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, the third in a series of interviews we have the wonderful Ernest Vernon.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character in Checking In?
Ted is the classic henpecked husband who likes nothing more than to fight back with his quick witted, razor sharp retorts and unkindly put downs, in his feeble attempts to keep his sharp tongued wife in check… after all, at his age, and after fighting off any potential mid-life crisis, and enduring such a long suffering nagging relationship, he has had to put up with this situation for years.
He never quite gets the feeling of satisfaction of gaining the upper hand in his relationship, because in his mind, that inconsiderate dragon of a woman keeps coming back for more… and the frustrating, bare faced cheek of it all is she will not be told! How can he ever have the last word, if she keeps coming back for more?
Although feeling somewhat plagued with a wife that can nag for England, and often having devious thoughts of either acquiring ear muffs for him or a gag for her… he still could never imagine his life without her.
Deep down, although he would never admit it, he quite likes her antics and quite likes the challenge… after all, how can you have a meaningful fight, without a sparring partner. Even better if it is a partner that can give as good as she gets.
Sometimes, heated arguments and the trading of insults may be all you need to keep a romance going, a way of life to match no other. Ted certainly thinks so, and where would he be without all this irritation and discomfort in his life… keep the insults coming is his motto, there’s plenty more sharp retorts where the last one came from!
What aspects of your character did you enjoy portraying most?
Ernest Vernon as Ted with Suzanne Kendal-Morgan as Mary
To play the character of Ted, a certain amount of comic timing needed to be taken into consideration, although the overriding intention was for the situation to be comical more so than the character. Ted needed to be a real life character in a bickering and desperate situation that fought back with quick witted, sometimes amusing replies… but never a comedian, and some thought needed to be put into that. I enjoyed the challenge of creating a character that could be seen to be a long suffering victim, by the viewer, while at the same time showing him to be resourceful at fighting back.
I enjoyed the challenge of portraying a character that was being absorbed into an antagonising barrage of insults and put downs, with only his sharp wits and retorts as a mechanism of retaliation… still trying to keep his cool, possibly a bit on the sarcastic side at times, but hopefully never too nasty. It was important to maintain a coolness about the character, as the challenge was to keep him more as a henpecked likeable character than a nasty villainous overbearing one.
I suppose the most enjoyable aspect of the character of Ted, was portraying his sharp wit and amusing quick retorts to fend off any potential failings or criticisms that may be thrown at him.
What sort of preparation did you have to do for this role?
To prepare for the role I had to think of ways of observing and studying typical couples bickering with each other in similar situations. I figured that I could do this by either observing situations already acted out on film by actors or even take in real life situations, as normal life goes on around us. I immediately likened the situation to George and Mildred, certainly for the comedy, where Mildred portrays the ideal type of wife that constantly puts down her partner with scathing and sarcastic remarks. She easily could be Mary, but without the kleptomaniac tendencies. Ted, however, is not as under the thumb as George, and perhaps more quick witted and able to fight his corner. So already, with a bit of manipulation for Ted, here was a situation that could be taken into consideration when preparing Ted for his nagging wife, certainly in a comedic way. Elements of Basil Fawlty and Sybil also sprang to mind, typically a henpecked husband partnered with a domineering woman, competing as to who wears the trousers.
I found that even going on a trip to the local supermarket, can at times throw up an amusing situation with couples having a disagreement on what goes into the trolley. They don’t intend to be amusing and probably do not even realise they are bickering in public, but nevertheless this is good observational material to character build and think… hmmm, I wonder how Ted would react.
Reading through the script, the character of Ted seemed to immediately jump out to me and as the bickering, tit for tat dialogue was revealed I could already see traits and mannerisms for him. I suppose in a way the preparation for the character, in the mind, had started already. I felt I was Ted from the first script read through.
What was it like working in a real life hotel?
The location organisers have to take great credit for securing the Barons Court Hotel as a film location. Many films can have scenes shot or part shot in a studio with mock designs for all types of situations, or even make do with a similar surrounding to the real one intended, but you can never get a better feeling to act out a scene than at an authentic, real location, fit for purpose.
The scenes that I was involved in required an en-suite bedroom, a corridor, a restaurant, a reception area and a car park, so to be in an actual hotel to shoot those scenes was perfect. Everything not only looked authentic and believable from a buildings and location point of view, but also acting out the scenes was also helped by feeling that you were resident at an actual hotel.
Props were also cut down to a minimum, as required elements for filming were already in situ. It was a good feeling to know that from the bedroom scene at the beginning of filming, right through to the breakfast scene and car park scene at the end of filming, everything was readily available and just seemed to fall into place.
What type of movie do you enjoy watching and why?
I like most genres of film and will watch most things within reason.
However, I do particularly enjoy horror, supernatural, science fiction, thriller and suspense movies. I think the reason for this is because I grew up with them. I seemed to enjoy the feeling of being scared of what might happen next and the suspense of how it all might end.
As a boy, my imagination would always run wild with the likes of monsters, ghouls and ghosts after watching scary films or dramas, and although for a while I might have been afraid to go to bed, I would always eventually realise that it wasn’t real… (or was it?) after trying to put my mind to other, less scary things.
I suppose the it’s the early stuff that gave me the bug, things like Doctor Who, Quatermass, The Outer Limits, The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, Hammer Horror and so on, and the scariest ones I can remember as a youngster that certainly had a frightening effect on me was The Skull, The Pendulum and The Pit, and The Beast With Five Fingers. I think another reason I liked these types of film, and why they made an impression on me from an early age, was how the characters were portrayed by the actors of the day, like William Hartnell, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff .There are many more, of course, but they all had a part to play in hooking me to the horror movie and the macabre. They were so believable and watchable to me at the time.
Then following on from Halloween and Friday 13th, through countless horror movies and franchises, onwards to the present day, I would like to thank all those talented horror and supernatural writers, producers and directors that keep us on the edge of our seats, and if you are like me, unable to resist the temptation of watching the latest offerings to tingle the spine. Insidious Chapter 3 is coming up!!
As filming techniques and technology has progressed the horror and suspense movies have become even more impressive to watch… but never forget, the older ones are still good ‘uns!
What was the most challenging aspect of the production for you?
Well, learning lines is always a challenge to me. As the dialogue between Ted and Mary was sometimes quick-fire with plenty of back and forth bickering, I was constantly aware that the lines needed to be as close to the script as possible, to keep the quips meaningful and flowing. The timing was crucial from a comedic point of view, because by contrast some of the lines needed pauses, as the character needed relevant reflection time, before delivery of the next line. This was my first major attempt at a comedy role and having been given the chance, I so desperately wanted things to work and to try and raise a smile in the right places… to me this was a challenge, but one I wanted to grasp.
I think this challenging aspect just about rises above the copious applications of shaving foam, the endless bowl of honey nut loops at the breakfast scene ( I think the bowl was bottomless, and I now prefer crunchy nut cornflakes).
Click the image below to see the film’s trailer –
Checking in is now currently available on VOD at the following sites –
Vimeo Link (click image)
VHX Link (click image)
Check back soon for another interview with the cast of Checking In.