An interview with Edmund Dehn, who answered questions raised in the Knightmare Forum and presented to him by Kieran O'Brien.
Q1. What are your best memories of Knightmare?
Filming in Norwich has to be high on the list. It is a beautiful city and I've been there again since. I always love visiting it. My digs were right by the river. I loved the Coleman's Mustard shop too!
Doing a series meant that I came back often enough to get to know the city a bit and really feel part of the team making the series. When you have one or two scenes - a day or two of filming - you just turn up, do your bit and go. You barely learn anyone's names (except the stars and that's because you've seen him on telly!!!)
Then there was the money! As mainly a stage actor up to that point, on the Equity minimum (when I was earning at all), the pay for a TV series was like having money raining out of the sky! Mind you, it's all relative: Hollywood stars would doubtless feel underpaid!
I also enjoyed watching how it was put together. I was the only one in my scenes who saw the "real" scenery (e.g. chromakey blue). The kid in the helmet could only see a small circle round his feet; that was the reason for the helmet! And everyone else saw the scenery after the computer whizz had painted it on. The process was fascinating!
Q2. How did you get your job in Knightmare?
Its a long time ago, I'm afraid, and I've got (and failed to get) a lot since then.
My agent put me up for it and I went to the audition - a bit more excited as it was not often that I was seen for TV work. I remember meeting Sally Freeman and Tim Child that first time and it doesn't seem to have been too traumatic! I heard through my agent.
Q3. Was playing the silent Automatum frustrating?
No, not really. I was playing Gumboil and the Wall Monster (who was, incidentally, my biggest part in terms of screen time). If he'd been my only role, perhaps I would have got a bit peeved! But as it was, he was quite fun. I was never very good at movement at Drama School, so this was a bit of an achievement!
What was frustrating was that the Wall Monster was never allowed to "eat" anyone!! I longed for just one team to get all 3 questions wrong, so I could be the one to finish them off! Too much experience playing pantomime villains in the years before Knightmare, I expect!
Q4. Did you see any Knightmare after you had left the show?
Yes, indeed, I continued to watch for some years after I left - when I was in during the afternoons! I felt I still sort of belonged to it - or had an interest. And I enjoyed the developments, especially the switch to outdoor scenery, which they hadn't been able to do in my day!
Q5. Why did you leave?
The honest answer is: ask the producers!! They recast and told me that there wasn't anything for me in the new series.
I don't think I was the only one and it certainly isn't the only time that has happened to actors. It's part of the business. To be honest, if they hadn't done it then, I might have decided to leave later, though the money would always have been tempting.
My ambitions were and are mainly in "straight" acting, for example Shakespeare, but also films, TV, dramas, etc. and getting typecast as a Knightmare character might not have been the best idea.
Q6. Who did you associate with on-set?
My best friend on that shoot was Guy Standeven, who played the other (grey stone) Wall Monster. He was a very nice guy (no pun intended!), easygoing, and had had masses of experience in the business.
It was my first real TV job, except one tiny scene in a BBC drama at the same time in which I had one line and in the finished version, the edge of the screen cut my head in half! I liked Guy because he didn't make me feel my inexperience!
Q7. Have you had a look at Knightmare.com?
I've had a quick look. I'm the wrong generation to do a lot of surfing! It looks pretty interesting. As to cult status surprising me - well, yes and no! Yes because it was "just a children's show". Sorry! But then again, the technology was fairly cutting edge at the time, as far as I could understand it, and the idea was new. Surprised or not, I'm certainly pleased!!!
Q8. New series, a good idea?
I'm not too sure to be honest. I'm always in favour of work, for me or for any actors. But the technology has come on so much since Knightmare days - vs Lord of the Rings (I'm a fan both of the book and the films), that I'm afraid a new series will have to match standards it can't afford and thus could end up looking a bit tacky? I'd love to be proved wrong!
Q9. Have you ever seen any of the episodes with you in them?
Of course I watched myself! If any actor tells you he doesn't, DON'T BELIEVE HIM!! My goddaughter's older sister (now 10) used to love it too! It was a useful standby when I was asked to look after her!
Q10. Any memorable incidents during filming, or offset?
There are two. First, filming the Giant in Series 1.
We were filming me at one end of the building and the dungeoneer at the other on a different camera, as I was supposed to be big enough to eat him!! My mouth as large as his whole body.
And when I started to talk, the dungeoneer just kept right on walking and was nearly out of my 'room' before I'd asked my question. I was not quick enough to improvise something to stop him in my 'giant' voice, and that was the only time with me that they ever had to do a second take with the dungeoneer - something they tried to avoid as the spontaneity might go.
Second, there was the process of taking a cast of my face in plaster of Paris for the Wall Monster's mask. Very alarming! Your whole face covered completely for an hour or more except for two small breathing holes, one for each nostril!!! The masks were odd as well. They had eye and mouth holes but no nose holes, so different breathing patterns!
Q11. If asked, would you go back for the new series?
I seldom turn down paid work - can't afford to! But I rather doubt if they'll want me. I'm a bit older now!! If and when they ask me, we'll all find out - including me!
Q12. Favourite character Automatum or Gumboil?
Well, of those two, it would definitely be Gumboil. I remember a very nice scene with the fool (Alex) in which he showed "what a really thick clothhead" I was! I enjoyed that!! But overall, I think I actually liked the Wall Monster best - I'm a dialogue person!
Q13. Work after Knightmare?
Well, its been 14 years or so, so I won't give you a CV!!
I've been working (and out of work!) as an actor on TV, film, stage and voiceover. The rule for someone at my level is that you take almost anything that they offer you! Everything that's paid and some things that aren't! Highlights have been:
- "The Book of Job" on stage in a church in central Norwich.
- The unabridged audio book reading of "The Gormenghast Trilogy" - some 50+ hours in all, doing a different voice for every character as well as the narration.
- Two series of the sitcom "The 10ers" in the late 90s.
- Playing the poet Dante on BBC2 in "Strange Landscapes" in the 90s.
- More recently the horror film "Cradle of Fear" in which I played a rather strange police inspector. NB. lots of gratuitous violence and naked flesh. You have been warned!
- And soon I hope is the feature film "White Light", in which I play the leading character, a freelance cameraman in war zones.
Q14. Stage work and favourite plays?
I do more stage work than anything else and the stage has to be my first love.
Of stage authors, boringly, Shakespeare is my favourite, but I like and have worked in all varieties from classics through panto (with Dana in the West End) to musicals and modern work.
I've just finished a run in "The Alchemist" by Ben Jonson, a contemporary of Shakespeare's, a hilarious comedy that I am very fond of. My one play I'd take to a desert island would be "King Lear".
I also like Chekhov, Shaw, Becket, Neil Simon - I had a lovely time in Hamburg in 1997 in "Last of the Red Hot Lovers".
Q15. Just a small question... What brand of oil did the Automatum use?
Oh, extra virgin, I suppose. It sounds suitably suggestive!
Q16. Any final words for the fans?
I have no great words of wisdom. Gumboil would hardly be the type for philosophical speculation, after all!
But I hope my disjointed memories have been a bit interesting. And it may interest some to hear that, while I was on the show, there were rumours of an adult version of Knightmare with suitably more challenging tests and set in a futuristic spaceship-type environment rather than a medieval dungeon. I wonder what happened?!!
Possibly turned into TimeGate? Anyway, thanks to everyone who contributed to this interview, and thanks to Ed Dehn for giving me his time to complete it.