A Quick Chat With Actor Christopher Fairbank

Actor Christopher Fairbank has an impressive acting resume attached to his name. Best known as ‘Moxey’ in the TV series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, he has also been part of the cast of other TV productions such as: Merlin, Doctor Who, New Tricks, Ashes To Ashes and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

His film credits include: The Fifth Element, Alien 3, Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Guardians of the Galaxy. Christopher is a stalwart of British theatre, having appeared in: A Christmas Carol, Curse Of The Starving Class, Blues For Mr Charlie, Hamlet and more.

He has most recently played the part of the tenant farmer, Ibbotson, in the first season of the new hit show Taboo, starring Tom Hardy, which is being shown on the BBC and FX.

I interviewed Christopher in person at a recent Comic Con in Newcastle, (unfortunately we had a limited time slot).

 

 

PC: Since we are in Geordie land I must begin with your role in the TV classic Auf Wiedersehen, Pet: do you feel you have finally broken free of fans saying, ‘Hey Moxey!’ in the street after all these years?

 

CF: Quite the reverse, as a matter of fact. In fact, not so long ago, somebody reminded me I will be forever ‘Moxey’ and I heard that about 30 years ago when the series first came out. At that time I thought, ‘Oh no, my career is finished,’ I don’t know if you are familiar with the ‘Sunday for Sammy’ Concerts?

 

 

PC: I am yes (https://www.sundayforsammy.org/).

 

CF: Well I have done four or five of them, which takes care of 10 years, and they’d been going previously with the three Geordie characters (Jimmy Nail, Kevin Whately & Tim Healy) and I thought when I was asked, ‘Oh you are going to mess it all up, because they are not going to be interested, it’s the Geordie side that’s the appeal.’

But oh, I couldn’t believe the reaction and it’s just got stronger and stronger. In fact, given that it was a sad occasion the last time- with Brendan Healy sadly passing away just prior to the weekend- it was fantastic.

I did think, despite that, the fans must have had enough of it by now, but it seems there’s another generation of fans. The number of people I’ve heard say, ‘You know I was forced to watch this when I was a kid because me mam and dad just wouldn’t miss an episode.’

 

 

PC: It’s one of those series that if you notice it’s on TV, you can quite happily watch again.

 

CF: Well it’s Dick and Ian’s (Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais) writing you know, it’s timeless and essentially- along with us lot fleshing out the characters and making the connection with the audience- the alpha and omega is the writing. Because eventually you see, the seams crack, and everything else of that path of dated references; it’s as good now as it was then. It’s extraordinary: very proud, very privileged to have been a part of that.

 

 

PC: I was going to ask: do you still keep in touch with any of the cast who are still with us but obviously you do. 

 

CF: As much as we can. There was a time, and certainly during the first series, a number of children were born and so there were continual parties: birthdays, Christmas, and whatever, so that kept everyone together but then, as careers, lives and life intervened, then of course people are off doing their own thing- and two of us obviously are no longer here- so you know we are not immune from life, unfortunately.

 

 

PC: I live in Edinburgh. I heard a story that you have been arrested twice there: is that true?

 

CF: On the same day! When I say ‘arrested’, I mean ‘cautioned’ and it was 41 years ago… I was up there for the Festival and I kipped under a tea wagon in Princess Street Gardens and that was my first caution; first thing in the morning I was told, ‘You can’t be sleeping here! No, no, no!’ And as the day went on and libation was consumed, I got caught short and I didn’t actually know where the hell I was, until a policeman’s torch was shining on me, mid-stream so to speak. And I was quite close to the grave of Greyfriars Bobby- which is about as sacrilegious as you can possibly get- I was told in no uncertain terms that this was neither the thing to do nor the place to do it! But I think they were used to it, it was the ’70s, what can I say…That was it!

 

 

PC: That was quite a day for you though!

 

CF: Oh aye! Yep, it was nicely top and tailed, there’s a symmetry sort of attached to it.

 

 

PC: It’s made quite a story.

 

CF: Well there we go. (laughs)

 

 

 

PC: You have been to Edinburgh quite a few times haven’t you?

