An Interview with Mark Parsons – By David Stephenson

 First off, how about you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hello my name is Mark Parsons. I am a 28 year old London actor and I appear in the feature film ‘Deadpan Valentine.’

In Deadpan Valentine, we see you playing Jamie – an emotional recluse held hostage by a psychotic gunman. What was it that drew you to the role?

There were several things that drew me to the character of Jamie. I loved his dry wit. In many ways it’s his defence mechanism to life. Also that although he wants to end his life he is still curious enough about it to find out what would posses someone to take him hostage. He doesn’t antagonise the gunman into killing him, instead he tries to help him and in doing so awakens feelings with in himself that he had suppressed. It gives him the opportunity to step back and take stock of his life.

How did you go about researching the role? Was there anyone in particular you modelled your performance upon?

There wasn’t any one person that I modelled Jamie on. Whenever I approach a new character I always start off by seeing if there is anything that I can draw on personally, or have experienced in one way or another, that could possibly be right for the character. I did want to get into who would have inspired Jamie to do stand up. I watched a lot of tapes on various stand up comedians trying to find the right kind of ones that would have influenced Jamie. Once I made my choices on that it helped me to find out who Jamie is.

One of the most important aspects of the performance was the emotional journey Jamie makes throughout the film – did you find any difficulty in such a challenging role? Is there anything you’d change?

Firstly there are always things that I would change about all of my performances, or things that I would do differently. A lot depends on which ‘take’ the director wants to use and then I have to trust that my character is going to be conveyed in the same way as I have interpreted it. Ultimately I don’t look back on my work and have regrets. Hopefully by the time it comes to shooting I am as prepared as I can be. I did have some anxieties about the emotional journey that Jamie takes. The main one being what stops him from killing himself. Why open the door to the gunman in the first place, why not let the gunman kill me? Once I understood his reasons and could justify his actions then I just trusted it and played the scene. His humour is not a ‘knock, knock’ kind of humour. He takes from life and incorporates his observations into his stand up routines. I think Jamie thinks that this situation with the gunman is all too tempting, he is curious about the outcome.

 Deadpan Valentine is by no means your first film appearance; you’ve also appeared in Topsy Turvey and Between Friends – please tell our readers more about these films and your role in them.

The work I did on Mike Leigh’s ‘Topsy-Turvey’ was heavily cut. That in its self was quite a learning curve. Doing your homework, working with a great director, then having your work make it to the cutting room floor. An important lesson for me none the less. For me, Mike Leigh is a complete master of his craft. Myself and the other actor in a scene were allowed to improvise in one of the cut scenes and it was at times like that that I realise why doing your homework and research is so important! ‘Between Friends’ is an independent film that I shot about 3 years ago. It was part of a nationwide 48 hour film challenge. The winners of the competition were allowed to have their work screened at ‘Sound’ in Leicester Square. It was an incredible experience for me. The Rules to the competition were that the film had to be 5 minutes long and you were only given the genre and the time period that the film had to be set, on the morning of the shoot. Then you had 48 hours to some up with a completed film. Improvising and trying to be creative after 36 hours or so with out sleep was very interesting. There were three actors, myself included and a small crew. It was a real collaborative effort. An amazing creative experience.

As well as film appearances, you have also done a fair bit of TV work, including a role on popular UK drama The Bill. What was your role, and what was it like to appear before an entire nation?

The Bill was about the first piece of work that I ever got paid for. It was about 10 years ago and I played a school kid. It was shot outside on an estate in South London and I remember that it was the only day that year that it snowed!

Based on your experience, how does working in TV compare to working in film or on stage? Which do you prefer? Television is the producer’s medium, film is the director’s medium and stage is the actor’s medium. There is something quite unique about working on stage. Working moment to moment with a fellow actor, knowing that you can’t do a second take is very exhilarating. Exploring and keeping a scene fresh performance after performance in itself gives me great pleasure. Although working on film is a different buzz for me. I like that you have the opportunity to do a scene several different ways all of which could be a possible way to play it. Try to give your director a headache in which ‘take’ he/she wants to finally use for the finished film.

Speaking of theatre, one role that struck me was your appearance as Mr Orange in the stage version of Reservoir Dogs. How did the stage version differ from the screen?

Our version of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ ran chronologically. We started with the cafe scene, and then followed that with each of the various characters story lines leading up to the bank robbery. Infact we also showed the robbery in progress, a scene that was missing from the film. Playing Mr Orange meant that I had to get shot in the stomach and lay dieing on the stage for the whole second act. I think that was one of the main reasons that we had to do the play in chronological order. Otherwise I’d have to get cleaned of all the blood after every scene!

 What was your performance like in comparison to that of Tim Roth? Did you go about portraying the role in a different way?

One of the things I didn’t do was watch the film before starting work on the play. I didn’t want to try and recreate Tim Roth’s fantastic portrayal of Mr Orange. It had to be my version of it. I had my own back story and my own way of playing it. When we performed it as part of the Edinburgh festival we got 5 stars in the Metro review so I guess somebody liked it. It was a high energy in-your-face kind of play. We actually had an audience member faint in the famous ear cutting scene. I was proud to be apart of that production.

What was used for costume? Did you get to wear one of those cool black suits?

Yes, we wore the black suits and black shades. It was cool, blood, guts, guns and great writing. I had two suits for the play. One that I would use for the first act and then a second that we covered in blood for the second act. I was always the last one to leave the theatre as there was so much blood that I had to wash off!

What is next for Mark Parsons?

I have a couple of independent film projects in the pipeline and also hopefully putting on a play in August for a 3 week run in Belgium. I just hope that each year I get a little busier than the last.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I hope this has been an interesting insight for your readers.