As the 13th Hour Horror Festival keeps the scares coming, we talked to actor Andrew Lee Potts about his role in Dracula, Primevil and his other projects coming soon. This includes directing and plenty more acting – boy is he busy!
Along the way he also tells us about fighting dinosaurs, fighting vampires and X Factor (not fighting it).
How did you get into acting?
Andrew Lee Potts: Ohhh from the start I couldn’t play football and I needed a way I could get girls, ha ha!
I believe that’s the reason for 90% of actors…
Andrew Lee Potts: Well yeah. ‘I can’t kick a ball so that’s buggered, what else impresses girls? I’m going to be an actor’.
I started in drama classes when I was seven and got cast pretty quickly in like small northern stuff. So I started working professionally from nine or something on TV, then ironically I did Children’s Ward, all the northern stuff, then I got cast in a series called The Biz with Max (who plays Dracula).
This is the first time we’ve worked together since but we did remain friends. Its a bit different because that was like Glee before Glee, pre-Glee.
As a teen I came down to London and played the drummer in that and stayed here. It started when I was 14, finished when I was 16. And then got my break when I was 17 with my first movie
So off the back of Macbeth you got cast as child psychotic?
Andrew Lee Potts: Yeah or kids with real issues and stuff. I thinks its a case of I still looked so young when I wasn’t. I looked 14/15 when I was 18 so yeah they like to cast like that.
It just rolled on from there, I’ve been really lucky versatility-wise in my roles. I’ve played so many different types of people which has been great, from playing Nero the emperor in Boudica, to Band of Brothers, to Return to House on Haunted Hill – which is horror. I’ve played a lot of Americans.
It’s been nuts really but cool and interesting. I even did the remake of Sir Samuel Robinson and I was in Thailand for 3 months playing a pirate!
You don’t seem to have been type-cast…
Andrew Lee Potts: No I seem to have been alright. That was the worry when I went into Primevil. Because we knew it was going to be a show that would get a lot of attention around it. I had done some comedy a year or two before in a movie with Mena Suvari and Katherine Heigl called Caffeine in L.A and I really enjoyed it. I thought ‘ohhh I can do this’, the funny stuff as well. I had never done that, I had just been serious all the time.
Then Primevil came up and I used what I had learn with the humorous side of it. Because I was going for a character who was the archetypal geek and he was supposed to be a genius as well. I left school at 16 and barely went to school previously to that anyway. So I was anything but a genius… Well who’s to say.
But anyway academia wasn’t my forte, I see more in pictures than words.
So it came up but I was more like ‘its brilliant but what if it does really well? What then?’ I never imagined we would have toys and that it would run for 5 years. It’s even sold to America now. I’ve just shot the spin off show in Canada.
I read that. It’s so big in Canada that they’ve made a new series purely for them!
Andrew Lee Potts: Yeah totally. The spin off show is supposed to run at the same time – hypothetically – with anomalies opening in different places around the world. They shoot in Vancouver where I did the remake of Alice in Wonderland – Alice – with Kathy Bates which was fucking awesome. I was playing Hatter which was one of my favorite roles ever, again completely different to anything else.
So going back to Vancouver was brilliant and all the new cast is great. It’s weird being the only English one and being the only one from the original show in it. I’m so used to certain people being around me but it was still fun with the new guys. They bring a different energy to it. I’ve seen the trailer for it and it looks really really cool. It starts really soon over there. I think it premiers on my birthday, which is the 29th October.
They’re on a countdown now, they’re going to have screening events and stuff. It will be shown on Watch in England.
There are 13 episodes and I’m a recurring character, but obviously I can’t say how much I recur.
It was cool that the director Martin Wood did all of Stargate and stuff. He’s so cool and their team is amazing out there.
What was mad was our budget got smaller and smaller on Primevil so we just had to become more resourceful in the last series, which I think looks the most expensive. The camera rigs were made from things you won’t imagine and we just got really creative and I really like that. I’m pretty proud of the look of it but then going back to the Canadian one they are like ‘this is how it started – with a massive budget’. There are cranes and well I can’t tell you, but some of the stunts I was just like ‘why didn’t we do this on our show?!’
