Monday, 28 November 2011

Olly Murs

As a former contestant on The X Factor, Olly Murs knows better than most what it is like to perform on that famous stage. As a result, Murs became an inspired choice to present ITV2’s sister show The Xtra Factor this year where – alongside co-presenter Caroline Flack – he delivers irreverent humour, interviews the contestants and provides behind the scenes news. But let’s not forget the reason he appeared on The X Factor in the first place – to make himself a music star. Originally a runner up on the show, he today releases his second album “In Case You Didn’t Know” which has already produced chart topping single “Heart Skips A Beat” (with Rizzle Kicks) and “Dance With Me Tonight” which just missed out on the top spot. We caught up with the double platinum selling Essex lad to discuss his album hopes, single life and crazy fans.

Describe your music in five words
Feel good, cheeky, easy listening

What makes your heart skip a beat?
Seeing a hot girl naked. That makes my heart skip a beat.

For your new album you’ve co-written a lot of your tracks – how was that?
I wrote 10 of the 12 on the first album [the self titled “Olly Murs” released November last year] so that was already under my belt. It was great to get lyrics and stories down and find hits – and I’ve been lucky enough to find a few already on this second album.

How do you feel you’ve developed as an artist over the last year?
I’m just more experienced. Before I did The X Factor I had no experience at all so I’ve really learnt a lot over the last two years and really got to grips with the industry and what I want to do musically. With the writing sessions I got my head down and concentrated on what I want to do and have got my music going in the direction I want it to.

In terms of your career, will the music always come first or do you see yourself as a TV presenter now?
I’m an entertainer and a singer and that’s my main job. I’ve delved into new things – TV presenting – but music is what I want to be taken seriously for.

Did you have concerns that the TV presenting could detract from your music?
Definitely but I think the proof is in the pudding, really. I’ve had success with the singles from the second album and I’ve got to express my personality [on the show]. I think people are liking the show and liking me and hopefully they like the music. So it’s a good balance.

Caroline has been under personal attack – receiving death threats on twitter – from One Direction fans incensed by tabloid speculation that she is dating band member Harry Styles – but which member of One Direction are you dating?
[laughs] They are boys! I’m a woman’s man. I like women.

In seriousness though, how do you feel about Caroline receiving death threats? Are you protective of her?
Caroline is one of my best friends. I always say what goes on behind closed doors is her business and no one elses. We work very closely together and, you know, she’s had a tough time of it lately but obviously the papers will write what they want to write and people don’t know the full story but people tend to believe what they read in the papers.

According to the tabloids last week you have apparently been giving Harry advice on how to woo Caroline – do you want those death threats to be followed out so you can be the sole presenter of The Xtra Factor?
Not at all! Caroline and I get on really well and the show is going really well so it’s all great. Again, it’s a story that was pretty much put together. I said Harry was ping-ing me saying he really fancied Caroline and that was all, but they’ve made it out that I set the guys up which is a load of rubbish.

Have you had any crazy fan experiences?
I’ve had a car chase through Manchester where some fans were chasing me in a car when I was with my parents in a taxi and there was this one experience when a girl walked into my room as I opened it and she sat on my bed and I was like “what are you doing?” and she said that it was her room. But it clearly wasn’t because I’d just opened the door with my key. That was quite weird. But my fans are not that crazy. They are great.

Are you are still single?
Yes. But it’s fine. My career comes first and I’m not hooked up on getting a girlfriend at the moment and I’m happy with how things are going musically and on TV.

Would you want to date a fellow celebrity?
You never know. Obviously the benefits if you meet someone in this industry are that they know roughly what you’re going through and the pressures you go through. But if you meet someone not from the industry then there is a benefit there too as you can keep it much more private. There is a catch 22, really.

Who would you rather Snog, Marry or Avoid between your co-host Caroline and X Factor judges Kelly Rowland and Tulisa?
I would avoid Tulisa because of Dappy and Fazer – I’d be scared of them. I would marry Caroline because we get on so well and I would definitely snog Kelly.

