In advance of the new Revolutionary War themed mini series on the History Channel Phil Hodges swaps his Afrika Korps shorts and MP40 for a redcoat and a Brown Bess. But we still get the same old jokes…
The long awaited History Channel mini-series Sons of Liberty will soon be among us as the American War Of Independence crashes into our living rooms next week with bangs, explosions, fire and… tricorn hats! I caught up with British actor Shane Taylor and wasted some of his valuable time all in the name of an exclusive War History Online scoop.
Now, most of us will know him as medic ‘Doc Roe’ in the HBO series Band of Brothers. An accomplished actor of both TV and silver screen, Shane’s latest exploits sees him transported back (not in irons) to Boston, in 1770 to be exact, whereby he’s partially responsible for kick starting the American War of Independence…. Way to go Shane!
Shane. Good to talk to you, mate. Thanks, Phil. Good to be here. Good to be anywhere. (Keith Richards TM)
Like it… Rock ‘n’ Roll. Shane, let’s start with the obvious. You’re arguably most recognisable as having played Eugene ‘Doc’ Roe in the massively successful mini series Band of Brothers. Do you get tired of being linked to this role or is it something you’ll be eternally grateful for? I think it’s fair to say that, in terms of television, Band Of Brothers is now considered a contemporary classic. It’s certainly an iconic show. And the fact that the character I played is somewhat memorable within the series, mostly for the right reasons, I can only be eternally grateful for.
It’s funny. My job is to play as many different roles as I can, but when something sticks, it can be difficult for people to accept another character. To a lot of people, I’m ‘Doc’, and they just want to protect that. But, you know, the fact of the matter is that Roe has been the most profound character I’ve ever played and one that I’ve enjoyed the most, so I’m O.K with it all.
I can see how sometimes actors can get a little cheesed off with a tag, certainly, but like you say your comfortable with being associated with the role so hopefully it’s a good thing. Band of Brothers is well over ten years old, now, yet still hugely popular and is a testament to cast and crew alike. Did you realise at the time of filming you were in something special? When you’re having pre-shoot drinks in Pall Mall, London, with no expense spared, you know you’re on to something a different…
Of course, whether or not the end product lives up to the billing, you can never be sure. But we all knew the people behind it, and the fact it really was an historical first for television. Band Of Brothers really did launch a new era of event TV.
Jack Beckett at War History Online is always treating us to ‘no expense spared’ drinks so I know exactly what you mean …. Ahem. You must have made some great friends during filming BoB and have some very fond memories. Anyone or anything spring to mind? There’s a strong bond – with all of them.
I’ve mentioned this before, but trying to ‘operate’ on Ron Livingston when he had a small fishbone stuck in his throat was a moment. Being the ‘Doc’ my job was to check on the wellbeing of the men, and they were all told to report to me with any problems. Anyway, I’d invented some kind of Frankenstein contraption to try and deal with Ron’s issue, which enabled me to pick at the fishbone with tweezers. I could’ve killed him – poor guy. I made Ron gag so much he just coughed the fishbone out of his mouth. But, you know, job done 🙂
You used tweezers to remove a fishbone from a fellow actors throat. Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, I’m well impressed but my wife works in an A&E department (Emergency Room for our American friends) and she’s reading this over my shoulder and her eyebrows are raised. The tweezers were sterilized, I hope? Anyway , anyone you didn’t get on with? I won’t share it…. Honestly! Only brotherly love, my man. But let me just add that the tweezers contraption WAS sterilised, and the fishbone wasn’t that deep! In saying that, I’m not for one moment suggesting it was a good idea, Phil’s wife!
Ooh, there was another episode, I remember! No tweezers, I promise. It was boot camp, gain, and we were going through marching drills. Damian Lewis was thrust ahead to take the drill, and it was a pretty nerve wrecking experience for him. Anyway, he was doing fine until one particular moment when ‘Winters’ called to turn left – which we did – and he turned right… It was hilarious watching him march off all on his own into the sunset.
