Monday, October 18, 2010

Exclusive Interview: Terry Cooper

"Colin did over nine hours in the studio, and I was just knocked out at his professionalism and attitude. He just ‘got’ the humour and characters right away."

Alwyn Ash: Hi Terry, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Terry Cooper: Hello! Well, I’m an artist and writer. I was born in an ambulance in North London, and I’ve managed to survive for forty years on this planet. So far so good! I’m often found in my alter-egos of Captain Jack Sparrow or an Imperial Stormtrooper, as I like to do charity events around the country as part of the UK Garrison costuming organisation. Clearly, I’m a giant Sci-Fi geek. Think of Simon Pegg from SPACED, minus skateboard, and that’s basically me.

Kangazang! is your début novel. How did the idea for Jeff Spooner and his adventures surface?

I moved into a house that had no telephone line, and therefore no internet to eat up the time, so I decided to see if I could formulate a story for ‘The Novel That All Of Us Have Inside Ourselves’, and it began to take shape. I started with a horror idea but it all got a bit ‘Garth Marenghi’, so I went back to my first love, which was Sci-Fi. I thoroughly recommend isolation from the Internet if you want to get that much-vaunted project done one of these days.

And the name Kangazang...?

It’s the name of the planet that our heroes are trying to get to. I wanted it to be a bit magical, like Shangri-La, Alakazam. It just popped into my head. The book was originally titled ‘Jeff Spooner And The Universal Remote’ or ‘Jeff Spooner And The Man From Kangazang’ – I was thinking of the Indy Jones and Harry Potter movie titles, I guess.

Colin Baker's involvement in your recent audio version was exciting news, how was he brought on board?

My publisher at Candy Jar, Shaun Russell, is the authority on all things Doctor Who, more so than me. We went through names of people who we’d like to read the audio, and Shaun suggested Colin. Initially I was a little unconvinced, but when I re-visited some of his Doctor Who episodes, especially his Big Finish Audios, and realised he was absolutely the best choice with his sense of humour and versatility.

Did you attend the recent signing with Colin at Forbidden Planet International in Cardiff?

Sadly, I didn’t. It would’ve been good to catch up with him, but I was doing my bit for sales and publicity over at the Starmania 2010 convention in Swansea that day. Colin went down a storm at the Cardiff signing though, and we’ll be doing more with him very soon. He’ll be at Dimensions in Newcastle soon, and I’d love to do something there with him. Stay tuned, as JNT used to say!

Besides the wonderful Mr Baker, are there any other famous Kangazangers that you know of?

Well, we have Claire Cage, who’s a brilliant and gorgeous actress from Cardiff. She’s been in all sorts of TV programmes, like ‘Life Bites’, Wire In The Blood for ITV, Torchwood, Sherlock and she even provided the on-set voice for Lady Cassandra in Doctor Who! Also, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock read the book and called it ‘truly comic’. Russell T Davies has a copy of it, and I’m still trying to get Bill Bailey to read it, as he was the inspiration for the Ray Scump character!

What was it like working with Colin on the audio version?

Colin did over nine hours in the studio, and I was just knocked out at his professionalism and attitude. He just ‘got’ the humour and characters right away. It was amazing to see him switch character voices instantly, self-edit and fix my unspotted script typos without stopping for breath. It was a really relaxed, fun day and I definitely want him to do Kangazang 2!

'Kangazang! Remote Possibilities' is the first in a trilogy. Can you tell us a little about what we can expect to see in the forthcoming episodes?

Of course! I’m pretty excited myself! I think Sci Fi is great in trilogies! Well, Kangazang 2 is subtitled, ‘Star Stuff’ and it’s almost finished. There’s trouble in store for Jeff and Ray, who both have to search for lost loved ones while their worst enemies from the past (book 1) join forces to find, humiliate and destroy them once and for all! Book three will round it all up, with the arrival of someone’s VERY disgruntled baby. I’ll say no more.

What is this I hear about you landing the role of Sherlock Holmes in a new Misfits Audio production?

Well, I do a lot of voice work, and I keep in practice by doing audio plays for many online sites. Misfits Audio wanted a Brit to play Holmes and asked me to audition. I was really happy to get it, as I’d recently watched the BBC’s Sherlock, and thought it was fantastic.

So do you have a favourite Sherlock of them all? Jeremy Brett perhaps, or Benedict Cumberbatch?

I watched a few Brett ones, years ago, and to me he’s the definitive Holmes. Note perfect. Cumberbatch is a natural successor – modern, sharp and also very funny. I can’t wait for the new series of Sherlock to start! Sadly, though I idolise Robert Downey Jr., his Holmes didn’t impress me at all. Stick to Tony Stark, Robert!

How was the Starmania Convention in Swansea?

Great fun! There’s a joke in Kangazang about Swansea being an awful place, but it’s not meant maliciously – I really liked it there. I got to chat to some of the actors from the classic trilogy and met some great people. Including my new girlfriend – she’s a bona fide Star Wars geek and that makes her the love of my life! It’s a seriously happy time for me right now.

Besides writing and acting, what else occupies your time?

I try to keep up the charity trooping events for the UKG wherever possible, and I spend weekends with my two daughters. My youngest is 9, and follows her old man in the love of Star Wars and Doctor Who, so I see her becoming a writer and artist like me too. I’m also writing and drawing a segment of the Welsh Comic Artists anthology, entitled ‘10thology’, due for release in February!

Strangetown Animation is an impressive company. Can you tell us a little about your work there?

Strangetown create CGI characters for adverts and suchlike. I do the character design and storyboards, and my partners David and Andy bring it all to life. Plus I get to do voices for them, which is the most enjoyable part.

What other projects do you have planned for 2011/12?

Like I say, the ‘10thology’ project will be out in February, and I’m working on Kangazang 2 after Christmas. In the works is a couple of short illustrated tales, in collaboration with my oldest mate, an artist called Craig Lewis. I have an idea for a couple of Kangazang spinoffs, such as a Hoppas children’s book, and a diary about Jeff Spooner’s intergalactic travels. These will be published by Candy Jar too. For any film producers reading this, we do have a screenplay for Kangazang, and the interest of quite a high-profile director, so give us a ring! Celluloid stardom beckons!

Thanks to Terry - Twitter
Terry Cooper interview copyright © Alwyn Ash 2010