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John Barrowman chats Fireman Sam: Set for Action!

John Barrowman
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

All-round cool guy John Barrowman tells all about his part in the new feature animation, Fireman Sam: Set for Action!.  

From musicals to Doctor Who, John Barrowman is now turing his attention to animation as he stars (or at least his voice does) in Fireman Sam: Set for Action!, the all-new thrilling adventure kids will love.

So what’s the deal with the new Fireman Sam?

The new Fireman Sam movie is going to be very exciting, action-packed and with lots of thrills. For those who are Fireman Sam fans, you are going to absolutely love it. A little bit of Hollywood has been brought to Fireman Sam and he’s going to be the star of a movie. However, my character Flex Dexter, who is an A-lister movie star, hasn’t really had a hit recently. He is invited to be in this film, but he doesn’t realise that he is being asked to be the co-star and not the star. Being the Hollywood guy that he is, he causes a bit of havoc and mayhem on the set, in order to get Fireman Sam fired or pushed out, so that Flex Dexter can come in and be the hero. That’s all I’m going to tell you because I don’t want to spoil the rest.

Are you anything like Flex Dexter then?

I like to hope that I’m not an actor that is like Flex Dexter. But being an actor who is playing another actor is fun. I was able to reach into my files of people that I have worked with who might be a bit like the character of Flex Dexter. I’m not going to tell you who they are though! It wasn’t very difficult to find Flex Dexter in myself. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!

Can you relate to the Hollywood-ness of the movie?

I live in West Hollywood in California and I work in Hollywood, so I get to experience Hollywood. When you take someone like Flex Dexter out of Hollywood and you put them into another location like Pontypandy, they try to be really big and bring, “Hey I’m from Hollywood and I’m in Pontypandy, it’s not so big, not so great…” That’s the kind of attitude he has and there’s a lot of people like that in Hollywood. They’ll go off to film somewhere and they’ll say, “Oh I’m heading off to such and such town, and it’s not going to be like Hollywood,” I’ve been around that and I kind of fed upon that to bring a little bit of that to Flex. He’s not a nice guy! Pontypandy doesn’t need a bad person in it, but you wouldn’t have the movie without a bad guy, would you?

How did it feel being part of the iconic Fireman Sam?
John Barrowman

John and Flex.

Fireman Sam’s been around for thirty years and I’ve had the great privilege of being part of another British iconic TV show. Some of you may have heard of it – Doctor Who – and I was a character in that for many years so I know the history, I know the pressure that you’re under when you do something like this because you have to honour the history and bring some new life to it. So I hope I’ve done that in some way.

How did it feel doing animation compared to film?

When you voice a character for something like animation, you have to imagine what they look like and also you become very physical. I find it very helpful to be a little OTT with him, but it was also good to sometimes bring it down. My arms were flapping around all over the place. Flex Dexter wasn’t just ‘flexin’ – he was ‘flappin’.

Did you have to dig deep to ‘find’ Flex Dexter?

I would like to say, in creating the character of Flex Dexter, I would like to give you some meaty, theatrical thespian answer. But he really wasn’t hard for me to find. Because, having played a bad guy before in another show on television, it was kind of easy for me to find the not so nice guy. However, Flex has got to do it with a smile on his face. He’s got to be, not so much as bad, but mean and be nice.

What’s been your family’s reaction to your part in the movie?

I haven’t told any of my family that I am doing this yet, because I have a great nephew, my niece’s son, and also I know Fireman Sam from my childhood. My great nephew is a huge Fireman Sam fan. When it finally comes to the point where I can show him the finished product, I’m going to sit and watch it and watch his face realise that that’s Great Uncy John… And I know Fireman Sam. I might not have been very nice to him, but I know Fireman Sam and he taught me a lesson.

Have you always wanted to do animation?

For a long time, I have always wanted to do a voice for an animated character. And having been involved with some great British iconic TV shows it’s great to be involved with this. We’ve all grown up with these characters and as an actor, as somebody who loves what they do, to be the voice of something that is going to be there for a long time, say in another thirty years, I will always be Flex Dexter. Which is kind of awesome to think. My voice will live on for generations and generations in the land of Fireman Sam, Pontypandy!

Do you think Flex Dexter looks like you?

Does he have a resemblance? I like to think that I have biceps like that. I’ve taken a few pictures for publicity where you’ll see that I do have the biceps. I’ve got the chin and I think I’ve got the eyebrows. The hair? Mine’s forward, his is slicked back. It looks like me. I don’t mind looking like Flex Dexter.

Fireman Sam: Set for Action! aired exclusively on Cartoonitio, Monday 22nd October at 8am.