two key individuals who are no longer with us - James Hazeldine (Kidder)
and Gordon Flemyng (director).
Spencer: At the time I was going to a local drama school that wasn't a particularly good one. But I had been in the youth theatre and someone told me there was this TV show that they were going up for. Somehow through about four different people I eventually heard about it and I was like - God I'd really like to go for that, what have I got to lose. And then I went to meet the director Gordon Flemyng who was a fantastic guy at the hotel and the casting director. I did several auditions and I had a great sense that I was going to get the part because I knew the glove fit. When I went there I felt fantastic. And after being there about 3 or 4 times I felt like if I didn't get the job I'd done really great. It really helped me in my confidence and it had really helped me in a big way. It was a fantastic feeling to go and meet these people and read this script and read words that you understood.
I think they saw everybody in Liverpool. My recollection is having about
8 or 9 auditions. And I used to always go up with Ian Hart (Rabbit),
because Ian then and is my best friend. The first time I went up funnily
enough I was reading with Paul McGann, and I was reading for
Icky and he was reading for Billy. Before we went in he said to me, 'I'm
far too old for this part', he said 'this guy is supposed to be 16, I'll
just read it with you - it's obvious you're being auditioned'. Which wasn't
the case - he was just being generous I felt - to me. Then the next time
I got recalled I was reading for Billy and I read for Billy from then
on. But they'd gone round all the schools, all the youth groups and it
went on for ages. I was convinced as I always am that I hadn't got it.
Then at one point they took me and Ian up to Yorkshire Television and
we went into this studio that had all the sets built and we did three
or four scenes and they filmed all the scenes. And
then they phoned up about 3 or 4 days later and they said to me you're
playing Billy. And I phoned Ian and he said yeah they've just phoned me
up to tell me I'm playing Rabbit. So we didn't know who'd got Icky then.
Then somebody told me it was Spencer Leigh and I vaguely knew Spencer
through the youth theatre but he wasn't a friend of mine. I didn't know
him in that way. And at first I was a bit disappointed because it wasn't
Ian but then when I got to know Spencer it was great and when we started
reading it was like - oh my God you're perfect for this part.
The Reaction to the Series
Spencer: I watched it in my living room with my family in Liverpool. Every Sunday night when it was on we'd watch it and there was great joy. I remember it bringing a lot of happiness to my family and also to my friends. I also remember - like all these things, being in a TV show the other alternate side, people being a bit off to you too. Celebrity has weird effects on people, some people were fantastic. When One Summer came out, I remember I'd just be walking down the street and especially in Liverpool people would just come up to you all the time and tell you how good it was and how much it meant to them, which was a really nice rewarding thing. Or you'd go to places and someone would want to buy you a drink. It was a great thing, I'm really proud of that show, I just think it was a really good show.
after I'd done One Summer it didn't come out on television for a long
time so in that interim period I was working in the Everyman and then
when it did come out I'd gone away. It was very weird because I went to
Kenya and I was there whilst the first two episodes were on and then I
flew into Heathrow and I got onto the train going up to Liverpool and
people were looking at me and whispering to each other and I just couldn't
believe it, it was unbelievable. And then eventually this guy came up
to me and said 'I saw you on the telly the other night, I thought it was
great'. Then I got a cab from Lime street station in Liverpool and the
driver's like - I can't believe you're in my cab. And I was 18 and I was
like God - unreal. And I got back to my mum's house and she said her phone
hadn't stopped ringing. People just phoning up to congratulate her and
stuff so it really did have a massive impact.
Working with James Hazeldine (Kidder)
The first time I met Jimmy was when we went to Wales and he slotted
right in. He was just very generous with his time and energy, and as well
as just doing the job he sort of took us under his wing and very quickly
we went round to his house and had a meal with him and his wife. We met
his children. He took us in really. He knew people, and he was in the
theatre in Leeds so we went to see a show in Leeds and went backstage
and then went for a meal, and that was great for us. I mean we'd never
done that. We never knew really any proper actors. Jimmy was a dream in
the sense he wasn't precious or actory. I wanted to be an actor, here
I was being an actor, and then when I met Jimmy I thought it's possible
to carry on being an actor and keep your integrity and soul and still
be ok you know? And be a proper person. And he was that. But that chemistry
between us was very real.
