Peter

"... a bit of the cheesecake shot"
— Peter Wingfield on Gabereau Live, 4 Feb 1999

Wingfield @wingfieldfans.org Dr Helm

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Gabereau Live
4 February 1999

Gabereau logo

Vicki Gabereau: My next guest went from being a 5000-year old Immortal — we all wish we could be that — on the show Highlander, and now he is an ever-so-cool cop on Cold Squad. Please welcome Peter Wingfield. [applause] I was just looking the calendar, hey. You got a calendar of your own and you're not even a fireman.

Gabereau screencap

Peter Wingfield: Isn't it crazy?

Gabereau: Yeah, 'cause this is a sort of modest one. [Holds up May 1999 — a headshot.] There's some of them sort of shirtless—

Peter: Yeah, uh, they, uh...

Gabereau: Like that one. [Shows centerfold of Peter in swim trunks.]

Peter: ... a bit of the cheesecake shot.

Gabereau: Yeah, uh, cheese—? No, it's called beefcake!

Peter: Beefcake, right.

Gabereau: Cheesecake are girls. Beefcake, guys.

Peter: Right.

Gabereau: You submitted to this, though. You had to agree to it.

Peter: Yeah, I did. My wife took most of those photographs.

Gabereau: Oh, well, that's — how discreet.

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: [laughs] That's pretty good. [Shows stack of papers.] You want to know what this pile of stuff is?

Peter: Uh... that'll be e-mail, I would think.

Gabereau: That'll be e-mail. And that comes — and ordinary mail, snail mail, all kinds of mail — cards, letters, handwritten — asking about when you're going to be on this show. So it's travelled like wildfire.

Peter: Yeah, I have a, uh, a very fanatical following.

Gabereau: Yeah, does that come — it starts with Highlander, does it?

Peter: Yep, yeah.

Gabereau: Because the Highlander fans are, um, well, there're conventions and things, aren't there?

Peter: There's a convention in Birmingham, in England, in two weeks, I think.

Gabereau: Will you be going?

Peter: Yep.

Gabereau: And what happens at those things?

Peter: [big sigh] You do Q&A sessions where you have uh... you have people asking the most BIZARRE questions.

Gabereau: Much like this situation! [laughs]

Peter: Yeah, and they're usually not as rational as this. They're um...

Gabereau: Hey, it's not over yet, this one! [laughs]

Peter: Yeah... Boxers or briefs, are you going to ask me that?

Gabereau: No.

Peter: Okay. That's where it usually starts with Highlander.

Gabereau: Really?

Peter: Yep, yeah.

Gabereau: Ew!

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau screencap

Gabereau: I would die!

Peter: Kind of weird stuff. And they always do ones about what's it really like working with Adrian Paul and the other actors on there. And always they do ones about, in a particular episode, in a particular scene, when your character laughed, you really seemed like you were laughing, so what was really going on? And you always say, "I was acting." So does that mean the rest of what I was doing stank? And that was the only bit that was convincing?

Gabereau: Yeah, that's the part that drives me — people ask me questions like that too, yeah: "You look like you were having a good time." Like, for a change, I suppose.

Peter: Like the rest of it was—

Gabereau: Yeah, the rest of it was like, ugh!

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: I don't get that. Or "your hair looked better Wednesday." As opposed to what?! Tuesday?! How bad did it look on Tuesday?!

Peter: Yeah, why didn't you tell me then?

Gabereau: Yeah, and why did you wait till Wednesday for? But guys don't have the hair problem like the women.

Peter: We just cut it short and do that [rubs hands in hair] in the morning and it's—

Gabereau: That's right. I thought we'd take a little look at you being Methos?

Peter: Oh, cool.

Gabereau: That's his name, isn't it.

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: [to someone offstage] It's not Methos? Are we going to look at Methos?

[fade to Cold Squad excerpt]

Ross: [to Ali] Getting involved with Michelle was a huge mistake. That much is true. And I didn't want you to know, because I was embarrassed. I thought that you might think less of me. But that's all there is. There's nothing else.

Ali: [sarcastically] Yeah, well, I'll just trust you on that.

Ross: I'm not asking you to trust me.

Ali: [shouting] You did ask me to trust you!

Ross: [shouting back] I'm asking you to do your job!

Ali: [quieter] I always do my job.

[end of excerpt]

Gabereau screencap

Gabereau: My goodness. Having a fight with Ali, are you?

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: Yeah.

Peter: That's not the 5000-year old man. That's the uh...

Gabereau: No, no, that was the younger guy from Cold Squad.

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: But that's okay. We got to see some of your work. Yeah, so, what is your relationship, really, with Ali?

Peter: [pauses in thought] Yah... I — I think it's growing, you know.

Gabereau: Spit it out.

