Dream Team Diehard   Interviews   Neil Newbon

JANUARY 22, 2016

 

Neil Newbon trained at the National Youth Theatre, and later with Giles Foreman at his school for acting.

 

His film career kicked off with the ITV TV movie "Anchor Me", followed by a high point in Jeroen Krabbé's "The Discovery of Heaven". It's continued with "Stranded", based on the book The Swiss Family Robinson, action-adventure "The Last Drop", horror in "Reverb", drama in "The Run" and the recent releases "Extinction" and "Residue".

 

Neil's television credits include amongst others three regular series roles; Dylan Jordan in late 90's soap "London Bridge", Superstar Striker with hereditary blindness Luke Davenport in "Dream Team", and in "Hollyoaks" as the mysterious Simon Walker, an undercover cop hell-bent-on-revenge.

 

He has made well noted appearances in music videos for The Corrs ("Summer Sunshine"), the reissue of The Source & Candi Staton's "You Got The Love", Massive Attack's "Special Cases" and The Doves "Kingdom of Rust".

 

Aside from more than 40 credits in acting, Neil is in demand as a Performance Capture Artist, experienced in regular and Martial Arts stunts, and has worked on over a dozen video games. Below, Neil discuss this and much more…

 

 

Hi Neil. So we'll start at the beginning. What was it that made you decide a career in the arts and entertainment was what you wanted to do?

I had always been fascinated by stories and story telling- I was a real geek and played alot of games with friends which involved narrative and roleplaying - acting as an interest was born from this as a natural course of wanting to tell stories about people and their cultures - I hope it has also made me a better person to have to analyse not only myself but humanity as a whole and universal species to understand the characters I am given to play. Applying and working in the National Youth Theatre for 3 years with the legendary Ed Wilson really started me on my journey. He was a great teacher and human being and sadly passed a few years ago to the shock and sadness of many of us. He will always have a place in my heart for the gifts (whether I knew it or not at the time) he gave me and all NYTers.

Following your early stage work with the National Youth Theatre, your first television acting experiences amongst others were in "Wycliffe", "Dalziel and Pascoe" and a since well-noted appearance on "Goodness Gracious Me". Plus the first of several regular roles beginning with the regional drama "London Bridge". Being amongst your earliest roles, would you say these shaped you for the much bigger things to come in acting?

I think every job shapes you as a craftsman and person- I learnt alot of different things from each one- London Bridge taught me tv craft technique and the need for punctuality, for instance. Goodness Gracious Me taught me to be grateful for even small roles in a good project as you never know the effect they can have on the audience ( this is a particularly fond one as it managed to combine British ethnic differences together under a very familiar British situation (albeit it reversed - in which lay its genius of course )

Coming to your early film roles, "Discovery of Heaven" in which you played Quinten at 16-years-old seems a notable role. With a story behind your casting that could almost be from a film script itself. Is it true you didn't originally audition for the part but were spotted so to speak?

Not true- I did audition but as I was walking towards the audition itself, Arte, one of the producers ( apparently concerned they couldn't find the right one) was standing with Abi the lovely casting director trying to explain to her his vision of Quinten. Allegedly he said , 'well he should look just like that guy over there crossing the road'. Thank God I didn't hear that as he was pointing at me and the audition was daunting enough without knowing this!

Then there was "Stranded" with you in the lead role of castaway Ernest Robinson. Though it was filmed in Thailand, would this have been your first American-based project?

Actually 'Queen of Swords' was, shot in Almeria in Spain with Bo Derek playing my mum. I have always had a great time working with Americans and am alittle in love with their country ( not all aspects but most) and have a great number of friends there.

In television, your next regular TV series role was as the world-class, superstar striker Luke Davenport in "Dream Team". Did you undergo an intense audition in order to bring this seemingly high-maintenance character to life? Who essentially could have been a fictionalised David Beckham. And knowing you previously had some experience as a goalkeeper at school, did you take anything from that although Davenport was a striker?

I am a terrible football player (still am)- I saw the character as two people really the inner (private) and outer selves (public) so i had a lot of fun with the audition- the challenge for me was the football audition , which I am pretty sure I failed but Andy Ansah - who coached us all and appeared in the show, was convinced by the producers and worked me hard to attain some level of believability. I am very grateful for all their support and his patience!

 

As Quinten at 16-years in “The Discovery of Heaven” (2001)

As Luke Davenport [With dad Gary Newbon] in “Dream Team” (2004)

 

The inclusion of your father, Gary to interview you in character as Luke must have made your exit from the show pretty special? And brought some much needed humour what with Davenport's ending being the loss of his career and eye?!

I was so thrilled when my dad agreed to be on it- funnily enough it was my idea- the producers were working out who to cast as the interviewer and I simply said why not ask my da? It was fantastic to have shared some screen time with him and I really enjoyed working along side such a great professional as my father.

The film "The Last Drop", in which you played Corporal Rhys Powell, one of a group of British troops on the search for Nazi gold against a World War II backdrop looks an exciting project. Did this role bring a great experience for you?

