Merlin Actor Bradley James Reveals Details About His Character In Fast Girls

Earlier this year we decided to take a break from the cold by bringing you an interview with Lenora Crichlow, in which she talked about her role in this summer’s British Olympic drama Fast Girls. Set in the high-pressure environment of professional athletics, Crichlow plays Shania, a runner preparing for the 4x100m relay race, who clashes with the current favourite Lisa (Lily James). Fast Girls is the feature film debut from award-winning commercial director Regan Hall, and also stars Lorraine Burroughs, Phil Davis, Rupert Graves and co-writer Noel Clarke.

Spring is here and we’re one month closer to the June 15th release date, which means that it’s time to take a closer look at Carl, the relay team’s physiotherapist. Carl is played by Merlin actor Bradley James, who stopped by in sub-zero conditions during the winter shoot to give myself and a fellow journalist from Bliss magazine a bit of insight into the character.

Bliss: Tell us a bit about your character.

Bradley James: Carl is the physio for Team GB, and he’s also a font of wisdom. He is the solid presence in a world of large egos and extravagance.

Bleeding Cool: How did you get the part?

BJ: I was busy filming Merlin at the time, and I thought, “I never want to do anything again because I’m so tired.” But I had a bit of time off and then found myself here on set.

Bliss: How does shooting Fast Girls compare to being in Merlin?

BJ: I’m a lot less tired. [Laughs] I don’t handle as many swords or wear as much chainmail, which is a bonus. That would make this scene in particular quite difficult. Basically the biggest difference is foley. I’m very aware of that when I’m filming Merlin, because it usually means I’m wearing something very heavy. I’m in a tracksuit today, which I’m more than happy about. I do enjoy filming Merlin, I’ve just riffed off the fact that I’ve been suffering for my art but it’s not suffering at all, it’s a very small price to pay and I really enjoy doing it.

BC: Do you want to continue with TV work or would you rather move into films?

BJ: We’ll see, I suppose. I’m a newcomer to film. It’s always inspired me when I was a kid, you know, seeing various films and not really knowing what I was watching but knowing that I wanted to do it, and not really having the comprehension to understand that you could do it as a job. I continue to be inspired by films, I just watched The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the other night, and it was brilliant. You see great stuff all the time and think, “Yeah, that’s what I’m doing.” So I’m very inspired to do good stuff.

BC: Are you looking forward to the Olympics?

BJ: I am. Seemingly everyone I know didn’t manage to get tickets, so again it’s right on our front door and we’ll be watching it on TV. But you know, it’s not a very frequent occurrence and…

[Due to the inclement weather, a runner asks Bradley if he wants to go and sit inside, but he declines.]

BJ: I’ve got secretly tucked under [my jacket], I don’t actually wear this much, but I’ve got a hot water bottle, despite the fact that it might look like I’m…

BC: I wondered why you were clutching yourself.

BJ: Yeah, it’s a hot water bottle. It’s not even that cold, so I’m feeling not as manly as I perhaps should be.

BC: Do you have any advice for readers who are trying to stay warm in the winter season?

BJ: Any advice that’s not so blindingly obvious, like putting on more layers? Do you know what, I think I seem to be cold most of the time so clearly my secrets don’t work.

BC: Maybe the rest of the cast know and they’re just not telling you.

BJ: That’s probably it. If someone does have a secret of how to keep warm in the winter without too much effort then please let me know. I’d welcome that information.

Bliss: Who would you like to play you, in the movie of your life?

BJ: I think I once said Chuck Norris, to a question very similar to that. If I was to have an actor play me in the movie of my life … maybe he’s not been born yet, maybe. Because I’d have to actually live a bit more life before anyone could be bothered to make a film about me. Maybe do something interesting as well, which I haven’t really done. I don’t think I’ve done anything movie-worthy so far, so let’s think about casting in 40 or 60 years’ time, when I’ve had many years of various rehabilitation and … whatever. It could go down that road. I’m going to stop myself now.

BC: Do you have a dream role that you’d like to play?

BJ: A dream role? I sort of do. I tend to keep those to myself, because it’s one of those things where I have a lot of personal goals which I just, you know, keep private, and then when I achieve them I might do a little dance for myself. So there’s one or two in there. If they do happen then I shall let you know.

Bliss: Which celebrities would you like to challenge to a race, and why?

BJ: Wow. Which celebrities would I like to challenge to a race? That’s a good question. [Pause] A good question. What would be a good answer? Do you know what, Noel [Clarke] was shooting his mouth off the other day about how fast he was. I’d quite like to challenge back. Because, you know, he’s not as young as he once was and I think I could leave him eating my dust.

Bliss: What’s your favourite thing about your character, and what’s your least favourite thing about him?

BJ: The thing with Carl is that he used to be a runner himself, but he got Patellar tendonitis, which is in the knees. But for that Patellar tendonitis, this film would probably be called ‘Carl’, and not ‘Fast Girls’. So that’s probably what I like least about Carl, that he got injured and his Olympic dreams have not been realised. But in a world of big characters, people very much have to drive themselves on their own egos – naturally because that’s what sort of gets you through; athletes have to rely on themselves for motivation so often. You see boxers all the time talking such rubbish, but they have to do that because that’s how you survive in that world. Carl doesn’t have to do that sort of thing, because he’s a physio, and he’s just quite relaxed throughout the whole sort of thing, so as I say he’s the more calming influence.

Bliss: Did you do any running before the film?

BJ: I… [Laughs] My running is limited to sports fields. If there’s a football involved, I will run all day. As soon as that ball disappears I don’t want to know. I’m not into my long-distance running. But I used to do a lot of sprinting when I was a kid, because I tend to be quite good at that.

BC: What’s it been like representing the male demographic in a very girl-oriented film?

BJ: A lot of people have said it’s a tough job and someone’s got to do it. The fact that Carl does tend to do a lot of physio on these ladies … There’s pluses and minuses to the job. That’s a positive. I don’t know, really … They’ve all been working so much harder than me, and I think I just try not to be too much of a burden and maybe provide them with some light relief. [Pause] Not in that way. Comic relief.

BC: Can you tell us a bit more about Carl’s injury?

BJ: Carl has a recurring injury, that’s effectively meant that he can’t push his body to the limits you need to push yourself to, to succeed as an athlete.

BC: Is it something that’s happened recently?

BJ: Oh no. I’m sure everyone in athletics will remember that Carl, in his younger years, was a relay reserve in Beijing. I’m sure everyone will remember that. And it was shortly after that, that he discovered the problem with his knee was going to be there for good, and so he turned to physio.

Bliss: Are you looking forward to doing the main love scene?

BJ: We did what I suppose you could consider the main love scene the other day, where I was in the crowd and Lenora ran over to me and snogged my face off.

BC: Was that in the script or was it just spontaneous?

BJ: I think so. I hadn’t read the script at that point, it just happened. I was standing there, minding my own business … And they all started doing it to me after that, I think it’s some sort of ritual. So I took it on the chin.

Surely that’s not how it should be done? We’ll be back again later this week with more details about the film, as well as interviews with actress Lily James and director Regan Hall.

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