We put some of your questions to Tom Hopkins.
Should Christy give Louie a good seeing to since he has found out that Louie is after Carol?
I have heard the phrase 'a good seeing to' spoken about half a dozen times in my life, mostly from my early sojourn in England, and upon reading this question I had a nagging and vague recollection as to its meaning. So naturally I Googled it. The Urban dictionary confirmed my worst suspicions, to wit;
To give someone a 'seeing to' or a 'good seeing to' is to (expletive deleted but it generally means have unmentionable intercourse with) them
To follow this advice would be counter productive in my humble opinion as it might drive Carol into a deeper state of confusion than she already suffers from if not push her over the edge entirely. Some might say it would make an . interesting scene . but seriously! On the other hand realising how often sex and violence go hand in hand in drama land this question may be asking for an alternative seeing to for Louie. Both Christy and I know this would be a fatal mistake. Don't forget Christy has been down this road and last time he lost. So this time instead of focusing all of his anger on his rival Louie, (who, let's face it Christy likes) he has chosen to make clear and very public his devotion to his beloved, Carol. And who knows, he might win.
Who did you prefer kissing: Renee or Carol?
I enjoy kissing my wife! As for Renee and Carol only Christy can speak for himself.
Christy: When I was going out with Renee first I couldn't stop snogging her, you know, in the garden, in the kitchen, up in the - well I was livin' at me Ma's so we couldn't go up to me bedroom, but everywhere else it was just one long snogfest. We were together for over twenty years and at the end we barely pecked each other on the cheek once a week. I even tried to kiss her in the shop once when she had already moved in with you-know-who but it was like sucking marble, cold and dead. That was sooooo sad. These days when I kiss Carol it's like one of those Halloween sparklers lights up in me chest. It's heartburn of pleasure. She un-creases my wrinkles for me I can tell you that! 'Nuff said?'
End of scene.
Does your wife mind seeing you with another woman on screen?
She knows where I am and who I'm with. Tina and I have been together since 1976 when we met at a local Sports and Social club. We met in August were engaged on the 14th. Of February (yes!) '77 and married on the 14th. February (seriously) 1978. We have two sons, one daughter-in-law and one grandson, as well as three dogs. Me with another woman? Tina would laugh her head off!
Do you think Carol is Christy's last chance at love?
Heck no! Opportunities surround us all the time if we but have the eyes to see them. There are no such things as last chances. Who knows what tomorrow might bring? Last chances are only possible when we give up trying or worse, stand in our own way. And it's true that it sometimes happens when we suffer a knock back in our confidence. A thing like that can make us doubt or even dislike ourselves. When we feel we often find it hard to offer ourselves in love. Put it another way, if Christy dislikes himself how would he have the confidence to offer himself to a new romance? However if he gets past Carol's infidelity and his own selfish need to hold onto her like she is his possession, then he will be able to open himself to receive love as an unselfish act, an act of caring, and maybe he will learn to respond in kind. The question is has he been hurt so much that he fails to recognise true love when it comes knocking on his door?
Will Christy become a misogynist now? If not, why not?
That's a bit of a loaded question. It may be based on a serious misconception of what misogyny is. I took this from Wikipedia:
Michael Flood defines misogyny as the hatred of women and notes:
"Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. [...] Aristotle contended that women exist as natural deformities or imperfect males [...] Ever since, women in Western cultures have internalised their role as societal scapegoats, influenced in the twenty-first century by multimedia objectification of women with its culturally sanctioned self-loathing and fixations on plastic surgery, anorexia and bulimia."
Why would Christy become a hater of women because he was unlucky in love? That does not seem a logical step to me because one woman (ok two!) does not an entire gender make. Christy has been hurt by men too so why wouldn't he become a misandrist by the same logic? Pathological hatred of women is a disease; ideological hatred of women is a perverse political strategy. All hatred has its roots in fear. Christy doesn't fear women per se; he by and large doesn't fully understand them. But he's learning don't you think?
Which lady in the cast deserves Christy?
You might not think so but I spent a lot of time thinking about this. Of all the ladies in the cast (by which I assume is meant the characters and not the actresses, because I wouldn't inflict Christy on any of them) the only one who is straight enough to deserve Christy is (drum roll) Carol! Yeah, I know. Surprised me as well, but in some ways it explains her reluctance to come out and tell him she's finished with him. Because you know she really does deserve him, as the ad says she's worth it. And she knows Louie will hurt her. You know he will. Yes you do. Carol likes bad boys.
Do you identify with the character of Christy?