It was an amazing experience, physically demanding requiring me to stick to my guns to keep up with bigger and more experienced actors at the time and I loved every second of it. I do almost all my own stunts and the faith that the director and writer had in me humbled me massively - I am really proud of what we achieved. Also being a traveller in my heart - I got to see the varied and hard country of Romania and meet some truly exceptional people from all cross sections of that country Roma Gypsy included. Very fascinating experience.

The television documentary/drama "Henry VIII - Mind of a Tyrant" saw you take on the role of Lord Mountjoy. Having previously worked on period settings like World War II, was the Medieval angle a lot of fun?

I would love to do more period to be honest- it was a fascinating project to have been a part of and to learn a real translation from such a period of intrigue, danger and political upheaval was a great insight of our history I was only aware of to an A-level point.

You've starred across a large number of short films, both in lead and supporting roles, amongst them drama in "The Orchard", comedies with "Maerus Rex" and "Infamy", and tragedy in "Later". Do any of these sit aside as your personal favourites?

Later, shot by Simon Duric is a particularly special short- he is a very gifted director and a close friend but the experience was very demanding and I am glad I had such trust in him to steer us right. I also just finished 'The Stomach' which has won alot of awards and was a great ensemble piece which I am very proud of.

Possibly your most prominent TV regular role to date, came in Simon Walker in "Hollyoaks". For a character that did some bad things, including trying to take down probably the most popular character in the series at the time, Walker and yourself were very well received by the viewers. You also got the chance to take him further into the show's post-watershed spin off "Hollyoaks Later". It seems you still hold your time and experience with the show in high regard?

I am always moved by great characters and great actors and directors to work with. Emma Smethwick the fantastic Series producer for that year placed a lot of faith in me and I her, to do something that didn't fall into 'soap acting' but to keep the balance of the show's nature with the kind of actor I am. I don't personally like melodrama which pops up in soap and prefer to always keep a performance in-bedded in a realistic place. The cast and crew were amazing and despite my initial worry as to what this could do to my options afterwards I loved every minute of it and am very very grateful for the fans responses to Emmett and my story lines as they unfolded- the story line writers did a terrific job and we truly flew in our playtime on set. Emmett , Claire Cooper, Bronagh, Joe and I all remain firm friends and for that alone I have a huge amount to be thankful for.

As Cpl. Rhys Powell in “The Last Drop” (2006)

As Lord Mountjoy in “Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant” (2009)

 

And Walker's ending too certainly was memorable! Knowing you are adapt in doing your own stunts, were you allowed the freedom to go for it during the fight scenes with Emmett, particularly before Walker went under the train?!

I do in fact do all my own stunts in that sequence yes.. I have been a martial artist for 24 years now and with that I hope I bring a sense of responsibility and not ego- I don't ever over extend myself to doing things I know i am not capable of. The director Steve alongside Emmett and i actually reduced the spoken writing from about 5 pages for that scene to the opening and closing lines, with nothing but action inbetween. The fight itself was an on the day/location rehearsal with the director Steve and stunt coordinator Andy Smart ( he and I have collaborated many times since which is great) - I do alot of my own choreography wherever possible and I loved collaborating with others to produce the best fight I think Hollyoaks has ever seen.

Now would be a good time to mention your background in Martial Arts, as it has played a big part in much of your work especially during stunts, combat and use of weapons. It must be fun getting to incorporate something you know and enjoy so much into your roles and must be something the producers you've worked for have been grateful for?

I can't speak for others am afraid but yep.... its a hell of a lot of fun.

Aside from your regular acting, you've branched out as a Performance Capture Artist, and work with The Imaginarium Studios and Audiomotion Studios. How did you get into this, it looks a lot of fun!

I am a geek and sometime gamer- I got into it because I saw a fascinating medium of acting that I had never experienced- as it happened I literally just wrote to the first company, auditioned and started working. They still employ me and I am very very honoured to work with them all.

And aside from movies it also involves video games, you having worked on over a dozen at this point. One of your most recent from this year is the "Zombie Army Trilogy" for Rebellion. But you're also popular for your work on "Sniper Elite 3" and "Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2". How was it to work on these titles?

Fun. Fun. Fun.

Related to this is your work as a tutor at The Mocap Academy (TMA). Tell us more about this...

I run courses to teach Motion Capture technique to actors and performers alike - I believe in contributing to raise the bar of performance to give gamers the same level of immersion you get from the best films and movies.

 

As Richard [With Nessa Wrafter] in the Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival nominated “Later” (2011)

As Simon Walker [With Emmett J. Scanlan] in “Hollyoaks”, about to undergo the infamous train scene!

 

And you've taken it into television this year with "Mummies Alive" as a lead motion capture artist. As this is a new project is there any more you can tell us about your involvement?

The show is fascinating and the team were a joy to work with. Go watch it!!!

Seeing as you're a busy man, you no doubt have lots still coming up and in development. Is there anything else you want or are able to talk to us about?

About 5 projects I have been shooting and working on- TV, Films and Games- none of which I can talk about....... yet.

Thanks Neil for giving your time to us here. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you to everyone who follows and supports me. Thank you to my teachers and friends who teach me daily. Thanks to the planet and the universe for making me exist.

 

Neil is represented by StevensonWithers Associates Ltd.

Neil on IMDb and Twitter