With your duties as an Xtra Factor presenter and with promotional work with your album, are you finding any free time currently?
It is literally work every day – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d rather be busy than quiet. I’ve really worked hard this year from January and I have a busy 2012 lined up as well but I have a few weeks off coming up which will be nice as I’ve been working as hard as I can.

[Originally posted on, November 2011]

Friday, 25 November 2011

Seth Rogen

Comedian, actor, producer and director Seth Rogen got his first acting gig on the Judd Apatow produced TV show “Freaks and Geeks” back in the 90’s. Going on to star in many of Apatow’s feature films (middle aged chastity outing "The 40 Year Old Virgin" in 2005, pregnancy drama "Knocked Up" in 2007, and stand-up comedy centric "Funny People" in 2009) Rogen has a fair number of Hollywood comedies under his belt, as well as working on TV shows – including staff writing for Sacha Baron Cohen on "Da Ali G Show" when it was broadcast by HBO in the States. Forming a friendship with Ali G producer Will Reiser, Rogen stood by his friend as he suffered from a life threatening form of cancer and the pair have now worked together on comedy-drama, "50/50", about these experiences (played on screen by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam who fights the disease, and Rogen as Kyle – a finely veiled version of himself). We caught the Canadian funny man as he was on the promotion trail earlier this month to quiz him about comedy, cancer and his on-screen characters.

Cancer is not the most obvious vehicle for a comedy – so how do you make this subject funny?
I think you can’t make cancer funny and we didn’t want to make cancer funny. I think you can make people’s reactions to it funny and that’s what our experience was. I think if Will hadn’t got sick and we hadn’t all been there for it and we hadn’t seen first hand how absurd the stuff that surrounds something as tragic as cancer is then we wouldn’t have even thought to make this movie. But as we were experiencing it we couldn’t reference a movie that felt like what we were going through so it was more like let’s just not be afraid to be funny in telling this cancer story. It always seems other movies that have talked the subject always seem to suck the humour out of them. We’re embracing the fact that funny shit happens sometimes.

Was it difficult to find a balance between the funny side and the tragic side?
Not really. When I think of the challenges that went into making this movie, it was more just making sure it was all good and honest and with real feeling. I was never worried for Will and if it was going to be weird to transition from the humour to the serious stuff. This isn’t the kind of film you can pitch, really [to film studios]. But we knew it was smart to make it cheaply as it’s the type of movie that if you do it right it will make enough money to make sense for [the studio] making it. Plus it was really well written. Even thought we improvised a lot – it started out as a really good script so that was really helpful.

The type of cancer in the film –

Yes! One of the other characters is like “I didn’t even know that existed” and I was sitting in the theatre thinking “I didn’t know either” and instantly started freaking out. Is 50/50 a film for hypochondriacs to watch?
[Laughs] Probably because he lives in the end so it’s inspirational! It’s a lot better than most cancer movies!

As this film is based on you and your friends experiences of dealing with his diagnosis and treatment. is your character, Kyle, based on yourself?
I think our dynamic is pretty representative of what our real dynamic was like. He was neurotic and complained a lot and I was an asshole and made fun of him. But, I mean, when I watch it I don’t feel like I’m watching myself. It’s more a representation. For example, we would joke about him using [the disease] to get girls but we never actually did it. And I would make light of it but never as insensitively as in the movie.

For the most part, the roles that you take on are always pretty good guys who seem like they’d make a good friend – are you a good friend to have in real life?
To some people. Maybe not all. It depends on who you ask. What’s interesting about [living in Hollywood - where Rogen has lived for 13 years] is that it’s a city entirely populated by people with similar interests so that kind of makes it easy to make friends because no matter who you speak to, odds are they like movies and television. I’m still friends with the same people I first was friends with when I came here. I definitely got lucky and was working with a group of people who were nice and talented and got on well. But I don’t think it’s any more difficult to make friends in LA than any other city in the world.