I love inventiveness.
How did you become involved in Dracula?
Andrew Lee Potts: Through Max (Wrottesly who plays Dracula), Max has been one of my best friends for ages and he’s also one of Adam’s (Adam Morley the director) best mates as they went to school together.
Adam and I first met each other when drunk. You would have to ask Adam why he wanted me to get involved but he asked me to get involved. I had just played Harker in a sci-fi movie called Vampire Nation/True Bloodthirst which is on the telly at the minute, very different. I was a descendent of Jonathan Harker, I was an American in it, I have two desert eagle guns. It’s me blowing the shit out of a load of vampires.
So coming back and making it more traditional was very interesting for me. its the second time I’ve played Harker.
Jonathan Harker has been played by many actors, especially on film, including Trevor Eve, Bruno Ganz and Keanu Reeves (with his terrible accent). What ideas and innovations do you and this production bring to the character?
Andrew Lee Potts: I think the way I view anything is to try and find any quirk. I can’t help that.
I think sometimes Harker has been played as if he’s got a rod shoved up his arse and I don’t think he has to be like that. He’s supposed to be working class. That’s the whole point. He’s done good.
He’s always been played as super duper posh really. I’m doing the stage posh accent as the text works better sounding like that. We did try with my northern accent but it just stands out a bit too much. He’s from Whitby apparently
Yes, in fact Bram Stoker was inspired there. There is a bench with a view of the sea and church
Andrew Lee Potts: Yeah just humanising him, thats what I tried to do with a lot of my characters. I want him to be like I’m playing him on the stage. He’s not perfect but he must be kind of charming to pull a character like Meena in the first place, and he has got a lot of back bone.
He has a accommodating nature and when he first meets Dracula, he’s got no fucking idea. Its all a bit of an adventure, and oh Dracula seems to be quite friendly and charming and he is flattered as well, because it feels like a big deal to him. He’s got this Count plying him with alcohol and attention and saying ‘you’ve done so well with your life’ and ‘I want to be like an English gentleman like you’. So it’s flattering. And he does fall into that web of deceit in a way.
That makes his breakdown so much more distressing. When he realises he’s been manipulated so badly, he’s cross with himself, but he gets his own back.
What research and preparation did you do for the role? How has the rehearsal process been so far
Andrew Lee Potts: I didn’t do much preparation for the role to be honest, mainly because it came about so quickly. Ironically I was supposed to be in Russia filming a movie which fell through at the last minute (but its going again next year).
I was concentrating more on that than this but by the time it fell through we were already doing the read through.
I must admit I did watch the Dracula with Keanu Reeves in, which highly entertained me.
Almost the ‘how not to’..?
Andrew Lee Potts: Yeah but that accent. You can’t get it out of your head.
How has the rehearsal been so far?
Andrew Lee Potts: Manic, crazy, good, fun.
Everyone is great, everyone is putting their all in. It’s been interesting, we’ve made quite a few cuts, adapted it a little bit. But its been really interesting for me.
The biggest challenge for me was, all you ever get told to do on screen is to be small, its taken me years to learn how to do that. Then for stage, suddenly you are told be bigger be louder, and I’m just like ‘but I don’t want to show off’.
So that was a transition. But we went through it today and I had the costume on and I was like ‘Yeah! I quite like speaking out into the middle distance’.
But everybody has been great and that’s want you need. The team working really hard. It’s great working with Max, he’s my boy.
What should the audience expect from this version of the Bram Stoker story?
Andrew Lee Potts: Smaller, intimate. I imagine not everybody is going to know the full story. I certainly didn’t.
They’ll be entertained as visually its quite interesting. If for instance you took this and banged a load of money into it and put it on a big stage, it would look amazing and I think we touch on all of that – where you go ‘oh wow’. But at the end of the day we are just working our little spaces. Hopefully that will help with the atmosphere and stuff.
You get to see the sexy brides of Dracula so that’s good stuff.
