This time we have another very busy, and well travelled Support Artist by the name of Graham J. Burton, whom we have managed to pin down long enough for a little chat.
Hi Graham, thank you so much for speaking with us. You have a name I am not likely to forget as I have a son with the same one, spelled the same too. Can you give us the story of how you got started in this business?
As is the case with several other SA's my window into the world of TV background filming was as a result of my involvement with amateur dramatics. As a teenager in the late 80s I filled my social time for a few years with a brilliant group of people - Bel Canto Theatre Group from my home town of Accrington in Lancashire.... and then moving onto the fantastic ArtCo (Amalgamated Regional Theatre Company). We had very very successful productions of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Little Me, Fiddler on the Roof - and in only my 2nd ever musical I was chosen as male lead in Brigadoon. I may still be the youngest Tommy Albright in the history of that show!! Plus, as one of the 2 American chaps in the show, I was so grateful to avoid having to perform a Scottish accent! :-)
I can imagine! So how did you break into something that you actually got paid for?
A friend in Brigadoon told me tales of being an extra in such wonderous productions as Corrie, Emmerdale, Brookside etc and happily supplied me with an agents number...
I've never forgotten that, and to this day I will happily give out agency numbers to help anyone who asks me... It can be a competitive business, even in the world of 'extras', but I always believe in doing what I can to assist people I consider friends/colleagues and give them a push in the right direction.
And did it take long after that to get started?
Not really, 1989 was my first ever day filming. It was for Brookside which is not actually filmed in Chester, but in the Childwall district of Liverpool. A very cold day on location on a shopping parade. But of course I didn't mind as I was buzzing simply being there!
My 2nd ever job was more interesting as a story... I filmed several scenes for the Krypton Factor. Its always amusing to tell people who ask that I appeared in the Krypton Factor, as they assume it was as a contestant. The reality is that I was acting out scenes in the Observation Test rounds as such characters as a policeman, a dead body in a gym and a pub landlord.
As I had never heard of The Krypton Factor, I had to head to You Tube to see what it was all about, and for those who don't know, it is a Quiz Show that was on for many years, the contestants have to not only answer quiz questions, but have to land a plane using a flight simulator, and spot the differences in an observation test. The latter requires actors to play out a scene, and Graham has included a video clip in his gallery of the one he appeared in as a policeman. It also stars Roy Barraclough, whom Corrie fans will recognise as Alec Gilroy.
Now Graham, I have noticed in some of your clips and music files that you are credited as Graham Paige, can you explain that please?
In 1992 I had to change my name. My real name is of course Graham J Burton but it was suggested to me that in order to get better work and bigger jobs I needed to be in the Actors Union Equity. Now Equity already had a Graham Burton on their books so we had to come up with something different. With hindsight I should have just inserted my middle initial, but after many weeks we came up with Graham Paige. Theres no big story attached to this - myself and parents just got fed up with browsing names! As a full time cabaret singer at the time, my agent sent me out as Graham Madison as a trial, and even suggested Robin Dempsey! Erm.... no!
Definitely not Robin! I much prefer Graham, but then I could be a bit biased! :-)
Now with the age of the internet and Google, it appears that Graham Paige is a huge car manufacturer in the US, but of course we had no means of knowing that back in '92...
Well, hand on heart, I can honestly tell you I heard of you before I heard of them!
So what are you doing mostly these days?
As of 2013 I am still regularly working as an SA and am one of the few that is willing to travel long distances for the work. Most people I know stay relatively local as it is considered too far to travel for the fees paid. For example, Cardiff is 200 miles away for me, but I have filmed Casualty down there on several occasions and absolutely LOVE the new BBC studios there at Roath Lock (where productions such as Doctor Who & Upstairs Downstairs are also filmed)...
I LOVE both Casualty and Holby City. Do you have any videos from them?
Yes, I will show you one of when I was a hapless electrician who had managed to burn his hand quite badly.
Where else might we have spotted you?
In the last 2 years alone I have been an SA (speaking and non) in productions such as Shameless (policeman and chav), Doctors, Love & Marriage, Hollyoaks, By Any Means, Father Brown, Emmerdale, Casualty, Stella, WPC56, Mrs. Biggs..... and in the next year there are 3 movies being released that I've already been part of - Noble, '71', and most excitingly, the new Jack Ryan movie in which I filmed scenes with Keira Knightley amongst other huge names...
I have just finished filming Crimes That Shook Australia in which I play the character Ian Kingston - who is still alive and well in Tasmania after surviving the Port Arthur Massacre there in 1996 - as we recreated those events. This will air in February/March 2014.
Wow! You certainly are busy, and in lots of big productions too. 'By Any Means' is another favourite of mine, plus Emmerdale of course!
Now let's move onto Coronation Street. How long have you worked there, and where might we have seen you?
I have been there 24 years. I have played a varied number of roles including customer in Alf Roberts and Audreys shop, the photographer at Steve McDonalds wedding to Alec Gilroy's granddaughter Vicky, a Doctor, policeman, and my most regular appearances of course are Rovers Return regular, Roys Rolls customer, Nick's Bistro regular and Street regular, literally treading the cobbles up and down in all weathers!!
Diehard Corrie fans will know that Steve and Vicky got married in St. Lucia off screen, so you must have been attending the registry office wedding beforehand that Bet and Alec managed to talk them out of at the last minute.