Yeah. In London it can be quite tough.
What? There’s pubs everywhere! How can you not?

Well that’s my problem. I get so wasted I don’t remember meeting people.

So you made a lot of friends working on Da Ali G Show – is it true that is also where you met your wife [actress/producer Lauren Miller]?
No, actually. Will introduced me to my wife – while he was sick – at a bar. We were kind of set up a little. He invited us both and we met.

And you were recently wed – how is married life going? Is the promotional trail part of your honeymoon?
Exactly! It’s going great! She’s in Los Angeles, I’m in London! [Laughs] We’ve been together a really long time. It’s not one of those rushed into situations. We’ve been together six and a half years and it’s really fun to get married and no one tells you that. With all the stuff you associate with getting married no one tells you that your own wedding is really fun. It’s the one time you get to have a huge party and only have people there that you actually like and from all over the country or the world. I have a lot of friends back home in Vancouver and I have friends in LA so it’s very rare all those people are in the same place. I had more fun at my wedding then any other wedding I’ve been to.

[Originally published on, November 2011]

Monday, 21 November 2011


The atmospheric sounds of Berkshire band Worship have already garnered attention and praise from national press and Radio 1 – even though they have only released their debut single today. The fourpiece – consisting of Tim Alexander (vocals), James Johnson (guitar), Tom Mayo (drums) and Jordan Fish (bass) – have created a tapestry of moody, haunting and somber tunes that will make the perfect soundtrack to the bleaker moments of winter. We talk to Jordan of the band to find out his inspirations when writing the music and what he enjoys about playing live.

Describe your music in five words
Not right for Children’s Parties

What is your earliest memory of music?
My earliest memory of playing music was my primary school Brass band when I was about 9 years old. It was my first experience of performing and I managed to keep it up for a few years before the attraction of being in a rock band took over. The first music I listened to was a bit of a mix, my cousin got me into terrible rap music and my friends at school were listening to metal so I had eclectic but awful taste as a youngster.

How was the band formed?
Three of us are from a town called Newbury and during our teenage years we had quite a strong music scene, we were all playing in each others bands and swapping members so I knew the other guys from that time. I ended up producing music and a couple of years ago I did some work with Tim and James. We thought we could probably do something better together so we ended up writing a few songs which we put online. We met Tom earlier this year through a mutual friend and he instantly moved things forward.

What are the inspirations behind your music?
Generally with a piece of music I’ll set out to try and combine something electronic with something else acoustic in an interesting way. I listen to a lot of electronic music so that is probably a big influence on how I write; lots of loops, samples and gradual variation. Trying to push that into the mould of a conventional ‘band’ is sometimes fun and sometimes horribly frustrating but I think the process is what makes us sound unique. Lyrically Tim tends to spend a lot of time looking for an interesting starting point, either an unusual set of words or an unusual idea and then develop that idea into some kind of narrative. A few of our songs have been about real events or stories, although you might find it hard to pick that out.

Who are your biggest inspirations, musically?
We’re all big fans of Radiohead, Mew, Interpol, but we’re also into some less band-orientated stuff; Four Tet, Autechre, Bibio, Lorn, Bonobo.

Who or what do you worship?
None of us are religious but in life I suppose we’re guilty of worshipping the things that most other people worship – success and alcohol.

Your debut single is called “House of Glass” – as we all know, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. What is the most hypocritical thing this band has ever done?
That’s a tricky one, we’re not overtly political so I don’t know if we’ve done or said anything particularly hypocritical as of yet.

You’ve supported Dry The River and Everything Everything on tour – what was it like being on the road with these other bands?
Pete and Will from DTR were both around and in bands with us when we were growing up so they’re old friends. The tour was a great opportunity to play some good venues and hang out with them again, so for us it was great. The tour ended at [London night club/ music venue] Scala, it’s a venue I’ve always wanted to play so it was great to be playing with friends somewhere like that. Everything Everything was actually only one show but we really enjoyed it, we share the same management and we were big fans of them before we hooked up. They’ve been really supportive.

