Josh Bolt interview: Liverpool actor talks Benidorm, Catch-22 and George Clooney
From Shakespeare at the Playhouse to shooting in Sardinia, via Benidorm and Yorkshire, Josh Bolt’s acting career is taking him places.
As ‘Catch-22’ screens on Channel 4, the rising Liverpool-born star tells us about his love of Bond movies, downing vodka Fanta Lemon and getting a pushbike from George Clooney.
Interview by Lawrence Saunders
Which part of Liverpool are you from?
I was born in Halewood and attended Plantation Primary School. From there I went to Halewood College, but six months into my A Levels I left to play a rapist called Frasier Kane in ‘Shameless’.
When did you decide you wanted to become an actor and how did you get into it?
I studied drama at school and one day I started making my classmates and teacher laugh. I got a kick out of it.
My teacher sent me to an open audition to play one of the scout boys in Dogberry’s brigade in a production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at the Playhouse.
It was there I fell for acting and became completely in love with it. I only had a small part but watching grown up actors like Simon Merrells and Stephen Billington bring a script to life every night fascinated me.
My chaperone Jenny gave me the name of Sherril Parsons who runs YULA Drama School, which became my staple for a while. She also acted as a small casting agency which got me my first feature film, ‘The Be All and End All’.
Nina Gold, a casting director, saw that and put me in ‘Nowhere Boy’ (2009 drama depicting John Lennon’s teenage years). That got me my London agents who I’ve been with ever since.
Where there any particular actors you looked up to?
There’s far too many to name. From a Liverpudlian perspective I’d love to have half the success that Paul McGann or David Morrissey have had. I admire them both so much.
But I have respect for any actor, whether they are a leading man or lady or a day player.
The profession is near enough impossible and anybody who has the drive to stick with it and try and succeed I have to take my hat off to.
What were your favourite films growing up?
Growing up I’d love watching the old ‘James Bond’ films with my nan and granddad.
My dad used to let me stay up late and watch action films as well like ‘Die Hard’.
When I was in my late teens I used to watch films like ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘Fish Tank’ and think I was being clever.
Now I’ve gone back to my roots and I’ll just stick a Bond film on.
You play a character called Dunbar in ‘Catch-22’. Can you tell us a little about your role and the show?
Dunbar is the main character’s right hand man. He genuinely believes war is pointless and the whole thing is a joke. He’s constantly laughing and being lazy. He doesn’t believe in parades or any of the high command.
The programme itself is honestly one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of. It stays faithful to the original source material yet [the writer] Luke Davies has breathed new life into it and has really fleshed out the characters.
[Joseph Heller’s] book is a hard read, but this series makes [the story] much more understandable.
“When you turn up for work in the morning there’s absolutely no room for ego or macho behaviour when Clooney is giving you notes.”
The cast described you as “the glue that kept the group together” during filming. Was there a real camaraderie between the actors?
There was indeed. I was extremely flattered when my co-stars told me I was the glue that kept the group together although it really wasn’t hard – it’s one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with.
Originally when I arrived in Sardinia to start shooting in May last year I really was panicked. I thought ‘oh god it’s 10 guys, it’s going to be an extremely macho atmosphere’, and I’m not that in the slightest.
Upon meeting the merry band the relief was unbelievable. In part it was down to Chris Abbot who plays the lead, Yossarian. He set a lovely relaxed but focused tone, and truly led from the front.
The other part was down to the director and producer George Clooney. When you turn up for work in the morning there’s absolutely no room for ego or macho behaviour when Clooney is giving you notes.
It was also down to the other guys in the merry band. They’re truly the nicest bunch of guys I’ve ever met. All of them were so focused and talented and giving as other actors, yet relaxed enough to have a laugh and good time.
So much so that we spent our weekends renting speedboats and sailing round the Med, drinking Champagne and diving off cliffs.
What was it like to work with a Hollywood icon like George Clooney?
George is one of the nicest blokes I’ve ever met. Firstly he’s such an amazing director because he moves so quickly that you don’t have time to dwell on what you’re doing or about to do.
He’s extremely trusting and leaves you to your instincts and if something doesn’t work, in the gentlest way he’d just have a quiet word.
But he was also big on keeping the comrades together. He’d take us for dinner most weekends and he bought us pushbikes with our characters’ names on so we could get around the air base and ride around Sardinia during our downtime.
You played Rob Dawson in ‘Benidorm’ for three series. What was it like being on the set? Was it as fun to film as the show looks?
Benidorm was great fun – what a job! I was very lucky to be a part of the Dawson family. We really did become like a real family.
Steve Edge, who played my dad Billy, and I became such good mates. We used to have nights out with Bobby Knutt, who played my granddad Eddie. Knutty would cook us a curry or we’d have a cheese and wine night – he introduced me to James Cagney films.
Actually being on set was great. Some days we’d just be in the back of shot so we’d literally get paid to lie on sunbeds. In our downtime we’d squeeze in as much karaoke and vodka Fanta Lemon as possible – a drink invented by my on-screen mum, the wonderful Julie Graham.
Tony Maudsley (Kenneth Du Beke) was brilliant too. My mum and sister are big fans of the show and when I was cast they were so excited to meet Tony. On his day off he took my mum, my sister and me on a road trip which was so lovely of him.
Will you be reprising your role as Raff in the new series of ‘Last Tango In Halifax’?
I will indeed. We start filming at the beginning of September but I don’t think I can say any more than that.
I’ve read the first two episodes and they’re absolutely fantastic. Sally Wainwright (writer) is just on another level. Her scripts are just genius, so I’m very excited to start and see all the gang.
[Last Tango in Halifax] is another show I’ve been so privileged to be a part of. It feels like such a family and I love working with Nicola Walker, who plays my mum, and Derek Jacobi – my grandad in the show.
The amount of stuff I’ve learnt from the two of them I couldn’t buy at any overpriced drama school.
What can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on?
Off the back of ‘Catch-22’ I’ve signed with Gerard Butler’s American manager so I’m going to Los Angeles in August for a load of meetings with casting directors and producers.
America was never on my radar and it’s hard enough trying to work consistently in the UK, but having done ‘Catch-22’ I think ‘why not?’ I’ve got nothing to lose!
I’ve also got a feature film coming out some time in October called ‘A Good Woman Is Hard to Find’ with Sarah Bolger and Edward Hogg. It’s a low budget independent film but the script was fantastic and I loved working with the director, Abner Pastoll.