Thursday 20 September 2018

Carry On Blogging Interview: David Kernan

I'm delighted to bring another interview to Carry On Blogging. The actor and singer David Kernan was born in London in 1938. David has enjoyed a long, diverse and really successful career on television, film and particularly on stage and made his one and only Carry On appearance in probably the last classic film in the series, Carry On Abroad in 1972.  Co-starring alongside Carol Hawkins, Sally Geeson and John Clive, David played Nicholas. The film led to David developing firm friendships with the actresses Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques.

David's other films include Make Me A Person, Zulu, Otley and Up The Chastity Belt, while on television he became well known thanks to his association with That Was The Week That Was as well as parts in series like The Avengers and Upstairs, Downstairs. On stage, David has become most closely associated with the work of Stephen Sondheim, playing the role of Count Malcolm in the original London production of A Little Night Music. In 1977 David was nominated for a Tony Award for his part in the Broadway production of Side by Side by Sondheim.

I’d love to know what brought you into the business in the first place and how you got started?

After doing Huddersfield Rep at the age of 19, I auditioned for a part in "Where´s Charlie". I was in the chorus for two years and on the road to the start of my career.

I think you were part of the cast of the theatrical revue On The Brighter Side in 1961? That show featured some of my favourite actors – Stanley Baxter, Betty Marsden and Amanda Barrie. What were they like to work with?

Absolutely superb and extremely delightful. Especially Stanley Baxter who I still see from time to time.  

You were part of the extraordinary team of talent to work on That Was The Week That Was for David Frost in the early 1960s. What are your memories of that experience?

It was exhausting as we had to learn the songs within two days but at the same time hugely rewarding and great fun.

You played Private Frederick Hitch in the 1964 film Zulu, now revered as a classic. Was there any suggestion at the time that this might be the case?

No, I never thought it was ever going to be the classic that it has become.

In the theatre, you are probably most associated with the work of Stephen Sondheim. What is it that most attracts you to his work?

I loved the film West Side Story and auditioned for "A Little Night Music" for which I got the part. I then approached Mr Sondheim and asked his permission to compile his songs for Side By Side By Sondheim.

Two of the actors you worked most closely with in the revue you devised, Side by Side by Sondheim, were Millicent Martin and Julia McKenzie. Do you have fond memories of working with them on that project?

I suggested to Mr Sondheim that these two brilliant vocalists should be put together with us on the show. I have great fond memories of working with them and still stay in touch with Millie to this day.

You were cast as Nicholas in Carry On Abroad in 1972. What were Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers like to work for?

Huge humour and great fun.

I’ve listened to the DVD commentary for Carry On Abroad and you seemed to get on really well your co-stars John Clive, Carol Hawkins and Sally Geeson. What were they like to work with?

Everybody on that film were such a pleasure to work with and John Clive (who played Robin) was great fun.

I think I’ve read that work on the Carry On film led to great friendships with Joan Sims and Hattie Jacques. What are your memories of these brilliant actresses?

I was so very fond of the pair of them. Over four years, Joan and I would spend Christmas Day at Hattie's house drinking and eating too much and of course lots of giggling. One year we decided to all dress up as the Andrews Sisters and have a sing song. Years later Julia, Millie and myself did the very same thing but this time it was recorded for a John Curry TV Special. It can be found on YouTube.

Finally, if you had to choose one highlight from your long career, what would it be and why?

I have so many highlights but being on stage on a Sunday night celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Side by Side and performing and singing along side Dame Judi Dench is certainly one of them. Stephen Sondheim even flew in from New York especially to see the show.

I'd like to thank David for taking the time to answer my questions. Thanks also to Rich Coghill for helping to set up the interview. 

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan and on Instagram

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