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ESP HEADS TO NEW PETERBOROUGH COMIC CON

Batman, Wonder Woman and The Karate Kid walk into a room… no, this is not the start of a terrible joke, but the very first thing I saw when attending Peterborough’s Comic Con.

Comic-Con-ESP250318-1-(7)Organisers QKiY held their first event at the Cresset on Saturday March 24.

They had plenty of attractions for all ages and interests – including movie props, workshops and fun activities such as Lightsaber battles and a Mario Kart Tournament. And with a whole bunch of attendees in fantastic cosplay, there were plenty of photo opportunities – as you can see from our pics.

I spoke to Graham Kitchen, the director of QKiY, towards the end of the event.

He told me, “I couldn’t be more pleased with how things have gone. When we first started selling tickets for the event, they were going fast and so we extended the area to allow more people to attend.

“Now that we know there’s a demand for this type of event in Peterborough, we’ll be back next year with even more space, more activities and more stars!”

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The stars from the world of film and television that attended this year’s event included Steffan Rhodri (Harry Potter, Wonder Woman), David Schaal (The Inbetweeners, The Office) and Holli Dempsey (Derek, Dad’s Army).

I managed to grab a few words with them all.

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Steffan Rhodri Interview

As Steffan said himself, most people know him as portraying Dave Coaches on Gavin & Stacey. Ironically, it was a part that he was told he shouldn’t take. “Ruth Jones (co-creator of the show) told me that my character Dave would just be featuring in one episode. My agent was concerned that if I just kept taking on small roles, it would continue to be that way. I explained that Ruth was a good friend and that I thought the television show would be a huge success. As we now know, the show was indeed a Bafta-winning success and I ended up with much more screen time than expected, so it was a win-win.”

Comic-Con-ESP250318-1Those that have watched the hit show Gavin & Stacey will know that Dave is a very serious character. I wondered if it was hard to keep a straight face with so much comedy talent on set. “Absolutely,” he said. “With the likes of Ruth, James Corden, Rob Brydon, Joanna Page and Mathew Horne, there was a lot of laughter on set.”

Just as Steffan’s kids were growing tired of hearing people say “What’s occurring, Dave?” a huge role came the actor’s way.

The celeb described being in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as, “An incredible experience. So much money was invested into those films but rightly so. They knew just how popular the series was and how much it would make. I remember the cast and crew all being wonderfully welcoming.”

I wondered whether Steffan was nervous when attending the Potter Premiere, with this being his first time on the big screen. “It was mostly scary because of the people I was watching the film with. Huge names such as Ralph Fiennes, Julie Walters and the creator, JK Rowling. Despite my part taking so long to film, it seemed to be over very quickly. Weeks of filming can result in just seconds of screen time.”

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David Schaal Interview

Whether it be playing Jay’s dad in The Inbetweeners or a sarcastic Warehouse Manager in The Office, David Schaal seems to nail being the king of sting. With his characters in these shows both being brash and cocky men, I was surprised that David was so well-spoken in real life. “I get that a lot,” he said. “People are often telling me that I sound and look nothing like my characters. I’m also very different to my characters. I’d never dream of saying many of my lines to people in real life.”Comic-Con-ESP250318-1-(9)

So, which Inbetweeners character was David most like as a Teenager?

“I have to say Jay – and not just because I play his dad on the show. I was often boasting to my mates about having sex all the time, which was not the case at all.”

In The Inbetweeners, the actor is rather cruel to the main characters – a far cry from what things were like whilst the cameras weren’t rolling.

“It is such a laugh on set as you’d imagine. But also, some real intelligent conversations took place on set. Simon and Joe are Cambridge graduates. James is really cool (unlike his character) and I really like Blake – who is a very fun and interesting person to talk to.”

The Office has been a huge success critically and financially. I wondered whether the TV star knew it was going to be a hit whilst making it? David explained, “To be honest, I thought it was going to be rubbish. The writers/directors (Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant) were unknown at the time and it came across like they didn’t particularly know what they were doing. It wasn’t until I saw the show that I realised I was so wrong and how good it was.”

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Holli Dempsey Interview

Holli Dempsey, the star of Derek and the remake Dad’s Army has been acting since she was a young girl. With years of experience under her belt, I wondered what the highlights were. “Wow, so many,” she said. “I learnt so much during my time in theatre. I believe all actors should give the theatre a go if they can. Also, meeting the cast of Dad’s Army was an amazing experience. I’m a huge fan of theirs and it was an honour hearing all their stories.”

Ricky Gervais wrote and directed Derek – a show that I love. I wondered if working with the comedian was as manic as you’d expect. “More so,” Holli joked. “He is great. There was so much laughter on set. You’d always be hearing that trademark chuckle of his. I admire the fact that he allows the actors to have some creative freedom, allowing us to try out our own lines. I also like the fact that he closed the set by 4pm – which is quite rare.”

I’d heard that when auditioning for Derek, Holli purposely acted all surly and unimpressed. I wondered whether there was any truth to that? She told me, “Being familiar with Ricky Gervais’ previous work, I kept it right back. I didn’t want to be what many people would consider to be a typical 15 year old – some kind of ‘rude girl’. I think people often think younger people are being rude when actually they’re more than likely just nervous and out of their depth – particularly when talking to adults or starting a new job.”

On the show, Holli plays Vicky – a character who looks and sounds nothing like the actress. “I never get recognised as Vicky in the street,” she said.

“Coincidently, there was one time that I was in a pub and this guy mentioned to me that he’d seen a show called Derek and that I should watch it. After mentioning that I was in it, he stared at me before saying ‘Nah, it’s not you! She was taller in that!’ It was hilarious.”

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Every star I spoke to mentioned how they loved this particular style of convention as it’s a chance to meet the true fans.

I also loved my time at Peterborough’s first Comic Con. There’s something I really like about having hundreds of like-minded people put into the same room. Mostly because I felt I could truly unleash my inner-geek with zero judgement! My Niece had a great time too. There was something for all ages.

With 2019 promised to be even bigger and better, I’ll no doubt see you there. Keep an eye out for tickets on www.peterboroughcomiccon.co.uk – I’m told they’ll be on sale very soon.

Photos: www.photographybyandrewjames.co.uk for ESP Magazine

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