Tag: anthony head

Anthony Head Talks About Free Agents

Transcription by Katrina King. Katrina can translate British to American faster than anyone!

Anthony Head gained initial fame in a series of coffee commercials in the UK and US, which were unusual for following a continuing narrative. He has appeared in a wide variety of genre shows including VR.5, Highlander: The Series and Doctor Who. Perhaps best known for starring as Rupert Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Head has also gained acclaimed for roles on series such as Manchild and The Invisibles. He currently stars as King Uther on the hit series Merlin in England, but is about to make a big splash once again in the US. Free Agents is a new sitcom on NBC, based on a British comedy of the same name. Head is in the enviable position of starring in the US version playing a character he originated on the UK show. I talked to the accomplished actor by phone this week to talk about what it’s like to bring the same character across the pond.

POP CULTURE ZOO: Hi, how are ya?

ANTHONY HEAD: Good man, how’s it going?

PCZ: Great! So to start off with, congratulations on bringing Stephen to the US!

AH: Thank you!

PCZ: For many of us US viewers who have unfortunately not seen the original, what can you tell us to prepare us for Stephen and for the show?

AH: The show is about two people who… they’re kind of soul mates. They’ve discovered each other at very difficult times in their lives, when everything is kinda telling them that they should sort of be together but they probably shouldn’t be together because it’s the wrong time in their lives. And they are struggling to work this out in a work place that is literally all glass. As the producer said, it’s a fishbowl. And they work in PR, corporate PR, so they sort of spend their days generally sorting out other peoples’ lives and doing damage control while wrestling with their own little problem in front of everyone. The various people who they are surrounded by have different takes on life and definitely different takes on relationships.

One of them is their boss, Stephen, who has a sort of schoolboy fascination with porn, with vicarious sex, with just all the wrong take on everything, as far as they’re concerned. He just throws that into the mix, as well as being an oddity. You just don’t know which way he’s going to bounce. He sort of pops up at different times and suddenly will throw in his opinion about something which is completely left of field. It’s about them trying to work this out. And the thing that’s very clever about it is because it’s written from the heart, it sort of has this great soul. You completely understand these people. You want to know about their lives. You like them, which is an essential part, I think. When you identify with the main protagonist, you want to see what happens next week. It’s more than just the kind of “oh I enjoyed that, let’s tune in again”. It’s actually, you want to tune in, because you want to know how they resolve this.

PCZ: So it’s a little bit meatier than a regular sitcom where you laugh for twenty minutes and you know, rinse repeat next week. This one’s got a little bit more to it then?

AH: Yeah, I mean, when we did the TCA [Television Critics Association], one of the journalists asked, “Is this Mad About You?” because that had a sort of a similar drive, they were together as husband and wife, but you cared about their relationship. This is kind of the anti-Mad About You because they’re not in a relationship, but you kind of want them to be but you know that they maybe shouldn’t be. It’s a very interesting kind of imponderable. You sort of look at them, going, well, you should make it but every time you do make it, it makes it worse! [chuckles] And at the same time, the humor is very fast, very witty, very sharp. As Todd, our producing director said, it’s like 1940s His Girl Friday. It’s that really sharp, you don’t have time to breathe. It sort of drives it through. It’s good stuff!

PCZ: What’s very interesting about this, of course, is you’re bringing your character from the original British show here. How was that, having to rethink this character in sort of a new light?

AH: It’s interesting, it’s still evolving as we sort of find out what we can do with Stephen, as opposed to what we can’t do. I mean, ultimately, he is the same but he’s actually grown a little. It’s not so one track. You have NO idea what he’s going to say. You don’t know where he’s coming from at any one moment. He’ll probably have an odd, left of field opinion about everything. And it’s fun, it’s great fun. He was fun to play to start with, and now there’s more fun sort of exploring more about him. D’you know what I mean?

