Written By: Mark Armstrong
Can you believe that it’s already the countdown to Christmas? It feels like yesterday when we were putting away the tree decorations and throwing away the used advent calendars, but all of a sudden it’s time to begin thinking about Xmas again. A big part of this is to see a great pantomime, and Peter Pan at St. Helens Theatre Royal is set to be a can’t-miss production. One of the leading actors in the show will be Louis Emerick, a highly-experienced performer who has done it all, from starring alongside a future James Bond to trying his luck on the cobbles of Coronation Street. We spoke to Louis about his role in Peter Pan, his background in television and film, and why you should always read the small print when signing up to appear in a stage show!
First of all, tell us about your character in Peter Pan.
I’m playing Captain Hook, who is the ultimate baddie. What I like about him is that, unlike characters in the other pantos such as King Rat, they all turn good in the end, but Captain Hook remains evil right to the very end, until the crocodile eats him! That’s what I love about him! (Laughs)
Have you been a fan of pantomime in the past?
I love pantos! I take my kids to see them. I was saying to somebody before that as you get older, Christmas loses some of its magic, but when you’ve got kids, the magic lives on because you see it through their eyes. I know that my kids will come to see this show, and they will just have a blast. As a parent, it just makes Christmas even more Christmassy for us.
You have appeared in many TV shows in the past, with perhaps your biggest role being Mick Johnson in Brookside. How did you land this role, and how did you find the experience of Brookside as a whole?
I always say that the star signs were in alignment for me. I went up to audition for the part of Mick, and there was an actor friend of mine who was also up for the part; there were about 8-9 actors there. He went in before me, and there used to be a story that a casting director would say “always go into an audition as the part, as the character (and not as yourself)”. With Mick, I just knew that he was a friend of Terry (Sullivan) for one episode, and that he plays a joke on Terry. Though you are sometimes intimidated at an audition, I went in and was a bit quirky, a bit out-there (with humour), and I ended up getting the part. Those in charge liked Mick (it was just Mick at first, not Johnson), and they decided to bring him back, and was there for 12 years.
You also made many appearances as PC Walsh in Last Of The Summer Wine. From a performer’s standpoint, what were the main differences between Brookside and Last Of The Summer Wine?
I liked doing Last Of The Summer Wine because I was playing a character that was totally far-away from me, in the best Yorkshire accent that I couldn’t muster! These two hapless policemen didn’t want to arrest anybody because the paperwork got in the way of them having tea and biscuits! (Laughs) It was just a lovely, slow-paced, gentle comedy that I really loved doing, because it was a different character. Mick was a part of me, if you know what I mean, but PC Walsh was completely on the other side of society, so I loved it. I found it very funny that they’re showing it now on Gold, and that people come up to me and say “We’re still laughing at it now!”
You’ve appeared in many other TV shows, as well as a number of films. What would you consider to be the highlight of your career when it comes to your movie roles?
Layer Cake, of course. Looking at that cast, Daniel Craig became James Bond, and Tom Hardy was also in that, in what I think was only his second movie. It was brilliant to be a part of that, and we didn’t know what kind of cult film it was going to be, but today it’s probably one of the most played movies on TV at any one time. It was terrific to see Daniel Craig close-up, and when he got the Bond role, I wasn’t surprised. I know he’d be brilliant, and also he’s a Liverpool lad. There were some good jokes that I can’t remember at the moment! (Laughs) But it was great to be a part of something that became a cult.
A couple of years ago, you also performed as part of The Full Monty stage show. What were the main challenges of appearing in this particular production (aside from the obvious)?
(Laughs) It taught me to read the small print! I was doing Bouncers at the Royal Court with Mickey Starke and Danny O’Brian. I’d just got the part in Full Monty, and I was talking to someone where I mentioned that I’d be wearing the small pouch at the end, and he said “Oh no, that comes off!” I said “What?” He said “Yeah, it comes off!” I was on my phone to my agent the next day, asking “Am I going down starkers?” And he was like “Yeah!” (Laughs) And it was too late then, because I’d signed a contract! But after doing the first night – the most frightening time was when we did it in rehearsal, after only knowing the other guys for four days, the choreographer said “Right, tomorrow, a closed set, everything comes off.” We did it, and I’m looking everybody right in the eye, as if to say “Don’t you dare look down!” (Laughs) But it was out of the way then, and if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that it’s about hope against adversity, and it’s a great story. So, people shouldn’t just take it for the last three minutes; it’s about the whole story, and the final scene is just a part of it, where you’re on their side as they sock it to Mrs Thatcher. She had tried to destroy a community, and the lads come back and say “We’re still fighting”.
You have recently appeared in Coronation Street as Mike Thornberry. How did you find this experience? I understand you may be returning to the soap later this year.
Mike Thornberry was in the show briefly; he’s Steve McDonald’s ex-teacher, and Steve ended up sacking him from the taxi firm. Liz jibbed him for Johnny, but he comes back with a bit of unfinished business. He chances his arm again, sort of thinking that she’s not with Johnny anymore, and Jim must be off the scene at that moment. So maybe his timing is right, he asks her out, and let’s just say it’s favourable! (Laughs)
Finally, why should the St Helens audience come to see Peter Pan this Christmas?
Well, I have actor friends who’ve worked at St. Helens, I’ve done straight roles there but never a panto, and everybody who has done the panto there has raved about it. Jane Joseph and her daughter Chantelle have a real, family-run theatre, and they put on shows for families. Their pantos are second to none, and I know that from other actors that have worked on them and gone to see them. So, I’m chuffed to bits about the fact that I’ve got the nod this time, and I want to carry on that tradition of helping to put together a great panto for the families that they’ll all enjoy.
Peter Pan runs at St. Helens Theatre Royal from Saturday December 8 to Sunday January 13 2019. To book your tickets, click here.