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Rhys Thomas interview

By Emma
Rhys Thomas interview

We have a chat with Rhys Thomas about his new series, Sirens

Comedian and actor Rhys Thomas talks to The Student Guide about his recent role as Stuart Bayldon in the first series of Channel 4’s emergency services comedy, Sirens.

He also delves into his busy past, taking us back to where it all began, behind the scenes at Shooting Stars.

How are you?

I’m great thanks.

What was it like making the series?

It was really fun, the best time I’ve had for a long time, and I met nice people – everyone was nice, apart from one person who I won’t mention. You’ll have to work out who that might be.

How did you prepare for the role as an ambulance driver?

I went out with an ambulance team for a night and I did some actual training. I learnt how to save lives with a paramedic and we had a technical advisor there to help us. I helped deliver a baby, and Kayvan Novak dealt with some drunks, and Richard Madden helped carry a dead woman down some stairs after she killed herself.

Did the baby get named after you?

No, unfortunately they weren’t allowed to know that I wasn’t a real paramedic. Otherwise they would have gone “what the f*ck are you doing here, you’re an actor.”

Your character, Stuart, is the grumpy ringleader of the group – how does he differ from you in real life?

I’m only grumpy when I watch programmes that I don’t like. I’m very happy, but I do get angry when I watch something on telly that shouldn’t be on telly.

Such as what?

I can’t say.

Do you have a favourite episode of Sirens?

Episode 6. It’s sad, and it was a nice ending and I’ve got happy memories of it.

Outside of Sirens you’ve made a pretty big contribution to UK comedy, what has been your favourite thing to work on?

Shooting Stars, in the early days. I was so proud. I used to write a lot of the questions for it, and I was a script editor and I couldn’t believe my luck.

How did that come about?

I was at school with my two friends and we wanted to get tickets for Shooting Stars. So I rang up the BBC, and they said “we haven’t got any tickets, you should ring the production company, they’re called Channel X”, which was owned by Jonathan Ross at the time. So I rang up and said “have you got any tickets for me and my friends for Shooting Stars?” and the woman said no, and so I went “have you got any work experience?”, and she went “hang on a minute” and I thought she was taking the piss, but then she came back and said “can you come up tomorrow?”

I went in the next day, this is genuinely true, with my CV, and I met the producer of Shooting Stars, and I did two weeks work experience, and I met Reeves and Mortimer. I couldn’t believe it because at the time they were massive – there’s no one to really compare to them now. And they were cool as well.

I couldn’t believe I was working with them, and they liked me because I didn’t have any sort of background, I was just a normal person, and I gave them tapes of me and my mates doing comedy and they said they really liked them and so they gave us work. I met Charlie Higson, who was script editor of the show at the time, and he put me in The Fast Show, and Reeves and Mortimer put me in their stuff, and then after that they then offered me the job of script editor. I wrote a lot of the questions, like “true or false, Bill Cosby was the first black man”, which was one of my favourite questions, which is obviously false, he wasn’t the first.

Despite your many appearances, you remain relatively unknown – was it a conscious decision to avoid becoming a huge comedy celebrity?

Of course not! Everyone wants to be famous. No, I like doing what I do, I could easily go out now and become a stand-up comic and be one of those. I don’t think it’s good to do things that you don’t feel comfortable doing. I like doing my own thing that I’m happy with.

So you’ve got no plans to go out and do stand-up?

No! I had to do a corporate thing the other day where I had to come up with some material, and I felt like such a fraud, doing all that “what can I talk about that is well observed?” – I can’t do it, but other people are brilliant. I like sitting down and creating characters and writing situations, rather than standing up and talking for two hours about things I’ve seen.

Are there any stand-ups that you do like?

I like Billy Connolly, and I like... erm... Billy Connolly, yeah, him. Lee Evans is quite funny, I liked him when I was younger. But in general I’m not really a fan of it

You’re well known for your appearances on Star Stories – which celebrity was the most challenging to imitate?

Jude Law was quite hard, because he doesn’t really have an accent or a voice or whatever, so you just had to do it in that way. We weren’t really asked to do imitations, they had in the script how they wanted it done, so like Andrew Ridgeley in the Wham! one we wanted to be like a posh boy.

Have you ever met any of the celebrities that you’ve made fun of?

I met Jude Law after I’d done Star Stories, he said hello to me. I met Sean Pertwee a couple of times. Funnily enough, I met George Michael about a week before Star Stories came out. I’ve heard that he thought it was really funny.

Finally, will there be a second series of Sirens?

We still don’t know yet. At the moment there isn’t one, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t ever be another one. Everyone wants to do it.

Sirens is out on DVD from March 12.

Interview by Emma Godden.

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