PCZ: A chance to add to what you’ve done before…

AH: Yeah! I mean, he’s not just a written character that I’m given every week. It’s actually evolving and we’re finding more about him. We haven’t been to his apartment, yet, and we actually haven’t been in his office yet. I can’t wait to get to his office, [laughs] to find out what’s going on in his head! It’s great fun actually being part of that creative process, ’cause they’re very good about listening. I’ll throw in lines and odd things for ideas, and even if they don’t take my original idea, they will then take that and run with it and develop it. It’s a great production crew, basically, it’s very open. It’s lovely when you put an idea out there, and then you see it, two weeks down the line, actually materialize in a script. It’s one of those gigs that you want to do. And I’ve been very fortunate in my career to have sort of gravitated towards sets like this. I dunno. I think it also stems from your leads – and Hank and Catherine are WONDERFUL, wonderful leads. Not only is their chemistry fascinating, it’s brilliant; I sometimes just go on set, and I’m not filming, just to watch them working. Because they are just consummate, perfect. They’re just very funny. And they’re really lovely, lovely people. You can’t want more than that!

PCZ: Have there been times in the US version where you’re doing the scene, and you’re thinking you’ve got to rein him in a little bit? There’s harsher language in the original and that doesn’t work so well on the American networks. Has there been times when you’ve wanted to push it a little bit but you couldn’t?

AH: No, actually, it’s been more about the pursuit of what I can say. We’ve all sort of found words that really don’t mean very much or have one meaning but we’re just using it because they sound rude. And there’re a lot of words that seem to have sexual connotations which actually don’t. I’ve been online and found lots of euphemism sites and that makes it fun. It’s great fun! So no, there’s never been a point of regret, of oh, I can’t say something rude. It’s much more fun finding something you can say that sounds rude, but actually isn’t.

PCZ: [chuckles] That’s very good! And I think there’s quite a few people that’ll read this that are wondering, is there any chance of doing any more episodes of the original version?

AH: Of the original? No. I mean the original was a small, perfectly formed, critically acclaimed gem. But it is, as far as this is concerned, it’s given us a jumping off place. It wouldn’t make sense now to go back and try to recreate something. If it served to create this, then it’s done a great job.

PCZ: Excellent.

AH: So many English series end up… it got picked up for a second series, but at the time, Channel 4 didn’t have any money, and basically the onus was on the production company to find more money and I think past that, they found NBC, and that’s how this grew into what it’s become. I use the word “evolved”, it has grown into something bigger and possibly better, I dunno. The original series was lovely, but I think this has legs. And it’s still got a really good soul, and a really good heart, and it’s very funny.

PCZ: It sounds like, smartly, the producers of this version have sort of taken the basic premise, but have run with it in their own direction, instead of trying to recreate what went before, so that bodes well.

AH: Exactly, they’ve taken the essence of as I say, of it’s heart, but they’ve then sort of created a couple more characters who allow it to grow, they’ve changed the workplace, it’s now corporate PR, so it makes logical sense that they are dealing with damage control day by day, but can’t actually deal with their own damage control. It also has given more of a sort of drive to their work. Their work is much more thinking on their feet, and so consequently the storylines can be driven by what’s going on with the client, while still addressing their issues.

PCZ: Excellent, well, I’m definitely looking forward to the show. I’ve always said more Anthony Head on TV is never a bad thing. So it’s great to see you even more!

AH: Thank you! Thank you very much!

PCZ: Thank you very much for your time today, and much luck with the show.

AH: Thanks man, take care.

FREE AGENTS premieres tonight, September 14 at 10:30 PM, then airs regularly on Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on NBC

Anthony Head Headlines US Free Agents

Based on the witty, cult U.K. series of the same name, Free Agents is a crooked, romantic comedy from creator John Enbom (Party Down) and Emmy Award-winning director Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle) that explores the trials and tribulations of finding love and companionship – the second time around.

Hank Azaria (The Simpsons, Huff) stars as newly-divorced Alex, who is missing his kids and trying to keep himself together. Alex’s co-worker, Helen (Kathryn Hahn, Hung), thinks she has it together, but she drinks too much in order to cope with her fiancé’s untimely death. It’s no surprise then, when these two overworked public relations executives share an ill-fated night of passion and are forced to cope with the awkward aftermath.

