Hotel Babylon: Dexter Fletcher plays Tony Casemore

Series four of Hotel Babylon became a bit of a family affair for Dexter when his brother Graham came in to help out with some scenes.

“In episode four Tony gets to play two characters,” Dexter explains. “A guest checks into the hotel who is a doppelganger for Tony… and it is a bit of a prince and pauper tale. It’s a really fun idea because the guest is American who swaps places with Tony and they sort of unintentionally mess up each other’s lives.

“The guest who is called Bobby Mack is very different to Tony – he is a writer and an intellectual and not good with people whereas Tony is the complete opposite… and weirdly I play opposite myself which was tricky at times but our director and camera crew came up with all sorts of inventive ways of making the scenes work,” he says.

“My brother came in to help out because he looks so much like me which made things a bit easier but when you are filming scenes that you play two characters in everything takes twice as long anyway.”

Dexter began his TV career very early by going to a drama club in Islington two nights a week. He then got some small supporting parts in film and TV at the age of seven, before going on to do Steptoe And Son, playing Diana Dors’ son. He then landed a part in the cult transatlantic movie, Bugsy Malone.

“I played Babyface over 30 years ago in Bugsy Malone when I was nine years old, alongside Scott Baio and a very young Jodie Foster. I then went on to work on numerous films before joining the RSC full time at Stratford at the age of 16.”

Despite being best known in the UK for his role as Spike in the children’s drama Press Gang, Dexter has worked with some of the world’s greatest writers, directors and actors including Alan Rickman, Mel Gibson, Stephen Poliakoff, Hayley Mills, Derek Jarman, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Jeff Goldblum, Kate Winslet, and Christopher Eccleston – and the list doesn’t stop there!

After a break from screen acting to concentrate on theatre again in his twenties, Fletcher returned to film in his early thirties when he landed a part in what became a Nineties cult movie – Guy Ritchie’s Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.

The HBO/BBC hit drama Band Of Brothers was next followed by Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy. Films Tristan And Isolde, with Mark Strong, and Doom, with The Rock, were both released in 2006, and his most recent film, Stardust, with Robert De Niro, was released last year.

“Working with De Niro was nerve-wracking! I went out for dinner with friends the night before I was due on set for the first time and I remember saying how ill I felt. My wife turned to me and reminded me who I was meeting the next day and announced that it was pure nerves at work,” he laughs.

“And then there was the problem of what to call him Bob, Bobby, Rob – I couldn’t decide so I just called him Captain all the time because I thought it was the safest bet… that was the character he played.”

Despite having worked with some of the world’s biggest names in Hollywood and on one of the most iconic young people’s programmes – Press Gang – there is one role he would love to play that still eludes him.

“There is a lot of talk about Press Gang coming back but I don’t know what sort of cameo I could play. I was 22 when I was in Press Gang so it would be a new generation of computer-literate kids… we used typewriters whereas nowadays its all Apple Macs, Facebook and Bebo and whatever else young people are into… but we will have to wait and see. The original Press Gang writer Stephen Moffatt, is currently writing for Doctor Who – now I’d love to play the Doctor… wouldn’t that be fun,” he muses.

Since the last series of Hotel Babylon Dexter has been busy writing with his friend and fellow actor and Primeval star, Jason Flemyng.

“I’m writing a thriller film script and working with Jason. However, the project has taken a bit of a back seat for the minute since Jason has just got married and is off filming in Russia. But regardless, Jason and I know a lot of lovely people and some great actors and we really want to pull them all together in a project.”

Hotel Babylon isn’t the first time Dexter has worked with new leading man Nigel Harman although a gap of almost 25 years separates that performance from this.

“I remember seeing Nigel at a film premiere party and I recognised him and asked if he was that guy Nigel from the Lyric Hammersmith play we did. Astonishingly he remembered me straight away so I obviously made a lasting impression on him,” he laughs.

“Despite that infamous motorbike ride, when I took Nigel as a pillion passenger, I no longer ride them because you fall off and do silly things, but back then when we were kids in the show I said, ‘C’mon Nigel I’ll take you for a spin on the back of my bike’, and off we went down the back of the Lyric Hammersmith. He has told me that ever since he loves motorbikes.”

“It’s been brilliant to have him here on set. Nigel and Max play two very different characters so it’s impossible to compare them,” he explains. “Charlie was the manager and had worked his way up from being a whipper-snapper whereas Sam is a ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ type of millionaire who will buy a hotel on a whim,” says Dexter.

Tony is a really solid character and he has mixed feelings about Sam… he thinks he likes Sam but nevertheless he remains suspicious of him.

Despite having reservations about him, Tony gives Sam brownie points for saving the hotel and, whilst he recognises he is a complete disaster at running the place, he can’t help but find him incredibly charming.

“Tony backs his player… but is reticent at first until he knows how the changes are going to affect everyone, but he likes what Sam does which is to shake it all up… and we all know Tony loves it when things get interesting.”

In episode one Tony gets to star in his own Bollywood movie – well almost! When an Asian family come to the hotel to have the daughter’s arranged marriage blessed, Tony is put in charge of watching over the proceedings. But when his own exhaustion gets the better of him, we see a very different side to Tony.

“The Bollywood episode is a lovely story,” he says. “Tony is fatigued and starts to imagine he is a Bollywood character in a movie. We hired in professional dancers for the day and at one stage the whole of the cast were dancing in a Bollywood number, which has to be seen to be believed… it’s hilarious and was absolutely great fun to make. I have two left feet and found the dancing difficult but the rest of the gang were fab… and it should look very funny,” he laughs.

For Dexter, Hotel Babylon crosses a lot of boundaries and appeals to a wide and varied cross-section of the audience, from grandmothers to teenagers, but what makes the show for him is the calibre of guest artists that queue up to get in.

“Jules and Jamie Oliver would love to be in the show and Kylie is rumoured to be interested in checking in, which would please my dad no end – he is a huge fan of hers, ever since I was in one of her pop videos years ago – Some Kind Of Bliss. I played a gangster who had come out of jail and she is waiting to pick me up – it’s my dad’s favourite piece of work… never mind the RSC, working with De Niro and Pacino, my dad loves Kylie. And I’ve had a word with Robert De Niro – he wants to come next year!”

“I think the real success of the show is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s glamorous, it’s sexy, lots of people watch it, enjoy it and it is the ultimate guilty pleasure.”

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