Peter: I think it's, uh, we — we fought quite hard to let it grow gently, because you get, when you're doing TV series, a lot of the characters, you don't know how they're going to spark together. You don't know how the actors are going to spark. So you just, you kind of play a few bits and then the writers try and pick up on stuff that's going on.

Gabereau: Your own personality twist on the character.

Peter: Yeah, stuff gels with some people, and you just get a little edge in there that's interesting. But then, you then, you get an idea from the writers: "Okay, it would be good if we put this together." And you suddenly get scripts and lines where it's like they've been together for the last six months. So we fought very hard to let it grow, and to keep the edge in there, 'cause they're both, they're both very wrapped up in their work, and they're not good with their emotions, so, so we, uh, we're getting more at ease with each other, but it's... I think it's important...

Gabereau: Literally and figuratively, I hope.

Peter: Yeah. Yeah.

Gabereau: [?] speaking too.

Peter: Indeed.

Gabereau: Can you improvise in a show like this? Can you change something? I don't know how omnipresent the writers are, and whether or not they say, "You must stick absolutely..."

Peter: It's very variable.

Gabereau: Really.

Peter: Highlander was the best show for that, yeah.

Gabereau screencap

Gabereau: [laughs] Because nobody was in control?!

Peter: Yeah, nobody cared! It was — they'd throw out an idea and we would, we'd GENERALLY stay pretty close to it, but if... The great thing about working with a company of actors where you trust each other is that if somebody asks you a question that isn't exactly what's in the script... Some actors will stop and say, "Sorry, you were supposed so say, 'What day was it?' You said, 'What time was it?'" And you have to go back. But in Highlander you could ask somebody "What color is it?" And that would — they'd go off with that one.

Gabereau: Right, and—

Peter: So anything that was thrown out, somebody else would pick up and take it somewhere else. And a lot of the time it goes down dead ends. But sometimes it comes up with very exciting stuff.

Gabereau: And was Adrian that flexible?

Peter: Yeah, absolutely.

Gabereau: He's a pretty cool guy.

Peter: He's—

Gabereau: I liked him. When he came here—

Peter: Right.

Gabereau: —and I said — and, of course, I know Jim Byrnes very well—

Peter: Jim, yeah.

Gabereau: He's just the world's greatest guy. But Adrian, I mean, apart from being excruciatingly good-looking—

Peter: Yeah, it's—

Gabereau: Yeah, that sort of got in the way of the conversation.

Peter: It's bad.

Gabereau: Because I was like this [gives starry-eyed look], you know. But other than that, I kept my control.

Peter: He picked that show up and carried it for five, six years. Every single episode. He's — he is the man; there is no show without him. He's in there before everyone else; he's in there later than everyone else; he directs episodes. I just, I have tremendous respect for him. And he's not, you know, a lot of actors, when they're holding a series, they get very paranoid. And they—

Gabereau: He's pretty paranoid! He's paranoid, all right. We asked him if he'd just like to walk over from the hotel, which is across the street, and he said, "No, send a limo."

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: So we had to. And then when he came half a block in the limo, of course, I made a big fuss about it.

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: And he said to me, "Oh good, make a fool of me right on the TV."

Peter: Yeah.

Gabereau: [slyly] But I don't have any ammo on YOU like that, which is truly unfortunate, but I'm going to try and think of something in this break, and then we'll come right back.

[Commercial break.]

Gabereau screencap

Gabereau: I'm talking with Peter Wingfield, also known as Simon Ross from Cold Squad, a highly successful television series. [to Peter] You happy with it?

Peter: Yeah, I am.

Gabereau: It's done very well, eh?

Peter: Yeah, I've been watching the last sort of three or four episodes which are going to play over the next few weeks, and there's some really nice stuff in there. I'm very proud of it.

Gabereau: Oh good. You were nearly a doctor. I can't believe that anyone would quit four weeks before they were called up, or whatever you call it. Four weeks?!? Is this true?

Peter: Yeah, yeah.

Gabereau: Why would you do such a thing?

Peter: Uh, I didn't want to be a doctor.

Gabereau: [laughs] Well, it's a bit LATE after all of that, wasn't it?!

Peter: Um, in ways, yes. But in many ways, it's a big — it's a big deal deciding not to — deciding to step off that path because I — when I was in school, uh, I was good at sciences. I was pushed towards that. And you know, people like doctors. They think it's a good idea. You get pressure from the family, society.

Gabereau: People treat you nicely too.

Peter: Yeah, you know. People like to say, "Ah, yeah, my son, the doctor." You know it's, uh...

Gabereau: Well, it didn't help — who's name I've now forgotten [giggle] — uh, from the Old Vic, the doctor, the body in question.

Peter: Jonathan Miller.

Gabereau: Yeah.

Peter: Jonathan Miller.

