Reading Up on Ghosts: A Conversation with Ethan Lawrence
UP ALL NIGHT sees the gang heading off for a holiday road trip together, which very quickly turns into a total nightmare, in more ways than one. Their van breaks down outside a creepy old mansion; there’s no phone signal and no alternative but to knock on the door and ask for help. Big mistake. Caleb and Clara, an oddly welcoming but sinister brother and sister who live there, are definitely hiding something. Turns out, what they’re hiding is that this creepy old mansion is haunted, and it’s about to be knocked down. The gang’s divided loyalties play havoc with their conscience – run away from their new oddball friends or pay back their kindness? They decide to do all they can to save the house with a special Friday Download music festival. Big mistake no 2. It seems the house has some secrets that suggest it would be best if it was knocked down after all…
Directed by JOHN HENDERSON (The Borrowers, Alice Through The Looking Glass), UP ALL NIGHT boasts a cast including the all-star presenters of hit CBBC show Friday Download: DIONNE BROMFIELD (Fast Girls), RICHARD WISKER (Dani’s Castle), SHANNON FLYNN (Dani’s Castle), GEORGE SEAR (Evermoor) and guest presenter BOBBY LOCKWOOD (Wolfblood); former Friday Download presenter TYGER DREW-HONEY (Cuckoo, Outnumbered); actress LOUISA CONNOLLY-BURNHAM (Wolfblood, House Of Anubis); and renowned comedians DAVID MITCHELL (Peep Show) and KEVIN ELDON (Hot Fuzz, Hugo). Cameo appearances include a special surprise appearance from British pop sensation and Radio 1 Teen Award’s ‘Best British Band’ THE VAMPS; Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent stars BARS AND MELODY; and BBC Radio 1’s Weekend Breakfast Show DJ DEV.
The Fan Carpet’s Katy Peakay had the pleasure of speaking to Ethan Lawrence for the Home Entertainment release of Friday Download Presents Up All Night.
He tells Katy about his belief in Ghosts, his busy schedule and his love of Comedy…
I’ve noticed that you’re doing lots of various things at the moment- you’re on the comedy circuit, you’re doing a bit of acting, you’re at university…
Half those things have stopped now.
Oh, have you completed your studies then?
Yeah, a full year ago now, I’m a one year graduate now.
A one year graduate, congratulations. So you’ve managed to fit those feature films- one for Bad Education as well as Up All Night?
Yeah, that’s right.
Did it create a buzz around uni, being a bit of a celebrity around campus?
Not really, because there were so many people.
Yeah, and people are celebrities in their own right at uni, aren’t they?
Well yeah, and it was still at that time quite small time. Just a couple of television appearances here and there, nothing sort of huge. But it could get a couple of pints bought for me so that was nice!
Lovely, lovely job. You play a ghost enthusiast in the film, a very funny one called Fraser who’s constantly just trying to keep his life being tormented by these naughty ghosts. I’m just wondering, are you into that sort of stuff? Do you have a belief?
I have books on it, because I like reading about that sort of stuff. As to whether I believe in it or not, no! I liked reading about people’s views on it but I’m a born sceptic. I especially like reading books that say ‘well it might be a ghost but it’s probably this’.
Yeah, or it’s funny when there’s a picture that’s blatantly a photoshopped picture or a shadow on the wall. It’s always ‘oh in 1955 in America’. It’s always in America, they don’t visit over here!
Well, you’d be surprised actually!
There are plenty of conspiracy theorists over here that would blame ghosts for a lot of things.
I’ve not met them, luckily, at the moment.
You’d be wise to stay away (laughs)
Ok well, like I said your character is very believing, even though you’ve said you’re not a massive ghost enthusiast.
He’s absolutely convinced that ghosts are real.
Yeah, absolutely, there’s not a shadow of doubt there.
And he turns out to be pretty right!
I know! Do you have any tips for other actors who are trying to make their characters really dimensional and meaty, and bring the truth out of the script there?
Quite a lot of time the biggest piece of advice, and it seems quite simple when you think about it but it’s also kind of not, is just make sure you read every line you’ve got thoroughly. It’s worth going through the script with a fine tooth comb and seeing what you can find to build it from there. When you can bring in your own experiences as well, that’s also a big help. When I was studying we did a few acting modules and that was also something that was quite important to learn. When I’ve been directing as well I tend to just encourage people to really really go through the script. It helps a surprising amount because you can discover so much more hidden between the lines than you actually thought, I find at least.
Yeah, and your character goes on quite a journey, so he comes out a success at the end. Any tips on how to stay consistent, and stay in your character and not say the lines as different people and try and stay in that moment? I suppose having good direction helps?