Thus begins the journey of two lost and emotionally damaged souls in search of happiness. Joining the cause is an array of co-workers, who are both helpful and meddling at the same time. Stephen (Anthony Head, Merlin, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is the office boss who is concerned about Alex’s emotional stability, yet needs him to focus on his work; Dan (Mo Mandel, Love Bites, Modern Family) is a bachelor in search of a wingman; and Gregg (Al Madrigal, Wizards of Waverly Place, The Daily Show) is the nerdy, lone husband of the group. Despite their valiant and well-intentioned efforts, they are failing in their attempts to help Alex get back out on the dating scene. In addition, Emma (Natasha Leggero, Ugly Americans) is Alex’s spitfire assistant, who is always ready with a quick comeback, and Joe LoTruglio (Backwash, Mad Love) is the building security guard who is always ready to share a little advice. Together, this motley, and often dysfunctional, group takes on a new level of damage control.

Free Agents is a production of Universal Media Studios in association with Dark Toy and Big Talk Productions. Enbom is executive producer/creator along with executive producer/director Holland. Ira Ungerleider and Karey Burke (Miss Guided) executive-produce, along with Big Talk Productions’ Kenton Allen (Free Agents, BBC Network) and Nira Park, as well as Chris Niel.

Who’s Who: Doctor Who Greatest & Geekiest Guest Appearances

It’s business as usual when the TARDIS is traveling through the space-time continuum, but over the last five seasons the Doctor has also come dangerously close to going to another dimension — breaking the barrier between some iconic nerd worlds via some pretty great guest appearances. Celebrating the new season of Doctor Who, launching tonight, here are five Doctor Who guest appearances that put the Doctor one degree removed from Spider-Man, Harry Potter and more.

The Doctor versus Dumbledore “A Christmas Carol” (2010)

Harry Potter and Doctor Who are arguably the two biggest British pop culture exports, and they haven’t come in close contact with each other until Michael Gambon appeared in the last year’s Christmas special. Dumbledore 2.0 played an Ebenezer Scrooge-type who must learns the importance of the holidays on an alien world with stasis pods and flying sharks.

The Doctor visits a British Hellmouth? “School Reunion” (2006)

After graduating from the Buffy-verse as Giles, Anthony Stewart Head found himself back in high school. Transferring across the pond from Sunnydale, Head played Mr. Finch, the headmaster at another school full of weirdness – this time, in the form of  gigantic bat-looking aliens.( The episode also featured the return of Elisabeth Sladen, as Sarah Jane Smith, who sadly and suddenly passed away this week.)

The Doctor and Spidey Team-Up “Daleks In Manhattan” & “Evolution of the Daleks” (2007)

Before he was cast as the rebooted Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield helped defend New York City alongside the Doctor against deformed pig people, gangsters, and the threat of evolving Daleks. Battling Doctor Who’s nihilistic robots was also good warm-up for Garfield’s role in The Social Network, too, where he would go toe-to-toe with Mark Zuckerberg, the spookiest robot of them all. As an added bonus, this two-parter also featured Ryan Carnes, fresh from his stint as Justin on Desperate Housewives (he’s the pig-guy with the hair).

In Which a Time Lord is also 007 “The End of Time” (2010)

Out of all the guest appearances mentioned here, Timothy Dalton’s is the most blatant case of stunt casting. But it’s also one of the most inspired guest appearances in DW lore, casting an ex-007 as a legendary ass-kicking Lord President of the Time Lords. Dalton’s Time Lord was just one of the many highlights of  David Tennant’s last episode as the Doctor.

Scotty Beams the Doctor up to the 500th Floor “The Long Game” (2005)

Simon Pegg’s baddie The Editor was a second-in-command despot on a gigantic satellite that kept humanity in line through manipulating the media (insert Rupert Murdoch joke here.) But even though The Editor looked like he shared makeup tips with Schwarzenegger’s Mr.Freeze, he was much creepier than the Bat-villian, accompanied by a horde of mindless corpses and a gigantic alien hanging out on the ceiling. Bonus: Pegg got to play a convincing and charismatic baddie – something we haven’t get to see him  do much in geek staples like Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Star Trek.

(PopCultureZoo claims no ownership of the photos used in this piece. They are the intellectual property of BBC, and were taken from the Tardis Index File [Anthony Head], digitalspy.com [Andrew Garfield], Doctor Who Image Archive [Simon Pegg], io9.com [Timothy Dalton] and a promo photo from BBC One [Michael Gambon].)

Read Before Watching – Summer Special v2.0

Welcome back to another Summer Special edition of Read Before Watching. Today I’m taking a look at a couple of series that are debuting on NBC this week.