What was the wildest thing that happened on tour?
Actually we’re recovering from the last night of our tour with [US band] The Antlers right now, We ended up squeezing 10 people into our tiny van: two [Scottish indie band] Frightened Rabbits, four Antlers and the four of us. I also had my first experience of ‘Buckfast’… it’s a revolting Scottish drink that you should never try.

You’re performing live on December 1st – what has been your best gig to date?
For me personally it was last week supporting Primal Scream at the Electric in Brixton. The PA is ridiculous and the crowd was full of competition winners so the atmosphere was great. I’m really looking forward to the Dec 1st gig, it’s the first event we’ve put on ourselves so it’s great to be able to pick the venue, the lights, and everything.

What do you enjoy about playing live?
It’s mostly about the sound; I enjoy hearing our music as loud as possible! We’re still mostly playing to other people’s crowds as support so it’s satisfying to go out knowing that no-one knows who you are and then feel like you’ve won them over by the end of the set.

[Originally published on, November 2011]

Monday, 14 November 2011

James D'Arcy

Heavy clouds hang low in the gray sky on a typically leaden afternoon in the East End of London, where sheets of cutting rain lash down on the neighborhood’s near-empty streets. Despite being well past noon, it is ominously dark outside. But inside the airy photo studio where James D'Arcy finds himself, the 36-year-old British actor wishes it weren’t so bright. “I’m blind!” he screams, while the popping flashbulbs burn rings of light into his retina. “My sight—it will come back, won’t it?” he says, blinking furiously. His publicist appears nonplussed, as if to suggest he’d better get used to the glare.
D’Arcy’s latest film, the period drama W.E., premiered earlier this year at the Venice Film Festival. Of the experience, he says, “I thought I might cry because of the outpouring of emotion from everyone who came to support the film.” Photographers and fans of Madonna, the movie’s director and cowriter with Alek Keshishian, crowded the entrance to the theater where W.E. was being shown, shouting with adoration for the grand dame of power-pop. Back at the studio, dressed casually in a maroon sweater and a pair of jeans, D’Arcy says, “You couldn’t help but love being there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Everyone was saying they’d never seen anything like it. When we finally got into the cinema, someone said, 'George Clooney was here last night and he got about a quarter of that.’”
In W.E., D’Arcy plays King Edward VIII, the controversial ruler who abdicated the royal throne in 1936 to marry his American lover, an upper-crust divorcĂ©e named Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough). The film shifts back and forth between London in the ’30s and modern-day New York, where a despairing single woman, heavy-handedly named Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish), pores over the details of what she considers to be the greatest love story ever told. As with most envied affairs, however, Edward and Wallis harbor secret moments of heartbreak and apathy.
D’Arcy insists that his own life is far less spotty. “Secrecy and gossip just don’t factor into my way of thinking,” he says. At the mention of the recent scandal involving Rupert Murdoch's News Of The World, which the media tycoon killed earlier this year following the admission that many of British tabloid’s stories had been sourced through illegal phone-tapping techniques, he says, “People would be so bored if they listened to my voicemail. I’ve just never cared to live in a secretive world.”
D’Arcy was born in Fulham, an affluent part of southwest London, where he and his younger sister were raised by their mother Caroline, a nurse. (His father passed away when he was still a young boy.) After graduating from boarding school in the Sussex countryside, D’Arcy spent a year in Australia, where he worked in the Drama department of a school in Perth. He returned to the UK to enroll in the acting program at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 1995, after which he quickly started landing small roles on British television series. He then moved on to larger parts in sprawling literary adaptations (Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Charles Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby). Despite his already scroll-like resume, W.E. is the biggest opportunity of his career, and he’s already garnering early buzz for his superb performance as Madonna’s fallen king.
With the magnitude of pure hysteria constantly being directed at W.E.’s mega-famous filmmaker, it would be only natural for D’Arcy to worry that her stardom might overshadow the project—but he seems confident. “I don’t think it’s like that,” D’Arcy says. “When I first saw the movie, her name didn’t even appear until the end credits, which is when it really sunk in: Oh, right! It was directed by Madonna. I think she’s done a phenomenal job. She’s been famous for an incredibly long time, but she continues to stick her neck above the parapet by getting involved in these artistic endeavors. She strives to keep evolving and I think that’s deeply admirable. But, yes, it’s tricky with celebrities because people often have very strong opinions about them, and so they bring a lot of baggage to whatever it is they’re doing. I’ve worked with lots of different directors but this is the first time one has been a gazillion miles more famous than any of the actors in the film.”
It’s interesting that D’Arcy chooses the word “celebrity” to describe his director, as if to suggest it doesn’t also apply to him. Maybe it doesn’t. The life of a superstar—with the exception of the odd red carpet dalliance—doesn’t much appeal to him. He’d rather work with quality filmmakers who challenge him to improve his craft than get noticed by strangers at the supermarket. When I ask the private actor if he lives in London, he responds with a simple “yes.” When I then ask if he’s on either the east or west side of the city, he says, “I live in London.” Smiling coyly, he then adds, “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you my secrets; it’s that I actually can’t tell you them, because in telling you, they would no longer be secrets, would they?”
Tomorrow he’ll join Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Susan Sarandon on the highly anticipated production of Cloud Atlas, which is being co-directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, who also adapted the screenplay from David Mitchell's era-traversing novel. “It’s the best script I’ve ever read,” D’Arcy gushes. “It’s phenomenal.” Before Cloud Atlas, he filmed The Philosophers, also a drama with intimations of the Rapture, in Indonesia. At the mention of that film, his face lights up. “I’ve got it! I’ve got a secret for you!” he says. “There is a series of islands in Indonesia that nobody—not even Indonesians—knows about. We shot there for a week and it was beautiful: white sand, turquoise ocean, total isolation. So there, I’ve just revealed to you where the last remaining undiscovered location on the planet is.” Our lips are sealed. “Yeah, sure. There will be a Starbucks there the next time I go.”