Yeah, having a good director on hand helps as always, it’s the most helpful thing possible and we certainly did have one in John Henderson. As for making sure you keep in character, as you say the director is there to guide you as well but one thing I find is to make sure there’s a definite gap between yourself and the character. So when you’re off camera you know you’re you, so you can just be you, then as soon as the camera is rolling make sure you remember everything you’ve done with your script, everything that’s happened previously and everything that’s going to happen. I just find that makes the part much easier.
That’s interesting, because some people would say to stay as that person for the whole day and walk around as if you’re Fraser, eat your dinner as if you’re Fraser…
I mean that’s also a thing but it’s never really worked for me, I just feel a bit silly!
I think as well, if you’re on set with really great people and when the cameras aren’t rolling you’re mingling and chatting and having a good time, really just being present there, then you’re not going to not be yourself.
Yeah, and I find acting on tv shows and acting on films, that it’s a constant learning experience for me because I’m extremely interested in the technical side as well as my side of the camera so yeah, I’m always looking. Certainly John Henderson found to his dismay that I’d often be hanging around where he was, I’d be walking out of a shot asking lots of inane questions!
Well it’s good to be learning all the time.
Certainly it’s useful, especially as my first ever feature.
Oh, it was before your Bad Education film?
Yeah, that one came after. So making a film was such a different experience from making a tv show and I wanted to learn as much as I could. To fuel my ambitions of one day doing it myself.
From a director’s perspective?
Yeah, I directed a lot of theatre at university but obviously this is another completely different sphere.
Yeah I did a director module as well myself, and it’s different to be on the other side but you can learn a hell of a lot about yourself as an actor by watching mistakes that other people make and the director’s frustrations of you, and how important it is to really listen.
I know, I can’t remember who said it, but there’s the great quote that you learn more in fifteen minutes on a film set than you do in a year at film school. I found that’s certainly true, you learn so much and it’s proper bits of business.
A lot of the cast have worked together for a long time, being the cast in the show Friday Download and they’d all met and mingled before you got involved in the film. Were they all quite welcoming?
Oh, absolutely, they were an absolute joy to work with. They were an extremely talented bunch and it was a real pleasure to work alongside and create this film, and they were extremely welcoming. The vibe on set was just joy in making stuff and it was a good, fun shoot with great people. All of them I’ve pretty much remained friends with and stayed in contact.
Yeah, well that’s what it’s all about. I was saying a moment ago to Shannon [Flynn, co-star] that there actually are some really scary points, like when she’s running through all the corridors- terrifying! The comedy you write, I’ve had a little browse round YouTube! It’s not so much children based and if you could choose a career line for yourself, and obvious you’ve mentioned that you want to do directing, what sort of direction are you aiming to go? What sort of films would you like to produce?
Well, I’ve got comedy in my bones really, so it’s something that I’ve always been comfortable with and it’s something that I’ve had excellent opportunity to create over the last four or five years and that’s where my heart really lies. Whether it’s with directing or acting or anything really, comedy is where I’m most comfortable, and what I know I’m good at.
Yeah, you’re a very funny guy.
Thank you, thank you very much!
Was David Mitchell’s presence on set and getting to meet him a nice experience for you, if you’re into the comedy side?
It was an excellent experience, I will confess to being extremely nervous and star-struck when I heard he was going to be there! I needn’t have been in the end because he was very down to earth and really nice to work with and it was a shame we only had him for the day really. But it was a pleasure to meet him and a pleasure to work with him, it sort of fulfilled a little dream of mine which was nice.
Who else would be on your list of comedy big-boys and women? Who’s your comedy inspiration?
Well my favourite sitcom of all time is Channel 4’s Black Books.
Oh, I haven’t seen it.
Well there are people in that I like- the Irish comic Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Grieg, who’s another big one for me, a hugely talented actress and someone who it would be an downright pleasure to work with. I had an excellent comedy upbringing in that regard, because I was introduced to things like Black Books, The Young Ones and Blackadder and all those classics.
Oh really yeah, Blackadder was amazing, Rowan Atkinson. I used to watch that as well with my dad, and yeah, it stuck.
Is it not just perfect?
Yeah it is perfect, there need to be more like that. Or even Steptoe and Son, that’s great as well.
Needs to be there as well, that’s brilliant!
Bad Education was your first onscreen break, how did that come about for you? Many actors find it very hard to build their onscreen credits and get good stuff for a show reel but once you’re on the ladder it’s sort of, well that’s a great place to climb from, I mean Jack Whitehall is great also.
