Earlier this year, Riley Burgin guest-starred in an episode of Doctors as Johnny Mainwaring alongside Billy Price as his on-screen brother, with the episode released in March. Since being in the pilot of BBC sitcom King Gary in 2018 as Teddy King, Riley continued as the character across both series as well as the 2020 Christmas Special, working closely with Tom Davis (Gary King) and Laura Checkley (Terri King). Riley has also played Terry in Small Axe, which was written, directed and produced by Steve McQueen, and whilst currently studying for his GCSEs, he is continuing auditioning for future roles. We spoke to Riley, who told us about guest-starring in Doctors earlier this year, his time as Teddy King in King Gary and filming for Small Axe.
This year, you guest-starred in Doctors as Johnny Mainwaring, can you tell us about your episode and character?
My episode in Doctors was a fantastic experience. My brother and I were in trouble, no money and he was ill. He refused to see a doctor about it and so I had to take action and pretend I was ill to trick him into getting better with their help. My brother accepted help and my plan had worked. My character Johnny is witty, smart and has a certain level of survival instinct. He understood the situation and slipped into a role almost too old for his age, showing how his lifestyle teaches maturity at a young age.
What was Doctors like to film and how was it working with the regular cast and your on-screen brother played by Billy Price?
Working on any show, I suppose, is nerve-racking, however, the moment I stepped onto set I understood the dynamic. Such an easy place to work, everyone was more than welcoming and helpful. Filming itself was smooth and so easy to work off the other actors who, may I add, were exceptionally professional. The crew had absolutely nailed filming and knew what to do at all times. There was not a moment of confusion or unease.
How was it watching the episode when it was released on TV in March?
Watching yourself on TV is always strange for me, you build up an idea after filming of what you were like in front of the camera, how you looked, how you sounded. So watching it flips your perspective, I thought the episode was fantastic and I lived up to my expectations of myself, however, my performance I feel was amplified by the actors around me.
You played Teddy King across both series of the BBC comedy series King Gary, do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role in the pilot episode and then hearing it was commissioned for a full series?
I think for ten-year-old me, it was pretty surreal. I didn’t quite comprehend how big it was that I got the role. However, after learning what it meant, I think my life changed ever so slightly in the sense that I was making my dream come true. Bit by bit and show by show I was becoming an actor.
How would you describe Teddy and what was he like to play?
I think Teddy King was kind at heart, smart and mature for his age although he was slightly dampened by his wally of a father. It was really fun to play and work him off his parents. He seemed to become a part of me the more I played him.
How did you find the experience on set of King Gary and what did you enjoy most about being part of the cast?
The set of King Gary became very much my home, I spent so much time there, with the cast and crew they became like family, I knew everyone and they knew me. I loved eating lunch with everyone, whether it was the security, the main cast or makeup; it didn’t matter because everyone was so friendly. The part I loved most about being part of the cast was honestly just knowing I was part of a team and a community with one collective goal.
What was it like filming the 2020 Christmas Special?
The 2020 Christmas special was very important to me as I had no idea that a Season 2 was being commissioned and so it may have been the last time I would be able to enjoy the filming. Filming the special was so fun and really made a huge impact on my life.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Teddy King?
Filming Teddy King came with many special memories, however, a couple of moments really stuck with me. Me and Laura’s (Checkley) scene in the Christmas Special was really quite emotional and spectacular to film as I got to express another side of Teddy. We also hosted a cast and crew football match off set, it was the most fun I had had off set.
Can you tell us about your time working on Small Axe as Terry and how was it seeing the success to the series?
Working with Steve McQueen was absolutely mind-blowing, although not long, my time on set was life-changing and to be part of such a massive success was truly humbling.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
My love of acting comes from my dad. He was my inspiration to start acting. He helped me find an agency and find my way through filming and shooting. However, my mum was the person who was on set with me every day, helping me and also guiding me so my gratitude lies with them.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I am in love with the American show Friends, I also love Rick and Morty, The Shawshank Redemption, Good Will Hunting and so many more, however, I will stick with these for now.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I spend a huge amount of time in the gym after school and teaching myself about stocks and shares when I’m not doing homework in preparation for my GCSEs.
Have you been given any advice over your career so far that has stuck with you?
There is a quote by a man called Salvador Dalí and it goes like this, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it”. I think it is true in all of us, we will never be perfect so why try to perfect ourselves, we are who we are and that is all that matters.
Do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for your career?
At the moment I don’t have any up and coming shows or films, however, I am auditioning still and so who knows where that might take me, I am letting the wind take me where I need to be, so fingers crossed.