Christy is kinder than I am, more sensitive and less egotistical than I. Many people would describe me as somewhat cold and aloof, over analytical and generally too detached. I think deeply about things Christy feels deeply about things, Christy is a companionable character in relationships and in his community I'm a bit of a loner, I read an inordinate amount, Christy buys the DVD. Are you asking how someone like me can play someone like Christy? I could write a book on that subject. No I don't identify with Christy but I do try and be true to his nature and sideline my own ego.
Christy is quite a funny character, are you a funny person in real life?
Funny-peculiar maybe. But then I'm a bad judge because I don't see Christy as being particularly funny. I think Ray is funny and is a good straight man for Keith. I think Bob is funny and many of the cast are astonishingly funny and have an uncanny ability to breathe comic life and dead-pan humour into the stiffest of speeches. Am I a funny person? I don't think so but people are always laughing at me, does that count?
Are the sweets in Phelan's real and do you ever eat any?
Hmmm.! The sweets in the shop are real, as far as I know everything in the shop is real in the sense that it says what it does on the tin but much of it is past its sell-by date. By and large I'm not a sweets person and I would only ever eat the stock if explicitly directed to do so. I seem to recall Ray and Christy enjoying a lollipop each once. I draw an emotional line between properties and 'real' objects whether those objects are the real thing or the art department's copy. It is not the reality or the fakery of a prop that carries the truth of a scene but the actor/character's response to that prop. If I cross that line the audience is likely to cease suspending their disbelief and the illusion of reality collapses whether the sweets are real or just bits of wood wrapped in silver.
Where is Farrah? Did Christy fall out with her?
Keeping Farrah in Carrigstown proved to be too much for Christy. She was just too devoted to travel. On one of her forays across the Irish Sea she landed a job with a glossy magazine and now she travels all over the world on photo-shoots and interviews and loads of other cool stuff that Christy knows nothing about. This has made it impossible for her to schedule appearances in her old city for such things as funerals, weddings and court cases. But people still remember her fondly and are always asking the poor shopkeeper questions he cannot answer.
Do you prefer work in theatre or TV? Have you been in any films?
Acting is creation and craft. The creative work is all internal, psychologically orienting the appropriate persona so the physical movement and gesture is instinctive and natural. This work is the same for the actor no matter what the medium. All of that internal work has then to be crafted to suit the working conditions. For theatre it is projected into the auditorium at a larger than life ratio whereas for TV it is reduced to a minimum of movement and gesture and possibly slowed down because the camera and the ever present boom mic can capture much more than the singularity of human focus. I love the internal creative side of my job so I enjoy working in either medium and do not have a preference for either one. There are aspects of each that I prefer to the other, for example in theatre I enjoy the luxury of the four week rehearsal process whereas in TV I enjoy the variety of evolving storylines. I have worked on film, generally small independent outfits but never as a main or supporting character so it is unlikely anyone will see any of that work.
Do you miss Eunice?
Do I miss Joan O'Hara? More than anyone will ever know. I could eulogise for the rest of the afternoon about one of our greatest actors and it still would not get to the heart of the silent empty space she left behind. Suffice it to say this, she taught me more about the craft of acting than all the courses, books, teachers and workshops that I partook in all my life. She brought joy to whatever stage she graced and her light hearted humour brought a smile to every face. And that feeling I have tried to incorporate into Christy's loss of his mother. Eunice was a scatter brained, irrational and constantly erupting influence in his life and yet she was his fountain of wisdom in times of trouble. They had that oddly Irish mother-son relationship that is best described in the saying 'the one that gives the most trouble, the mother loves double'. Ironically, since her death Christy has matured into an adult member of society. Is that not true of us all in some respects?
If Christy could open a new business in Carrigstown what would you like it to be?
An undertaker's. Plenty of business for that in Carrigstown, but I'm not sure if Christy would approve. God alone knows where the embalming fluid might get to. He has toyed with the idea of running a bookie's office but he's afraid he might be too much of a punter and not enough of a cold hearted realist. A fish and chip shop might be good; he'd only have to open in the evenings when the crowds were coming out from McCoy's. Or he might go back to night school and learn how to cut hair. There is a sore need for a barber's shop in Carrigstown. Have you seen some of the haircuts?
What has been your favourite Christy storyline so far?
That would have to be the death of Floyd and the subsequent trial of Brendan. It offered me as an actor many contrasting and conflicting emotional journeys that were very artistically satisfying. Although I have to say that Christy's current journey of winning Carol by kindness is offering novel and unusual challenges. I'm in the midst of creating the central truth of that journey at the moment and Christy is finding it hard to hold his tongue and remain steadfast to his love for her in the face of her continuing infidelity. I have not yet answered for myself the question of whether it is more important for him to win the battle or win his beloved. If the battle is more important then what will happen to his relationship with Carol when the battle is over? If it is his beloved then can he let her go to where she really wants to be? I love being an actor.