Well, if I’m being brutally honest, it was entirely luck. I’d started university and was on Spotlight, the casting agency website, and was headhunted in a way.
Really? Did you have your showreel up there?
I literally didn’t have a thing. All I knew was that my agent was contacted and they said ‘does he want to come up and audition for this’ and so I went along, did the audition and two weeks later was standing on my first ever professional production wondering what the hell happened.
That’s incredible. It’s great to see that it can happen, because it can seem that the acting game, as an actress myself, that you say you want to do it, you do student films, you get close to roles here and there and then you say ‘oh, I actually need to make some money and waitress’…
Yeah I was just a student in my first year thinking that I’ll do this and see where I end up and then this came completely out of the blue-
That’s great. So you had your agent prior to that, you weren’t care of Spotlight. How did you go about getting your first agent without having your screen credits or were you headhunted there as well?
Well my agent back then was part of the amateur theatre group that I used to knock about with in my teens-
-So it was quite a small amateur arrangement that never really took off the ground there but the agent too me back on because the agency had actually closed back then, but they took me back on specifically for Bad Education-
Oh yeah, I bet they did. They’re not silly!
-So then went with a view to finding an agent later, which I did, after Bad Education and I’ve been with them ever since, so coming up to just over two years now.
It’s great when you get the right relationship, isn’t it? The good working relationship.
Oh, absolutely. Michael, my agent, who I will name drop, has always got my best interests.
Is it D-E-E, is that who it is or is it someone else?
Is it D-E-E, your agent company?
It’s D-A-A, with Michael Ford there, they’re really great.
Yeah I had a little look through their website, they look fantastic, and they’re promoting you really well. Also, are you doing something to do with theatre soon, are you going into production soon, is that right?
No, I’ve got a film.
Oh, another film. Amazing.
Yeah, we’ve failed to break the theatre mould yet, but that’s ok. We’re of the view that if we keep doing what we’re doing right now that’ll build a nice little reputation-
Absolutely. And it’s the easier way to cross over, I mean it’s a lot harder to go into theatre and then go onto screen but if you get recognised on screen it’s easier to go the other way. You know, have a recognisable face.
Yeah, once you’ve got a bit of clout behind you then you can make the jump.
Fabulous. So yeah, like I said at the beginning, you’ve been so busy lately. I’ve already asked you what you’ve got next on the horizon and that’s exciting that you’ve got something else coming up.
And the characters that I’ve seen you play in Up All Night and Bad Education, they’re sort of like, em, I wouldn’t say loner characters, but very individual- you were the victim of some bullying in Bad Education and I loved the scene on the jumping board into the swimming pool.
Oh yes, that was brilliant that one.
Yeah, did you have a stunt double or anything like that?
I make a point of doing my own stunts.
I was going to ask you about that for Up All Night as well, you make a point, that’s great.
Because I love doing them, it’s so much better-
Yeah, but there’s no way that that can’t have been scary though, that must’ve been a real scary thing.
Especially in Bad Education, I’ve been called upon to do some bizarre stunts where I’ve been literally set on fire.(laughs)
I haven’t seen that yet but I look forward to seeing that.
But yeah, literally set on fire.
Well I admire your challenge to yourself as an actor because that’s always good to push boundaries. At least you’re not sitting comfortably and calling in the stunt double!
Absolutely not. I’d want it to be me on the screen.
Yeah, that’s great. Well, thank you so much for taking some time to talk to us. I’ve really enjoyed interviewing you this afternoon.
Well thank you very much, I’ve really enjoyed being interviewed by you.
Oh thank you very much. Oh yeah, I forgot to ask you, just quickly, do you have any catchphrases? Your ‘I’m just rolling with it…. I just roll’ is quite a catchy sort of catch on phrase for the kids watching it.
Yes, yes, that’s the one, I think. ‘That’s just how I roll’.
‘That’s just how I roll’. That’s the one. (laughs)
It’s Fraser’s little thing.
Do you have any more that you use yourself?
Do I have any catchphrases? I think normally whenever I’m about, because I collect trivia quite a lot of the time and little pointless facts so my general thing when I’m going to introduce something is ‘Now I know this is really boring but…’ and then continue on with, knowing full well that it’s gonna bore the socks off.
Well you’ve pre-warned them, what can you do? Well there’s no expectation for them to be excited, it’s going to be boring.
And I am often right.
That should be your catchphrase really.
‘I am often right.’ (laughs) I like it!
FRIDAY DOWNLOAD PRESENTS UP ALL NIGHT IS OUT NOW ON DVD COURTESY OF GREAT POINT MEDIA AND SPIRIT ENTERTAINMENT LIMITED