For his first TV regular role, Frazer Hadfield plays Lenny in the comedy series Frayed, with Series 2 having been filmed during the pandemic, with a UK release date for the new series not yet announced. Other screen work for Frazer has included an episode of Casualty which aired in 2019, and he is set to star in the upcoming short film The Hermit. Most recently on stage, Frazer played Scripps in The History Boys and he has previously appeared in Absolute Hell at the National Theatre and made his West End debut in The Girls. Having met Emma Swan at university, Frazer has been working with her since as Hadfield and Swan, where they release comedy songs with which they received the Best Newcomer Award at the 2019 Musical Comedy Awards and they are currently working on a number of projects. We caught up with Frazer about filming as Lenny in Frayed, playing Scripps in The History Boys and working with Emma on Hadfield and Swan.
You play Lenny in Frayed, can you tell us about your character and was there anything that drew you to the role?
Lenny is such a fab character! He’s a teenager living a very privileged life in London in the late 80s, until his mum, Sammy, drags him back to her hometown in Australia after his dad unexpectedly dies, leaving the family in loads of debt. He struggles to fit in at the best of times, so when he gets to this Australian industrial town he’s got a whole load more to deal with – having the only English accent in school makes him a prime target! This is all before he gets mixed up in some very dark stuff. Playing a fish out of water is a lot of fun. I love leaning into the awkwardness and riding out those culture shocks.
For those that haven’t seen the show, why would you recommend watching it?
It is such a good blend of comedy and drama. Sarah Kendall, who writes the whole thing and plays Sammy, is so great at finding the right balance between quite in your face comedy and really truthful, emotional moments. So often I think when people say ‘comedy-drama’ it’s either a drama with the odd joke, or a comedy that just isn’t that funny. This isn’t that! It’s like Schitt’s Creek’s older, grotty cousin. Plus it is set in Australia in the 80s so the costumes are mad!
What is it like on set and working alongside the rest of the cast?
The cast is so brilliant on this show. We film in Australia and in London, so it’s an international bunch. There are really brilliant comedians like Diane Morgan and Robert Webb, as well as powerhouse dramatic actors like Doris Younane and Kerry Armstrong, who is a bit of an Aussie national treasure! I learn so much working with them all, and it really keeps me on my toes. When we went back for Season 2, everyone knew their characters inside out so there was a lot of riffing around the scripts that led to some very silly moments – Ben Mingay, who plays Jim, is a big culprit for that! There’s a lot of laughing, and the blooper reels are pretty spectacular. We film a lot of the show at a house on the Northern Beaches in Sydney. The art department do a great job of making it look run down and grimy, but the backdrop is just heaven. I’d finish shooting for the day and literally step out of my trailer onto the beach and have a swim – so yeah, a bit of a dream set to work on!
Do you have any highlights from playing Lenny over Series 1 and 2?
The two seasons have been so different. Season 1 was my first TV job, so it all felt very exciting and new. I had a lot of comedy stuff to get my teeth into. There was an absolutely amazing school prom episode where we got to butcher some 80s dance moves, and I got to wear one of those awful piano ties! There was even a John Hughes style ‘getting ready’ montage which was very cool. Season 2 has been really different. Lenny’s storyline is a lot darker, and I ended up with a lot of the more serious dramatic stuff, but I sort of loved that.
Is there anything you can tell us about the upcoming short film The Hermit?
I shot that up in the North East in the summer. I play a boy who is having a rough time at school, so he decides to go and live in the woods and become a hermit. He’s not very good at it though, and he keeps being found by dog walkers. It was a pretty zany script and we shot it all in a very damp forest near Durham. I had the insect bites to show for it! It was directed by Andrew Coats who runs a very cool organisation called Beacon Films, who provide practical filmmaking and production training for people with learning difficulties, autism, and additional needs. A few of the Beacon Films members actually worked on the short too. COVID has delayed it all a bit so I’ve not actually seen it yet, but it should be hitting festivals soon.
