Verve talks to Alistair Browning, one of New Zealand’s finest film and theatre actors. His impressive portfolio of previous roles includes Lord of the Rings, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and an award-winning part in New Zealand film Rain, as well as numerous performances in live theatre productions. Browning’s focus is now on Roger Hall’s Four Flat Whites in Italy, which is playing at the Pumphouse Theatre from 18-25 June.
When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
I first knew I enjoyed acting at school when I somehow got to be in some school plays. I knew I wanted to be an actor after I was asked to be in Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre in 1977 as an extra and realised that people got paid to do what I loved. I asked to stay on as an apprentice and they said yes!
What has been your favourite role so far?
I am very proud of playing Ed in Christine Jeffs’ film Rain. My first film, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence with Bowie and Conti was an extraordinary experience. I loved being Hamlet when I was the right age and also being Oberon recently in Michael Hurst’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2015.
What would be a dream role for you to play?
Macbeth and Lear, of course, but the lead in a TV series about a private detective in modern, or even better, historic Aotearoa would make me ecstatic.
What show are you doing next?
Roger Hall’s Four Flat Whites and then a plan to revitalise the Mercury Theatre and re-establish mentorship and repertory style theatre.
What is the strangest thing a role required you to do?
Full nudity, twice! But also falling down a flight of stairs every night for six weeks. Oh, I played a magic mushroom once!
What is every actor’s nightmare?
Falling down a flight of stairs… I’ve never had those classic nightmares of not knowing what play I’m in or so on. I don’t really fear much. I’ve already done it all.
What advice would you give to young aspiring actors?
It’s as much chance as talent. All you can ever do is your best, be truthful, be your true self. Think always of the other actor, it’s a team effort.
What’s the best part of being an actor?
Doing what you love as a job. I’ve done lots of jobs over the years to pay the rent, but nothing beats acting. It is unbelievably creative and rewarding. We’ve lost the value we used to place in story-tellers. Our loss.
If you weren’t an actor, which profession would you choose?
Singer. I love singing. There are times I wish I’d been a singer in a rock band. How I wish David Bowie had taken me on tour with him.
Can you tell us something no one knows about you?
I’m a nana. I read a lot. Go to bed early. Love Haydn.
Any tricks of the trade such as how you remember your lines, how you deal with stage fright?
Someone asked me recently, “How did you prepare for the role?” I answered, “I learnt the lines.” Just learn the script inside out, think of your fellow collaborators and have fun. If you’re not having fun, why are you there?