Neil   played   porter   Phil   in   Crossroads'   recent   spin-off   series, and   despite   being   one   of   the   most   popular   characters   from the   first   revival,   he   wasn't   asked   back   for   the   third   series much to viewer annoyance. While   producer   Yvon   Grace   declared   ‘Who   cares   if   Phil   Berry is   rotting   in   jail?’   The   loyal   Crossroads   fans   did   care   thanks to    the    previous    two    years    of    dramatic    stories    with    Phil including   being   accused   of   murdering   Jill   Chance   and   saving a teenage boy from an inferno. When   you   first   arrived   at   Crossroads   your   character   was   very   unpopular   with   the   management   and   staff   at   the   hotel   as   they   had   him   down   as   a   "bad boy". What was that like? It   was   great!   It's   not   my   normal   character;   I'd   never   be   typecast   as   that   kind   of   role.   I'm   usually   the   nice,   innocent   young   man,   it's   probably   because   I looked   like   a   schoolboy   until   I   was   about   18,   so   it   was   so   nice   to   be   able   to   play   that   role.   To   come   in   on   a   motorbike   and   to   go   out   the   way   I   did   and   to have so many fights and arguments it was great for me. I don't think characters like that will come along very often,  I'm not a hard nut and I don't look like a hard nut so yes, it was great to be able to play it! Probably   your   best   remembered   storyline   was   your   romance   with   Nicola   Russell.   Did   you   enjoy   that   storyline   and   what   was   it   like   acting   with   Julia Burchell? I   did   enjoy   it   yeah,   Julia's   fantastic,   I   spoke   to   her   about   3   weeks   ago   now   and   she's   just   a   wonderful   girl.   Her   character   worked   so   well   and   she's   one   of the   nicest   people   you   could   meet.   It   could   have   been   one   of   the   worst   things   in   the   world   coming   up   and   meeting   someone   you   are   going   to   spend   the next year and a half kissing but she was just really easy to work with. If   there   was   any   storyline   I   had   a   problem   with   actually,   it   was   when   he   was   cheating   on   her   with   Chloe,   after   all   that   he'd   been   through   I   felt   it   was   out of   character.   He'd   come   in   and   he'd   fancied   Nicola   from   the   beginning   and   he   wasn't   interested   in   Chloe   so   I   didn't   feel   it   made   any   sense.   I   never understood that and I think it was probably just one of those things they bring in to fill the gaps! During your time on Crossroads you very soon acquired heart-throb status among the programme's fans - how did you feel about the attention? Strange!   I   still   find   it   quite   funny   to   be   honest,   if   you   ask   any   of   my   friends   they   think   it's   hilarious.   Since   Crossroads   I've   lost   about   two   and   a   half   stone and   I   look   at   myself   on   screen   and   think   who   would   have   found   that   attractive?   But   to   this   day   I   still   bump   into   people   who   comment.   I'd   rather   meet people who say you were a good actor than the one's who say you were fit. Do people still recognise you a lot, I suppose they must do? Yes   they   do,   but   people   usually   don't   know   who   I   am,   they   tend   to   call   me   Phil!   Funnily   enough,   someone   came   up   to   me   last   week   and   said:   "Can   I   have your   autograph   Neil?"   and   that   doesn't   happen   very   often,   they   normally   recognise   me   but   they   usually   don't   know   my   name   or   they   call   me   by   the character's name. So it's not really fame! What   were   your   fellow   actors   like   and   what   was   the   atmosphere   like   on   set?   Were   there   any   particular   jokers   among   the   cast?   Did   the   younger   cast members and the older cast members mix much? There   were   a   few   people   from   the   older   cast   who   were   a   bit   patronising,   but   very   few   and   all   of   them   were   really   nice. The   young   cast   members   all   went out   with   each   other   which   was   great.   But   on   the   whole   the   older   cast   were   great   -   Sherrie   Hewson,   Roger   Sloman,   Jane   Gurnett   I   had   worked   with before,   Neil   McCaul...   we   were   so   disappointed   when   he   left.   I   think   talking   to   a   few   people   who   have   just   finished   filming   the   new   one,   they   said   things had changed dramatically, there were a few egos there apparently. Were   you   ever   called   upon   to   do   anything   you   weren't   entirely   happy   with?   How   much   input   were   you   allowed   where   your   character   was concerned? When   we   first   started   there   were   a   lot   of   things   I   was   unhappy   with   but   being   my   first TV   job   I   couldn't   say   much.   We   were   a   mixture   of   very   experienced actors   like   Jane   Gurnett   and   Sherrie   Hewson   and   people   like   me   who   hadn't   done   much   TV. At   first   I   just   learned   the   lines   and   later   on   I   got   to   know   the character   better   than   the   script   writers   and   the   amount   of   times   I   went   to   the   script   writers   and   said:   "This   just   isn't   right!"   because   they'd   make   him   do something or even say something that I knew Phil wouldn't say. At   first   I   was   brought   in   to   be   a   Geordie   although   I'm   from   Middlesborough   and   later   on   they   were   making   me   say   things   like   "geezer"!   Some   of   the   script- writers later on, I don't think they really knew the character at all. And even when I said this was rubbish I was just given a solution that was even worse! Did you ever watch the old series yourself as a child and were you aware of its critic reputation? Is it true that your mother was a bit of a fan? She   was   yes,   she   became   a   much   bigger   fan   when   I   went   into   the   new   one!   I   never   really   saw   it,   I   might   have   been   in   the   room   once   or   twice   when   it   was on   but   I   didn't   really   see   it.   The   thing   about   the   original   Crossroads   is   that   it   was   filmed   as   live.   