Since comedy series Still Open All Hours started in 2013, James Baxter has been playing lead character Leroy across all six series alongside his screen father Granville, played by David Jason. Having made his first series regular role as Jake Doland in Emmerdale, James has since gone on to appear in shows such as TV movie Joe Maddison’s War, Red Dwarf and award-winning mini-series Harriet’s Army, and earlier this year, he played Anthony in the pilot episode of Alma’s Not Normal. In 2018, James took on the role of Paul Stokes in The Sweet Science of Bruising at Southwark Playhouse. Speaking with us, James chats about playing Leroy in Still Open All Hours, filming as Anthony in Alma’s Not Normal and working on short film The Beach House.
What is Leroy like to play in Still Open All Hours and what is the show like to film?
Leroy is a complex beast with lots of light and shade to him… I’m kidding. He’s a buffoon and for that reason enormously fun to play and the show is great to film, we laugh a lot!
Had you seen the original Open All Hours before booking the role and what drew you to the show?
I had seen the original. Both my parents and grandparents actually were huge fans of the show which definitely rubbed off on me, Ronnie (Barker) and David (Jason) were so brilliant together. Working with David and the rest of the cast was obviously a huge draw but in the spirit of full transparency, what drew me to the show was I got a call from my agent saying I had a casting. I was working in a restaurant at the time so that kind of phone call is all the draw you need! 😃
How is it working on a long-running comedy show and returning to film each series?
Good question. You definitely get itchy feet at times but the cast are brilliant to work with, the crew could not be nicer and the director is Welsh so what’s not to love?! Returning to film each series is like putting on warm slippers!
What do you enjoy most about being part of the cast?
Just that. It’s a really special cast to be a part of. I’m surrounded by people who’ve been in the industry for decades and they come with a plethora of stories and advice, not only on the industry but also on life. I’ve made some amazing friends.
Have you had a favourite episode to work on over the six series?
Thats too hard! I loved the first two series in front of the studio audience but then in the later series some of the younger cast were introduced and working with those guys was cracking! Too hard to pick.
Can you tell us about Alma’s Not Normal and your character Anthony, who you play in the pilot episode released earlier this year?
Yes!! Alma’s Not Normal was written by Sophie Willan. Sophie is a huge talent and just a lovely, lovely person, so when I was asked to read for Anthony I jumped at the chance. The whole shoot was a joy. Anthony… what can I say? He’s a bit of a dick really, a loveable rogue shall we say. It was nice to play someone who’s not nice for a change.
Last year, you appeared in short film The Beach House, what can you say about it?
The Beach House came about because a few friends wanted to shoot something. It really was that simple. There was a two-day window because of our other work commitments so it was a bit of a squeeze but it turned out great! The film picked up lots of accolades and awards at the festivals and I got to shoot it with my best mates.
You filmed as Stephen Croft in the award-winning BBC mini-series Harriet’s Army, how was this?
Harriet’s Army. Christ, that was a while ago. I know I’m answering with this A LOT but, again, it was cracking. Lovely cast and crew. Plus filming in the woods in Newcastle! Top notch!
What was it like filming your episode of Red Dwarf?
Red Dwarf was a special job for me. There are two roles I never thought I’d play… Jesus and Hitler, so I got to tick Jesus off.
How was it filming for the TV movie Joe Maddison’s War?
Again, brilliant. Keven Whatley might be the nicest man on earth. We had a scene together where I had to eat chips which was AMAZING for the first twenty minutes but after two hours I was about to burst.
Your first series regular role was as Jake Doland in Emmerdale, do you remember how you felt booking the role and what are some of your favourite memories from your time playing the character?
I thought I’d arrived. I thought ‘this is it… the big time’ ha! I think that happens when you’re young and in a soap. It can be a bit like a bubble. I needed to leave and struggle to realise what acting is. I did have a fantastic time and met some of my best mates doing Emmerdale, I was just a bit too young and went a bit too mad whilst I was in it.
Can you say about performing in The Sweet Science of Bruising at Southwark Playhouse?
The Sweet Science of Bruising. Great cast! Got punched in the head a few times a night… on stage I might add, I didn’t piss off the director.
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
I’m not sure where it comes from, like the love for anything I suppose. I started at school and then it was all I thought about. I was a show off so maybe that has something to do with it but I don’t know. It’s the only thing I could apply myself to with no effort at all. It’s my intellectual pursuit.
What are some of your favourite TV shows and films to watch?
I like so many! I’ve been watching a lot of Dave Chapelle recently but then the last thing I watched was a YouTube video about a bloke who made a pen for the family of beavers living in his garden so make of that what you will!
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