Merlin – US Premiere June 21st at 8:00PM
Starring: Colin Morgan as Merlin, Bradley James as Prince Arthur, Richard Wilson as Gaius, Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon, Angel Coulby as Guinevere, Katie McGrath as Morgana and John Hurt as the voice of the The Great Dragon

Synopsis: Merlin is a new drama series that updates the story of the infamous sorcerer of Arthurian legend for a new audience. The mythical city of Camelot, in a time before history began; a fantastical realm of legendary beasts and mysterious people; a dangerous world in which magic has been banned by the ruthless tyrant, Uther Pendragon. When Merlin, a young man gifted with extraordinary magical powers, arrives in the kingdom, he quickly makes enemies including the heir to Uther’s crown, the headstrong Prince Arthur. But guided by Uther’s wise physician Gaius, Merlin is soon using his talents not just to survive but also to unlock Camelot’s mystical secrets. As he does so he discovers that his destiny and that of the kingdom’s young leader in waiting, Arthur, are inextricably linked.

Joe’s Take: Yes, it’s terribly vogue right now, be it in books, film or television, to depict well-known heroes in their younger, formative years. Don’t let that deter you from watching Merlin. All the basics of Arthurian legend are here with a couple of twists here and there. King Uther has banned magic in the kingdom and anyone caught using it is put to death. Makes things slightly tricky for Merlin as he is prone to instinctively react with his innate magical abilities. Guinevere is Morgana’s servant and, at least so far, can’t stand the arrogant Arthur. The narrator and guiding force to Merlin is the Great Dragon, imprisoned beneath Uther’s castle and longing for freedom. The writing tends towards the light side and, of course, the language and concerns of the younger characters are very contemporary. Supported by acting heavy-weights Anthony Head and Richard Wilson (John Hurt provides voicework, thus does not interact with any of the cast, save for Colin Morgan) the younger cast gets to ramp up their own performances. The first two episodes both air on Sunday to make sure to block out two hours. All thirteen first season episodes aired last Fall in Britain to great acclaim and a second batch of thirteen is already well in to production. Look for familiar guest stars including a former member of the Heroes cast in a well-known role.

Bottom line, yea or nay: Joe says yes, definitely.

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The Philanthropist – Premieres June 24th at 10:00PM
Starring: James Purefoy as Teddy Rist, Jesse L. Martin as Philip Maidstone, Neve Campbell as Olivia Maidstone and Michael Kenneth Williams as Dax

Synopsis: The Philanthropist is an eight-part drama that follows the heroic adventures of Teddy Rist, billionaire playboy-turned-vigilante philanthropist. Teddy loves money, women and power, but following a severe flood in a Nigerian town, he is haunted by the memory of a young boy he rescued. Teddy is spontaneous and impulsive and quickly decides to channel his passion, power and money into helping those in need. The danger and risk to his life is the only way Teddy can feel genuinely alive and he’ll do anything in order to achieve his goals and keep the adrenaline pumping; putting his business head and money-making skills to good use through bargaining with the self-righteous, making deals with drug barons, and trading with the nefarious. But these actions are not just about helping others — Teddy is purging his soul to help exorcise the inner demons that have been festering ever since his young son died and he lost everything he truly loved.

Joe’s Take: Not just any show can competently take over the time-slot occupied by ER for a decade and a half, but The Philanthropist certainly has the quality to do so. With only one hour for the premiere I wondered how the whole premise would be properly set-up without being overly talky or lacking action, but the writer uses a clever, believable hook. Essentially, the story is told in flashbacks as Rist tells things to a barmaid over a few drinks. This works surprisingly well and provides a transitional device that cuts out any useless padding. James Purefoy is a very good actor and he is capable of letting you know how much the loss of his son has affected Teddy Rist without making the show dark. The rest of the cast mostly act as supporting roles in this first episode, but you won’t mind. The show is about Teddy Rist after all. The show also has a distinctly different look due to being filmed in South Africa, Mozambique and Prague. The locations, tight script and exceptional acting elevate this well above the usual redemption-premise fare. You’ll be glad you stayed up late for this one.

Bottom line, yea or nay? Joe says two yeses up!

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