Michael Fenton-Stevens interviewed By Alex Wiseman
English actor and comedian, Michael Fenton Stevens, is best known for being a founding member of The Hee Bee Gee Bees (more about that in the interview!) and appearances on a wide range of TV favourites, such as Only Fools and Horses and Benidorm. Iceni Magazine’s very own Alex Wiseman was lucky enough to secure an interview with him. Continue reading to find out more about this British icon.
A – I don’t know where to start with this interview. You have had such an amazing career.
M – True, but that’s about enough of that! It’s been fantastic; I have been extremely lucky, from panto to the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) and on television from serious drama to absurd comedy. I have been very lucky to work my whole career… apart from this year obviously.
A – OK… I do know where to start… ‘Groovy’ what was it like to feature in an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses’? I remember reading somewhere it was the happiest week of filming you’ve ever had?
M – It was one of the happiest weeks of filming I have ever had. Although I have had some great weeks of filming and fun but the Only Fools Team were the most welcoming group of people. I just got offered the part of Alan the Holiday Rep. I just turned up and we sat round a table and did the read through, laughing a lot! Amazingly, the late great John Sullivan (sole writer of Only Fools and Horses) had written the ending when we had started filming on the Monday and we were going to the studio on Friday. That is a pretty quick turnaround from being written to being recorded!
A – Do you enjoy being remembered for that part? I would imagine a lot of fans write to you about it?
M – Of course I don’t mind being remembered for the part or any other part I have played! I am always taken aback when people recognise me, especially for Only Fools and Horses as I was in my 30s when I did that and now I am in my 60s, so we all look very different now! I don’t mind people approaching me on the street and talking to me. I talk to strangers in the street, so why shouldn’t people talk to me?
A: That’s lovely Alan. I mean Michael… oh, on with the interview! Where did you career start? And what made you want a career in television?
M – I started at Oxford Polytechnic (now known as Oxford Brookes University) to study to be a lawyer. I went there because there were loads of drama groups there. I joined every group I could and auditioned for everything. During university life, I performed 33 plays which is a huge amount! The University Drama group went to Edinburgh and did 3 plays and an evening review. The evening show was the big one and its previous pairing (the year before) was Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, so people were drawn to see if there was a pairing as good as those. Of course, there wasn’t! We did a parody to the Bee Gees called ‘The Hee Bee Gee Bees’ (try saying that after a couple of drinks!). We got offered a recording contract and a BBC Radio 4 show after that. I love theatre, but everyone wants a career in television; it pays better! I was offered lots of roles travelling the world to do productions, but I chose to be at home with my wife and children. I’d rush home every night to put them to bed and I don’t regret it for one moment. Lots of actors would have done it differently, but I suspect they will have been divorced by now!
A – When I was researching for this interview the amount of shows you have been in is staggering: Mr Bean, One Foot in the Grave, As Time Goes By, EastEnders, Holby City, The Bill. What was a highlight for you?
M – That’s because I have usually only been in one episode! Usually, I would be doing one advert and one show a month, which was a lot of work but very well paid (haha). The first thing I ever did was the ‘Not the 9 O’clock News’. I was a sort of extra, but I had some lines! A highlight is difficult, but anyone who gets to work with Dame Judi Dench would say it’s a highlight. EastEnders was fantastic and I did most of my scenes with the lovely June Brown as I played the Vicar who buried Ethel. I just like working, so I enjoy most of the jobs I get!
A – I absolutely loved the ‘Mike Bassett: Manager’ TV series. I’ve recently re-watched the series and laughed so much.
M – I loved Mike Bassett! It was the first time I worked with Steve Edge and he is of the funniest men. A terrific performer and actor, I’m very lucky to have worked with him. It was also the first time I have worked with Ricky Tomlinson. He came down in his camper van and stayed in it during filming, now that is a proper working-class man!
A – In 2011, you joined the cast of ‘Benidorm’ as Sir Henry. Flying to Spain to take part in one of the most successful comedies to ever feature on ITV must have been great fun?
M – I was extremely lucky to have been it in! I was about to appear in a theatre production of ‘Scrooge’ and I got the call from Derren Litten (writer of Benidorm) to ask if I would play the part of Sir Henry as their first choice was too old. I won’t say who as that would be unfair! Derren said ‘Can you fly tomorrow?’ The theatre director said that we open in 3 days! I said I know, but I am going anyway; I just thought it was polite to say! The money I earnt from the 1 episode was as much as the whole Christmas production! Derren liked my performance and very kindly wrote me back in over a few series and then I came a more regular character towards the end of the series. I adore Derren – so caring, sweet and funny. I just loved being on Benidorm. I have such amazing memories like Shane Richie doing karaoke in the early hours of the morning where it felt like the whole of Benidorm were following us to see him sing!
A – Now in this pandemic year you have launched your very own podcast series called ‘My Time Capsule’ which has had some amazing guests so far from Stephen Fry to Sir David Jason. What made you come up with the idea?
M – My son asked me to create a podcast and I am normally not the most creative, but when I put my mind to it I can think of ideas like ‘My Time Capsule’. I knew it had to be like ‘Desert Island Discs’ as it’s the most popular show in terms of talking in the world. Guests think of 4 things which make them happy and 1 thing they don’t need think about every again. It’s been delightful and I’m amazed by what it does. Stephen Fry is doing another short episode for Christmas which is great and kind of him.
A – Who is at the top of your list to get on the podcast in the future?
M – Of the people I know, some I have approached and some I haven’t. Emma Thompson will be next year, We wanted to record this year but she is Scotland and has terrible wifi! Emma is an incredible person, terribly bright and will be really interesting to talk to. I never thought I’d get David Jason on the podcast, so I am after Rowan Atkinson now, although I know he is a terribly private man and Richard Curtis too. I’d also like Olivia Coleman; let’s get the Queen on I say! I once showed her how to French kiss as it was easier to act than explain!
A – Now before you go, I have to ask you to put four things in your time capsule and one thing you’ll never see again.
M – Absolutely not! I am not doing my show in your interview… that will have to wait for me to do it! Ha ha!
A – Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today. It has been a genuine pleasure and I will certainly never forget it! Take care and keep laughing.
M – That’s all we can do! Have a very Merry Christmas!
To listen to Mike’s podcast, follow the link: @mytcpod | Linktree
To connect on Twitter @fentonstevens