Interview: Derek Riddell on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

DEREK RIDDELL has appeared in some of the most exciting TV shows of the past decade. Most recently, he was seen opposite Kit Harrington in HBO’s ‘Gunpowder’ and in Hulu’s ‘Hard Sun’ alongside Jim Sturgess.

Having worked extensively as a television actor for more than two decades, Derek hits the big screen this Christmas in one of the most internationally anticipated films of the year – ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’. Starring with acting titans like Johnny Depp and Eddie Redmayne, this is Derek Riddell’s first adventure in the Wizarding World of ‘Harry Potter’.

Derek Riddell by Joseph Sinclair

AC: My first introduction to you was in ‘The Missing’ – in which you played an incredibly dark character. Does portraying a dark character ever affect you personally?

DEREK RIDDELL: On the whole no, certainly with ‘The Missing’ I was able to just snap in and out of the dark places when required, but I did a Channel 4 drama called ‘Forgiven’ many years ago which dealt with abuse within a family. Some of the scenes were incredibly challenging and I did notice that I wasn’t in the best frame of mind when I came home in the evenings. Saying that, of all the TV that I’ve done, ‘Forgiven’ is the piece of work of which I’m most proud.

Aside from your role in ‘Forgiven’, which characters have impacted you the most?

From a career point of view, ‘The Book Group’, again on Channel 4, was the programme that really changed things for me. Up till that point, I had mainly been doing theatre. Being cast against type and being allowed to play Rab – the slightly chavvy bisexual football obsessive – was a joy .The show was funny, smart and really well received within the business and it certainly opened a few doors for me.

What did the work of JK Rowling mean to you, before landing your role in ‘Fantastic Beasts’?

I had read a few of the ‘Harry Potter’ books and seen a few of the films and really enjoyed them, but in no way would I call myself a Potterhead. However, I loved the first ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie and so obviously I was delighted to be cast in the sequel. Not as delighted however, as my children. They were ecstatic about me being involved. Possibly because it’s the first thing they’ve actually been allowed to watch me in!

How did you become involved in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise?

Initially I read with the casting director Fiona Weir, who put me on tape and that was followed by a meeting with David Yates, the director. I actually auditioned for a different role in the movie. That didn’t work out but David said he would still like me to be involved and was going to try and find me something else in the film. He was true to his word.

Why do you think the Wizarding World resonates so much with audiences, both here and internationally?

Deep down I think we’d all like to have magical powers wouldn’t we? I certainly know a few people I’d like to cast spells on. Its also the eternal battle of good versus evil, the complete escapism of that world and the fantastic characters that JK has created.

What can you tell us about Torquil Travers? How does your character fit into the story?

Travers is the Head of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic in London. When the ministry learns that Grindelwald is amassing followers in Paris, he has to try and round up a team people he feels might be capable of defeating him.

As an actor, what do you look for in a role?

I think all actors look for roles that challenge them, that are different from what they’ve done before. However there are other times when you just want to do something because it would be fun and there are nice people involved. I have a young family and as so many projects are filmed abroad these days, how long I would be away from home factors quite heavily in my choices as well.

Is there one thing that you’re particularly excited about for the future?

I don’t know what next year holds but I’m currently filming a six-part series for ITV called ‘A Confession’ alongside Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton and Siobhan Finneran. With those three involved it’s bound to be good!

PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSEPH SINCLAIR

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

GROOMING: CHARLOTTE YEOMANS

STYLING: FELICITY GRAY

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Video Q&A: Jonathan Bennett on his ‘MEAN GIRLS’ cookbook

Over a decade ago, JONATHAN BENNETT received his breakout acting role with ‘MEAN GIRLS’ – a comedy film which has since gained an international cult following.

After a sudden spark of inspiration, Jonathan began developing a cookbook inspired by many of the catchphrases featured in ‘Mean Girls’. In an exclusive Video Q&A, Jonathan answers the burning questions about his new book.


Interview: Synnøve Karlsen – Autumn’s Rising Star on ‘CLIQUE’ & ‘MEDICI: THE MAGNIFICENT’

Autumn couldn’t be a more exciting time for SYNNØVE KARLSEN. Having just returned to ‘CLIQUE’ – the hit BBC drama series which put her on the map as a rising star just over a year ago.

