In BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax, Dean Smith joined the cast as William in 2015, continuing in the show throughout Series 3 and 4, and reprising his role when the show returned after a four-year break in 2020. Dean could be seen in Emmerdale last year playing Prison Officer Ian Beeker across numerous episodes, and his further screen credits have included playing regular character Willis in Still Open All Hours – Series 6, David Whitby in The Great Train Robbery, the lead role of Vinnie Dupe in Being Victor, and Philip Ryan in two series of Waterloo Road at the start of his career. Also a theatre actor, Dean most recently played Neil in Letter to Boddah at Ilkley Playhouse, and he has previously performed in shows such as A Murder is Announced and the UK Tour of Gallowglass. Next month, Dean will be filming his own feature film Sober, which he has co-written and will be starring in. We caught up with Dean, who speaks about his time filming for Emmerdale, playing William in Last Tango in Halifax and joining the cast of Still Open All Hours as Willis.
Last year, you appeared in numerous episodes of Emmerdale as Prison Officer Ian Beeker, how was it on set of the show and being part of the storyline?
Emmerdale was always such a big show in my house growing up. My mum and grandma loved it! My mum still does to this day so I was chuffed to tell her I was going to be in her favourite show. It was really fun to work on and easily my favourite of the soaps I’ve worked on. A friend of mine, Ian Bevitt, was directing and he set the tone for the episodes. We had a lot of fun and Paige Sandhu, who played Meena, whose storyline it was, was just brilliant and so lovely to be around.
You played William across three series of Last Tango in Halifax, what was he like to play and how was it working with the rest of the cast?
Last Tango is my favourite of the shows I’ve been in. The drama is brilliant, the cast are insanely talented and Sally Wainwright, the show’s writer/creator, is a genius. Getting to play with Sarah Lancashire, Derek Jacobi, Nicola Walker, Tony Gardner etc etc will never not be the most fun. I was so lucky to get the role and have made brilliant friends and memories on it. Hope we can do some more soon!
How was it reprising your role for Series 5 in 2020 after a four-year break since Series 4 in 2016, and what did you enjoy most about filming for Last Tango in Halifax?
I was filming Still Open All Hours and Corrie at the time so I only had a few scenes in Last Tango in Halifax S5. But nevertheless it was so much fun. Like putting on a pair of comfy slippers. What I enjoy most about Last Tango is the people. Cast and crew.
In 2019, you played new regular character Willis in Series 6 of Still Open All Hours, can you tell us about your time filming for the role and what was it like being part of a popular comedy series?
It had always been a dream of mine to appear in a BBC sitcom. So when the chance came to audition for this I jumped at the chance. I first auditioned via self tape from Madrid whilst I was there running the marathon. Being on set and in rehearsal with some of those comedy legends was so much fun and something I have to pinch myself to remind me that it actually happened. David Jason in Only Fools and Horses was a big part of my childhood and it was surreal to work with him. I’ve been a very lucky boy.
Do you have any favourite highlights from working on Hollyoaks as D.S. Yates?
Once again, the people. A job is nothing without nice people around the place. I think I’ve been so lucky to work with talented, hard-working people, and the crew at Hollyoaks work so hard.
What was it like portraying David Whitby in the 2013 mini-series The Great Train Robbery and how was it telling his story?
I was thrilled to be given that role. Not only did he actually exist, he was a huge part of the story of the robbery. Another very talented cast with Jim Broadbent and Luke Evans, but the thing that I remember most clearly is having to drive the train for a section of the tracks on a certain shot. Such fun!
Can you tell us about playing the lead role of Vinnie Dupe in Being Victor?
After I left Waterloo Road, the company who made it, Shed, were in the process of putting together a new show Being Victor and I initially auditioned for a different role. But in the room I managed to convince them I would be better as Vinnie/Victor. We shot up in Glasgow over Easter and had the most insane shooting schedule filming over 25 pages a day for the entire shoot. I think had we had slightly more time to shoot the product might have appealed more to an audience and we might’ve been able to get more series under our belt. But as is a recurring theme – some brilliant humans on that job.
