Exclusive Interview: Ian Hallard
WhovianNet caught up with Ian Hallard to chat about his recent appearance in Doctor Who.
The actor guest starred in Robot of Sherwood as Alan-a-Dale and shared his memories of becoming one of Robin Hood’s coveted Merry Men.
It wasn’t his first foray into the Doctor Who universe, though, as he’s also appeared in various Big Finish audio productions. He also porrtrayed real-life director Richard Martin in An Adventure in Space and Time.
Q. Hi there, Ian! So when did you first realise you wanted to become an actor?
A. I’d always acted in school plays at drama groups on Saturdays, but I generally assumed I’d end up doing it purely as a hobby. Then, after going to university and graduating with no real idea of what I wanted to do next, it was my Dad who said – in a complete reversal of the way parents are supposed to behave – that if I wanted it badly enough, I should give it a go.
Q. And how did your role as Alan-a-Dale in Robot of Sherwood come about?
A. I’ve known Andy Pryor for a while and after I’d auditioned for ‘An Adventure in Space and Time’, it was suggested that I play Alan in this episode. I trained in musical theatre so the singing was a fun aspect.
Q. So you were already a fan of the series before you landed the role?
A. I was a fan as a child. I remember watching it at the tail end of the Tom Baker era – I guess I must have been 7 or 8 – and then Peter Davison was my Doctor. I went to the Longleat exhibition in 1983, and I still have a photo of my brother and me on the TARDIS set. When Peter left, I stopped watching and I didn’t start again until the show returned under Russell.
Q. How did it feel to become one of Robin Hood’s coveted Merry Men and did you do any research into your character?
A. It was lovely to play such an iconic figure. Alan seems to appear in most versions of the legend on TV and film. I rewatched the great Errol Flynn film, as that was the inspiration for this particular version of Robin Hood. Alan’s very much a supporting character in this story. He sings, he plays the lute, he laughs, he’s a bit camp. That’s about as complex as it got!
Q. What was it like to play a character with such a musical personality?
A. There were initially elaborate plans for me to have an earpiece which would play the backing track, but mercifully we abandoned that pretty quickly. I sang and then the lute playing was added afterwards.
Q. What are your favourite memories from your time on set?
A. Well, the weather was lovely – a run of unbroken sunny days. Peter was utterly charming and a real gentleman to work with, and the little boy in me had a fantastic time on location in a genuine Medieval castle playing at knights! The castle was open while we were filming so there were lots of excited families watching. There was archery, stuntmen and explosions – what’s not to love? Plus we five Merry Men spent a lot of time together and did genuinely laugh a great deal. Matthew – one of the SA’s – entertained us with a vast array of YouTube videos of his unique vocal talents. They’re well worth a look!
Q. Robot of Sherwood wasn’t your first foray into the Doctor Who universe as your voice has been heard in several of the Big Finish audio adventures. What are the biggest differences between acting in front of a microphone and acting in front of a camera, and what challenges does each present?
A. Acting for radio is quicker and less pressure – no lines to learn and if you make a mistake you can instantly go back and do it again. It’s always brilliant working for Big Finish so I do it whenever I’m asked. I think my favourite scene was a prolonged suicide where my character tried to kill himself in various ways including crushing himself in a door, biting his tongue out and drinking poison.
Q. Last year you also guest starred in An Adventure in Space and Time as Richard Martin, one of the original Doctor Who directors. How did it feel to be involved in such a special project marking the 50th anniversary of the series?
A. It was great, particularly being on Westminster Bridge early on a Sunday morning and watching the kids on the bridge spot the Daleks approaching. Funnily enough, Richard Martin was the first ever TV director I worked with back when I was at drama school, so it was surreal to be playing him – cravat and all – fifteen years later.
Q. From your own experiences, what advice would you give to any aspiring actors reading this?
A. Work hard, be a good team player and company member, be nice to people, be prepared for unemployment and disappointments, but also remember it’s the best job in the world and you’ll be privileged to be doing it. Oh – and learn your lines!
Q. Finally, have you got any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
A. I’ve been appearing in “Great Britain”- Richard Bean’s new play about the tabloid press – since June. I was at the National Theatre originally and we’ve now transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket until January. I have vague plans for another theatre production next year, but it’s a bit early to say anything about that just yet.