Synnøve stars in the central role of Holly McStay – a student who is drawn to a clique of confident but troubled girls – in what has been one of BBC Three’s most-watched programmes in recent times.

Very shortly, Synnøve is set to star opposite Sean Bean and Daniel Sharman in the new Netflix series ‘MEDICI: THE MAGNIFICENT’ – set for a worldwide December release – which follows the Medici family in Florence, during 1470.

AC: ‘Clique’ has just returned for a second series – what do you think fans can expect from the new season?

SYNNØVE: We follow Holly again but this time through her second year at university. Broadly speaking I think this series is exploring identity: idividual and group mentality in our current political climate. I think people will really love the twists within the story and the journey she goes through this series, its very psychological and personal but it is set within this politically charged and exciting, young setting that really draws you in.

Do you think that ‘Clique’ – in many ways – is a cautionary tale?

I’m not sure it’s cautionary so much but more of an exploration of opinions. She finds herself in dark places, she is somewhat unhinged at points but I don’t see that as a part of ‘beware this is what could happen to you..’ but more a reality of what it is to be a young person right now, discovering yourself and negotiating your way through different experiences in the wake of social media and the immense pressure to show yourself in a certain light. Jess puts every political opinion on the table and Holly guides us through these questions that are raised. We see the world through her eyes and in that we see her make mistakes but ultimately its just about a girl’s journey (albeit heightened) through university as all of these questions are posed to her in the wake of traumatic events.

“I think ultimately, [‘Clique’] is about relationships, especially the way in which you relate to yourself.”

Do you feel that you can relate to Holly from your own teenage years?

Absolutely. I remember reading series one and just immediately understanding her. I think there was something especially personal to me in it being set in Scotland as that is where I was born and raised until the age of twelve. There is a lot of reference to her growing up in a small seaside town on the coast but being drawn to something bigger and more exciting, which is incredibly similar to my own experience of childhood. And in terms of its exploration of that time in your late teens I could really relate – maybe less so to the trauma – but I think ultimately this show is about relationships, especially the way in which you relate to yourself. I was very lonely, trying to exist within a specific group but also really trying to get to grips with who I was as an individual. It’s a very specific, solitary point starting university and is one nobody really prepares you for. I think this what is so beautiful about Jess’s writing, very rarely to you see a young woman at that age in such a closely explored way coming to terms with her own identity.

How much can you tell us about ‘Medici: The Magnificent’?

‘The Magnificent’ is coming to Netflix in December, following its release in Italy. It has been such an exciting project and it follows the story of Lorenzo De Medici (Daniel Sharman), the leader of the most powerful family in Italy during the renaissance. I play his wife Clarice, who was very influential in uniting Florence and Rome politically at this time. It was such an interesting part to play, and to explore youth at that time which I don’t think has ever really been explored in this way, I think its very easy for us to forget about young people when we look back historically. Florence was a very trendy, liberal place and Rome, very traditional and Papal, so it was the total opposite and I am playing this very religious woman who is suddenly sent into an arranged marriage with a young man from Florence. Sean Bean plays Jacopo Pazzi, a rival to the family, and the series follows his attempts to destroy the Medici rule. I’m currently filming the next season which follows our marriage and will come out next year.

“I don’t believe in fate but I think it’s important to not doubt in what you are doing”

Comparing both ‘Medici: The Magnificent’ and ‘Clique’ – were the vibes on the sets completely different?

Yes, in a way. ‘Clique’ we filmed mainly on location and is very young and contemporary so there is a freedom there, whereas ‘Medici’ we filmed mostly in a studio and you are in a very alien world with huge dresses and hair pieces so I think that definitely informs the atmosphere on set. But ‘Medici’ was wild, we had a lot of fun shooting that. Living in Rome for four months and all being in this foreign city together makes everyone really become a family, especially after two seasons.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Oh thats a tricky one. I have been given lots of advice, but I guess to trust what is happening, I don’t believe in fate but I think it’s important to not doubt in what you are doing and commit to everything fully. My mum always tells me that all of the right things for me won’t pass me by, so I think I remind myself of that very often.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH SYNNØVE KARLSEN

Last show you binge-watched?

‘Maniac’ on Netflix.
Oh, and I’m working with Johnny Harris at the moment so I have been freaking him out by finally binge watching all of ‘This Is England’ on Channel Four.

