In the bleak midwinter... there's a certain theatrical production designed to warm the cockles of our hearts and it's back for a third consecutive year at the Old Vic! What would Christmas be, after all, without Charles Dickens' timeless classic A Christmas Carol? This new interpretation first premiered at the Old Vic in 2017 (headlined by soon-to-be To Kill a Mockingbirdstar Rhys Ifans as Ebenezer Scrooge) in an adaptation by Harry Potter and the Cursed Childscribe Jack Thorne. Under the helm of the Old Vic's Artistic Director Matthew Warchus, it became an instant, festive hit and would return in 2018, this time with Stephen Tompkinson taking over as Scrooge. But now, for the very first time, this enchanting retelling is finally bringing some seasonal cheer to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and that is reason enough to dedicate this month's Christmas edition of 5 Questions from Over the Pond to the two current Ebenezer Scrooges and A Christmas Carol!
Good things come in threes and for the Old Vic's third staging of the Dickens classic, they have cast stage and screen favourite Paterson Joseph, who many will know from his efforts on "Peep Show," as well as his other TV roles on the likes of "Casualty," "Green Wing," "Survivors," and "Law & Order: UK," and film roles in "The Beach" and "Æon Flux." He is also a seasoned veteran of the stage, having worked at some of the country's finest establishments from the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Royal Exchange in Manchester to the Royal National Theatre right here in London... A lot of royalty, as you can see!
His New York counterpart for the production's Broadway premiere at the Lyceum Theatre is the equally talented Campbell Scott, who us Brits may recognise as Mark Usher on Netflix’s hit series “House of Cards” or as Richard Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man” and its sequel, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
So, let's get straight to it (because the goose is getting fat!) and find out what 5 questions our American Ebenezer has lined up for our British Scrooge...
1) Campbell: What has been your exposure/relationship to this story before you took this role? Did you see movies/plays etc. or read the story when you were younger? Was it meaningful to you?
Paterson: I first came across A Christmas Carol watching Alastair Sims’ portrayal in the 1951 movie. It was so scary and funny. My relationship with Scrooge is different when I consider this film now. Because now, unfortunately, I truly get why he hates Christmas so much!
2) Campbell: You must be the first, or at least one of the first, black actors ever to play Ebenezer Scrooge. Is that especially significant or meaningful to you?
Paterson: It’s a blast of a character to play for any ethnicity. I don’t think of him as exclusively a Caucasian character. The person playing Scrooge need only tap into his mind-set. Scrooge transcends gender, too, making him a dream role for any performer. Being one of the first actors who happens to be black to play him on the London stage, or THE first, is kind of fun to think about but I mainly focus on finding the truth of the character, my own ethnicity is often irrelevant to me.
3) Campbell: Matthew Warchus, our director, told me his kids said he was like Scrooge. And I was shocked when my wife and younger kids all said: “Basically, that is the perfect part for you, Dad!” What has been the reaction of those closest to you to your playing this part?
Paterson: No-one, so far, has said I resemble him in any way. It will be interesting to see what my son makes of it. He may not be so diplomatic as my friends and family have been so far...
4) Campbell: As you rehearsed, what were you finding more difficult than you imagined about playing the part? And what, if anything, is easier?
Paterson: I thought the happy bits might be trickier... I was pleasantly surprised to find those moments easier than the grumpy bits. Though, I must confess, the grumpy bits are the most fun!
5) Campbell: I read that you were a chef at one time. What gets cooked up in your home for the Christmas holidays, and what are your favourite/least favourite items on your table? Will brussel sprouts be involved?
Paterson: My Caribbean background means that Christmas is a time for the full works! I tend to tackle the rice and peas and my four sisters and mum wrangle the turkey, pork, chipolatas and beef. Macaroni cheese seems to have become essential, too, though this leads to minor disputes with my mum and one sister about the minutiae of cheese to macaroni ratio... we all tend to leave them to it for a more harmonious Christmas Day!
Check out London star Paterson Joseph's 5 questions for Broadway's leading man Campbell Scott on our New York Theatre Guide sister site here!