Gabereau: Yeah, Jonathan Miller. He didn't have such a bad career, did he?

Peter: He was always held up to me as "this is what you should do. You should qualify first. You should be a doctor, then you've got that to fall back on." But things are very different now. Medicine is so incredibly technical. And acting is so much different now. You used to be able to — if you'd been to Oxford or Cambridge, then you could just walk into the National Theatre, the Old Vic, and it's — it's not like that anymore. There's so much more competition. And there's also not — um, Jonathan Miller himself these days doesn't do medicine. He—

Gabereau: No.

Peter: He's not able to make them both work. I think that for me they're both careers that demand everything of you. And I didn't want to be a — a bad doctor.

Gabereau screencap

Gabereau: Or a bad actor.

Peter: I certainly didn't want to be a bad actor. That stuff stays around forever! There are still tapes of me...

Gabereau: [laughs] Still bad, really bad tapes? You're Welsh, eh?

Peter: Yep.

Gabereau: But you don't have — your Welsh accent — I don't hear it.

Peter: Yeah, it's been a long time. I mean, I lived in London the last 12, 15 years. I've been here two, three now.

Gabereau: Did you come here because of Highlander?

Peter: Yep. Yeah.

Gabereau: And are you now stationed here?

Peter: Yeah. Yep.

Gabereau: And you won't go back to London?

Peter: Oh yeah. The thing about being an actor is you—

Gabereau: You're portable.

Peter: You live where the work is, yeah. So now we have a place in England as well.

Gabereau: A house.

Peter: Yep.

Gabereau: This is the old house that you're in?

Peter: This is the—

Gabereau: 1620?

Peter: Sixteen-twentish, yeah. We don't really know because there's a farm that is marked on maps around the tail end of the 1600s, but this is just a stone barn next to it. So it was probably built about the same time, and then over the last two, three hundred years there've been extra barns added on. So they're now knocked through and we're turning it into a — a habitable family home.

Gabereau: So is it livable at this stage, or is it—?

Peter: Yeah. Yeah.

Gabereau: You could—

Peter: We were there — we were there over Christmas for a few weeks.

Gabereau: No leaks? No...

Peter: Ah... [smiles] not quite no leaks.

Gabereau: Yeah, see, I got a 20-year-old house. Leaks. You got a 400-year-old house. Doesn't leak.

Peter: Yep.

Gabereau: What does that tell you? Building codes.

Peter: Yep, and you know, the weather out there, it rains and it blows, and you hear it whistling around, and you see all the trees bending, and you think, "This is probably going to be okay. These stones have been on top of each other for the last three hundred years. They'll be okay."

Gabereau: Right.

Peter: Yeah. The old wooden shack, I don't know...

Gabereau: Are you, um — what're you doing now? I mean, Cold Squad is in, uh—

Peter: I'm—

Gabereau screencap

Gabereau: —hiatus.

Peter: Yeah, I'm actually doing — I'm doing a series called Strange World, which is a US Fox Network show. [Actually, it's done by Fox's television arm, not their network arm, and it's for ABC.]

Gabereau: Is it — are you acting in there or are you narrating? [She thinks it's one of Fox's "reality" shows.]

Peter: No, I'm acting.

Gabereau: Oh, right. So it's not — what is it about? What happens?

Peter: It's ah... it's the guys who set up X-Files. Howard Gordon producing it. And it's—

Gabereau: So it's another one of Chris Carter's brilliant ideas?

Peter: Chris is not writing on this, no. But it's the same kind of territory. It's paranoid territory. But, uh...

Gabereau: Oh perfect, just what I need.

Peter: Yep.

Gabereau: More paranoia.

Peter: Except this is real stuff. Instead of it being aliens, it's, uh, it's science-based stuff: chemical warfare, uh, gene manipulation.

Gabereau: What do you play?

Peter: [pause then smiles] I'm not sure, you know. I play an enigmatic—

Gabereau: [laughs] You're "not sure"!

Peter: He may be a good guy; he may be a bad guy. But it's, um—

Gabereau: Usually a bad guy though, aren't you?

Peter: Was it Lee Marvin said, "There are no bad guys? I never played one"? Uh, I often play characters that other people say, "He's a slimeball. He's a bad guy." It doesn't strike me that way usually.

Gabereau: No, but, there's a good — [grins] there's goodness in all of us.

Peter: [smiles] That's right.

Gabereau: Thank you—

Peter: Misunderstood!

Gabereau: That's right. The misunderstood jerk! [laughs]

Peter: Yep.

Gabereau: Thank you very much, Peter.

Peter: My pleasure.

Gabereau: Can I keep the calendar?

Peter: Yeah, you can keep it.

Gabereau: Oh good! I'm going to put it in my office. [Holds up a page to the camera] Look! In the pool!

[Applause and fade to commercial.]

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