Interview: Phantom 25's Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess

The West End stars talk about the filming of Phantom 25, their chemistry - and Life’s Too Short

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Interview: Phantom 25's Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess
Written By
Laura Pledger

Ramin Karimloo, who played the Phantom in the 25th anniversary recording of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall, and Sierra Boggess, his Christine, took time out of their busy schedules to chat to RadioTimes.com about the production - Ramin after the cast screening of the finished film, and Sierra on the phone from New York. Here's what they had to say...

Radio Times: What do you think of the finished film/DVD?

Ramin Karimloo: It took me a while to watch my scenes – I don’t think I watched any of my first act stuff – but I don’t want to see my finished product, I just want to remember the journey. But I thought as it was shot so beautifully, out of respect to other people’s work… I thought: "OK, just enjoy it, just watch it." I thought it was unbelievable.

Sierra Boggess: I haven’t seen the one they’ve made into the DVD but when I came back to New York, [I went with] Rosemary Ashe, who played the Confidante in the show with us and who was the original Carlotta, to the cinema - we had our hats on - and we were so fascinated to see what it would be like. And it was beyond belief. I think that it was portrayed really beautifully. When I watched it back… it’s hard to not critique yourself [but] I tried to just be in it as a spectator as opposed to, “What was I doing?”. But by the time we hit the second act I was more used to seeing myself on a big screen.

RT: Was the filming of the performance something that was factored into the rehearsal process in a big way?

RK: For some scenes, I would ask Laurence (Connor), who was directing: “What vision do you have for this scene that you want on the camera?” But what I love about the actors I look up to - like Daniel Day-Lewis and Ryan Gosling - it’s like they forget about the camera. So there’s that element of: as long as you do your preparation, your back story, your research… when you come out and just live a part, I think whether it’s on a theatrical stage or on camera, truth will be picked up. As long as it’s truthful, I don’t think you can go too far with it.

SB: Our director was pretty camera oriented during rehearsals, thinking: “I want to change the blocking a bit so that this would be a really good camera angle”, but it was all kept quiet from us, which I was so grateful for, because I could just do my job as an actor and not worry about any of those technical aspects.

RT: We’re seeing more and more theatre being filmed for the cinema. Do you think this is a reflection of the fact that actors are moving more easily between film, TV and theatre now than perhaps they did in the past – or is it more a case of audience demand?

SB: That’s an interesting question. I think it could be any of those things. I think that as artists we’re melding genres - screen actors are coming and starring on Broadway now, and more and more Broadway people are trying to get into television, and I’m sure the same is happening in the West End. I think we’re all just peering over the fence at each other, like, “oh, maybe I’ll try that”.

RK: I think audience demand is definitely up. But I think actors were always capable of doing that. It’s maybe the producers and casting [people] that might’ve felt there’s always a divide between the two – but, you know, actors who’ve got craft can easily do that.

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RT: Were you more nervous, knowing that you were being filmed?

RK: Not at all. There’s an element of being so exhausted as well to be nervous. It takes so much energy to be nervous sometimes. And with this character I’ve done so much research for it, and with my take on it - I don’t for a second think I’m the definitive by any means, and I don’t think that any actor should think like that – [but] all I knew was: I was supposed to tell the story and this was my take on it for this moment in time.

SB: Because I knew this was happening for so long I could get my nerves out of the way. I had practised to just stay completely in the moment, and I had so much other stuff to be thinking about as the character of Christine that I really wasn’t thinking about it.

RT: Were you aware of the cameramen, on stage or backstage?

SB: I was not aware of cameras at all. I can’t even tell you how many cameras there were filming that!

RK: No… they kept out of the way. [And] because the make-up was pretty intense with this one, when I wasn’t onstage [I was in make-up]… and when I wasn’t lost. The first two shows, I’m like: "I’m on the wrong side again."
RT: I saw someone on Twitter offering you a compass and a map.
RK:
Yeah. I could’ve used it! That was probably why I was so tired by the time I got on stage. I was like, I’ve just run the whole Royal Albert Hall!

RT: What’s your personal opinion of the concept of filming theatre for the cinema?

SB: I think that it’s wonderful to be able to get this sort of genre out there, and for people to be able to have for ever the experience of maybe the show that they’d love to see live but that they couldn’t necessarily afford to go see, but they can play it on their DVD. [And] there are things you can do on film that you cannot do in the theatre and vice versa. I think at the end of the day, by whatever means necessary, let’s keep art going!

RK: I think it should be paramount. They should do more of it. Because [there are] certain performances of actors that I would’ve loved to have seen on Broadway. If they film it and they do it for the cameras with a live audience… I think it’s a great promotional tool, more than anything.

RT: And you don’t worry, in any sense, that perhaps the feeling that you get when you’re actually in the theatre gets lost somehow in translation?

RK: I don’t think it gets lost because it’s two different mediums. I think people will get what they want from this [DVD]. There’s always that sense of - let’s call it the bonus - when you’re at a live performance, and nothing will take that away. And people have the choice to do that. But especially a show like Phantom, that people do go see a lot of times, I don’t think by buying this DVD it’ll substitute their going to see it live.

RT: Ramin, can you tell us anything about your involvement with Life’s Too Short, Warwick Davis’s new series?

RK: I’m just in one episode - one scene really, I hope they haven’t cut it! – (laughs) but that was extraordinary, working on that, ’cos I’m a big fan of Warwick, and Ricky and Stephen. Warwick’s become a good friend of mine, and Ricky and Stephen were so encouraging and… Actually kind of nothing [like] I expected. I was a bit nervous and apprehensive to meet them, but they were unbelievable – the nicest guys. Ricky kept laughing during the takes. I’m like, "if I can hear you, the cameras can hear you!"

RT: Sierra, could you say a few words about working with Hadley [Fraser, who played Raoul] and Ramin?

SB: Hadley is somebody that I had wanted to work with for a very long time. I had seen him do Pirate Queen on Broadway, and not only had I seen him perform and thought that he was amazing, but everybody who’s worked with him ever just adores him so much. He is such a good person. I think [that] radiates from him on stage.

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RT: He offered quite a different interpretation of Raoul than we have seen perhaps in the past on stage…

SB: I loved his interpretation of Raoul. It was easy to fall in love with him every time and it made my decision – I mean I don’t even know if Christine knows what her decision is at the end – but it made it so much harder, of who to choose, because Raoul made such a good case for himself.

And then on the other side, I had Ramin. We created the Phantom and Christine in Love Never Dies together, which gave [us] a passionate chemistry with each other, and love for one another off-stage [as friends]. It was such a gift that we [then] got to do these roles ten years before [in Phantom], to come full circle. So I already knew that love was in place with Ramin, that that would be something that we could just fall right back into [in rehearsal].

I loved the rehearsal process with the three of us. At first we were nervous, because we thought, “Oh, we’re just going to laugh so much”, but as soon as we were in rehearsal: it was not an issue. We were focused on the work, so that made it one of the greatest rehearsal processes ever.

RT: As I was watching that night at the Albert Hall, I was thinking: “Gosh, Sierra’s getting thrown around an awful lot by her leading men” – were you not covered in bruises the next day?

SB: Yes, I was. I had massive bruises everywhere. But I loved it because these are my little memories. (Laughs) It reminds me that I did really good work!

The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall is available on DVD, Double Play DVD and Blu-ray, CD and download from 14 November.

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