Strangest food combo you’ve ever had?

I like peanut butter and Nutella on toast. I would see that as pretty normal, but I get some strange looks.

What are your five go-to tunes right now?

Lily Allen – ‘Apples’
Amy Winehouse – ‘Take The Box’
Cigarettes After Sex – ‘4’
Amy Winehouse – ‘I Heard Love is Blind’
Leonard Cohen – ‘Chelsea Hotel 2’

Everyone has a cool app idea, what’s yours?

I have zero cool app ideas. I really need to have a big think about why that is…

Would you rather be at a mountain hideaway or a beach house?

Either. But I like the sunshine.

What is the furthest you’ve been from home?

I went to Cambodia with my best friend when I was eighteen and spent a week in hospital after getting Dengue Fever, and I can safely say I have never felt so far from home in my life. But I think yes geographically that is probably the furthest away I have been also.

Last book you read?

‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney.

One thing you’re excited about for the future?

I’m excited for the day when my niece and nephew start talking to each other.

‘Clique’ Series 2 is available on BBC Three via BBC iPlayer now

PHOTOGRAPHY: JOSEPH SINCLAIR

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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Interview: John Magaro on ‘OVERLORD’ & ‘JACK RYAN’

JOHN MAGARO is at the height of his powers. You may recognize John from his roles in critically acclaimed films such as ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Carol’, or for his roles in smash-hit television shows like ‘Orange Is The New Black’ and ‘The Good Wife’.

John’s role in the new JJ Abrams-produced war-horror ‘Overlord’ is getting major box-office buzz. The film follows American soldiers who get stuck behind enemy lines after D-Day and discover secret Nazi experiments.

Alongside this, John Magaro is also starring in Amazon Original Series ‘Jack Ryan’ – supporting John Krasinski who stars in the titular role of a CIA Analyst.

JAIMEE: You’re starring in JJ Abrams’ new film ‘Overlord’ – which looks intense, to say the least. Can you tell us a bit about your character?

JOHN MAGARO: I play Tibbet, who is a hard ass, tough talking New Yorker. He is a good soldier, but is no nonsense and does not trust Boyce, whose up to the job at hand.

What kind of training did you endure for your role?

We were lucky enough to take part in a week long boot camp. Once we arrived in London, we were sent out to the country where we were trained by Sargent Freddie Farnsworth. It was an uncomfortable, alien situation where we had to rise or sink as a team. He did everything he could to whip us into shape as 1940s elite soldiers. My knees still feel the pain of those endless miles of humps up and down hills.

What excited you about the script when you first read it?

Killing Nazis, the ultimate bad guy! I also was drawn to the element of super soldiers.

Some early fans are calling the movie “Inglorious Bastards with Zombies” – how would you describe it?

I think that is a fair way to describe it, but would also throw in Indiana Jones, Alien and Saving Private Ryan into that mix. It’s like a buffet of classics with a little extra spice.

It’s bad enough to be in a war zone, but then to come across some crazy secret experiments would be absolutely unnerving. How would you have reacted if you were thrust into this situation?

Run! Run away fast! Although I will never forget what Sargent told us: that some of the worst soldiers in his unit are actually the ones who rise to the challenge and show extreme courage and bravery – so I hope that would be how I would actually react!

Does it ever take a bit of a toll on your well being dealing with such emotional and at times painful subject matter, as within war zones? If so, how do you keep morale up?

Luckily we are actors so we get to go home at night and sleep in a beautiful hotel and eat amazing food, so I could never even begin to compare myself to a real soldier. Every role takes some sort of toll on you simply because of how much emotion goes into each role. When telling a story about soldiers all I can hope for is that we honor them in an appropriate way.

What was the most challenging part about getting into your role?

The equipment. It’s heavy!

When you were a kid in Ohio, what was one role in a film or play which helped inspire your love of the art form?

Two things, first Brando, Pacino, and Cazale in ‘The Godfather’. That film changed what how I saw acting. And when I was in school in Pittsburgh a production of ‘Top Dog Underdog’. An amazing actor Ray Anthony Thomas blew me away and made me realize how honest and vulnerable and actor can be. I still try and apply those lessons to my work.

You’ve played a wide variety of roles in your career already and starred alongside some of Hollywood’s most renowned, but what’s still on your acting bucket list?

