Hello Folks! In this week’s #BlabWithSandy, we have London based actor Richard Keep with us. Richard made his Bollywood debut in Kangana Ranaut’s magnum opus Manikarnika – The Queen of Jhansi. The film has ruled the box office with aplomb and so did Richard with his menacing performance as General Hugh Rose in Manikarnika. Let’s wait no further and dive into the blab:
Sandy: Hey Richard! Congratulations on the success of Manikarnika!
Richard: Hello Sandy! Thanks so much. Very grateful that Manikarnika’s audience are enjoying the film and all its cast.
Sandy: Could you let us know about your background?
Richard: I grew up in Switzerland! I did my schooling at Gordonstoun School in Scotland. I lived in Paris for 13 years, hence speak fluent French.
I worked as an agent for photographers and that was my first career. I traveled between New York-Paris-London for a top level photographer’s agency. When I was around 16-17 years old, I had an impulse to go to London and learn to act at a film school.
But, due to family situations, I had to thread a different path. During my mid-twenties, I watched the first installment of the Bourne series: The Bourne Identity and I saw myself onscreen. A strange sensation indeed!
I tried to shift base to acting but, again due to situations at home, I had to break my idea for the second time. After five years of work, I put a stop to my job as a photographic agent and focused on becoming a full time actor.
The amazing thing is that Bourne Identity’s action director Nick Powell was the action director for Manikarnika. It’s kind of a dream becoming reality. 🙂
Sandy: Seems like an experience! How did you grab the opportunity of starring in Manikarnika?
Richard: We have this database in London called Spot Light. Director Krish and Producer Kamal Jain were looking for an anti-hero role on the database and Krish seemed to have checked my headshot and liked my show reel.
I had just completed a film in Prague and I received an email from Krish with the details of the film. I checked his filmography and saw that Kangana Ranaut was also a lead of the project.
The next day, I had a skype conversation with Krish and I felt like it was an incredible opportunity to be part of this very important story for India.
Within a week, I was in Hyderabad training with Action Director Nick Powell and fleshing the first elements out needed for filming. The universe certainly worked its magic at that time!
Sandy: Great! What kind of research went behind playing the character of General Hugh Rose?
Richard: It’s a biopic and a true story, so I did all the study related to the character. I’d been to the local libraries and took my own notes. Hugh Rose was a highly decorated General who had never lost a battle.
He never married and had no children. He was by himself, ambitious and a loyal servant to his country. My utmost priority was understanding how this man ticked, finding his internal conflict as the film developed as well as the physicality behind the man.
Only through intense research, and there was a lot of material out there can you fine tune this and carry into performance.
Sandy: How was the experience of working with Kangana Ranaut?
Richard: We don’t have many scenes together apart from the battle sequence. And, it was more important that we did not meet each other much for our individual characters to evolve as per the story.
She did direct me in the last schedule of the film. Kangana was very clear, resolute in her pursuit of excellence for the purpose of the film.
Sandy: A few anecdotes about director Krish.
Richard: From the beginning of me being selected until the last shot, a mutual deep understanding of what was required was clearly evident. I take away lot of fond memories from working with him and the DOP ‘Baba’.
Krish gave me freedom to be spontaneous as an actor. Normally, most of the British characters have been showcased a little cartoonish, much like a regular template that you may find in other historical films, but my character was designed differently, and I enjoyed working with him.
Sandy: The news of differences between Kangana and Krish has been doing the rounds since the time Manikarnika released. Your take on it?
Richard: Yes, it’s unfortunate! My only role as an actor is to be a servant to the story to the best of my ability. This story is so important for the Indian people and am happy for everyone involved that it’s being well received in India and worldwide.
Quick Shot Round:
- Bollywood: An exciting and colorful adventure
- Ankita Lokhande: A talent to look out for!
- Your favorite genre of cinema: Film Noir
- What makes Richard Keep angry? Strong sense of injustice
- Biggest regret: My mother passed away two years ago. I just wish she was alive to see the performance in Manikarnika. She would have been proud
- Kangana Ranaut: Visionary
- If not an actor, you would have been a? A professional tennis player and I grew up in the alps, so may be skiing would have been my profession too! 🙂
- What else do you indulge in? Photography and Painting
- You are stuck in an island for a day and you can tag along only three things with you. What would those be? Ha-ha-ha! Radio, coconuts because they keep you hydrated, and a book called The Sea by John Banville
- Love: Ultimate completion for a human being.
- Favorite actors: Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. They had a natural, realist approach to the craft which I connect with! Christophe Waltz is incredible.
- Best thing about Manikarnika: It honors the truth, its epic scale, and the incredible performance given by Kangana Ranaut
- Your favorite cricketers: I love your Indian team captain Virat Kohli! He is an enigmatic player. Ben Stokes too, but before his controversy. Andrew Flintoff was explosive
Sandy: What were your shoot locations of Manikarnika?
Richard: Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Alsisar desert village in Rajasthan, Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad, and several locations in Mumbai.
Sandy: What’s in the pipeline for Richard Keep in the coming months?
Richard: I am shooting for Disney’s Malificent 2 which stars Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer. I have received a couple of requests from India, however it’s too early to discuss. I also have a couple of assignments to which you’ll know about in due course.
Sandy: Anything that you would like to convey to the audience?
Richard: Hope they are getting enjoyment out of Manikarnika as much as I did while working for it.
Sandy: A few words about Hyderabad Local.
Richard: Your work is classy and modern. Creativity is everything, just keep going! 🙂
Editor’s note: It was indeed a pleasure interviewing Richard Keep. He carries the grit which the character General Hugh Rose carries but, he also carries a sense of realism and purity which is imbibed within him. Wishing Richard a fruitful cinematic season ahead! 🙂