Sour Liam: Francis Magee Brings Depth to a Thug
By A.S. Berman
- "I suppose with a face like mine, I'm never going to present
children's TV, am I?" So says EastEnders' Liam, Francis Magee , explaining
why he so often "gets to play the heavy."
- The writer of this article is quick to disagree, and would surely
interrupt with a polite "nonsense old man," if the following was not an
- Truth be told, for many years EastEnders just wasn't the haven for
young, gorgeous humanity that it has recently become. A series that once
prided itself on its depiction of working-class folk, warts and all, has
metamorphisized into Melrose Place UK. Which, it would seem, has left
actors such as Francis Magee "playing the heavy" ever since.
- There is something refreshing in Magee's responses to the Gazette's
questions -- a real "Look, a job's a job" lack of pretension to the Isle
of Mann native. One suspects the actor's varied work background might have
something to do with this.
- "I was a fisherman for eight years or so. I loved it, and still
miss the sea. Next on the career agenda was a spell as a singer with a
Ceilidh band ." Francis Magee began his pursuit of the musical muse
(forgive this writer's pretension on the gentleman's behalf) long before
his stint as Liam Taylor, drifting into acting while "in London and Europe
trying to be a pop star." Not too long ago he was with a band called
Namoza, which -- NamWHATSA?!
- "As far as I know, there is no meaning to the dreadful name," says
Magee. "This was the name of the band before I joined as their singer.
Namoza's style of music was given a number of descriptions by music critics
including 'steel mill reggae,' 'tribal rock,' and 'a traveling circus of
stomp, pomp, and poetic groove.' Namoza released four singles and an album.
I am currently singing with a new band: Disco D'Oro (DDO)."
- From the music stage to the TV limelight, Magee made his debut as
Liam at a critical time in EastEnders' history. With the "now you see me,
now you don't" semi-presence of Nasty Nick Cotton, and the virtual
emasculation of the Mitchell Brothers, Albert Square was in dire need of a
genuine figure of menace. Of course, like all of Walford's denizens, it
became clear that even Liam was a bit more complex than he, at first,
- "Poor Liam! I think he had a terrible childhood, and has had to be
self-sufficient since he was very young. He is unable to talk about his
problems or his feelings because this makes him feel vulnerable. Therefore
he carries around much pent-up anger and frustration, most of it directed
at himself. He seeks reconciliation with Debbie and Clare because he craves
the kind of family life he never had. Unfortunately, because of his past,
he would probably never be able to keep it together."
- The actor recalls auditioning for the role of this dysfunctional
soul very well.
- "I read from a script, and within two hours I was told I had the
job. It was somewhat daunting to join such an established cast, but
fortunately they were all extremely new-member-friendly."
- But if the cast were accommodating, there were a few members of the
EastEnders audience who took Liam's treatment of Nigel and Debs much too
- "I have been chastised on the street," confides Magee, echoing a
complaint many British soap actors have made. "I've also been spat at, and
have had a black eye."
- God love the British EastEnders fan.
- "It is somewhat disturbing that there are people who seem to be
unable to distinguish between a TV show and reality. The phrase 'Get a
life' springs to mind."
- Of course Magee does have a pretty imposing presence on camera. Did
he call upon his years as a fisherman -- a traditionally tough sort of
bloke -- for the role?
- "I don't think I've brought a great deal of my time at sea into
Liam's character. I was somewhat different to many of my salty
colleagues in that I would indulge in strange practices, such as writing
and reciting poetry, singing, playing musical instruments, etc. Such
'strangeness' was treated with great suspicion, and I guess they thought I
was not worth thumping. Although there was the time that I was fired at
through the window of a bar in Whitehaven...but that's another story."
- [Fired at through the window of a -- now this is precisely why I
dislike faxed interviews! Have to call him back about that one...]
- Since his time in Albert Square, Magee has noticed some differences
between acting in a soap, versus more conventional forms of drama.
- "The main one, I think, being lack of time. Because there are
three-episodes-a-week to get out, there is no time for luxuries -- like
- That said, the actor speaks highly of the show that earned him the
black eye and verbal abuse.
- "I definitely think EastEnders is a cut above the run-of-the-mill
soap. It constantly tackles important social issues in a convincing manner
that doesn't leave you feeling that you've had a sermon preached at you."
- Now that has to be worth a black eye or two.
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