I’d love to direct and produce. I am now starting to dip my toes into that world more. I never talk about who I still want to work with because I worry I will jinx it. I guess I’m just too superstitious.

You also play Victor in ‘Jack Ryan’. How has it been working with John Krasinski and the rest of the cast?

My story was a bit separate from John’s but he was lovely when we did chat. Carlton Cruse, Graham Roland, and Patricia Riggen but together a fantastic group of people and were so committed to telling that in an exciting way. Plus, shooting in Montreal and Morocco was such a thrilling thing.

You play a drone pilot; at this point, is it safe to say you have a bit of a love affair with war stories?

[Laughs] You could say that. I mean it is many little boy’s dreams to play soldiers. We did that as kids in the woods of my neighborhood, Playing war. I think its just a coincidence that currently I am playing a lot of soldiers I never set out to play so many soldiers, but I think a large number of film roles for guys my age just so happen to be soldiers. Ten years ago I only played students and in ten years from now I’ll probably be playing mostly doctors or lawyers. I guess that’s just how this business goes.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in your career this year that you would share with up and coming actors?

I always tell young actors to work hard, Read as much as you can and watch as many great films and theater. A smart and well rounded actor is a valuable thing.

Is there one misconception you think people may have of you or actors in general?

I think people tend to think of actors as almost alien, unapproachable, aloof, selfish. But, I have found most (even the biggest of names) to be kind, real, and extremely generous. Actors for the most part are pretty normal folks.

What’s your favourite horror film of all time?

‘Rosemary’s Baby’. B-Film: ‘Killer Klowns from Outter Space’.

What’s one series that’s premiering soon that you can’t wait to see and why?

I just saw the first episode of ‘The Romanoffs’ and now I am hooked. I need to see the rest.

PHOTOGRAPHY: JAMES LEE WALL

INTERVIEW: JAIMEE JAKOBCZAK

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Interview: Graham Bunn – From Basketball Life To Television Life

GRAHAM BUNN is filled with enthusiasm about his new show ‘Real Country’ on USA Networks. The basketball player turned television host spoke to us about his experience as the host of ‘Real Country’, alongside a panel of music giants – Shania Twain, Jake Owen and Travis Tritt.

“Chance favors the prepared mind, and when you out work the competition – good things happen”

AC: What was it like growing up in North Carolina?

GRAHAM: It was incredible growing up in NC. God’s team the UNC Tarheels were right down the road where MJ was winning titles. We have the beach, the mountains, and guys like Eric Church and Luke Combs making everyone’s life better repping our state!

Would you say that basketball is still a big part of your life?

Basketball will always be a massive part of my life, it was my first love, and taught me what happens when you dedicate your self to something. Chance favors the prepared mind, and when you out work the competition – good things happen. That was true in hoops and it damn sure is true in life.

Tell us about your new show ‘Real Country’…

‘Real Country’ is a front row seat to seeing dreams come true. Anytime in life, that you get to witness someone doing something great, consider yourself blessed. Every week, every showcase you will see someone doing something great. I felt and still feel blessed to have been a part of so many wonderful journeys. The talent level on this show is ridiculous. I couldn’t be more proud to stand on that stage with the artist and panelist that make this show unique and special.

I mean, to be in the room with Shania Twain – icon, Travis Tritt – legend, and Jake Owen who is the man, is crazy fun, informative and pure entertainment. Every episode you will feel like you’re hanging out with friends – incredibly talented and entertaining friends – but friends all the same.

“I firmly believe we have found an original and unique way to showcase incredible talent”

What are your three top tips for being a great host on television?

I wouldn’t know, but if you guys get the scoop on that, let me know because I loved hosting ‘Real Country’!

If I was asked what I thought gave me any success hosting – with this being my first hosting job – I would say be yourself, be authentic, genuine and lastly have fun. Life is short and people want to have fun. So have fun with it. What’s better than helping someone achieve their dreams? Don’t you want to hang out with people that encourage you, that care about you, and wanna do whatever they can to help you succeed? That’s what I tried to do in every showcase we held. If that’s called hosting, then it’s official – I’m a damn host!

In the episodes coming up, who should we be looking out for? Which acts really caught your eye?

