blind date, david bailey and bad hair days with rising star aneurin barnard…
“What’s your name and where d’ya come from?” Aneurin (pronounced like an-eye-rin) Barnard is the curly haired brunette who’s made the move from The Valleys to the silver screen and will be playing Bobby Willis – the husband of everyone’s favourite Liverpudlian and Blind Date presenter Cilla Black in Cilla. He’s quite a catch!
Aneurin first caught our eye as i-D fave and cheeky chappy David Bailey in We’ll Take Manhattan, starring opposite Karen Gillan as The Shrimp. But next up is his role as Bobby Willis in three-part Mersey Beat ITV drama, Cilla, for which he dyed his hair every nine days, bleached his eyebrows every four, and mastered the perfect Liverpudlian accent. Turning down a promising career as a singer, starting out on the West End stage and picking his roles carefully, Aneurin is one of those actors who’s not in it for the fame or riches but is dedicated to mastering the craft.
Did you know much about Cilla Black before you got cast in Cilla?
What I knew from when I was a kid is just from Surprise, Surprise and Blind Date, and I knew that she kind of sang but not much detail. It wasn’t until reading the script and through the research I had to do that I realised she was a number 1 selling female artist in the UK.
What was it about her life that made it so interesting?
I guess it’s where her and Bobby came from, which is the back streets. But they were just normal kids who were in this Mersey Beat kind of movement where the Beatles and Cilla were found. They were part of a movement of people who had a raw talent and were writing songs and it became a life-changing opportunity for them. That was the beginning. And what her and Bobby went through together, their relationship with Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager and how he was there one minute and wasn’t the next and Bobby having to become her manager. This was all before the TV celebrity that we all know now.
I’ve got some questions from Blind Date… “When I was little if I stuck my fingers in my ears and closed my eyes, I thought I was invisible. What superpower would you have?”
Does it have to be a chat up line?
There has to be a reason!
Oh my dear lord, ok here we go. There are some cheesy things going on in my mind right now. I’m really bad at this. I’d have the ability to fly so I could sweep you off your feet.
What question would you ask if you were on the other side of the screen?
Probably something embarrassing. It’s really boring I guess, “One of my favourite things is watching antique programs, what antique would you be?” Something stupid like that. If I was actually invested in being on the show then I probably would come up with a really good question!
Why did the role of Bobby appeal to you?
Initially I was like, there’s no way I’m going to be right for this role, because he’s this Liverpudlian lad, he’s got bright blue eyes, the brightest blonde hair you could naturally have, surely they’ll want someone close to that. But they didn’t, they wanted the right actor to play him. What appeals to me really is playing people who are quite far away from myself but with enough for me to connect with. I come from the same kind of social background as Bobby so that was really useful, and the story line and the depth of his lifestyle was just really intriguing. And I had to transform physically for it, which is always lovely to do because you can really embody a character when you get to change your appearance.
Were you wearing a wig?
No, that was my hair. It was bleached and toned every nine days. On the seventh day they had to paint in the roots. My eyebrows were done every four days.
Did you mind any of that?
It was a bit of a pain in the ass but it was perfect for Bobby. It was such a great thing to have achieved because my hair’s so dark. Lucky enough there were no orange incidents! But we had a great team. At the end of the job though I had to cut it all off because there was hair falling out in parts. I don’t know how girls tame their hair.
When you played Bailey you spent some time with him. What was he like?
I’ve never met anyone else like Bailey, he’s got such a charm about him and a great dry wit. Even in his mid-seventies now, he can still woo people in the way a 25 year old can’t.
I saw some pictures of you when you were 15 and won a singing contest…
Are you really going to make me do this?
You were dressed all in white with spiky hair…
Hey man, it was the 90s ok! I started off singing when I was really young. I loved performing and these opportunities kept coming my way and I was young – why not! It started to get serious because there were record labels knocking on the door and asking if I wanted to sign contracts. I was offered one deal, the first time I came to London and my father and I got the train down and were chauffeured to a big hotel and taken to a penthouse suite and were shown this other world. I was only 15, and there was this contract on the table and I was like, do I want to do this or not? I knew then that I didn’t want to do it through people writing music for me, I wanted to do it the old fashioned, Ray Charles way. But at that point, I’d been acting a little while and I realised it was an actor I wanted to be and singing and playing instruments was more of a hobby.