This morning I was very lucky - and VERY excited - to have the chance to chat with Justin Fletcher about his new show Olly the Little White Van - amongst other things! It was the first time I've interviewed anyone - and to start with Justin Fletcher, the biggest superstar in Kid world, was nerve wracking to say the least!
Luckily for me Justin is incredibly nice and put me at ease right away - he's very easy to talk to, I could have chatted to him all day, and soon forgot that I was supposed to be interviewing him because I got carried away chatting.
Here are the questions I asked Justin and his answers.
"How involved were you in the development of the new show, Olly the Little White Van?"
- I wasn't at all - I was brought in to test for one character and the producer of the show asked me to play Olly. I do the voice for Olly and there are some small bit parts that I've played in recording at each session - I think I'm in double figures now!
"How different is voice over work to your usual studio stuff, and do you still 'act' it all; I know your usual work is very physical and slapstick."
- Oh completely, if anything voice over work is even more exaggerated; I embellish the performance. I think seeing that helps the animators with expression and comic timing too - they see how we move and incorporate that into the animation. I never sit down when I'm performing, I do it all standing and when I'm doing the voice over work I totally escape into Olly's world and believe I am Olly!
"Olly is described as having a helpful nature - do you see yourself in that or do you associate at all with the personality of Olly's best friend Bazza who is described as 'a little bit naughty' in the show?"
- (laughs) I think I was totally typecast as Olly - I love high energy roles, Olly is just that, he's like a labrador puppy, always wants to be pleasing people and making people happy - I'm just like that. I think if Olly had a tail he'd be wagging it all the time, he's a lovely, happy character.
"The show has a really catchy theme tune - as do a lot of your shows - I have a two year old and we watch you on T.V. together and I find myself (and my son) singing your songs all the time - do you find that you do the same when you get home after work?
- Oh my goodness, yes! I love catchy tunes and I love the tunes to the shows - Olly is definitely a catchy song and with all of them I definitely sing them when I'm not working!
"You've said before that you decided at drama school that kids TV was where you wanted to work - did you expect it to go so well and did you have a back up plan?"
- Oh goodness, yes, I was very focused at drama school, I decided that was where I wanted to work and I got my sister to help me do a showreel and I was very lucky that two months later I got my first work. I certainly didn't expect to be so lucky - I thought maybe I'd get work for a couple of years, but I've been doing it sixteen years now. I didn't expect involvement in so many projects but it just keeps growing and I love it, absolutely love it. I think the key is constant reinvention - I love creating new characters and trying them out, and I love working with the kids, the kids are brilliant - I just love what I do.
"Do you think that the appeal of kids T.V. is the chance to be an eternal child?"
- (laughs) definitely - it keeps you young, the kids keep me enthused, it's like a Peter Pan complex. We go on location a lot, out to meet the kids, and to schools, it's great - we go to the schools to record Gigglebiz and the kids tell their jokes, they tell them all themselves and they are their own jokes, and they're just amazing. It's great to work with kids.
"Do you find that being from a large family (Justin has four siblings) means that there's a lot of kids around and does that help with your work?"
- oh goodness, yes, it keeps it interesting; my siblings all have kids now and I always test out new characters or new things on my neices and nephews and my cousins - it's great. Having a big family means lots of support and feedback. I get a lot of feedback from the audience too, I get a lot of great letters and you hear a lot of wonderful stories, particularly from the kids watching 'Something Special' - I love hearing the stories of kids learning to communicate with makaton and love hearing that it's helped or made someone happy, it's great.
"You were awarded an MBE for your work on T.V. for kids with special needs - congratulations for that - you're a great influence in that world and a great success - do you have more plans in that direction?"
- definitely, yes. We're in the 8th year of 'Something Special now and I'm just staggered how popular and successful it's been. It was intended as an educational show and I thought it was going to be going out in the early morning, because it was intended as educational to be shown in schools, but the BBC put it on in the prime time and now we're on the 7th series and I'm staggered! It's a great show - it's so simple, and the makaton is so simple and it helps so many people; it's so great to see it relieving the frustration and helping kids to communicate - you know, there are some children, they can't talk but they can use this to communicate - they can tap their elbows and you know they want a biscuit or a drink, they can tell you what they want and it relieves so much frustration.
It's had a really big impact ('Something Special') and it's totally unique, and means such a lot to the kids. We decided three years ago to take it out of the studio and shoot on location with the kids and it's been amazing. The children are the stars - they never cease to amaze me. They teach me something every time I'm out with them - they can do so much sign language and I'm learning all the time.
"It must be great as well to be out working as yourself and as Mister Tumble - I know my son thinks they're two separate people!"
- (laughs) oh goodness, yes, I get that a lot - lots of children think that Mister Tumble is a separate person and I think that's great - it shows how well it's done and that just that costume can make the difference, and it shows how much the kids love Mister Tumble - it's great to have a character that's so well loved. (Justin has told a story about going out with his niece; a child shouted "Mister Tumble!" and Justin's niece said "oh is Mister Tumble here? Can I meet him!?")
"Going back to Olly, and to animated work - is it much different working in voice over work to working in the studio?"
- oh, yes, very - animation is very individual, and recording Olly was very high energised, very upbeat, he's very happy - I said before he's like a labrador puppy, it's great fun. There are a lot of characters, they're all great friends - it's like one big happy family, a big circle of friends.
"Do you do voice work all together with the rest of the cast or do you do it alone?"
- no, it's all done alone, on an individual basis - I had a lot of time constraints because I'm working on so many projects at once and travelling to location a lot so I recorded my parts alone, but the director was there and it's very well directed, we had a lot of discussion and I was given a lot of guidance and I also got to bring my own ideas as we were recording and we worked together. It's a great show, a great team.
"My last question is that you are always very busy, you're involved in a lot of projects - do you ever have a day off and just stay in your jim jams and relax?"
- (laughs) I get asked this a lot - the answer's no! I never stop - I work a lot, I'm doing a lot of different things. I am planning a holiday for next year! (Laughs again) I'm very busy, you have to take work when you can and I always think it's going to get quiet and then it doesn't, it just gets busier but I love it too much!
A lot of people use kids T.V. as a stepping stone but I'm happy where I am - it's where I always wanted to be and it's where I want to stay. I am planning some down time though, we all need to recharge at some point! I plan it - but then more comes up - and I really do love it!
I really, really enjoyed chatting to Justin - he is so nice, genuinely nice, and whilst I think a lot of people in the showbiz industry put nice on to do interviews Justin was really enjoying his day. Just before my interview started I could hear Justin talking to someone and he was laughing and joking and having a great time - when he says he loves what he does, it seems he really means it - and he really does love the kids and the happiness his work brings.
I particularly loved how many times Justin laughed, and said "oh goodness, yes!"
Next month Justin will be doing a few live shows at Paulton's Park in Hampshire and we're hoping to be able to go - I would love another chance to speak to Justin and introduce my son, who would be beside himself.
In the meantime check out my post about the new show Justin chatted to me to promote - Olly the Little White Van - here, it looks amazing and Roman is already very excited about it - I foresee a house filled with Olly merchandise very soon!