Earlier this week I posted a review of brand new sitcom Staff Room, and I have since had the pleasure of catching up with the wonderful Brian Capron to chat about his starring role as Principal Kipling and what it’s like to be the man who played Richard Hillman.
The manner in which he came to be involved in Staff Room is as charming as Brian himself, and an indicator of his personable approach to his craft. Over 10 years ago, a young Ryan McDermott wrote to him at Coronation Street when he was in the throes of delighting and defrauding all around him as the infamous Richard Hillman. With Brian’s response having spent a decade pinned to his wall, Ryan decided to seek another, and approached the actor again with his sitcom idea. Brian was open to considering it, and once he saw a script, he loved the part and the character so much that he agreed to be part of the project.
Having seen the sitcom myself, I don’t doubt Brian’s strong belief in the talents of both Ryan and his writing partner Adam Brown who also stars. Both hail from Salford, and Brian admires how their work conveys the down to earth nature of the Manchester people with which he is naturally familiar. In fact, he loves the whole set up, and has found the experience to be such fun.
He describes the shooting schedule as pretty tough, as the whole series of 5 episodes comprising of 78 scenes was filmed in just 8 days. However, he puts its success down to the strong writing, marvelling at how Ryan and Adam have managed to put strong arcs into each episode as well as creating characters you quickly find yourself caring about. He’s also “very chuffed” that Comedy Central are on board.
Brian’s favourite episode is The Trust Fall, which also stars Rupert Hill, known by Corrie fans for his role as Jamie Baldwin, and he finds himself laughing at both this and the rest of the episodes every time he sees them.
Staff Room is not his first foray into the world of situation comedy however, as he recalls with amusement starring in both Up the Elephant and Round the Castle and Full House in the early 1980s, surprised himself at the latter topping the ratings and having attracted 15.5 million viewers.
I recalled that he had played a teacher in Grange Hill, and he joked that he has been promoted to Principal now, albeit an egotistical, mildly menacing one. Suggesting that the character embodied shades of Richard Hillman, albeit to comedic ends, I asked Brian what it was like to play such a role considering this was a multi-award winning character which has gone down in the annals as one of the best ever TV villains. “It was fabulous” is his enthusiastic reply.
Astutely aware of the possible consequences of having acted in a soap, Brian observes that it can be rare to achieve stardom beyond it, citing Suranne Jones and Katherine Kelly as two exceptions. “This could have been problematic for me” he notes, especially considering the iconic status of the character he would come to play. “Richard Hillman was a creation” he remarks, and confesses to having had no idea just how powerful his storyline would become when he joined the programme.
Brian feels lucky on two counts; firstly, to have played the part, and secondly, at the fact that it was only of two years duration. “Actors thrive on insecurity” he explains, adding that performing in the same role for a long time can lead to stagnation. “It gave me a nice lift up” he continues, “a role like Richard Hillman helps a jobbing actor rise to the next rung on the ladder.” Despite eleven years having passed since he met his demise in the canal and attempted to take the Platt clan with him, such is Brian’s delight and gratitude at having played Richard, that he happily acknowledges the part the role itself has played in giving him a number of opportunities that he may not have otherwise been considered for.
As well as appearing on Celebrity Masterchef just last year, Brian has performed inGuys n Dolls and Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On, and revealed that he is currently working on the next series of WPC ’56 in which he plays a “seedy 60s comic.” He also has the pleasure of starring as an ugly sister alongside Lesley Grantham in a panto version of Cinderella this Christmas in Sevenoaks.
As far as a preference for theatre, television or film goes, Brian doesn’t have one, and is open to considering any opportunities which come his way, adding, “I feel very privileged to have been working for 44 years.”
Brian recently reprised his role as Richard Hillman on Halloween night as part of the Corrie Tour, and I asked him how he found the experience.
“Terrific” he says enthusiastically before describing how eager listeners gathered in the Platt’s garden to hear about his dastardly deeds before he leaped out, uttering the now legendary line, “you should have stayed at the party Maxine.” It was thrilling for me to hear him utter it, so I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be taken by surprise with it while standing among Gail Platt’s peonies in the dark on Halloween night. As I hear him burst into the most infectious laughter having concluded the tale, his charm is assured.
Brian loved the warm welcome he received on the Corrie Tour, and spoke of the special place Coronation Street has in his heart. Pointing out that Richard Hillman wasn’t his first role on the Street, having played the part of Donald Worthington in the early ’80s, Brian revealed how he was there when the Queen visited the set in 1982, and it’s with great passion that he tells me, “It’s a travesty that it’s to get demolished.” I absolutely agree with him.
Funny, charming, humble, courteous and passionate about his craft, Brian was a joy to speak with. He shines in Staff Roomwith a brilliant comedic performance, and I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us next.
(See Brian in all five episodes of Staff Room here)