The Time Lord of TV
Actor Frazer Hines, who takes the stage this week in Annie as President Roosevelt, has enjoyed a busy career now entering its sixth decade.
His first appearance in a film called King of New York was with a leading man whose name tends to halt dinner conversation, even among the most seasoned thespians: "Someone was talking about acting with Laurence Olivier, and I replied: "Well, as I said to Charlie Chaplin ... ", and the knives and forks stopped. I'm probably one of the few actors still alive who worked with Charlie Chaplin." A mere 10 years old when he appeared with the silent screen legend, Hines is now a sprightly 69.
Moving from his native Yorkshire to London, he enrolled in drama school at a very young age. "My parents paid my first year's fees and then, after that, I paid my own because I never stopped working. I was one of those lucky ones, I did many movies when I was a kid [including X the Unknown, one of the first Hammer Horrors], and then I went to television, and Doctor Who got me started".
Hines describes his three years in the Tardis time machine with second Doctor Who and prolific character actor Patrick Troughton as the happiest years of his life; possibly why he still holds the official Guinness record as the longest-serving Who companion.
Appearing as Jamie McCrimmon, a young Highland survivor of the Battle of Culloden in Scotland, Hines' contract was continually renewed. The character even proved popular enough to be called back to guest star in Doctor Who 20 years after his original appearance.
"I was having a ball with Patrick Troughton and I didn't want to stop. But we were getting 'ear ache': me from my agent, and he from his wife, to do other things. I always say that, if we hadn't had those two women nagging us ,you would never have heard of David Tennant – because we'd still be in the Tardis."
But television longevity awaited Hines as he joined the cast of a small rural-based drama at Yorkshire Television. This programme, Emmerdale, endured to become Britain's second longest-running soap, and, like Doctor Who, is still around today.
But, he asserts, he wasn't looking for another record-breaking role: "It was originally just 12 episodes and then we were told that we're going to do another 12 ... then another 26. I was a jobbing actor and it was just another job. We go where the work is – and for me it was going back to my beloved Yorkshire."
Doctor Who may have had an infamously punishing shooting schedule in the 1960s (which is how Hines crammed so many episodes into those three years) but he claims Emmerdale (then called Emmerdale Farm) was where the real hard work lay.
"You'd turn up for work having learned your lines, but then you'd have to adapt your performance to sheep shearing, or milking cows or dipping sheep – so that was hard work." The programme never interfered with the routine of the real farm where it was filmed, so Hines could find himself doing anything from shearing to driving a combine harvester at a moment's notice.
His close contact with animals continued off-screen, as well. "I used to race quite a lot as an amateur jockey when I was in . I rode a couple of winners, and I loved the camaraderie, sharing a sauna afterwards with jockeys like Lester Piggott. When I retired [from racing], I bred from one of my mares and had a stud farm. I still have a breeders club and we had a little foal born the other day."
Hines stayed with until 1994, and has since toured one-man shows about his life and career, and written a couple of books. "One's called Hines Sight, that's my autobiography, and someone said: 'You have so many good photographs in there, you should tell your life story in picture form.' So the second book is called 50 Shades of Frazer, with photographs of old TV shows I did, and people I worked with."
Last year, happy memories of his first visit to New Zealand led to an initially reluctant Hines signing on with the musical Annie as President Theodore Roosevelt.
"I said: '[Roosevelt] doesn't come on until about act two, how long are you touring?' And the producer told me only about eight weeks. All those lines for eight weeks?
"Then he said 'it's in New Zealand' and I said: 'Where do I sign?"'
Hines is looking forward to his visit and appearing at the coming Armageddon Pop Culture Expo to talk about his time in the Tardis. He credits a long and happy career to this one role especially: "It's amazing. I'm very fortunate to have starred in two of the longest running TV shows in England. I would never want to forget or hide Doctor Who in particular, because it's given me a good living. I'm coming to New Zealand: a job I did 40 years ago has let me see all over the world."
ANNIE THE CAST
Three Kiwi girls will play the role of Annie – Zoe Fifield (13), Ilena Shadbolt (12) and Amelia Walshe (11). They'll work with British acting veterans and an Australian.
Su Pollard (Miss Hannigan)
Su Pollard made her television debut on talent show Opportunity Knocks, where she came second to a singing jack russell dog. She's best known for her role as Peggy in the Bafta Award-winning sitcom Hi-de-Hi! which ran for eight years. She has also appeared on many programmes and was honoured to be the subject of This Is Your Life.
Pollard has also performed in many West End shows, including Godspell, Me and My Girl, Don't Dress for Dinner, Menopause the Musical and Shout!, and toured in many shows including Grease and Little Shop of Horrors.
David McAlister (Oliver Warbucks)
David McAlister's diverse career includes opera at Covent Garden (Franco Zefferelli's Pagliacci) to films (Who Dares Wins, Princess Daisy) and television comedy (Harry Enfield & Chums).
He's had roles in television's Brideshead Revisited, Doctor Who, Lovejoy, Eastenders and The Bill.
His West End credits include the lead in The Mousetrap and parts in The Sound of Music and playing composer Kurt Weill in Ken Russell's Weill & Lenya.
Mig Ayesa (Rooster)
Mig Ayesa was last seen in New Zealand playing the lead role of Galileo in We Will Rock You. He started his professional career playing Ritchie Valens in the Australian tour of Buddy. His Australian television roles include series The Ferals.
Sue Hodge (Mrs Pugh)
Sue Hodge is is best known for her role as cheeky waitress Mimi Labonq in the hit sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!. Her diversity ranges from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream to The Rocky Horror Show and Jesus Christ Superstar. Hodge has been appearing regularly in pantomimes since 15, and can be heard as the voice of many obscure characters for Jim Henson Productions, creators of The Muppets.
John D Collins (Drake)
John D Collins is also best known for 'Allo 'Allo! in which he played Flight Lieutenant Fairfax, a stranded British airman in occupied France. For 10 years he worked with Spike Milligan as his assistant director and as an actor, in Son of Oblomov and The Bed-Sitting Room. He also appeared with Milligan in his Q series.
He has been regular cast member of two television series – A Family at War and Get Some In!
Annie opens at St James's Theatre in Wellington on Friday and runs until June 8. Frazer Hines is also a guest at the Armageddon Expo, Westpac Stadium, May 31-June 2.
The Dominion Post