10th Apr2018

Interview: ‘Welcome to Essex’ actor Robert Stuart-Evans

by Philip Rogers

Welcome to Essex is a new zombie horror film from writer-director Ryan J Fleming which will have its UK premier at The Romford Film Festival on Thursday 24th May. I got a chance to talk to ask Robert Evans who plays Mike Rider in the film a few questions about; how he got involved in the film, what makes Welcome to Essex stand out in the horror genre and his favourite moment during filming.

robert-stuart-evans

How did you first get into acting?

I first got into acting at a fairly young age via a stage school I was selected for a couple of adverts and to be an extra in the films The Missionary and also Octopussy.  From there I joined local amateur dramatics groups, appeared on stage with the Docklands Youth Theatre and The Theatre Royal Stratford East Theatre Workshop in Newham. I have appeared in numerous Queens Theatre Community Shows since the late 90s, up until Paper Planes in 2014.

How did you become involved in the film?

My partner’s (Jacqui Golledge who plays one of the zombies in the film) parents heard about Welcome to Essex on BBC Essex and suggested to her that it’d be something I might be interested in.  I attended a teaser trailer filming session.  Kept in touch via Facebook and auditioned for numerous parts, got the role of Gerry Atrick (played by Terry Noble), but due to the original actor who originally was going to portray Mike Rider dropping out I was offered the chance to portray Mike Rider instead.

You play Mike Rider in the film; can you tell us a bit about your character?

Mike Rider is an everyday shop worker, a bit of a nerd who basically tries to get on in life. Keeps to himself, he’s unlucky in love and finds himself caught up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse purely by accident.

What makes can we expect from Welcome to Essex and what makes it stand out in the horror genre?

For a film that has a micro budget, it looks like a major Hollywood big budget production.  It has humour but also some very ambitious set pieces and unlike certain zombie films out there (not naming any names) when you see our zombie horde, not one of is thanks to the wonders of CGI, our zombies are real people.

What was your favourite moment during filming?

My favourite moment happened during the filming of the scene that was shot at Romford Shopping Hall.  Now bearing in mind it was a Saturday, so it was open to the public, where we were filming was an area that wasn’t accessible to the general public.  One of our zombies decided to go out and make use of the facilities, now this zombie was in full make up…got spotted by one of the general public who was so convinced the makeup was real, that they contacted the police who attended. The police officers were reassured it was just make up and that we were making a zombie horror film.

Did you face any challenges whilst shooting the film?

There were quite a few challenges I faced.  However, one that stands out was being chased by the zombies because we filmed that twice, the first time there wasn’t a problem however the second time I found myself having to vault over a full bag of rubbish without stopping.

Without giving too much away you involved in a major scene during a zombie attack. How long did the scene take to film?

Without going into too much detail or giving anything away I’d say it probably took about at least 5 maybe 6 hours using various parts of the location.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

I’m also an extra in the films The Hippopotamus (2017) based on the book by Stephen Fry (out now on DVD), Genesis (2018) starring Paul Nichols and John Hannah, Final Score (2018) starring Pierce Brosnan and WWE superstar Dave Batista, a zombie in The Vicious Dead (2014) a short released on YouTube and Death Walks (2016). I also portray Mr Butcher in the film Earth Without War (2017) which is also on YouTube and I’m due to tread the boards again as Sergeant Detritus at the Old Court Theatre in Chelmsford and Terry Pratchett’s The Fifth Elephant by Stephen Briggs with Chelmsford Theatre Workshop (25th-28th April 2018/2nd-5th May 2018).  I’m also training to get my own radio show on Hospital Radio Chelmsford.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into acting?

The only advice I could give to anyone who wants to break into acting would be find a local drama group and get involved with them, try working in scare mazes too, if you hear of an opportunity go for it.  Try attending open auditions, you never know who you might meet and what contacts you may make.

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