Yes, that's right. It was around 1995. My latest appearance has not been aired yet... together with fellow SA lovely Gina Sinclaire and others I have filmed some scenes at a Christmas school nativity play with several of the regular characters. I obviously can't mention anything about the storyline (more than my jobs worth) but all I can say is look out for me in the foyer and then sat directly behind Gail, Nick and co during the events that play out.....
Let's see, how many nativity plays have we had? We seem to get one every year lately. Hopefully Peter won't be drunk at this one, but no doubt it will be eventful. Those Bessie Street kids are going to be spending years in therapy when they grow up! My guess would be something to do with David and Max - but it's OK, you don't have to tell me. :-)
Is there an episode that stands out in your memory that you were involved in?
Yes, a few years ago I was booked for 8 days filming in Bradford for Gails trial - and what a lovely experience that was! We had to wear the same clothes and sit in the same positions for most of those 8 days filming, so the regulars sat next to me and fellow SA partner in crime Chris Shepherd had to endure an endless stream of awful jokes with no escape!! By Day 3, Michelle Keegan, Sue Nicholls and Malcolm Hebden were warming to the humour and joining in!!
We were filming both outcomes of Gails trial - guilty and not guilty... It wasn't mentioned by the excellent producer John Folkard which version would be screened.... but to everyone who wasn't in the know, it was obvious really as the principal cast didn't really take the 'Guilty' version too seriously...
How about something funny that has happened in the course of your job?
Well, Steve McDonalds wedding to Vicky was filmed at Dukinfield Town Hall on a very windy day. The whole storyline was shrouded in secrecy from the public and when we arrived on location the entire Town Hall had been surrounded by a 12 foot tall wooden barrier to stop the paparazzi and public from seeing. At one point before we moved inside, a huge gust brought down a couple of the wooden flats and that few seconds was all it took for the papps to get their pics - next day the Sunday papers had all the pics of the 'happy' couple running into the building...
Ha ha! Then they would have had egg on their faces when it aired, as the wedding never took place!
Everyone I have spoken to talks about the atmosphere at Corrie, how it is like a big family there. Do you find the same thing? Are you friends with any of the front line cast?
Yes, this is true. Actress Julie Hesmondhalgh who plays Hayley Cropper is my personal friend from school. She attended Moorhead High School in Accrington with me for 5 years and was our Head Girl in the 5th year... The class of '86 was a particularly talented bunch as my class also included Dominic Brunt who is now of course Paddy the vet in Emmerdale, and talented actress Mina Anwar from Dinnerladies and Sarah Jane Adventures amongst many others.
Julie is an amazing person inside and out - I will of course avoid spoilers, but sorry Canada.... if you haven't caught up with us here in the UK then I have to mention - Julie's character is leaving the show imminently. During my last filming day there a fortnight ago, Julie actually came onto the SA minibus and invited everyone to her leaving party - now how many principal actors do you know that would have done that?
The party is very very soon in Manchester and the one directive is that there has to be something red in everyones outfit for the night. This is a nod to Hayleys famous red coat :-)
It is so sad that she is leaving, and I think both sides of the pond are weeping along with Roy. Such a well written storyline, and the acting from the two of them has been outstanding. Julie seems to have made a personal friend of everyone there, she seems to be such a nice person. I think I speak for everyone here that we wish her the very best for the future.
Graham, what's coming up for you? Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions? Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Unfulfilled ambitions?..... I've been very lucky over the years. I love all of my different jobs which include TV supporting artiste/bit part actor, radio jingle recording studio session singer, family/wedding DJ - and when I have any free days I am a self-employed executive chauffeur!
I have been convinced for years that I will one day be Inspector Javert in the amazing musical Les Miserables... I know the part inside out and could step in tonight if required!
I do miss singing full time but I still sing when hosting/compering an event. And occasionally when DJing if required.
In 5 years time? - Well I'm genuinely so happy where I am at the moment that just to continue as things are would be great. I'd love more filming work, and to get my teeth into a larger, grittier part would be fab. Nobody can say I haven't done the miles and the hours whilst looking for larger roles. Casualty for example is a 400 mile round trip for me but I've still been down to Bristol/Cardiff on several occasions for a 1 day shoot.
I'm always attending classes and seminars to better myself as an actor - just in the past year I have done Stage Fencing (again), Vocal Training with a Dialect Coach, Stanislavski classes and many more. My lovely friends and contacts are brilliant but I just need an extra nudge now to be given more auditions/castings.
OK, I have to ask, what is a Stanislavski class when it's at home?
Stanislavski is the acting technique favoured by most actors/actresses. It is generally considered the 'default mode' for most actors.
That's interesting, I must admit I had never heard of it, so read more on Wikipedia. It's been around since 1911!
Now, can we get a little bit personal please, because I am sure all the single ladies want to know. Are you married?
Never married, never engaged. Although I have been proposed to on 4 occasions over the years!!! To be honest, I've been very career minded in the last decade and there have of course been a few girlfriends along the way - currently single but finally getting around to wanting to settle down. I'm the definitive hopeless romantic - all of my top 10 movies are chick flicks such as My Best Friends Wedding, Somewhere in Time etc...
Oh ladies - tall, handsome, beautiful voice, single, hopeless romantic, looking to settle down - and he's in Corrie! Get in there! :-)
Thank you Graham, I can't tell you how much of a pleasure this has been.