How was it filming your episode of Casualty as Joshua Millbank and how did you feature in the storyline?
Casualty was a real bucket list moment. I was part of quite a twisty complex multi-ep storyline, but got some juicy scenes and a big exciting injury – a screwdriver through the back of my leg! I’m quite squeamish and it looked very real so it was an interesting few weeks. But it is such a slick operation down there in Cardiff.
Last year, you played Scripps in The History Boys at Wolverhampton Grand, what was this like to be part of and was there anything you enjoyed most about performing in the show?
I’d always wanted to play that part since I saw Jamie Parker do it. Jack Ryder, who I’d worked with on The Girls, was directing so it seemed like a good fit. I got to play some piano and show off a little bit as well! It was all a bit of a whirlwind actually – it had quite a short run, so a great way to start the year, and then lockdown hit. I was so glad I got to actually do a bit of theatre in 2020! The Grand is a gorgeous theatre, and everyone is so friendly there. They got hit pretty hard by the pandemic, so I’m glad they seem to be getting back on their feet again now. I’d love to go back at some point.
What was the experience like working at the National Theatre for Absolute Hell?
Well, that was a bit of a dream come true. Just to be in that building is so amazing. There is such a buzz about the place. Because they work in rep, there are usually about five shows up at any one time with another three rehearsing. Absolute Hell had a big cast with some real big hitters in it. I used to go into the rehearsal room even if I wasn’t called just to watch – Kate Fleetwood, Charlie Edwards. I learned so much just from being in the room with them. Also, all those actors in the building means you end up in the bar every night too! The play was set in a Soho bar during the war, and I don’t know whether there was some sort of subconscious conditioning going on, but we spent a lot of time in The Understudy bar after shows!
How was your time in The Girls, which also marked your West End debut?
I went into that show straight from drama school. It was all quite overwhelming as it was this big new British musical written by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth with all these really big musical theatre stars. I actually thought that was a brilliant show. We used to get standing ovations every night, but for whatever reason it only lasted about eight months before we closed. I was in a dressing room with four others on the very top floor of the theatre and we had a right laugh up there, so much so one of them missed their entrance one night because they were busy telling a story – it was a long way down to the stage as well!
You also understudied the roles of Danny and Lawrence, what were they like to play?
I actually understudied five parts in that show! That meant I was on for one of those parts more often than not, and I barely played my own track in the end. That kept it interesting. Very different roles as well – Danny was an awkward schoolboy and Lawrence was a hospital porter and photographer with two full tattoo sleeves! Not exactly playing to type, but I really loved it.
What can you say about Hadfield and Swan that you are part of with Emma Swan?
I met Emma at university and we’ve been working together ever since. Hadfield and Swan is the name we adopted when we started writing songs together. We started releasing these comedy songs online a few years ago, things about being Northerners living in London, and they took off a bit. So then we entered the Musical Comedy Awards and actually were awarded Best Newcomer at the 2019 Awards! It was all very exciting, and we are still writing songs, though during the first lockdown our focus shifted a little bit to writing other, more long-form stuff together. We now have a couple of TV projects in development with a production company, and plenty of other scripts we are working on too. So watch this space!
Do you have any favourite films, TV or theatre shows to watch?
I’ve just watched White Lotus on NowTV and oh my goodness I loved it! Such hilarious, cynical, twisty characters. A bit like Succession, which I also love! I also binged both seasons of Ted Lasso a couple of weeks ago too, which is the complete opposite. And Stath Lets Flats! There are way too many more to mention…
How was it returning to acting during the pandemic and what are you hoping the upcoming year brings for your career?
I’m really lucky that I got to fly out to Australia to film the second season of Frayed while the UK was in lockdown. I feel like that’s maybe used up quite a bit of my luck there! But more of the same would be great – good parts in nice projects. That’s what all actors want, isn’t it!
Frayed Season 2 is coming soon to Sky. Season 1 is streaming on NowTV and HBO Max.
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