What was is about The Mimic, or perhaps Martin in particular that inspired you to take on that role?
I think I share certain attributes with him, although I have a bit more tenacity and have always been pushing for a career, it was nice for the chance to play someone who is quite happy to sit back; it adds so many more layers that Martin isn’t some go-getter. It was fun to play the underdog.
Yeah, his impressions seem to be for his own entertainment; he’s not expecting anything from it. When you were starting off in the comedy circuit was your approach always to make a career from it?
Yeah, very much so. I did stand-up in 2004 and did it for 4-6months, but I just didn’t have the showmanship. People were uncomfortable watching a man having a meltdown in front of them. There are moments in the series that, dare I say it, mimic my experiences.
So when Martin bails on the TV show at the end of series one, that’s you bolting from a stand-up performance?
Yeah! When I did stand-up I was on a 6 month waiting list for the competition Do You Think You’re Funny! and when I got there I started doing Terry Wogan (this is back in the day when Terry was doing Eurovision) so I raised my inflection as Terry, and two girls in the front craned their necks. I just completely lost my mind! I mean, I’d been a singer and I knew what it was like to be on stage, but never had been the storyteller…so I just ran off.
Tell me more about your singing days! I knew you’d had a few jobs but was unaware of this one!
Well we were signed to Pepper Records, had a few songs out, toured with Faithless…it was the trip hop days! I wasn’t very good…if anything I was constantly aware that I was going to be found out; the wizard behind the curtain. And that at any moment people were going to find out and ask for their money back.
That’s pretty funny! I’m aware that you already knew how to do all the voices, which you do in the show. How did you start with impressions in general?
I grew up at the end of the 80s when you still would very much make your own entertainment. Back then there wasn’t ‘Watch again’ or ‘On Demand’ so if you liked something you would go and recreate it.
I was never a lonely kid but I did live in the middle of nowhere and I would often go off for hours, walking up country roads and pretending to be Al Pacino or Luke Skywalker, so it was very much for my own entertainment and to re-emulate what I had watched.
So what is it about a character, a voice, a person, that inspires you to mimic them?
Anything! I have to say, I am obsessed with sound and grew up listening to all my Dad’s old comedy records which was Hancock Half Hour and Round The Horn so I grew up loving the last generation stuff and obsessed with The Goons…those voices became huge to me.
Then I got bought a little tape deck, with a pause and record. So we’d all just go off and record these tapes – which you would then listen back and it was 90 minutes of nonsense!
You first start doing it because you like it and you want to manipulate it for yourself. So I use to jump from tree to tree pretending to be Luke Skywalker, and then my voice broke so I could start to do bits of Alec Guinness, because when I played the arcade games it said ‘Use the force Luke.’ You also end up being a bit of a stand-up to your mates.
Is that how you test if you’ve got a voice right or not? Recording and playing back?
I didn’t start doing that till I was much older…I didn’t really start developing voices properly till I was about 16, when I became obsessed with Julian Clare, and Julian Clare was very saucy! It was very cutting edge when I was a kid – it was when he did the Joan Collins tributes! Very very naughty and risqué.
I found was that my Maths teacher sounded a lot like him, so I use to manipulate that voice and then walk around the pubs at night pretending to be Julian Clare, which, nearly got me beaten up a couple of times!
They couldn’t handle Julian Clare! Do you ever worry about those people you are mimicking may hear your impression; do you worry what they’re going to make of it?
Oh yes! I was sat next to Sir Ian McKellan at The Empire Awards, and I had already had a dream that I had met him. Some people dream their teeth fall out, or they’re in the middle of nowhere with no money, or that they’re naked…well my dream is that Sir Ian McKellan comes up to me and says ‘Your impression of me is really not very good at all.’
Yes! Terry Mynott just did an impression of Sir Ian McKellan on the phone to me. Brilliant.
When I was sitting next to him my buttocks were so tight I could have opened a beer bottle with them because I was terrified someone would tell him I imitated him. I’m such a huge fan, and you have to remember, I fell in love with these voices – I’m a complete nerd. I don’t know names and stuff because of my dyslexia, and I think that is a big part of why I got in to it; voices and sound is a world that I can live in. Books I can barely read at all and I’m also numerically dyslexic so it was a great escape for me.
And with The Mimic, it’s really different to VIP, but you seem really comfortable in this role. How do you like being on screen?
Sometimes I’m a reluctant performer but when they say ‘Action!’ I’m off like a shot and I’m fine. But when I’m with friends I’m very quiet, because I spend a lot of my time listening to my own voice I can get very sick of it, so I do let others talk when I’m out.
The show is written by Matt Morgan but do you have any input in terms of script?
Yeah, I mean Matt will send me ideas and let me know what he’s thinking. We communicate through watsap quite a bit and I’ll send him snippets of audio. I think it’s important to bare in mind the show is about Martin and not Terry Mynott doing impressions. I do get freedom but it is very much a Matt Morgan show.
Similar to Martin, you also do voiceover work. What is your favourite type of voiceover job?
Creating characters I think. When they tell me I’m doing a commercial and I’m playing a dog detective, who’s gritty and living in New York but really good at finding cheap hotel deals…I actually really adore going through 20 different voices, just playing!
Part of being a comedian and an actor is that imagination is held very dear and you want to do the absolute best you can. And I’m just a big grey haired child.
In regards to Series 2, Martin’s life has changed dramatically-he’s got a son, he’s had a little taster of success…are these things going to spark some ambition in him?
I don’t know…I think something has to happen with Martin because he is such an appeaser, to the extent where he will be edged out of something. Before he was quite happy with that but I think in this series he needs to turn a corner mentally. Which we thought was going to happen last series but he didn’t really…he just got on a TV show and he wasn’t quite ready for it.
There are a few more things that Martin needs to go past…
And what about him and Jean? That needs to happen!
Maybe, maybe it’s pushing towards that. We’ll see….
Anything you want to disclose to entice our readers?
Well, he’s got his nemesis coming, played by John Thompson – what an actor! I’ve been lucky enough to work with great people; Dustin and Seb from Cardinal Burns and John…they just completely understood what The Mimic was.
The Mimic Series 2 starts this Wednesday 16th 10pm on Channel 4
Words: Irune ‘Rue’ Chamberlain