WHEN an actor is asked to base his character on James Dean, the standard has been set.
For Chester actor, Tom Hughes, being asked that by Ricky Gervais must have put the pressure up to boiling point.
Tom, of the Garden Quarter, has a lead role in Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s film Cemetery Junction, which opened in cinemas this week.
Set in 1970s England, the comedy centres on three upstart professional men working at an insurance company.
“No pressure then!” laughs Hughes, whose parents, Sue and Roy, still live in Chester.
“My character Bruce is cock of the walk. He has charm and all guys want to be him.
“The more I read the script, though, he’s just a broken-hearted little boy who uses his bravado as a cover-up. His mum left him when he was 11 and he’s just trying to protect himself.”
This is the second big film for Tom, 24, who left the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) early to take up a TV role in the 2009 series Trinity on ITV2. He also played Chaz Jenkel in the BAFTA-nominated biopic of punk rocker Ian Dury, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. Other TV credits include Dr Harry Ingrams in the BBC’s Casualty 1909.
Hughes describes the script of Cemetery Junction as “the best I’ve ever read”.
He said: “Working with Ricky and Stephen was a lot of laughs. They are incredibly funny, very genuine and very open. I can’t talk highly enough of them.”
Hughes recalls being on set with Gervais, famous for his improvisational skills, who plays the dad of one of the characters.
“He comes out of the pub, where I am sitting with another character, and says one line. Each time he came out he would say something different and we would just corpse. After about 15 takes, we had to get a grip!”
As a youngster, Hughes was a member of Chester’s Jigsaw Music Theatre Company, which he has nothing but praise for.
“Jigsaw was fantastic. I knew from the age of six that I wanted to be an actor but when I got to secondary school (Upton High), I found I was often too young to get the big parts.
“Jigsaw re-ignited my passion for acting. Matt Baker (the company’s artistic director) just breathes confidence into you. He deserves every amount of praise he gets.”
When Hughes left Jigsaw at 16 he had to travel to Liverpool to join the Everyman Youth Theatre as, by then, Chester Gateway Theatre, and its youth company, had folded.
Hughes has not dismissed returning to the city to act and was excited to hear about proposed developments for open air theatre in Grosvenor Park this summer.