Almost a year ago an ambitious independent film project was screened for the first time to an enthusiastic audience. Checking In has gone on to be featured in film festivals across the world and won Best British Film at the London Film Awards 2014. The movie is now available on VOD for the first time and in celebration of its continued success we’re going to be visiting some of the cast and reflecting upon the film in a series of special blogs.
In this second in a series of interviews we have the irrepressible Roger David Francis.
A character is certainly how I would describe the part of Alec the Hotel Manager. As the Big Boss, man in charge Alec is always on his toes. When it comes to customers, Alec is the Basil Fawlty of the 21st century. At home, he watches countless episodes of retro, time forgotten sci-fi and fantasises of the day his dedicated employee, Radka played by Nici Preston will be his date. At work his calm demeanour is tested to the limits as he ensures weddings are handled with attention and kept free from prostitutes running wild in the hotel.
What aspects of your character did you enjoy portraying most?
For me I think allowing the rather manic Alec to show his caring, softer side towards Radka his loyal employee was really endearing. The scenes towards the end of the film are so sweet. Alec for a few brief moments tries to ask Radka out. It’s obvious despite his customer service skills he is still inexperienced and very shy when it comes to dating.
What sort of preparation did you have to do for this role?
Preparation is key to success. Winging it on a prayer is also a great way to create fountains of inspiration. Improvisation often brings an exciting new dimension to a script and creates a wonderland beyond the writers’ original comprehension. Personally I believe a script should be likened to a corridor with many doors. As the actor delivers his lines along the corridor, he should open a door and give something of himself to that moment. One of those door-opening moments was Alec destroying a classic line from Macbeth. Whilst not in the original script the line sets the scene up and ensures Alec receives a well deserved bashing for his unwise performance.
I have a personal fondness for the Checking In location. Having left college after completing a two-year City and Guilds Hotel and Catering qualification, the Barons Court Hotel was my first real job. In fact, I worked for just under six years in all the various departments from Kitchen to Front of House. Playing Alec however, was the best promotion I had received from the hotel, even if it was 20 years later.
What type of movie do you enjoy watching and why?
Oddly enough, I am not unlike my character with regard movie choices. I love sci-fi. I adore movies that leave me perplexed, and wondering what happened to the last two hours of my life. I have watched the Matrix so many times I have become convinced I have taken the blue pill myself. There is a vast sky exceeding into the infinite realms of endless conscience that I never tire of exploring.
What was the most challenging aspect of the production for you?
Unlike many of the other actors who had their scripts months in advance, my role was presented to me by an act of fate. The original actor could not fulfil her commitment to the role so I was asked if I would like to step in. There is nothing I love more than a challenge. I have had tiny parts in productions such as Hollyoaks and Doctors, however, nothing on this scale. Trying to learn so many lines in a very short space of time was an incredible test of memory. I remember being in the Green Room at Emerdale and practicing the script with a bunch of very excited extras. The big question; would I do it all over again? The answer is a resounding YES. An actor learns so much from every role they perform and I am no exception. Checking In will be an experience I will remember fondly for the rest of my life. I cannot close, without thanking the crew for the endless amount of cheese cobs provided and hope to be eating them again sometime in the future.
Click the image below to see the film’s trailer –
VHX Link (click image)
Check back soon for another interview with the cast of Checking In.