By Alicia in Actors and Actresses on Jul 14, 2009
Impresses On Screen and In Print
Paul Blackthorne is an amazing actor best known for characters on Lipstick Jungle, The Dresden Files and 24. In addition to his acting, Paul is a fantastic photographer who's various travels have produced photos that raise money for various locations that have touched his heart.
You can learn more about Paul's work on his Website and purchase some of his wonderful photos at imagekind, with proceeds benefiting various charities.
You first began your acting career on stage. Do you credit your background in theater to your success in the film and television industry?
No, not really. That is where I got my start with acting but it happened at a very different time, I was much younger. It is all good fun, it’s all acting, but of course acting in film, television, acting on camera and theatre, it is all very different. I am sure it helped in some way, but not terribly directly.
You have also showcased your talents in numerous commercials; do you feel that this is a great way for aspiring actors to transition into the industry?
No, I think there is an infinite number of ways in which you can find yourself in the industry, that is just what it was for me. As it turned out, it was great, any time in front of the camera is good experience, it gets you used to the idea. For me, it was very helpful. Obviously there are many, many different ways to get into it, some better than others. But that was great; I enjoyed that.
You have played roles that are all over the spectrum, from sci-fi to drama, do you find one genre to be more enjoyable than others?
Yes, it is called the ‘good script’ genre! Good Script, good character genre. No, not really. Something that comes up and bites you. When Lagaan came along, a Bollywood stuff..you think goodness I can’t do a Bollywood film, where did this come from? But you read the script and you go ‘that is a fantastic script’ so I can do that. I feel the same way about sci-fi stuff or drama stuff, it is just what appeals at the time.
What were some of your earliest influences that have motivated you to make performing such a big part of your life?
I grew up in a provincial town in England, small, provincial town with Tupperware parties. There is nothing wrong with Tupperware! 1970’s England, it was an interesting place. My uncle Stanley got out of a taxi and I had never been in a taxi before..I was about 10. He was dressed in some very strange clothes, carrying a guitar case. He had just gotten back from a tour of Europe, he was a musician. I remember being slight tickled by whatever on earth he was doing because it looked a lot more interesting than Tupperware parties. Then we would go to his house at Christmas in North London and I would be standing there as a young 10, 11, 12 year old surrounded by these actors, hysterical actors. All of these old, English, marvelous actors. I remember thinking again that these parties are better than Tupperware parties, I preferred the North London parties to the Tupperware parties. I think it set in at that point. I have been trying to unravel it ever since.
You had a fantastic role on Lipstick Jungle which unfortunately was cancelled. How does it feel to put so much hard work into a show and then not have it get picked up?
Well it isn’t exactly working down a salt mine, is it? If your TV show doesn’t get picked up, it doesn’t get picked up. You enjoy the time you have on it. People were great that I worked with and you enjoy it for that. If it doesn’t get picked up then you think about the next thing. It isn’t a great ordeal, it is just acting.
You have done numerous guest starring roles on various TV series, do you find it hard to ‘let go’ of certain characters when your run is over?
I don’t find it hard to let go. You do your work, you enjoy the job. There are certain characters, you think ‘I would love to do more of that one’ just because it was enjoyable, but it isn’t a case of not being able to let go. You just move on to the next one.
You were in the film Lagaan, in which you spent 6 months learning hindi. When faced with challenges such as these do you feel up for any challenge you are faced with or do you feel that there are limits of what can be asked of people?
Certain actors will sit there and spend 2 years preparing for something and some people will prepare overnight. Everyone has their different approach. It is just creating a character, whatever the world of that character entails you have to get your head around, become familiar with and try to understand. If it means that guy speaks another language in the script, then you say ‘well I supposed I have to learn Hindi now’. That is what you do. The worst thing about that film was that I couldn’t play Cricket to save my backside so that was the biggest concern. Especially when the producer saw me play on the first day, he thought ‘my god, he has learned the Hindi, he has his head around the Victorian stuff, the horse riding and all that nonsense but he doesn’t know what end of the Cricket bat to hold!’ That was the biggest problem; I hit some sort of ceiling on that one I am sure.
In addition to acting you are also an amazing photographer…You have had numerous photographic exhibits over the years. It appears as though each one is to raise funds for a particular charity instead of your monetary gain. Why do you choose to use your photography in this way?