Corrie   did   it   once   and   everyone   says   "Wow!"   but Crossroads used to do it every day! Crossroads was a television institution. How did you and the other cast members feel about taking on the challenge of reviving such an institution? We   were   delighted,   the   money   and   the   effort   and   the   people   they   brought   in   -   Roger   Sloman,   a   fantastic   comic   actor,   Gilly   Gillcrist   and   the   others   and the   only   reason   these   people   came      in   was   because   they   were   promised   it   would   get   more   resources. As   a   matter   of   fact,   the   theme   tune   and   the   name didn't   really   help   much   in   terms   of   ratings   because   really   the   people   around   to   watch   it   at   5.30   were   young   people.   I   don't   think   they   had   actually conducted much market research. Do you blame Carlton and Central Television for not giving it more resources? Yes   I   do!   And   the   programme   wasn't   really   given   enough   time   to   work.   All   soaps   take   time   to   develop   -   EastEnders,   Brookside,   they   took   years.   The   BBC does   that   well,   giving   a   programme   time.      The   ratings   we   were   getting   were   as   high   as   you   could   expect   for   a   daytime   show,   Night   and   Day   didn't   get anywhere near the ratings we got. And it was actually working, that's what frustrated people, that we weren't given time. If   Carlton-Central   had   shown   even   half   of   the   commitment   in   ours   to   keep   going,   that   they   showed   to   the   new   version,   then   I   believe   Crossroads   would still be on air. Crossroads faced criticism from the critics but also from some older fans who wanted to see more elements of the original. Were you and other cast members aware much of the criticism or did you tend to shrug it off? We were aware of it but I think you have to shrug it off. Once Jane Gurnett actually got a death threat saying "You're nothing like Meg Richardson!" Some   of   us   used   to   visit   the   websites   and   read   people's   comments   and   occasionally   people   were   upset   by   what   they   read.   I've   never   had   people   saying   to me that our version wasn't as good as the original but lots of people have said to me that the latest version wasn't as good as ours! What sort of fan mail did you get? It   was   young   girls   mainly,   and   people   asking   for   my   autograph.   I   noticed   that   they're   selling   my   autograph   for   £4   on   Ebay   which   made   me   laugh.   Nobody's bought it yet, but it's on sale! If they wrote to me I'd happily let them have it for £2! (for free if you write to Neil's agent!) Crossroads   Mark   II   was   eventually   taken   off   for   a   few   months   when   Yvon   Grace   was   brought   in   to   revamp   it.   What   was   that   period   like   and   how   did you feel about the decision not to bring your character back when the programme returned? It   was   weird   because   they   just   sort   of   dropped   it   on   us   at   Christmas   time   and   it   was   like   "We'll   let   you   know"   and   for      months   we   were   waiting   for   a decision,   even   at   the   soap   awards   we   didn't   even   know   then. Also,   I   never   imagined   they   would   bring   it   back   and   revamp   it   so   dramatically.   When   we   first heard that I wasn't coming back Roger phoned me and said "I just can't believe it!" I   hold   my   hands   up   and   admit   that   I'd   got   a   bit   complacent   and   assumed   that   I   would   be   coming   back,   I'd   just   been   nominated   for   two   soap   awards.   I   was actually   wondering   in   the   end   if   I   wanted   to   come   back,   and   I   thought   the   only   way   I   would   come   back   would   be   if   they   just   made   the   character   become completely evil. And   the   decision   to   get   rid   of   the   gay   couple   was   an   awful   one.   They'd   done   market   research   and   decided   it   needed   to   appeal   to   older   people   and   I   think they decided that they wouldn't like the gay couple so they got rid of them. Did you see any of the revamped Crossroads and did you regret not being in it? I didn't regret not being in the new one when I saw what they'd done to it. I think they made it too tacky and they killed it by making it comical. You   can't   make   a   programme   good   by   making   it   bad. And   you   can't   turn   Birmingham   or   Nottingham   into   Dallas!   I'm   not   gay   but   I   have   gay   friends   and   they thought   that   the   attempt   to   make   it   appeal   to   gay   people   was   patronising.      And   they   got   rid   of   all   the   younger   characters   but   the   revamped   series   had very   similar   characters   but   older   versions.      So   they   had   a   new   handyman,   Sam,   who   was   similar   to   Phil,   he   rode   in   on   a   motorbike   and   had   an   affair   with the manager's daughter. So   my   character   wouldn't   have   fitted   into   it   but   I   wouldn't   have   wanted   to   go   back   even   if   they'd   asked   me. A   number   of   people   have   said   to   me   that   if you look at Jane Gurnett in the last few weeks you can see that she wasn't really happy, I don't know how true that is but that's how it seemed. How did you feel about the fact that your dramatic storyline with Nicola was left unresolved at the end? I'm   glad   they   left   it   that   way,   I   think   that   the   whole   series   should   just   have   just   ended   with   that.   It   was   a   really   good   storyline   and   you   couldn't   really   ask more than that and I was happy to leave it unresolved. I think the mistake was bringing it back in the revamped format. Are you still in touch with any of the other cast members? I am still in touch with a number of them but it's hard to keep in touch when you've all moved on. Can you tell us a little about what you're up to now? I   was   in   an ABC   Fox   movie   for America   about   and   called   "Prince   William"   last   year.   I   have   just   arrived   back   from   the   Stephen   Joseph Theatre,   Scarborough, in a play called "Making Waves". S ince   the   interview   there   has   been   many   other   stage   and   television   appearances   with   telly   roles   in   shows   such   as   The   Bill,   Hebburn   and   Judge John Deed.
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