British actor Christian Cooke is learning to control his demons
Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on September 5, 2009
Geoff Shearer – CourierMail.com
YOU might not have heard the name, but rising UK actor Christian Cooke’s on-screen pedigree is impeccable.
In TV’s Demons he is the great-great-grandson of famed vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, while in cinemas next year he plays the son of English comedy royal Ricky Gervais.
The two widely different roles have one thing in common: they are making the brooding yet affable Cooke one serious name to watch.
When we chat to him it is the day after filming has wrapped on Cemetery Junction, Gervais’ new film set in the 1970s world of life insurance salesmen. He plays Freddie Taylor, son to Gervais’ character Len.
The film’s directors/writers Stephen Merchant and Gervais describe Cooke and fellow newcomer Tom Hughes as their “finds”.
“We wanted to do things like the films Rebel Without A Cause and Saturday Night Fever. Even though there were poverty and degradation, when you watched those movies you thought, ‘Wow! They’re cool’,” Gervais told The Sun in the UK.
He called Cooke Britain’s answer to John Travolta and Hughes the new James Dean.
Cooke, in return, is full of praise for Gervais and Merchant.
“They are just two very inspiring people because they know what they want; they’ve got a vision and they are very passionate about what they do,” he says from London during our phone link-up.
“Ricky’s great to work with. In my eyes, he’s a genius. So amazing at improvising and his acting is so natural, so instinctive, it just seems effortless.
“How he works is quite unique to himself. I don’t think I could ever be like that . . . he’s all about instinct, all about being naturalistic and just feeling his way through the words.
“Everything has to be very real to him. He has to say things that are real. He wrote the script but he wouldn’t be precious about the dialogue – he’d just say, ‘Okay that’s not coming out right, let’s change that or take that word out’. He’s just all about it being very natural.”
While it sounds like he’s learnt much from being on the Cemetery Junction set, Cooke believes the supernatural TV series Demons was his richest learning ground.
“It was really good for me; it was the first sort of lead role I’d played,” he says of the six-part series, which failed to be picked up for a second season.
“It was me on camera every day and nearly every scene. It was really intense.
“We shot for 74 days straight – intense and fun and I learnt loads, probably the most I’ve ever learnt on a job. It was very physical and energetic and we had some great actors in there as well.”
The co-stars included Philip Glenister (Life On Mars), Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Office) and Richard Wilson (One Foot In The Grave, Merlin).
“It’s great to work with people like that. They’ve been around for years,” Cooke says. “Richard was a massive theatre guy as well and it was great that the show attracted people like that. And there was Kevin McNally (Valkyrie, Pirates of the Caribbean) as well. I keep seeing him on stage in the West End. Hamlet recently, and Ivanov not so long ago.”
But Cooke is pretty much the star of Demons and steals most of the limelight in the first episode by walking around barechested. Cooke laughs richly then turns modest when we suggest – with apologies to Buffy fans – that he has won the label Buffed The Vampire Slayer.
“People seem to have picked up on that back in England as well,” he says.
“But it is just that first episode and, you know, I don’t know if it is a shame or a good thing that people pick up on that actually.
“If they don’t like the show they tend to use that (sexy side) against it; and if they do, then I guess that’s one of the things they like. So I don’t know.”
He laughs richly again.
“It was in the script, what can I say!”
It did at least garner him some fan mail, but still not as much as what he received for his small, two-episode role on Doctor Who last year as Ross Jenkins.
“It’s kind of strange because in my eyes I was in it (Doctor Who) for so little time, but it just has such a wide fanbase,” he says.
“People love it and still go crazy for it and I still get fan mail.”
The mail is expected to flow again when Cemetery Junction hits UK cinemas in about April next year. Gervais and Merchant are also considering a spin-off TV series, but Cooke says it is unsure at this stage where that would fit in the timeline of the film’s story.
“None of us are contracted to do it,” he says of the Cemetery cast.
“They didn’t get it in the same contract, but the feeling is we all had such a great time working on it with Ricky and Stephen that we’d jump (at it). Definitely, if I’m around and available, I’d love to do it.”
But at the moment Cooke has a more pressing engagement . . . in central Africa.
Next month he will be cycling through Malawi on a charity ride in aid of the British Urological Foundation.
“I’m cycling about 60 miles a day for eight days,” he says. “My girlfriend’s dad runs the Prostate Centre on Wimpole St in London and he’s chairman of Prostate UK, which I think is the second largest prostate cancer charity in Britain.
“Every year they do events to raise money and so I just thought I’d get involved. It is a great cause and it would be a great opportunity to see Africa.”
The only problem is he’s not a cyclist.
“I don’t even own a bike,” he gasps. “Oh well, why not. I’ll get fit. It will be great.”