May 31, 2010

Interview With Jonny Owen - Star of 'A Bit of Tom Jones'

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actor jonny owen star of A Bit of Tom Jones
Ceri: How did you get into acting and theater?

Jonny: Basically I was in a band in the mid 90's called The Pocket Devils. We became quite well known on the live circuit especially in Wales where we did quite a bit of TV. There was a drama series starting in my home town of Merthyr Tydfil called 'Nuts and Bolts'. The casting director at ITV Wales had seen me in this band and approached me about auditioning for a part in the series (the Character was called 'Richey' and in a band you see?). Anyway many weeks and screen tests later I got the part. From there I got an agent and parts in other series. So, you could say there was a bit of luck! Ha.


Ceri: You won a BAFTA Cymru, Gwyn Alf Williams Award in 2006 for your part in the making of documentary "The Aberfan Disaster". Care to tell us a bit about that experience?

Jonny: Yes of course. The town where I come from, Merthyr Tydfil, has a small mining village just outside where tragically a Coal Tip fell onto the Primary School and surrounding streets in 1966. The 'disaster' was seen by millions world wide as over a hundred school children and local people were killed. My Father worked at one of the local Mines at the time and was one of the first on the scene to help with the rescue and clear up. Forty years later I was working at ITV Wales as an Assistant Producer in the Factual dept as well as acting. They said they were doing a documentary in conjunction with S4C and SKY about the disaster. They asked would I like to work on the program. Now being from Merthyr I was acutely aware of how sensitive the subject was and how poorly the people had been treated by the Coal Board and Government after the disaster so I said that I would only be involved if we could tell the truth about how appalling the disaster was for the people of the village both during and after. They not only agreed but wanted to go down that path too. So we did just that. We were pretty scathing of the Govt of the time but felt justified when the people of the village thanked us afterwards for telling the real story. That meant more than anything. That year it seemed Bafta Cymru also agreed and gave us the special 'Gwyn Alf Williams' award for program of Historical significance.

Ceri: You've starred in a number of critically acclaimed films. Care to tell us a little about your roles in two of them:- "Little White Lies" and "Good Arrows"?

Jonny: Little White Lies was about a family torn apart by racism. There is a lot of tension in the UK about immigration. Wrongly people seem to think it's a threat. The truth of the matter is that the UK would pretty much stop functioning without the work done by people from across the UK. LWL tells the dark tale of a Welsh lad who gets into right wing politics with tragic results. It was a difficult role to play but also important and the film carried a good anti racist message.

Good Arrows was about a Darts player who has fallen on hard times. He also finds out his wife has been financially bleeding him dry. It's a comedy but also is a sad story about people's obsession with celebrity.

Ceri: How did you come to be involved in A Bit of Tom Jones? What do you think about the final film?

Jonny: I was cast by the Director/Writer Peter Watkins Hughes. Years ago (On Nuts and Bolts) he told me Roger (my co star) that he would write a film for us one day..and he was as good as his word. It was as simple as that really. I think it's what it is. Just a funny film. A bit like a cross between Monty Python and the Carry on films in the UK. I just thought it was gonna be another film that went to DVD I didn't expect it to become a Box Office smash in the UK and win a Bafta Cymru for best film. That's a nice bonus obviously!

Ceri: The response to the film has been very positive in Wales, how do you think it will do outside the country?

Jonny: I think it'll be cool. They love Python in the States and Japan and it's of that ilk. You know, you cant make things for people's taste, I don't think anyway. That way you just end up chasing your tail. I think you make what you think is funny and then if someone liked it then fantastic, but trying to second guess is pointless. It may need subtitles in the US for my accent mind..;-)

Ceri: You created and star in the internet series, "Svengali," which can be seen on youtube, what can you tell us about that? How did that come about and what are your plans for this?

Jonny: It was an idea between me, Dean Cavanagh and Phil John. We just wanted to do something based on the music industry where (we believe) there is a lot of room for comedy, after all it's the only industry where bad behaviour is encouraged, and that's ripe for parody. We filmed some short Ep's and put them on the net and people loved it. We've been approached by some TV Production companies and Broadcasters who are interested but at the moment we are gonna keep making them as they are as we have complete control, which is great. The main character is Dixie and is based loosely on the manager of my old band The Pocket Devils. I also want to bring in his American partner Bobby Poe who I want Jack Black to play. I must get him the Ep's actually..

Ceri: What's next for your professionally?

Jonny: A follow up to A bit of Tom Jones called Wales v's Uranus. We are pretty fed up that only the Americans get to take on Alien Invasions so we fancy having a pop ourselves...;-) Filming later this year. I'm back on Shameless for Channel 4 again this summer.

Ceri: On your MySpace page, you cite the following quote from Aneurin Bevan as your inspiration:- "You know what happens to people who stand in the middle of the road don't you? They get knocked down....". Is it the quotation or the man himself that inspires you?

Jonny: Yes but more Nye himself really. Astonishing man who left an incedible legacy. We are very proud of our universal health care system in the UK, the fact that treats you equally, whether you are rich or poor. Nye was the founder of this and Welsh too. He was voted 'The Greatest' ever Welshman in newspaper polls in 2000. I have to say I agree with that too!

Ceri: You are known to be a big Cardiff city supporter? What did you think of their performance on Wednesday?

Jonny: It was a disapointing end to the season...but we have new backers now and I fancy we'll go that one better next year. It would be fantastic to get a Welsh club into the English Premiership as it has such a worldwide profile...I'm sure we will next year.

Ceri: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Jonny: Just to say 'Hi and Diolch for asking me to be interviewed. There'll always be a welcome in the 'Old Country' for you all and I'd love to drop by to see you all sometime soon.

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Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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