 

CF: I have yeah. I have done a lot of stage work at The Lyceum and I’ve grown to adore the city actually. I’ve seriously thought, and still think, about relocating there. It’s just wonderful. I love it.

 

 

PC: Yes it is. We have been there 20 years. The people are great.

 

CF: Oh absolutely! That was the first thing actually that kind of … I wouldn’t say ‘shocked’ (that would be a bit over the top) but I was under the sort of prejudice, if you will, that Edinburgh was all blue rinse money and ultra-conservative poshness and Glasgow was all ‘whayyy’ and it’s the reverse as a matter of fact, in my experience.

When it comes to smoking they are raging in Glasgow over it, ‘Hey, you cannae smoke here. There’s a bus stop over there son. Can you not see it?’ (He says this in an excellent take off of the Glaswegian accent) Edinburgh, as long as you’re outside, they couldn’t care less! No problem, just don’t take any glassware outside and you’re good!

So I have a deep feeling towards Edinburgh. Brilliant place!

 

 

PC: I heard life in LA was not for you? 

 

CF: Nope! No! No! I knew that back in ‘78, when I went to see my oldest and best pal from drama school days; he is American so he set up over there. In 1978 I flew on Freddie Laker’s Skytrain- the first of the low budget airlines it was- I went over there and within three hours I knew it was not for me…when it took an hour to play one frame of 8 ball pool!

 

 

PC: Why did it take that long?

 

CF: Because there were four of us and the other three people were actors too, there were no mobile phones or gizmos back then and whosoever’s turn it was to take the shot, they were always on the f’ing phone speaking to their agent, to find out nothing was going on. And I just thought, ‘If you have to work this hard at being unemployed, this town ain’t for me.’ I’ve been there several times to work, and more times to see my pal, but each time I’ve thought, ‘Nah, there’s just no heart to the place, there’s no soul. It’s a series of inter-connected freeways.’

 

 

PC: Almost everyone uses a car to get around don’t they?

 

CF: It was no joke to say, ‘In order to have a conversation you have a car accident.’ That is essentially the only way of getting to talk to anyone.

 

 

PC: How about the weather though, is that a plus? 

 

CF: Hot or unbearable is essentially how it goes there…

 

 

PC: You are not selling it to me…

 

CF: Well some people love it but what you have to be is super-dedicated (ambition doesn’t seem to be enough) you have got to be ruthless with it and I don’t have a ruthless streak in me. I try, and determination I definitely have, but ruthlessness? No.

 

 

PC: You are too nice you see!

 

CF: It’s just not worth it man, you know. You think I’ve got it now… yeah but what? I did this and I shafted him and I badmouthed him. No. Nah, nah, nah, not for me.

 

 

PC: How does it compare between being on a film set, to a TV studio or theatre?

 

CF: Well it’s the same thing, just a different set of muscles are required, depending on what is needed for the scene. I’ve done some terrific pieces.

 

 

PC: Do you have a preference for being in front of a camera or in front of an audience? 

 

CF: I prefer an audience in so far, as an actor, it’s a place where you have the most control, because anything in film making or television you’re in the hands of your editor or the director, producer and everyone else. At least in the theatre, once the curtain’s up, that’s it, you’re on: no stopping, no going back, bad or indifferent you got to get through it; and there’s obviously an immediate connection with the audience.

 

Final questions I ask everyone I interview

 

PC: Your favourite word?

 

CF: Fuck! I seem to use it more than any other word, that’s the only reason. If I can get a fuck in… Conversationally speaking, of course.

 

 

PC: Your perfect day?

 

CF: Not being harassed by cold calling tossers trying to tell me about the accident I’ve never had, that I could get four and a half grand for.

 

 

PC: You couldn’t live without?

 

CF: Cigarettes

 

 

PC: Current song or style of music you are listening to?

 

CF: I’ve gone all retro since the passing of the great Leonard Cohen and his 2010 album is the one on the CD deck at the minute (the title of which escapes me) but it is just a piece of divine brilliance.

Christopher Fairbank’s reel.

Edited by Davina Baynes.

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