I can’t say one over another, I’m expecting Christmas gifts from all of them so can’t alienate any [laughs]. The honest truth is their is a downside to caring about these artist so much on a personal level, that you want everyone to win and not everyone can. Every act brings and represents something different in their art and I can’t wait to see what you and everyone else feels about them. Get ready to be torn, because it’s a buffet of amazing talent.

When were you first exposed to country music?

Laying under a thirty-four Ford Truck in my Dad’s garage at age seven as he gave me my first and longest running job in my life – “hold this flashlight son while I change the carburetor outta this truck” while Waylon, Willie and Merle kept us company on the radio. I still hold that damn flashlight every Christmas for something he has to change on that truck. But,I’m the best damn flashlight holder you ever seen!

In what ways does ‘Real Country’ draw from other music competitions?

At the end of the day, these music competitions are all another path and road to helping people achieve their dreams. I firmly believe we have found an original and unique way to showcase incredible talent while providing everyone entertainment they otherwise might never have gotten to hear without this show. I can one-thousand percent say my life was changed through some of the stories, performances, and advice the panelists shared about not only music, but life.

Life is hard and everyone at NBC Universal and Wilshire Studios – all the way through the stage hands and casting department – care about what this show represents to the artist competing and the fans at home watching. And you may be rolling your eyes because I get it – sounds clique and I’m crazy biased – but words don’t do it justice, you gotta tune in. Trust me, it will change you.

How much time to get to interact with the judges behind the scenes?

I got to hang and chop it up with the Panelists a lot, which was crazy because their schedule was bananas. All the Panelists are currently touring and sharing their talents with the world on top of filming this show. I cannot say enough about the dedication to their fans, the new generation of country artist and the genre itself that each one of these incredible artists give. I’m blessed to call each one of them my friend. I mean Travis is like my cool ass uncle but he still my friend. You get it? You get it.

Was it always your plan to move from basketball to television and radio?

This was never a plan for me. I planned on living next door to my parents and coaching a basketball team after retiring from breaking the NBA assist record, but God don’t care about my plans and I thank him everyday for that fact.

I have always loved music with a focus on country because of the storytelling aspect so I’m not shocked I ended up here. I think if you listen to your heart and work in an industry that touches something you care about, no matter what level – the rest will sort itself out. I loved hoop, so I played basketball and had some success with it. Most of which was being able to outshoot Kip Moore for eternity and beyond! I loved country music so I ended up here, with a front row seat to the coolest concert series I could ever imagine.

Did your role as a radio host help prepare you for television?

I think truly loving people and country music prepared me more for this job then any other element or job I’ve ever had in my life. If you care about people, you will care about this show. Being genuinely excited for the artist to perform in front of icons and get advice and encouragement that will allow them to do what they love on a level they dream about is truly special. I loved every second of it. You will also find I’m not your traditional host, I’m that friend that kinda introduces people for the first time at the party, then sits back and watches how much everyone loves one another because you get along so well.

Aside from ‘Real Country’, what’s one thing you’re really excited about for the future?

Marriage and kids – oh wait too serious? We not there yet?  It would be taking Olivia Culpo to a Shania Twain concert. Wait! I’m sorry that was from last years Christmas list, I keep messing this up. I’m most excited to see what music these artist release after the show, and of course season two! I love this show and everyone I work with at NBC Universal.

QUICK QUESTIONS WITH GRAHAM BUNN

What’s the strangest food combo you’ve ever had?

Eggs and Almond Butter, is that weird? It’s delicious and I don’t care what you say about it [laughs].

Everyone has a cool app idea, what’s yours?

Miniature deviled eggs. I think that would be the best appetizer ever.

Oh you mean tech app? Let me get back to you on that, I’m still buzzing over the miniature deviled egg idea. I think we’re on to something there…

Would you rather be at a mountain hideaway or a beach house?

Beach house, no contest.

What is the furthest you’ve been from home?

Played professional basketball in Germany after college. My Dad would probably say ‘the rap phase’ I went through in high school is the furthest I’ve been from home [laughs].

Last book you read?

Either ‘Jesus Is’ or ‘How’s Your Soul’, both by Judah Smith

Advice to your younger self?

Listen to more Waylon Jennings and invent Facebook, I think it has some real potential.

PHOTOGRAPHY: THE RIKER BROTHERS

INTERVIEW: ADAM CROOKES

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