Service With A Smile

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Jaunty Jeff Gilbert is the Motel's new barman.  Julian Barnes talks about his life behind the Crossroads bar.

Like every other profession, acting isn't usually something one can just jump into.  It takes training at drama school, a few years in provincial companies, then the slow progression to bigger and bigger roles.  It's a very rare occasion when a young actor bypasses all this and just steps into big parts without a moment's hesitation.  Yet the story of Julian Barnes, who plays the Motel's new barman, Jeff Gilbert, is exactly that.

He's been in the profession for about eight years now, ever since he was seventeen.  "I did try for drama school, but RADA turned me down a couple of times, they said I was too young.  I don't know whether they were just trying to be kind or not, but I refused to let the rejection get me down.  I went out and found an agent, managed to get an Equity (the actors' union) card and still aged seventeen or eighteen I was given a couple of TV roles.  I did have some doubts about missing out on drama school but by the time I was twenty-one and all my acting contemporaries were just coming out of their training, I was already getting plenty of good parts all around the country."
Julian's the first to admit that he missed out on some of the training a young actor gets at drama school, especially in the more technical areas of the theatre, but notwithstanding these gaps he seems to have been pretty lucky so far.  He's worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company's theatre in Stratford on Avon in 'Cymbeline', in which he starred, as well as taking parts in 'King Lear'. 'Doctor Faustus' and 'Richard II'.  He's worked in repertory at Harrogate, Derby and Belfast where the theatre, if nothing else, is still doing its best to keep everyone's spirits up.  He's worked abroad too.  A tour of South Africa and work in the Vienna English Theatre where he played 'Tom' in Tennessee Williams' classic 'Glass Menagerie' brought this young actor to foreign audiences.
On top of all this substantial work in the live theatre, Julian has appeared in about a dozen films.  He appeared alongside Zeph Gladstone in 'The Oblong Box' and there've been all manner of parts, though none of them have been truly starring roles yet.
However, at the moment Julian Barnes's main interests lie in his debut role in Crossroads.  He's never been in a long-running series before, and in common with everyone who joins the Crossroads team he's taken a little while to get acclimatised to the pressures of putting together a four-times-a-week series.  "I think it's terrific, like everyone else, but I must admit that I was rather nervous in my first week.  In fact I still am.  No doubt it's something you settle into.  And the whole Company are very keen to make you feel at home right from the start.  That's very nice.  I'm very worried about seeing my first episode ... there are bound to be terrible blunders, but no doubt time and experience will help those."
His appearance on the show wasn't wholly without preparation.  An old friend from school days, Mike Walker, had already been in the show.  When Julian heard that there were auditions for a new barman at the Motel, and won the part for himself, his first action was to call up Mike.  "I found out all I could about the people, the set, and the way everything worked.  We spent a very cheerful couple of hours in my local talking over old times and working out how I would fit into the Crossroads set-up."

Service With A Smile ... continued