I am very fortunate with acting to experience a lot and to make a living. I am very fortunate in that respect. A lot of the acting travels have taken me to interesting places and from there I have gone on to further interesting places. I find myself in some far out places and I find it very relaxing. It doesn’t really feel like it has a lot to do with me, I am taking a picture of something else. Someone else is the subject as opposed to acting where you are the subject, so to speak. Some of those photographs have been taken during certain times and places where certain events have occurred that touched me. If people like those photos later and I have an exhibition it seems fair enough that any money would go back to the place where it originally came from.
Do you go out in search of a particular theme when putting an exhibit together or do you take a look at everything you have and put something together from that?
Whatever happens really, you can’t force these things. I had some travels in the 90’s; I had a lot of commercials around Europe and Australia. Suddenly I realized I had quite an interesting collection of photographs that everyone enjoyed. So I put that first exhibition together, it was called Fish Heads and Others Things. That was for Green Peace because I had been to some beautiful places around the World and I like enjoying the world and the planet in which we live. An organization like Green Peace does a lot to maintain it so we can appreciate it and everything that is living in it can continue to do so. There were a lot of animals and landscape in that exhibition so that clearly fit with Green Peace.
The next one was called Bollywood Backpack; it was from my travels through India when I was shooting Lagaan and thereafter. An earthquake took place a year after we were there; a very big earthquake that killed many people, a lot of people that worked on the film. The Gujarat earthquake of 2001. Obviously when that occurred it only made sense that any money I made on photographs would go back to that area via the British Red Cross.
The one I just had in New York; I was involved in a documentary last year called The Missing Peace and we found ourselves spending time in the Tibetan communities. We were with the Tibetan Children’s Village, which is where displaced Tibetan children find themselves at school in India. I had a very moving day there seeing the beautiful children. They are effectively orphaned, the ones that are sent there by their families in Tibet to give them a chance outside of the situations that exist there. They send them off to these schools in India; it was a very moving experience. When the photographs started coming together for that, again it seemed logical, that any money made from this exhibition go back to the Tibetan Children’s Village. It is whatever seems appropriate at the time.
Being such an accomplished photographer, do you still get anxious or nervous about others seeing your work?
I don’t ever consider myself to be an accomplished photographer, to be honest. I just take photos and people seem to like them. If they do they do, if they don’t they don’t. Some of the little evenings we have had to kick them off have been good fun and they bring out the good in people. I don’t really think about it, if people are there and they enjoy it that is great, if they don’t then hopefully they can go to another exhibition they can enjoy.
Your website mentioned that you were working on a politically based documentary. Can you tell us more about this project and why you decide to work on it?
It’s not really politically based; the politics of America last year were certainly the catalyst for it. I was intrigued as to what America was feeling given the economic collapse late last year and the election of Barack Obama and what the idea of change meant to people across America. When Barack Obama, himself, proclaimed and professed that change had come to America and that change would continue to come to America, progress would be made and this country would be a better place as a result of the change, I was intrigued by what people in the streets of America were feeling in regard to that sentiment. Having spoken to those people, whether we the viewer, would feel convinced that change and sensibility or just a shift in consciousness really had occurred across this country. Obviously recent years have been a little dark and negative, with what has been going on, but people seem to be thinking a bit differently these days. I wanted to go see if that was the case. Talk to the Texan cowboys and the Oklahoma farmers and the Tennessee housewives, etc. We spent a month traveling across and interviewing everyone from New York to California. It was very interesting to see what people defined as happiness because if you are making some sort of change in your existence then maybe it has something to do with the idea of happiness, therefore what would you define as happiness and what would you define the reason for your being on this planet, the 10 minutes we are here. It was interesting hearing people’s viewpoints on what we should do with ourselves for the 10 minutes that we are here. It was interesting talking to people and seeing what they feel. I went with a photographer friend of mine and we shot it. As much of those things are covered it was all quite hysterical as well, there was a lot of funny, strange things that occurred on our trip and with the people we spoke to. It is called ‘Here in America, Only’ and we are editing at the moment.
Do you plan on releasing the documentary?
I would love that to be the case. We are editing now and if we get our film together by the end of the year, we will be going down the festival circuit, like everyone else with independent film. So hopefully sometime next year, that would be great.
You are obviously very talented in many different areas. Is there something you wish you could do, but can't?
I wish I could listen more.
What advice would you have for people who are interested in breaking into the industry.
Do it because you enjoy it, not because you think you are going to be famous. People think if they do certain things they will become famous and then they will be happy. Having spent a lot of time with people who have enormous amounts of money and enormous amounts of fame I can categorically say, happiness does not correlate with fame or money. I am not the first person to say that, of course. Make sure that the reason you are doing what you are doing is you enjoy doing the actual thing you are doing, whether it be the acting or whatever creative outlet that you have chosen.