Ha-ha, and that’s from an old Etonian. Or perhaps he was just testing you, you know? The old officer ‘left turn trick’. Let’s bring things up to date. In Sons of Liberty your latest role is a where you play a controversial historical figure, British officer Captain Thomas Preston. A bit of a trigger happy guy by all accounts?
Ever since Doc Roe, I’ve been growing old disgracefully. I tend to get cast on the dark side of the Force, nowadays. Captain Preston is no exception. Even though he’s a man of authority; somebody who’s loyal to his duty, he’s also a bit of a hothead. Preston was one of the men caught up in the Boston Massacre, even though it was a point in history that began by accident in many ways.
An accident is knocking over a vase of flowers not causing a riot! So your saying you didn’t start the fight right? Ha-ha, well, I wouldn’t say that… But there’s just a lot of conjecture over what caused the first shot to ring out in earnest. Preston was iron fisted, but his order and one that he tried to uphold was not to shoot the colonists. The story goes that one of his men thought he gave the order to fire, and the rest they say… I think it was even agreed that both sides were to blame for that particular episode. But Samuel Adams used the massacre to crank up the rebellion.
Anyhow, the dark side is all I ever get so I feel your pain, man. You’re not hinting you are In the new Stars Wars film by the way are you? Just thought I ask. Where were we? You obviously had to do a lot of historical research on this guy. Was this something that you enjoyed doing?
If it’s a production of note, then there’s plenty of material already in place. The scripts for a start! If it’s good writing, you know the writer has done their homework. But, of course, you find out what you can outside of that. Read books, watch films based on the period. Then, on set, you have access to the military advisors, who are great. The armorers – it all adds up!
Military advisors, the backbone of any historical film shoot… except U571. There’s some big names cast in Sons of Liberty, Shane. Fellow actor Jason O’Mara plays George Washington, you worked with him before in Band of Brothers where he played Lieutenant Meehan. Did you get time to catch up with Jason or was it all work on set? Jason and I never had any screen time together, but as luck would have it, I did bump into him one day in make-up! I should’ve said a battlefield there, it would’ve sounded better, but there you go! We were both having our periwigs fitted! Anyway, it was a brilliant moment to catch-up! Jason’s a top man.
Agreed, in make up is cool. A battlefield would have been easier to sell but Max Factor and hairspray is ok. It’s 2015 now Shane! Your role as Captain Preston called for some pretty savage fight scenes, that said you got to fire a black powder pistol. That’s something I enjoy doing from time to time myself. Did you go off half-cocked or were you steady as a rock? Boy, are those things heavy, but I like to think I remained firm:)
I think there’s a joke in there and your poking fun at me somehow. I’ll get there in the end.
In one scene I’ve watched I noticed all the soldiers under your command are all armed with the trusty British ‘Brown Bess’ musket. You have a sword. Now, that’s not fair is it?
Were you taught fighting tactics of the period and how involved did you get? There’s that brilliant scene in Barry Lyndon, where the captain is just marching towards the enemy with his sword raised. He might as well have been the flag bearer or drummer boy for all the damage he was going to do. Inevitably, he gets shot. Serious tactical flaw in that manoeuvre! But then, the 18th Century rules of engagement left a lot to be desired!
We had top military advisors on Sons. A couple of them were old friends I’d worked with on Band, so that was nice.
I loved the film score in Barry Lyndon.. I think that was about it. Portrayed in the film and in real life, a big player in the show in what was fast brewing into the War of Independence was the second President of the United States, John Adams. He was more sympathetic than most to British rule and actually defended their (and in the series your) actions. In Sons of Liberty he’s played by actor Henry Thomas who played Elliot in Stephen Spielberg’s massive hit ET…. Did he phone home often?
Ha-ha-ha! My first rule of this particular fight club was not to say ‘Ouch’.
Henry was an absolute legend – such a gent. And it goes without saying he’s a brilliant actor. And you’re right about John Adams, yes. Compared to Sam Adams, he was certainly the more conservative and measured of the two.