[Originally published in Bullett Magazine, November 2011. Photography, Tom Beard]

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Ashley Benson

For 21-year-old Ashley Benson, playing the role of Hanna Marin in teen drama, Pretty Little Liars, is a true fantasy. For a start, though her character is a member of the most popular clique in Pretty Little Liars’ Rosewood High, she never even went to high school. “I’ve never been to a prom or a dance” the actress laments. “So it’s funny because we have dances on the show and I’ll be like ‘Oh yay! It’s my school dance!’” she laughs.
But then Rosewood is far from your normal high school. Since queen bee Alison DiLaurentis (played by Sasha Pieterse in flashbacks) turned up dead at the beginning of season one, Hanna and friends have been stalked by a mysterious character, known only as “A”, who threatens to unveil each of their darkest secrets. The circumstances surrounding Alison’s death are still unresolved (the show is now in it’s second season) but Benson is certain Alison is no more. Well, almost.
“She’s dead,” she says confidently before pausing to think, “but there could very much be a possibility that she is alive,” she continues, followed by a further pause. “We have no idea what is going on!” she finally confesses, revealing that the cast are just as in the dark as the audience about the show’s central mystery. The only thing that she is certain of is that school really isn’t for her: “I can’t sit still for long because I have so much energy, my attention goes elsewhere.” Fortunately, then, early modelling, commercials and bit parts lead to a long-term role for Benson in legendary soap opera Days Of Our Lives when she was 13, and a teen-hood of home schooling. Upon realising acting was all she wanted to do, she decided to pursue showbiz full-time at junior high age, and hasn’t looked back. “I was always a performer. Always singing and dancing,” she recalls of her childhood, “I would memorise every line from a movie and then watch them with my family and be saying all the lines and they would be like ‘Ashley! Stop! We’re trying to watch!’ But I loved it. Growing up I wanted to be like Hilary Duff and be on a show. She was a main inspiration. And now I’m on a TV show,” she beams, proving that it is possible to achieve those childhood dreams. And best of all? In a case of fantasy and reality overlapping, Benson’s character in Pretty Little Liars has evolved to be more like her, making it even easier for her to relate. “At first she was really stuffy and kind of bitchy,” she says of her character, “but a lot of my personality has gone into her so she’s really funny and sarcastic and more down to earth. It’s fun to play her.”