This is nearer to the book and we’ve tried to keep a lot in for the true loyal fans of the original story, including a lot of the dialogue and the diary entries and stuff.
But its also a long story so when Harker goes back to Transylvania we’ve tinkered with a bit, because it just goes on forever.
I hope we’ve kept to the basic muscles of the piece and worked around them. Hopefully the true fans won’t be disappointed. And people who don’t know the story that well will probably just think ‘wait a minute, this isn’t Twilight!’
Dracula is on as part of the 13th Hour Horror Festival. What other shows are you looking forward to catching if you have the time?
Andrew Lee Potts: I don’t know much about the rest of the festival. I’ve been down in the hole. What else is going on?
Zombie comedy – Zomedi; a load of cabaret; film screenings; tons of horror related wonder all under one roof.
Andrew Lee Potts: I quite fancy the zombie comedy, that all sounds cool. We are definitely in the mix. I’ll definitely see what tickles my fancy.
Obviously you are best known for your TV work. What is the difference between acting for the screen and the stage?
Andrew Lee Potts: Working together. You might do a scene, especially in Primevil (we’ve got a lot of action stuff where you have to work together) and the buzz you get, you all feel a bit more bonded. And that’s great but then you all go back to your trailers.
It’s a different vibe here. I love moving each others scenery, making sure everyone’s props are there. I really like all of that. Its goes back to the short film stuff I do. I like to get hands on and involved, I struggle not to.
What kind of short films have you done?
Andrew Lee Potts: A lot of it is quite gothicy, I kind of veer towards that. It’s all quite high concept. The first ever one was Blood and Benefits, which was about vampires living on a council estate in East London, and that had Kerry Mulligan, and some other great people in it. That was great fun.
It has been a learning curve right up until now. I think I’ve made ten or something and I’m in the last twelve for virgin media shorts for a film I did called Little Larry, its voting as well. We are second in ‘people’s choice’ at the moment!
What do you want to do more of in the future? Acting or directing?
Andrew Lee Potts: I guess I’ll see where it goes, as the river flows.
If I was to direct for too long I would miss acting or vice versa. It’s great for me when I’m not acting. In fact I get so backed up with work, I’m editing 3 things right now. I started doing music videos. Like MK1 that are on the X-factor.They were in one of my videos earlier in the year.
Do you write your own stuff?
Andrew Lee Potts: I work with Alex Moss and Tony Den who help me to write the stuff. Because I shoot it, film it, camera operate, DOB it, I edit it. They are all kind of my little babies.
I like it, you can be such a puppet in this industry sometimes and you can get frustrated and jaded by that. So taking control back, even if it isn’t for commercial gain, just for doing it for myself, or for a following of Keychain Productions fans (which is my production company).
It’s just nice to get the response, creative response. In fact one of my fans has done the poster for this. We put a shout out on the fan web page – ‘is anybody interested in doing this sort of thing?’ and its brilliant. It’s really good, I was like ‘wow, we’ll have that, thank you very much’.
Do you think being in the industry so long has given you a good overview?
Andrew Lee Potts: I am dyslexic, as with a lot of dyslexics your other senses are heightened. You know, if you’re blind your hearing is better? My visual sense is, I hope, quite strong.
A lot of my films are visually impressive, thats kind of what I love. As for picking up what to do – that’s self taught. I’m a bit of a self teacher. Jack of all trades, master of none.
It’s funny because I taught myself how to play the drums, I didn’t have lessons (couldn’t afford lessons as a kid), I taught myself how to play the guitar and I taught myself how to use Final Cut.
Do you ever relax?
Andrew Lee Potts: Yeah, I like watching X Factor and things liked that. I like a bit of chessy tv. I do have shows that I sit down and watch but my brain is quite active. So it needs to be full and I’m easily distracted as well.
You have made horror movies in the past, like the Stephen King adaptation 1408 and Return to House on Haunted Hill. Do you like horror as a genre to act in and to watch?
