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Scifi News talks to Richard James about his time on Space Precinct and his new book Space Precinct - Unmasked
Sci-Fi News recently got to catch up with Space Precinct's Richard James for an exclusive interview. Richard's sci-fi credentials stretch back to the mid 90s when he spent a year under prosthetic makeup to play the role of Officer Orrin in Gerry Anderson's Space Precinct. He has now released a book 'Space Precinct Unmasked' detailing the making of the series, which was published in time for the show's 20th anniversary.
Hi Richard, thank you for joining us today. You have said yourself you are a big science fiction fan, so how did you break in to the industry and become a sci-fi actor?
When I was about 14 I read a book about my favourite tv programme, 'Doctor Who'. It was called 'The Making of a Television Programme' and included biographies of all the actors involved. It suddenly struck me that there was nothing magical to becoming an actor, in fact there was a proven path to doing it - going to drama school and getting an agent. If only I did those things too, I thought, I might one day be in 'Doctor Who'! And of course, since the series' return, there's still hope...
What was it like to actually work with Gerry Anderson?
I remember Gerry being rather a private person. You have to remember he was producer on 'Space Precinct', not a director, so he was rarely on set. I spoke to him only briefly a few times, but I got the impression of a quiet, hardworking man.
What inspired you to sit down and write a book about your experiences working on Space Precinct?
Earlier in 2014 I attended 'Andercon', a convention run by Anderson Entertainment and Basestar Events covering all of Gerry's shows. As part of the weekend's events, I was part of a 'Space Precinct' Q&A panel. An hour later, when we had to finish, I realised I still had lots of stories I wanted to tell! With the series' 20th anniversary coming up, writing a book seemed a natural step.
What does the book cover and why should fans purchase it?
The book covers the period of time from my initial audition for the role, right through to the wrap party. It includes thoughts and stories from other cast and crew members too, as well as many behind the scenes photographs and examples of artwork from the show. I take it an episode at a time, not only detailing what was happening on screen, but what was taking place behind the camera too. I think 'Space Precinct - Unmasked' wouldn't just be of interest to 'Space Precinct' or Gerry Anderson fans, but to anyone who has an interest in tv and film production.
How long did it take you to write Space Precinct - Unmasked?
I took three months over the summer to watch the series again and write the book. Once I had started, the memories flowed.
Talking about masks... What was it like playing the character of Officer Orrin, and wearing that mask?
Very uncomfortable! It was hot and sweaty and our vision was very limited. Aside from that, the motors that powered our remote controlled eyes were very noisy, so it was difficult to hear your self think! Of course, despite all these difficulties, I loved the experience.
Apart from Space Precinct - Unmasked, you have also written many plays, what is it about writing you enjoy so much?
I suppose I like it because I'm in charge! As an actor, I have no control over when I work or the parts I play (I'm not lucky enough to be able to choose my parts). As a writer I can choose the type of play I would like to write - be it a comedy or a thriller - and then I can decide who lives and who dies! I get a kick out of seeing my plays performed too. If there is a production near enough I will travel to see it, but I have many productions overseas as well.
Looking to the future, if you could choose any current sci-fi series to be cast in, what would it be and why?
Well of course, it would have to be 'Doctor Who'. There would be a great feeling of having come full circle (there's a pun for 'Who' fans!) if I actually ended up in the show that inspired me to act.
Currently there is lots going on again in the world of Gerry Anderson, are you excited about the new projects Gemini Force One and Firestorm?
I'm very excited! It's wonderful that we now have the prospect of seeing new work from the mind of Gerry Anderson. His son Jamie is doing a fantastic job of not only preserving his dad's legacy, but also forging ahead with new projects.
Did you back these projects on Kickstarter and if so what rewards did you opt for?
Yes, I did! I'm lucky enough to have a signed copy of 'Gemini Force One' to prove it! Even though I backed 'Firestorm', I opted not to take any rewards. I thought I would rather give my support for purely unselfish reasons!
What's the next sci-fi project we will see you involved in?
I will let you know as soon as I do! I recently auditioned for a regular role in a new CBBC sci fi series called 'Eve' but didn't get the part. Onwards and upwards!
Finally, we see you are making various appearances this year up and down the UK, what do you enjoy most about conventions and meeting fans of your work?
I love the enthusiasm! And the costumes of course. Being a scifi fan myself, I'm always happy to chat about anything - 'Doctor Who', 'Star Trek' and of course 'Space Precinct'! It's lovely to find that, even after 20 years, the show has a small but dedicated band of followers.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, it was a real pleasure, and we look forward to meeting you next year at Scifi Wales where hopefully you can update us on some new projects.
'Space Precinct - Unmasked' is available now from Amazon or www.gerryanderson.co.uk priced at £17.99