[Originally published in Wonderland Magazine Issue 28, November 2011. Photography Danielle Levitt]

Drew Roy

“Any scene in which you see anybody sweating is for real,” explains 25-year-old Drew Roy, whose latest claim to fame is his role in the sci-fi series Falling Skies, produced by Steven Spielberg. The show follows a group of humans fighting for survival after an alien invasion, and Roy (who plays Hal Mason, a fearless scout for the human resistance) is keen to make the scenes in which he is physically exhausted as realistic as possible. “We were shooting in Toronto in the summer and it was ridiculously hot and we were all dressed like it was fall. So we had three layers on, a jacket, and were running for our lives. Noah [Wyle, who plays his on-screen father Tom] laughs at me because I do a couple of laps before I jump into a scene to get me out of breath. I love the physical aspect of it.”
Although the sweat and exhaustion of the alien invasion show are real, the killer robots and demonic extra terrestrials thankfully are not. “It’s CGI,” Roy assures, “so mostly it’s me hiding down behind a burnt-out car looking at a guy holding a long metal rod with a spear on top and I have to look really terrified.”
Having moved from his home in Alabama to find a faster life in Atlanta, Roy came into acting apparently on a whim after taking some out-of-the-blue advice from an LA-based talent manager to give Hollywood a try. Fate, seemingly, is on his side: in the seven years since his arrival in Los Angeles, Roy has already worked with Miley Cyrus, in the astronomically successful Hannah Montana (playing Miley’s on-screen boyfriend, Jesse), and has done a great job of chatting up Spielberg himself, on the set of Falling Skies. “It was a surreal experience,” he says of the moment the director came over to strike up conversation, “we talked about this and that and the dirt bike I ride on the show. And then he wanted to talk about Miley because he’d just got into the show – I think with one of his grandchildren – and he’s fascinated by how high pitched little girls can scream when she walks on a stage.”
Would Roy ever want to experience such a level of fame himself?
“Heck no!” he replies, “You can’t make enough money to buy your life back, in my opinion. I look at those Twilight guys and think, ‘I would not want that’. You don’t have your life anymore. I admire the guys who constantly work and if you saw them on the street you might not know their name but you admire their work – that’s what I’d like to do.” If his success so far is any indication, anonymity might not be something Roy can hold on to for too long but he is ready to take whatever the future holds. “I’d say I’m in a good place right now. I get recognised on the streets but it’s like a compliment. I got a long way to go before it becomes a nuisance.”

[Originally published in Wonderland Magazine Issue 28, November 2011. Photography Danielle Levitt]

