Our Interview With The Charming Daniel Hill
Our Interview With The Charming Daniel Hill
Added 1685 days ago. 21 February 2019
We interviewed the great British actor Daniel Hill, star of the theatre and Waiting for God!
Just a school trip...
“It was the first time I’d ever been to the theatre – my parents had nothing to do with acting. None of my family had. I remember, I stepped into Bristol Old Vic Auditorium and just thought, good heavens.”
For Daniel Hill, charming 62-year-old British actor, star of Waiting for God, guest actor in Only Fools and Horses and even a Doctor Who appearance to his name, the story began on a school trip.
“The moment the curtains went up I got this rush and I knew. Six months later I was on that stage playing a leading part in a play called The Royal Hunt of the Sun. I was 13, acting with Julian Glover and it was extraordinary!”
Three plays after his on-stage debut, Daniel had decided his path, setting out to audition at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. But unfortunately, at the rife age of 16, Daniel was still a little too young to be accepted.
“’No’, the legendary Drama School principal, Nat Brenner, said. ‘Come back in 18-months.’And I said, ‘Oh, no, no, let me come now!’ I get out the speech I learnt that morning, one from The Tempest, and he sighs and says, ‘go on then’. At the end of it he turns to me and goes, ‘you could have chosen any speech - Romeo, Hamlet - and you chose Prospero? A 90-year-old?’ – ‘It’s a really good speech’, I said! But he’s having none of it – ‘go grow up a bit and come back later!’”
“’No’, the legendary Drama School principal, Nat Brenner, said. ‘Come back in 18-months.’
And I said, ‘Oh, no, no, let me come now!’ I get out the speech I learnt that morning, one from The Tempest, and he sighs and says, ‘go on then’. At the end of it he turns to me and goes, ‘you could have chosen any speech - Romeo, Hamlet - and you chose Prospero? A 90-year-old?’ – ‘It’s a really good speech’, I said! But he’s having none of it – ‘go grow up a bit and come back later!’”
For the next 18-months, Daniel pushed scenery just to be around the theatre, landing his place two school-years later. By that point though, a young and talented Daniel was already in demand.
“Two-terms in, I was asked to do a television play called Forget-Me-Not-Lane at the BBC. It was set in Bristol, written by Peter Nichols – a really good role. And not only that, I’d be acting with stars like Albert Finney, Gemma Jones and Bill Fraser.
But there was a catch. If I did it I wouldn’t be able to be at the school anymore – I’d have to leave. So, I said, I’m not doing it then. They couldn’t believe it, but I was adamant. I was not giving up my place just to be in a play on Television, I wanted to stay and train. I went to walk out and my tutor turns says, ‘if you’d said anything else, I’d have made you leave. But as you’ve said that, you can do it.’”
Rising with the stars...
And so it was, that through sheer determination and love of the craft, Daniel graduated not only seasoned on stage, but also having broken into the exclusive world of television. A world he seemed set to conquer, when at 23, he landed a role on none other than the BBC’s most iconic long-term drama series.
“Shada was a six-part Doctor Who [featuring Lalla and Tom Baker]. I was playing the guest assistant, this undergraduate at Cambridge who goes into his professor’s rooms which, of course, is really a Tardis and I get taken on this journey with Doctor Who and Lalla and K9, and we go off around the universe. It was huge.
The last script by Douglas Adams, genius writer of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and every creature you can possibly think of was in it. The Daleks, the Cybermen – everyone - it was brilliant. I actually met my future wife, Olivia, on the show!”
Out of this world surprises!
But alas, Daniel’s Doctor Who debut wasn’t meant to be. Despite rehearsing to completion, the infamous six-part episode was forced to shut down after a BBC strike set the recording back indefinitely.
“It all felt pretty shocking, especially to a young actor with all my friends going, ‘I thought you were in Doctor Who’, and I’m going, ‘I was’, and they’re going, ‘you’re lying!’”
In fact, it took over 30-years for Shada to finally make an on-screen appearance – though perhaps not in the way the cast had first imagined.
“Tom had always said he’d never pick Shada up again. They released a chunk of it on DVD with Tom narrating bits and that was fine, but he’d never want to reshoot. Then cut to 35 years later, and this brilliant animator called Chris at BBC Worldwide called me up with this slightly mad, but brilliant idea of getting us all to green screen our characters. And before I knew it, I was rehearsing the same scenes we had done 35-years-earlier, but against a green screen. The set and everything was there just as it had been, filming exactly as it was in 1979, except this time round we’d all be animated.”
Live audiences, new surprises...
But in the same way Daniel once charmed his old university master, it would seem Daniel’s easy-going nature and exuberant character had creatives seeking him out no matter the title description.
“No, no, he says. You just make him whatever you want. And I said ‘can I wear Armani suits?’ And he says yes. So I said, ‘can I keep them at the end?’ And he said yes.”
Waiting for God went on to run for 5 seasons, finishing in 1994. However, the cast hadn’t always been so sure of its success.
“We were all wary about sitcoms. We’d all done a lot, but this was a live audience. Even turning up to read the thing through, we were all a bit like, should we really be doing this?”
“By the time we’d done 50 episodes we were so bonded, we were more than family."
Lucky for us though, in a career that promises to age with him, Daniel is adamant that he won’t be retiring his love of acting anytime soon.
Continuing the journey...
“It’s one of those wonderful jobs that even when you’re incapacitated with age, in a wheelchair or with a disability, you can still act. There’s nothing that can stop you. Once you’re an actor, acting is all about playing. Whether it’s a tragedy or a comedy, it’s still just play.”
There’s little doubt in speaking to Daniel, that he’s had a whale of a time throughout his long and varied career. But he’s keen to impress on me, that the world of acting, especially as he gets older, isn’t all laughs and parties.
And keeping the mind open!
“Of course, I get lonely sometimes. This year I’ve been writing a play and people say, ‘well you’ve got the characters’. But it’s not the same. People need contact. Sometimes, you also need the courage to ask for it, but it’s very important. Never be lonely.”
“I like to keep busy. I paint and I write. Those things are important for me. You have to keep your mind busy with food, with music, new experiences, new stuff. I even did The Open University, I’m still doing it! I’ve been doing it for about 15 years! But that’s what I mean. Never stop learning. Don’t stop laughing and don’t stop learning. Life is for living!