From the stage to the screen, Fra Fee is an undeniable talent. He chats with The Pickwyck about his current and past projects, being apart of the legendary barricade boys and his fervor for life.
How did you initially become involved in theater? Do you come from an artistic/musical family?
- "I was introduced to the theatre from a very young age. My dad has always been actively involved in the local amateur dramatic circuit and as a kid I would accompany him to rehearsals just to sit and watch or if I was lucky enough to be asked, read lines in for those actors that missed that particular rehearsal. It was a world I was fascinated by from a young age - Myself and my sisters were also regularly treated to plays and musicals at the Lyric Theatre and Grand Opera House in Belfast. Then, aged 11...(almost), I was cast as Kurt in a local production of The Sound of Music and never looked back since really. After obtaining a music degree from Manchester University I studied Musical Theatre at the Royal Academy of Music. My first audition was for the West End production of Dirty Dancing. I saw it as an opportunity to get the "first audition" nerves over and done with. I genuinely didn't think I'd get the job, but there you are!"
What was the first play/show you remember seeing?
- "My sister played Mickey in a production of Blood Brothers at her (all-girl) school. I had seen the last scene when my mum had asked me to go in and collect my sister from rehearsals. I stood and watched as my sister was shot (spoiler...sorry) and then an entire cast sang 'Tell Me Its Not True' over her dead body...completely transfixed! I then watched the whole show at every single performance."
You studied at the University of Manchester and the Royal Academy of Music. What was one lesson you learned during your time there that you have carried over into your professional career?
- "As cliched as it sounds, I've learnt to "be yourself". Contrary to the belief of some, I am adamant that it's individualism and self-integrity that sets you apart in this industry. Certainly being true to yourself will keep you sane!"
You have done theater in both London and Dublin. Do you feel there is any difference between the two? What is the theater scene like in Dublin versus London?
- "I've done a little work in Dublin yes but not too much. I'm back there soon for my next project though which I'm very excited about. There's not too much of a difference I don't think, certainly not in terms of talent. The acting Irish talent is pretty immense. You only need to look at the casts of shows and movies around the world to realize that Irish talent plays a significant role in this industry. But yes, it's nice to perform in my own country, for sure."
What is one piece of advice you were given that you hold dear to you?
- "Like everyone I'm sure, I've been given my fair share of invaluable pieces of advice but to be honest, I've had to learn those lessons myself. We can't avoid inevitable challenges or insecurities no matter how many lessons one's been taught. So I can't really think of one significant piece of advice. I would just say, enjoy the figuring it out for yourself."
What are you most passionate about in your own life - aside from your career?
- "The things that are important in my life are the people I love, my family and friends. I try to spend as much time as I can with my family, most of whom live back in Ireland. They're just fantastic. All brilliantly open, generous, funny, fun-loving individuals. Other passions? Music, cinema, food."
What is your guilty pleasure?
- "The X Factor. I hate all other forms of reality TV, but The X Factor just makes me laugh. It is edited so brilliantly."
What are some of your favorite books? Movies?
- "Brooklyn by Colm Toibin, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Movies, umm, I go to the cinema to see movies often, there are some great films being made at the moment. It's actually difficult to single a few out. I'm a fan of Tarantino although I only saw Inglorious Bastards recently, it was amazing. Love Little Miss Sunshine as well. The Wedding Singer makes me howl! I loved Inside Llewyn Davies that I saw last year. Beautiful central performance from Oscar Issac and the music was just stunning. My kind of thing."
Speaking of movies, you portrayed the role of Courfeyrac in Tom Hooper's movie adaption of the Les Miserablés. What was that experience like for you?
- "As you would expect, it was a simply incredible experience. I'm extremely grateful to have been the right age at the right time to play one of the students. We had such a ball shooting the movie as well. I was in the West End production at the time so it was thrilling to be tackling the same material in such a different way. As a student, myself and the others had the best scenes to shoot and a real sense of camaraderie was achieved on and off screen. It was really special."
Les Mis has a very passionate fan base. Have you ever had an, let's say interesting, encounter with a passionate fan?
- "Umm...there is most certainly a passionate fan base with Les Mis. It can be a tad overwhelming but ultimately it's the power of the story and the phenomenon that the musical has now become that attracts the fan-base. My part in it all is comparatively small. Nothing too outrageous to report."
The Barricade Boys have a huge following on the social media website, Tumblr. Fans on Tumblr believe that these characters are extremely close. Is there a sense of camaraderie between you and the fellow actors who portrayed these characters in the movie in real life?
- "Absolutely. I've remained close friends with many of those I worked with on the movie and regularly perform with them as well. I knew many of the lads before shooting the film but hadn't worked with or got to know them terribly well so since having worked on the film, I catch up with many of them over a pint regularly."
What has been the most challenging role for you to date?
- "Probably Philip Ashley in My Cousin Rachel, a theatrical adaptation of the Daphne Du Maurier novel that I performed at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina last summer. He is the central character of a brilliant story and essentially has a mental breakdown on stage. That was fun but pretty demanding to undergo every single night. But I loved it and the American audiences seemed to too. I think British period sensibility is very much in vogue with the success of Downton Abbey in the States so it was great to bring a bit of British intrigue over there."
Have you identified with any of the characters you have portrayed? Which role do you feel the most attached to?
- "I reckon actors have to bring something of themselves to every role - drawing on our own experience is the main tool we have, so in that respect I'd say there's a little of every role I've played in me, but off the top of my head, I'd possibly say Robbie in A Man of No Importance. On the surface he seems a fairly zen, uncomplicated character but as we discover, turns out to have real hidden depths and passions, which I could certainly relate to. I don't wear my passions or eccentricities on my sleeve but they're certainly there."
Who have been some of the strongest co-stars you have worked with and why?
- "Oh there have been a few. I think Eddie Redmayne is simply one of the finest actors we have and it's great to see that the world agree with me after his Golden Globe win. I'm rehearsing for A Little Night Music at the moment; we perform a one-night concert performance of the show on January 26th at the Palace theatre and I'm genuinely honored to be acting alongside Janie Dee as Desiree and Joanna Riding at the Countess, both phenomenal actresses. I played Young Buddy in Follies a couple of years ago and was mesmerised by the talents of Charlotte Page playing Sally; a stunning actress with the most beautiful voice. And it's no secret that Hadley Fraser is a hero. He's so brilliant and a genuinely lovely fella so I was delighted to have worked with him in Les Mis, on stage and screen. And of course, the list would not be complete without Scarlett Strallen who played opposite me as Cunegonde in Candide as was completely and utterly unreal in the role. She's so sensational at what she does and I can't thank her enough for making that job so special."
What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
- "Ha! There have been many I'm happy to report but the most embarrassing HAS to be when the piano stool on which I was sat in Fame, playing Schlomo, collapsed just as I was being revolved onto the stage whilst playing the scene change music. There was a spot light and everything. After an eerie silence where I could practically hear the audience thinking "Is this part of it?" the whole place erupted into laughter...I would've too!"
Do you have any upcoming projects you are working on? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
- "Well yes, as I said, I'm playing Henrik in a very special one off concert performance of A Little Night Music with an amazing cast and creative team and large orchestra. It's going to be very special indeed and then I am taking on the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at the Gate Theatre in Dublin. The Gate is the most wonderful theatre. I've seen some of the best things I've ever seen at that place so to be playing Romeo here is very exciting."
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
- "To stop time...there's not enough time in the WORLD to do everything. So get living I'd say."