Tristan Gemmill has a history of protecting lives. The 40-something actor, who sports a jaw line to make many a male weep with jealousy, spent four years working on hospital-set TV drama Casualty and a previous series dousing flames in London’s Burning. He should be used to striving to keep people alive.
This experience, and that jaw line, will, of course, be useful when he takes to the stage of the Adephi theatre to play Frank Farmer, the former secret serviceman hired to protect global superstar Rachel Marron in the hit musical adaptation of Whitney Houston movie The Bodyguard. The show, which features a host of classic Houston tracks from One Moment In Time to I Will Always Love You, has been running in London since November 2012 and received four Olivier Award nominations earlier this year.
Before Gemmill straps on his shoulder holster and exercises his steely gaze for the first time on 9 September, we quizzed the actor, discovering much about his own protective prowess, inspiring performances and dream role.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Running around the garden barefoot in the summer holidays.
What sparked your interest in performing?
No one particular thing. It was just something that was always there.
Who or what has inspired you?
It sounds like a cliché, but my family.
What do you consider your big break?
Playing Frank Mooney on London’s Burning was my first regular part in a TV show and I absolutely loved it.
What excites you most about joining the cast of The Bodyguard?
The chance to play a part in the iconic mythical American hero tradition.
How are you feeling about working with Beverley Knight?
Hugely excited. Her voice is incredible and I will have the best seat in the house – although I’ll mostly be standing obviously.
How well could you protect someone for real?
If I answered this question truthfully the enigma would be ruined...
What is your favourite Whitney Houston track?
I love them all.
What do you look for when taking a role?
The catering van! No, seriously – the challenge, the depth of character, the chance to defy expectations.
What is the finest performance you have seen?
I have many favourites but for some reason I have never been able to forget Klaus Maria Brandauer’s Mephisto – spellbinding.
If you could create a fantasy production to star in, who would you cast, who would direct and what would it be?
I would play Andy Murray in “The Road To Wimbledon” with all the other tennis players playing themselves and letting me beat them! Anyone could direct it.
Do you have any theatrical superstitions?
No whistling in the theatre and certainly no mentioning of the Scottish Play.
Have you made any sacrifices for the sake of your career?
Not sure, but NASA missed out on a fine astronaut.
What ambitions would you like to fulfil?
There is plenty that I still want to do, writing and directing especially, though I know that is an actor’s cliché.
What will always, without fail, bring a smile to your face?
British sporting success.
What book, film or album would you recommend to a friend?
I would recommend reading The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin and listening to The Doors LA Woman.
What could you not be without?
What would you choose as a last meal?
Something that took a long time to prepare like Roast Unicorn with Mermaid sauce...
Do you have any advice for young actors?
Don’t do it unless you are absolutely 100% sure. Competition is huge and it’s not something that will reward you with success unless you are totally focused. And even that is often not enough.
If you weren’t an actor, what would you be?
No idea – I feel very lucky to be doing as a profession the thing I always wanted to do.