Tyler Posey

“I was screaming a lot yesterday so I might not have the most amazing interview voice,” says a rather husky sounding Tyler Posey, lead star of MTV’s surprise hit show, Teen Wolf. Having taken the 80s film classic and reinvented it as a weekly platform for today’s Twi-hard viewing public, the show surpassed expectations when it debuted earlier this year. In fact it was so popular that a second season was commissioned before the first had even wrapped. However, it is not howling at the moon that has over exerted the 20-year-old actors lungs but the thrill ride of rollercoasters at the Universal Studios amusement park. “I was bored and went with a couple of friends and had a lot of fun,” he explains, “the first thing we did when we got there was go into a pretty scary haunted house which takes 20 minutes to walk through. At the very end we got separated from one of our friends and got freaked out because we didn’t know where he was,” he continues, sounding panicked by the memory. But surely it must take a lot to startle a young man working on a supernatural show like Teen Wolf? “It’s all lies!” he laughs. “I am scared of everything. There were werewolves inside the maze and I thought I could have something in common with them but they still tried to eat me.”
Having survived the ordeal, Posey is finding ways of keeping busy during the show’s summer hiatus before the filming of season two begins in the latter half of November. Whilst a real life werewolf might struggle to cope with spontaneously emerging fur, Posey has recently opted to experiment with his own body hair by growing his first ever mustache. “I’ve been able to grow one ever since I was a young teenager but this time I tried to grow one for real,” he explains. However, the end result was not as dashing as he might have anticipated, with online commenters swiftly noting his resemblance to Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya in Rob Reiner’s 1987 classic, The Princess Bride. “It looked really bad,” he concedes with a laugh, “but I was very proud of it.”
Having begun acting at a young age, one of Posey’s earliest roles was Jennifer Lopez’s son in the 2001 romantic comedy, Maid in Manhattan. Like the famous Latina, Posey is also trying to find a balance between the world of acting and the world of music, with his as-yet-unsigned band, Lost In Kostko. “We played this show on Sunday night and it was like being Justin Bieber or something,” he recounts excitedly, “the curtain went up and there were screaming girls and flashes of cameras and posters saying my name – it was surreal. The part I loved the most was that they were singing our lyrics back to us and that was the first time that’s ever happened. I can’t even describe to you how that feels.” But all those Teen Wolf fans worried he might be about to cancel his acting plans, need fear not. Lost In Kostko is only a side project, for now. “It’s a punk rock band so I don’t really need to know how to sing. I can definitely act, but the singing: I’m still working on.”

[Originally published in Wonderland Magazine Issue 28, November 2011. Photography Danielle Levitt.]

Steven R McQueen

It was in 1897 that Bram Stoker created the most legendary figure in vampire lore: Count Dracula. Ever since, undead bloodsuckers have cropped up with ferocious regularity in pop culture but these days it seems like they’re particularly at home on our TV screens, with current prime time hits ranging from sexy, salacious HBO thriller True Blood through to the more PG-13 smash, The Vampire Diaries.
“I think there has always been some sort of appeal in vampires because they would be the one predator above us on the food chain,” theorises 23-year-old Steven R. McQueen, grandson of iconic film star, Steve McQueen, “I think before, they were monsters to be feared, but now they are more relatable to a teenager’s life style. Except they eat people.”
In the first two seasons of the show, McQueen’s character, Jeremy Gilbert, found himself on a dark path involving hard drugs, following the deaths of people he cared about, only to die at the end of season two. Luckily he was resurrected in time for season three, with a side effect of his second chance at life being the ability to see dead people. Supernatural elements aside, does McQueen have any similarities to his own character?
“I hope not,” he laughs, “Jeremy’s been through more stuff than anybody should do, and of course when you portray someone, you try to connect certain things with yourself but it’s tough because he’s a bit darker than most.” However, McQueen finds his vocation a great way to channel his creative needs, “We’re playing make-believe at the end of the day and I do believe that our greatest tool is our imagination. In a sense, the work is therapeutic as I can go through things day to day and I find it to be a great outlet.” First experiencing acting in third grade, McQueen didn’t tackle acting full time until the mid-noughties, when he began to appear in shows such as CSI: Miami and Without A Trace, before landing the role of Jeremy in 2009. (He also had a leading role in last year’s blockbuster B-movie, Piranha 3D). Despite being in a show that involves “vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein – you name it!” McQueen’s own curiosities are much more down to earth (he would rather lose himself in history than fiction). However, he does have a childhood fantasy he still likes to indulge. “I read lots of comics growing up,” he says. “A lot of Marvel and DC. Batman, though, is my favourite because he doesn’t have any super powers.” Much like his on-screen persona, a human character that has real problems to deal with. Could Jeremy be an extension of The Dark Knight himself? “I guess so,” he supposes. “I won’t disagree with you.”
Having admitted that he doesn’t have a compelling interest in fictional beings, can McQueen tackle another fantasy: who would be his dream date? “Scarlett Johansson,” he says, quick as a flash. And what would they do? “Whatever she wants,” he grins.