How was it joining the cast of Waterloo Road as Philip Ryan in Series 4 and what was the character like to play?
Waterloo Road was only my second professional job and I booked it whilst still at high school. I was incredibly excited and slightly daunted by the prospect but it was something I had worked towards for a long time and I like to think I deserved it. I threw myself into creating Philip to make him unbearably cringey and awkward but hopefully loveable. The response to that show and my character was always so wonderful and it was such an education on set to set me up for a career as an actor.
Did you have a favourite storyline to work on and what are some of your stand-out memories from being part of Waterloo Road?
To be honest, it’s so long ago it sort of blurs into one! Such is the arrogance of youth I think you just skip through life and should slow down and allow memories to stick. One thing I do remember very clearly is after being cast I developed appendicitis and had to have an operation to remove my appendix. That was on the Monday and on the Thursday I was in Manchester for the Series 4 read-through. I bled through my bandages and had to hide it under my coat. I was so scared of telling anyone from production in case they took the part away from me. Silly in retrospect but I knew nothing about the industry.
On stage, you played Neil in Letter to Boddah at Ilkley Playhouse last year, what was this like?
This was a real passion project. My friend and long-time collaborator Tom Gibbons had been given the space at the theatre and approached the writer Sarah Nelson if we could use the script. She was delighted and offered to direct us as well. The play is a fabulous challenge for an actor and one that I absolutely loved. We are currently developing a play with Sarah for a tour end of 2023 so watch this space.
How was it touring as Edmund Swettenham in A Murder is Announced and how did you find the experience of touring with a theatre production?
I love being on stage and I love travelling around the country. So touring theatre is a great match for me. The combination of doing what I love each night to a theatre full of, hopefully, entertained folk and me exploring a new part of the world has always been such a tempting prospect.
Middle Ground Theatre Company have hired me multiple times and I can’t thank them enough for trusting me with their characters and stories.
Over your years as an actor so far, you have been involved with a number of other projects on both stage and screen, including Coronation Street as Andy Wingfield, The Last Kingdom as Thief, Common as Hugo Davies and Gallowglass as Little Joe, can you tell us about some of them?
The Last Kingdom was shot in Budapest in the summer of 2016 and I had the time of my life exploring the city. Also, it features my most gruesome on-screen death as I got my throat sliced open. My mum called me after it aired to check if I was ok!
Common was a pleasure to work with Liverpudlian Shakespeare Jimmy McGovern. Through the process of the film getting made, we managed to get a law changed to protect vulnerable young people in inner city areas. Very proud of that one.
Gallowglass was a theatre tour all over the UK and the first show I have been the lead. I adored the responsibility of leading a cast and telling that story. Once again, with the most lovely people.
We understand you have co-written and will be starring in Sober, is there anything you can say about this?
Sober is a feature film we are shooting in April 2023. It is a drunken, emotional, hilarious romp around Leeds and I am so excited for it. We have the most amazing cast and creatives. Watch this space.
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
I wanted to be a footballer. But I was crap. So I thought I should try the thing that interested me most away from football which was acting. I knew I wanted to give it a go but I never really thought it would be a possibility. I was in a group called The Television Workshop with past members such as Jack O’Connell and Samantha Morton. From there, aged 17, I got my agent – the brilliant Elizabeth Stocking at Narrow Road and the rest is history.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I love British dramas and American comedies. I don’t see half as much theatre as I should do but I am an avid gig and festival attendee. Glastonbury every year is a must! Away from acting, I coach actors one-to-one and at a brilliant school ActUpNorth in Manchester and Leeds. I love running and I’m training for London and Leeds marathons this year.
Do you have any upcoming plans that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for your career?
Last year, I shot a new drama with Channel 5 coming soon, I think. So look out for that. But the things I’m most excited about are… hopefully as we near the end of 2023, we will have Sober, our feature film, ready to distribute and be heading out on a tour with the play we are developing with Sarah Nelson. It’s been really nice to be creative and enjoy the experience of putting together a project with like-minded collaborators. This industry isn’t easy and it’s very much peaks and troughs. But I’ve been fortunate to have mainly peaks and long may that continue.
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