Louis Emerick on performing as Captain Hook and his Liverpool childhood
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 November 2018
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Lancashire actor Louis Emerick is preparing to make his third stage appearance as Captain Hook. He talks about childhood, Christmas and his new pantomime
How does Captain Hook mark Christmas Day? ‘A day of peace and relaxing,’ Louis Emerick says with a laugh. Currently in the throws of pantomime rehearsals playing Peter Pan’s nemesis, which will keep him busy for most of the festive season, it’s no wonder the Liverpool-born actor is looking forward to a little quiet time with the family at home.
Christmas today, though, is much different for Louis than when he was a young boy, one of ten children. ‘Growing up in Toxteth was really great, and being from West African descent, it was a real big melting pot. There was such a strong community feel, especially at Christmas – there were always people around. Neighbours and friends would stop by; the house was never empty.
‘I remember my dad would tinkle around on the piano when the house was full. Bluesy music would be played and people would start singing. Around New Year, people would mill out around the street like one big party. It was such a warm feeling.’
Like many, there’s a special childhood memory that Louis always thinks about at this time of year. ‘I was about eight or nine and I was given this electric train set. I know kids nowadays get tablets and things, but I remember being blown away watching the train just go round and round.’
Well known for his parts in Brookside, Coronation Street, Zapped and the Daniel Craig movie Layer Cake, plus an abundance of stage productions, it seems he was a natural for an acting career.
But how did this young boy make his breakthrough?
‘I was working in a factory in the 60s and I remember the production Hair was being played nearby and they used to pump it through the speakers. I was always singing along. I eventually got a part in it and it just gave me the bug. After I lost my job, I had no qualifications and I just thought why not give this a real go. I remember one of my first proper parts was in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and I ended up playing different roles, from a henchman to a good giant. It was brilliant.’ Despite an extensive screen CV, there is something about performing in front of a live audience that he loves, especially when it comes to taking to the stage in the classic pantomime. ‘You’re always slightly detached from films and TV shows, as they take months before you actually see them and by that time you’ve moved on,’ he explains. ‘Performing in front of an audience is just the best. Each night is different, knowing what works and what doesn’t as every audience responds differently and it’s amazing to be able to tweak some things in the next showing. Plus actors are really just big kids and pantomimes allow us to show that side.’ And how is it to play Captain Hook? ‘This will be the third or fourth time I’ve played him. I’m no expert but I know how to get everyone booing,’ he chuckles.
As we get older, traditions change and how we spend the Christmas season is done differently, especially when we have our own little family. With pantomime season starting in November and going on throughout the whole festive season, how does Louis spend the holidays? ‘Luckily my wife organises everything, so I don’t need to stress with things like that,’ he laughs. ‘Because I’m away a lot, I like Christmas to just be us. Me, my wife and our kids.
‘Being away just makes it precious, and we have young kids so seeing the day through their eyes is so magical. We always wake up early and watch them tear open the presents, camera at the ready to capture the memory. It’s an amazing time.’
Christmas is a special time for all of us and many traditions include seeing that family panto, cheering and booing alike, and you can guarantee it’s not the children who will be the loudest. After all, actors aren’t the only big kids out there. u
Peter Pan runs from 8 December to 13 January 2019 at the St Helens Theatre Royal. For more information go to www.sthelenstheatreroyal.com