[Originally published in Wonderland Magazine Issue 28, November 2011. Photography Danielle Levitt]

Monday, 7 November 2011

Pixie Lott

20-year-old Pixie Lott is something of a triple threat having released music (her debut album “Turn It Up” sold in excess of one million copies), starred in a feature film (Fred: The Movie) and designing clothes for Lipsy (now in her second year with the fourth collection out now for Christmas). Returning to the charts earlier this year with number one hit “All About Tonight”, today Lott releases the second single, “What Do You Take Me For” ahead of her second album “Young Foolish Happy”. We ask her about her album’s new sound, her musical collaborations and fall foul of the ultimate spanner in journalistic research – Wikipedia.

Describe your music in five words;
Soulful, fresh, fun, emotional, mature

How Young were you when you first kissed someone?
Maybe 12? We used to go to these under 18 nights which were called Capital VIP and they were all over the place at different venues and I used to love them. There would be loads of under 18s and you would meet each other and kissed. So my first kiss was with one of those Capital VIP boys.

What’s the most Foolish thing you’ve done?
I went on holiday this year with two of my best friends to Greece and one night I tattooed someone’s leg – and it was a permanent tattoo. It actually went really well. I wrote my name. Maybe not so foolish for me but maybe for him.

What makes you Happy?
Lot’s of things. My friends and family, laughing, going on holiday, being on stage, performing, Christmas, sunshine – everything.

Your new album is called Young Foolish Happy and features a number of collaborations – Pusha T (What Do You Take Me For), Marty James (Dancing On My Own), Tinchy Stryder (Bright Lights (Good Life) Part II), John Legend (You Win) and Stevie Wonder (Stevie On The Radio) – that is an amazing mix of people!
It is quite random, but it is amazing. Stevie Wonder is my all time favourite so that was incredible just to meet him so I was really happy. We have a feel good kind of throwback track and he plays harmonica which all happened through a mutual friend – the same with John Legend, really. Marty is an American artist and I wrote and recorded a track with him and Tinchy has a song on his album which I sang on which I really liked and then I wrote my own versus and a chorus and put that on my album.

You’re new single – with Pusha T – is called “What Do You Take Me For” and there is a bit of product placement in the video – a Citron – did you get a free car?
[laughs] No. I can’t actually drive. My new year’s resolution was to pass my test – [sarcastically] it’s going really well– I want to try and do it before the year is out. The Citron has also made an appearance in my Broken Arrow video from last year. I have a love for Citrons.

What is going on with your acting career?
I was in Fred [The Movie] last year, which is family viewing –

And you’re doing something else now, right?

What? But Wikipedia says you’re in a film.
Does it say “Baby Jesus”?

Yeah. I’ve been asked about this in loads of interviews but I actually have nothing to do with it. We were in talks with the people but that was it and I don’t think the film is even happening. But the news got out, but I don’t have any info on it.

You were a guest judge on The X Factor last summer, were you considered for the panel of this years’ show?
I don’t think so – at least I wasn’t asked – but I think the panel is really good and it’s spiced the show up a bit and I think it’s very entertaining. As for the contestants, I think Craig is really good and I think Mischa is great – I watched her Rolling in The Deep on YouTube and it’s fantastic. And I liked Johnny! He was so funny.

Which other musicians do you admire?
I went to see Rihanna at the O2 and she was really amazing. I don’t know how she does it! She was out the night before and I was thinking “if I did that, I couldn’t get on stage!” and when she sang “Cheers” she said “cheers and did a shot” and again I was like “if I did that I wouldn’t be able to hit my notes!” She is impressive.

[Originally published on]