Andrew Lee Potts: Fuck yeah love it! I saw Cabin in the Woods the other day. That’s a great film. Great twist. Really enjoyed it.
it’s great doing horror. Doing Return to House on Haunted Hill was really fun, loved doing that. I only had a two minute part in 1408 but it was really nice to go and work with John Cusack so that was lovely.
With Red Mist, I was in a coma for most of that, 20 minutes at the start I’m autistic, then in a coma. All I had to do all day was lie down. I did fall asleep a couple of times, during a scene then I heard “Pottsy you’re snoring“. That wasn’t good!
Other than this production which is your favourite version of the Dracula legend or vampire movie?
Andrew Lee Potts: My favorite vampire film? Well I really liked 30 Days of Night. That was scary, genuinely scary. I liked how they portrayed the vampires. I liked the eeriness they created, the concept, the location. I think I probably enjoyed that one the most. But I’ve seen so many I forget.
I love vampires as a thing, that’s why my first film was about them. I played a vampire in that, the only time I have. I usually only ever play vampire hunters or dinosaur hunters or just hunters in general.
Do you think they’ve been ruined by the recent lot of teen angst rubbish?
Andrew Lee Potts: No not ruined. Diluted massively. But like everything it goes through stages, like gangster films or super hero films.
If there is an audience that want to keep watching it then they keep making it.
Oh Lost Boys, that just came into my head. I love that!
It’s all supply and demand at the end of the day. If you don’t like it you don’t have to watch it. But if your still interested, I like a good vampire thing. Twilight takes the fear out of it a bit but that will go away for a couple of years and then come back.
All fantasy I adore I just get lost in it, I love getting lost in someone else’s world they created. I’ve fallen into that genre with the sci-fi stuff quite heavily. I’m happy to have landed there. Now I’m getting a bit older – I’m 33 in a few weeks!
I started Primevil when I was 26. But now I would like to go back to when I started doing films which were really serious dramas and do them for a little bit. I’ll never lose my love for fantasy characters. Like I said, playing the Mad Hatter was a dream for me and getting lost in Nick Willing’s world was incredible.
Which is easier to fight? Vampires or dinosaurs?
Andrew Lee Potts: Vampires because Dinosaurs on our show come out of anywhere at any time, and to be honest with you they are quite massive. So I would say dinosaurs because I’ve had a lot more experience with them
Do you believe vampires really exist?
Andrew Lee Potts: What about Vampire dinosaurs?!
Well, that’s your next film!
Andrew Lee Potts: On a plane!
But seriously, do you think they have ever existed?
Andrew Lee Potts: Er… Well theres no smoke without fire. But again you look at Harry Potter and think ‘I’m pretty sure Hogwarts doesn’t exist’. I don’t know. I like to leave it in a grey area. It’s nice not to decide.
I went to Romania to shoot Boudica and walking round… it wouldn’t surprise me. There’s room for everyone’s view.
What’s next for you after this?
Andrew Lee Potts: Well like I said, I’m going to see what happens with the Virgin Media thing because if that does happen, well… There are two awards both linked to the BFI, so it would be major!
Have you got something in mind?
Andrew Lee Potts: I’ve always got something in mind. I’ve got too many things in mind.
We have some cool ideas if we win the Virgin Media comp with what we will do with the prize. Also I’ve got to finish a film next year called The Landmine which is a high concept film about 3 guys in the middle of Eastern Europe on the way to one of their’s weddings. The characters think it will be cool to hang out and go camping and one of them steps on a Landmine. They have no mobile reception, so what do you do? It’s with another guy and girl, I’m not on the landmine but oh there are bears as well. Its really interesting. The filming was cancelled because the weather was so bad.
Then we will see what happens with Primevil: New World. It’s an older version as its being shown after 9pm so there is sex and violence. It was really cool for me because I went out there saying “I can say ‘shit’ without getting into trouble” like a 7 year old.
I’m keeping busy editing two short films. One is called Monitor which is a horror. The other one is called Time. There is a teaser trailer for an artist called Talose who is fucking brilliant, its quite gothic feel to it. First music video for the release of her first album and that should be later in the year. Basically I don’t stop!