You were born in Dover, Kent. That’s James Bond territory if you read Ian Fleming’s novels. Given the chance, would you go for a 00 agent or a Bond villain in a film? I’m not the Bond type. So give me a f*kd up villain to wreak havoc any day of the week.
Cool,I thought so. Doctor Armageddon or something like that? You played quite a character in Day of the Triffids, I remember. That was a role you hold dear as well. You DO like playing the nasty villain don’t you? Growing up in the part of Kent crammed with military history did you have a heightened interest in WW2 or for that matter military history as a whole? I know I spent (some say wasted) many an hour and a day in gun emplacements, pillboxes and Napoleonic forts along the White Cliffs of Dover and beyond. In fact I spilt blood there! Did you have any such adventures?
Stop the presses! I want to know why Phil Hodges spilled blood there! Well, when I was younger I used to explore these forts and places you shouldn’t really have been in . I once fell into a Napoleonic dry moat with about a twenty-foot drop. Luckily for me the barbed wire stopped me from hitting the ground but it took rescuers over an hour to cut me out. They used tweezers. I also fell about fifty feet down a bank built in mediaeval times at the foot of Dover Castle. It was one of those awkward slip, run, trip and fall exploits whereby your body overtakes your legs (even yours Phil? – Ed). The point is they’re fortifications designed to stop people getting in so I should have realised that I was never going to make it in a pair of Adidas trainers and Levis. I’ve grown up since then anyhow. Nowadays I wear crampons. Impressive. On all fronts.
Bit of a random quick fire round next. Ready?
Sherman Tank or Horse and Cart? Sherman Tank
Colt 1911 or highwayman’s pistol? Call it a draw (Get it?)
Ha-ha-ha-ha. I do. Ok, gorget or dog tags? Dog Tags.
Ok. They get harder. Hold on tight. Airfix Afrika Korps or Matchbox Japanese Infantry?
1:32 scale? Ooh, you’re good. Matchbox. I used to play with figures the most.
Didn’t we all?
Tea or Coffee? Man, that’s tough. Indoors, neck and neck. Outdoors, I’m more coffee shop than tea shop! Coffee.
Zombies or Triffids? Ha! Well, as you probably know I’ve been eaten by both. I think you get more bang for your buck with zombies.
Yeah, but I thought you were more menacing against a giant plant. Triffids still freak me out. Besides the WHO guys are zombies most of the time so.. OK, last question. The introduction of the Euro into Great Britain as currency in order to sustain economic stability
Or fish and chips? Quite partial to a bit of Huss.
Told you I wouldn’t holdback, didn’t I? You’re killing me.
I try. What are you working on at the moment, Shane? And when will we be able to see it?
Bearing in mind you’ve just played a guy who helped to light the touchpaper for a revolution I mean that takes some beating right? Right. So, what have you got? Me? Loads. Doesn’t stop coming in. I’m on TV beginning of next month. Again! You know? This film, that drama. Endless. I’ll get you in on the extra list if you like? Did I tell you I met Meryl Streep at Shepperton Film Studios last year? Seriously right, it was So weird. I have to go. My wife is raising her eyebrows again 🙁
Shane, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk you. All the best for Sons of Liberty and I wish you every success on your latest venture. The beers are on you in Normandy! Pleasure, Phil. And you’ll have to find me, first.
Sons of Liberty is a three part, six-hour mini-series directed by Kari Skogland, and can be seen on the History Channel on the 25th, 26th and 27th of this month in the USA and in the UK later in the year.
As a nice footnote, anyone visiting Normandy for the D-Day commemorations in June could have a chance to meet Shane and many of his fellow actors at the War History Online Band of Brothers cast reunion. On June 6th & 7th, 2015 at Overlord Omaha Beach Museum, the Utah Beach Museum and the Richard D. Winters Leadership monument in Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy, France.
Keep checking in for more details.