The Perse School

Colin McFarlane (OP 1980) inspires the next generation of Perse Pupils

29 Nov 2016

On Friday 25 November, five Perse students with a keen interest in drama held a Q&A session with actor Colin McFarlane (OP 1980) ahead of his performance at the School’s Saffron Hall concert.

Colin told the students about acting during his School days, where he played roles in Pinter’s Birthday Party, Miller’s A View from the Bridge, and various Shakespeare plays. He had intended to embark on a career in law after leaving The Perse, until his Latin teacher pointed out his acting talent and encouraged him to pursue it further.

After having to convince his father that it wasn’t a waste of time, and despite multiple failed attempts at his Maths O-Level, McFarlane auditioned and was accepted on to a 3-year drama degree at Loughborough University, which has led to a hugely varied career in acting and voice-over work.

McFarlane spoke about the challenges he faced in his early career and how, after finally managing to raise the money needed to produce a run of John-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, two opportunities came along at once and he had to turn down a part in a Robert Redford film when the filming dates clashed with the play. To this day, he hasn’t been able to bring himself to watch the film. Colin also demonstrated some of the many voices that made him famous – the students were very excited to hear Sparkie from Mike the Knight, Dr. Muhahaha from Hounded, and the majority of the cast of Little Princess in the room with them!

The pupils were keen to hear some behind-the-scenes gossip, and McFarlane didn’t disappoint. He spoke about pretending he’s ‘having a facial’ when sitting through long sessions in make-up before acting in shows such as Dr Who, and told tales about working with Gary Oldham on the set of Batman Begins and Liam Neeson in their upcoming film The Commuter, due to be released in Spring 2017.

Other questions asked by the students led to discussions on experiences with the paparazzi and social media, and the ethics of using guns in films.

The session ended with McFarlane discussing his plans for the future. Whilst he will continue to act, he is also taking more production-based roles, allowing him to have more control over artistic vision. He is also looking to expand the work of his charity, Making History, which enables young people to discover their family roots.

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