Tricky Toby Oakeshott

How many more of these hacks must I contend with? I should have asked Brenda to keep a tally. Mental note: fewer interviews next time.

Ah, here she comes. Desperate to be taken seriously: self-consciously firm handshake, not too much makeup. Probably late twenties. Tits don’t look half bad but the face definitely needs some work.

“Hello, Toby.”

“Hello hello.”

She sits.

“Do you remember when we last spoke? During the junket for the first season of Turning Tricks.”

“Of course I do…

Brenda holds up the name.

…Melissa. How are you?”

 “Good, thank you. A lot has changed in terms of your career during that time. Your profile has increased enormously, no doubt your earnings as well.”

“I never like to talk money.”

“How do you feel you’ve progressed as an actor in the last 18 months?”

Hmmm… More humble? Greater humility? Wonderful people I’ve been fortunate enough to work with?

“Well, Melissa I do feel that essentially I’ve just been very, very fortunate. I’ve worked with some of our finest actors, writers, directors. All artists, essentially.”

“And you’ve learned a lot from them?”

“Well, how could one not? When one is sharing the stage or screen with the likes of Dick Advocate or Sir Tom Farthing, one grows enormously as both an artist and a human being.”

“Are there any women you’ve enjoyed sharing the stage or screen with?”

“But, of course. Every actress I’ve been lucky enough to work with has been an absolute delight.”

“I think they’d prefer actor. Rather than actress.”

“They would? Then I shall take your lead.”

“Anyone specific stand out?”

Time to shoehorn in the plug.

 “Susan Holloway, who else?”

“This is the film you’re here to promote, Where Madness Lies.”

“The thing about Sue is she is just a joy to be around. An absolute joy.”

“And what did you learn from her?”

Is old Melissa clicking her pen at me?

“My dear, I learned so many things. Sue is enormously generous of spirit. And gives so much of herself to her fellow actors. Even when she’s off-camera, she’s living every moment. Helping her colleagues do their very best work.”

“Are there other actors you’ve found to be less generous?”

I do believe she’s fucking with me. Or, at least, trying to.

“No, no, no, no, no. Be careful when it comes to twisting my words. I realise you’re probably new to the profession.”

“I’ve been a reporter for over 10 years.”

“Well done you.”

Awkward pause. A rather satisfying one.

“Shall we talk about the film?”

“Good idea.”

“What drew you to the role?”

“Essentially, Melissa – it was two-fold. To begin with, I was drawn to the emotional challenge of the character of Edward. Someone with dreams, desires, passions. But also a very human fallibility. Secondly, it was the chance to work with such wonderful people. I said to myself, ‘Toby, this is an opportunity you simply cannot pass up.’ ”

“It is a very good film. Everyone agrees. I don’t think there’s been a bad review.”

“That’s gratifying to hear. I personally never read the notices.”

“A lot of actors say that. Surely it can’t always be true?”

“It is in my case.”

“Never had the urge?”

“Never. It would only be damaging.”

“The director is Kevin Gammon. He’s built up a reputation as a bit of a task master.”

“Oh, he’s a teddy bear really.”

“Mm… This film is set in London…”

“It is.”

“A very multi-cultural city.”

“Wonderfully so.”

“And yet the cast of this film is almost exclusively white.”

“Yawn. Must we obsess over identity politics?”

“So that isn’t a problem for you?”

Brenda looks distinctly itchy but I wave her away. I think I can handle this green bitch, thank you.

“Had it occurred to you, my dear Melissa, that the makers of this film are blind to distinctions of race and just see people as people?”

“A noble position.”

“I would appreciate a reduction in your snide tone. Clearly, you have come here today with the intention of trying to smear a film which by your own testimony has already been very warmly received. Do you wish to scupper our prospects purely for your own perverse amusement?”

“Not at all. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Upset? Don’t be absurd.”

Brenda can’t help herself…

“You’ve got three minutes.”

“OK.”

Do I detect the whiff of tension in the air between these two ladies? Doubtless they both want me.

“Looks like it’s time to wrap things up, Melissa.”

“I’m sorry if I offended you earlier.”

“Not at all. Keen journalists are a crucial part of a healthy democratic society. Any final questions?”

“You’ve been nominated for a BAFTA for your role in Turning Tricks. Congratulations.”

“Thank you, my dear.”

“What do you think are your chances?”

“Slim I should imagine. Just to be recognised is a huge honour.”

“I should ask quickly about an event that was reported last week. Some fans managed to penetrate the Turning Tricks set.”

“Ah, that was an unfortunate incident. But blown completely out of proportion by the tabloids.”

“You’re not concerned about security?”

“Not in the slightest.”

“Did you fear for your safety?”

“Haha. Not at all.”

“Because they could have been anyone. Potentially dangerous people.”

“A few grockles are little threat to anyone.”

She pauses. Is that a trace of a smile? What’s she up to..?

 Oh, fuck.

 “Excellent. Well, I think I have what I er… all I need.”

FUCK.

Brenda approaches.

“Just a minute.”

She skulks off.

 “Melissa, how much of our conversation are you planning to include in your piece?”

“I’ll see what I have later when I write it up.”

“So that was all ‘on the record’ as they say?”

“Well it was an interview.”

“I see. Is there any chance you could miss out that last thing I said? About the people invading the set.”

“You mean the ‘grockles’?”

“I really shouldn’t see any need to include that word. Very old-fashioned. Your readers probably won’t be familiar with it.”

“They could look it up. But don’t worry – if I include that line, I’ll be sure to define ‘grockles’ for them.”

“That’s just the thing: there are many uses for that word. If you choose a definition off your own bat, you would potentially be applying a meaning that was never intended.”

“I think we both know what you meant by it.”

“Are we off the record now?”

“Yes.”

I lean in with the old hushed tones…

“I would suggest letting this one go. I’m an influential person with influential friends. I’ll get the backing I need. Your career will be harmed far more than mine.”

“Then why are you worried?”

She leaves. Melissa is shaking her head, but I give her a reassuring wink –

No one fucks with Toby Oakeshott.

Sam Bowles

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