Spencer: He was a fabulous guy, because the great thing about James was he was a really regular guy in the sense he was a very well established actor, but he never made you feel uncomfortable and I think that really helped Dave and I performance wise.... I think by watching him you did learn a lot because he had this wonderful way about him as an actor - his line deliveries were always amazingly simple and naturalistic which is something that we all aspire to.
Jimmy was the first person who really (because Spencer I think because
he was a bit older than me had already done things like this) but Jimmy
would take me to like really hot curry places, or a Chinese meal. He introduced
me to food and he introduced me to chopsticks and things like that. That
was always just a big thrill for me. My family didn't really eat out that
much. To be doing it every night I thought was the greatest extravagance.
But I loved it . And of course he was full of stories and Spencer and
I would pump him full of questions about people he'd worked with or how
he worked, He was wonderful in that and just telling us stories. I remember
us just having a real laugh really. Always just killing ourselves laughing.
And I remember being slightly bereft when it finished really.
the wood cutting scene) I remember that very well. I remember doing that
scene and I remember James Hazeldine just really laughing a lot. I think
we shot that quite early on actually, because we were at that house for
quite a while in the schedule and I just remember him really laughing,
and he just kept taking the mickey out of me the way I said the line,
but kind of in an endearing loving way. And then I think he realised that,
again, that this chemistry was going to work. He was a really charming
guy. I remember after we'd done the show he'd go to his house in the countryside
- he lived outside Oxford - and he invited me over with my girlfriend.
He was a really nice guy - he was a genuine guy and a very respected actor.
And I feel very honoured to have worked with someone like him. There were
a couple of scenes - he was one of those actors that you just got so much
off. Because so much of acting is about reacting as well and with someone
like him he'd say a line to you and you'd do the right thing - you didn't
even have to think about it. .
The Director Gordon Flemyng
Spencer: I think that basically we had a lot of faith in Gordon Flemyng. He was this interesting Glaswegian guy who was an ex-alcoholic. He was quite a tough guy and I think we did all sort of relate to him. He had that, as well as he had made some interesting TV shows. I was definitely put under his spell..... I did keep in contact with him. I did a play at some stage in a lunch time theatre and he came along to see it. He was a very very nice guy..... I just think that he had a good control over us and we all had faith in him. Dave and I were discovering the characters as we were going along but I think he allowed us to be spontaneous, and he knew when to take things down, if things were looking a bit large.
David: We certainly didn't want to get on the wrong side of him, but also we didn't want to disappoint him. I really didn't want to let him down. He trusted us enough to cast us and we all knew the enormity of the casting process. We knew how many people had been auditioned so we knew how lucky we were to be there and we really didn't want to let him down. And also not just him but the crew as well. My memory is that it was a really great crew of people who really looked after us and respected us. It was a special project in that way. He was very old school, Gordon. He'd been around. He'd done films with Peter O'Toole and he'd done films in America and sort of lost that life really and was now getting back to it. But he was a romantic as well. But he was a rough Glaswegian guy so he certainly knew boys from the city and could relate to us in that way. But me and Spencer absolutely adored him.
The Everyman Youth Theatre
David: Ian and I belonged to a place called the Everyman Youth Theatre which is attached to the Everyman Theatre. And for a youth theatre it was very well run - very professionally run. We did a lot of plays. We'd go Tuesday nights and Thursday nights, and sometimes Saturday morning and we did shows. We got them on and we did them and we directed our own work. We did improvisations, we did street theatre, we did big musicals, we did social drama. It was run by this amazing guy called Roger Hill who both Ian and I are still in touch with and he was a really weird guy. He was a great inspiration, but he was this punk rocker and at the time I thought he was really old but he was probably about 32. But he had pink hair and leathers. He was a real inspiration to all of us as far as theatre was concerned.
Spencer: I mean all my mates, if we didn't have that God knows, we would have been in trouble. It's a bit like 'One Summer' dare I say it. Here was a place that you could get some freedom, and you could learn something new as well as you could meet, you know, chicks You could meet girls as well, but you could also meet older intellectual people that maybe you didn't get that stimulation at home which I think was very true of probably everyone. It sparked a different thing that probably none of us had ever had before. Also the thing that I think is very important when I look back on these things now it was sort of like a classless society. It didn't matter where you came from, and I think that was a really crucial thing. It didn't matter, as long as you were in the play and you were having a good time and you were meeting people.