What storyline would you like Christy to have?
There are so many, but the two that jump to mind are the father-daughter relationship in which the father has to deal with an emotionally disturbed daughter as with Bela and Suzanne and the journey Bob had to make in overcoming his anger and working with and for the man who conned him out of both his love and his money. Both of these situations were brilliantly portrayed and it would have been interesting to me to discover Christy's responses given similar circumstances.
What would be your dream role in a movie be?
I'm not sure I dream that way. Let me see if I can answer this. I watch a lot of movies and I love everything from romance, to mystery, to thriller, to action, to character driven open-ended dramas. But I would never instinctively desire to replay a character created by another actor. In the matter of character creation I like to approach an empty space as it were, a blank page upon which to circumscribe and eventually mark the character's territory. If I was offered a part that had once been created by another actor I would totally ignore his work and instead of trying to mimic him I would start all over again from the beginning. The practical answer to your question is my dream role would be one that brought a seven figure payday with it.
Some Fair City cast have become authors. Do you have any interest in writing? Is there a book you wish you had written?
I've been trying to write a novel since my twenties. Not the same novel, but different ideas at different times. My problem is not starting but finishing. I have no problem putting words down on paper as you might guess, but after about two weeks of that I reread what I have written and almost invariably pick holes in it and shelve it. I know! I'm trying to get it perfect the first time around. I wish there was a personal trainer for first time novelists. On the other hand I wish that I had written a book on acting. I think I have an original approach that others might find interesting. I think acting (not drama, but acting) should be taught in schools, because the art and craft of it impart so many useful self-development and social interaction techniques. Not to mention the benefits of personal self-awareness. One of these days ...
What was your favourite job apart from acting?
In another lifetime in the nineteen sixties I was a conductor on the Blackpool trams. Can you imagine? Yes, it was all that!
If you weren't an actor what would be?
A civil servant or dead. Which leads us nicely to.
Why & how did you get into acting?
I was working in the lower ranks of the civil service in what was known as the Land Commission. During a political frenzy of 'de-centralisation' in the seventies many of the department were dispatched to Castlebar and some of their colleagues decided to do something a little different for their send-off. They came up with the idea for a sketch, based on Frank Hall's Ballymagash Urban District Council trying to figure out how they were going to handle this sudden inrush of 'people from Dublin'. They advertised for volunteers on the notice board and yours truly put his name down. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we formed a full-fledged Amateur Drama Group and I realised that my life was in a rut working where I was. With the support of my sainted wife I gave up that job and decided to go out on my own to work in theatre. If not as an actor in whatever capacity I could. After many adventures in Community Theatres as actor, director and producer, I was getting older and our family was growing so I decided to take a more responsible view of my situation and give up acting. I thought I might make a go of teaching Drama and went to a college in Coolock where I formally studied Theatre as a subject. This led to me getting a place as a mature student in the Theatre Studies Course in Trinity College. This was a four year course and in my third year, in dire need of funds, I heard about an open casting for a TV advertisement. I went along and happily got the job. When the ad aired I got a call from the producer of Fair City who asked if I would be interested in auditioning for a part. So I was an actor again. If I had stayed on in the Land Commission I have no doubt that I would be in the ground today, in spirit if not in reality.
What is the one piece of advice you would offer someone hoping to become an actor?
To me acting is like a religion. I will go further it is my religion. There is no one piece of advice, one magic formula for becoming an actor. There are many roads and ways to achieving success in this profession. Some actors are formally trained some actors are self-taught. Some actors rely on technique some actors are pure instinct. But everybody can benefit from training. While talent may get you the job it's training that gives the stamina to sustain performance night after night or episode after episode. Of more importance to my mind is that you ask yourself, and honestly answer the question 'why do I want to be an actor?' If your answer is 'I want to be famous,' then let me tell you that there are probably about ten million unknown actors in the world for every famous one. If your answer is 'I want to be rich,' then let me tell you there are probably one hundred million broke actors in the world for every rich one. So when I use the word success I don't mean becoming rich and famous. Ask yourself this, 'why do all those unknown broke actors in the world go on doing it?' The answer is whether rich or poor known or unknown we love the work we do, and we do the work we love. There is a lot of standing around in this business waiting for the right light or the next scene and one of my colleagues has this to say about it: "They pay us for waiting around, the acting we do for nothing." If you truly want to be an actor and nothing can stop you, and you are prepared to put up with anonymity, not much money and partly empty halls, and you will persevere because this is what you want to do with your life, then get training, get an agent and treat every piece of dramatic writing as if it were scripture.
Who would you like to play you in a movie of your life?
Dustin Hoffman. If he's not available the turkey could probably hack it.