Andrew Greenough on his new Netflix original

Netflix original Free Rein debuted on the online streaming service at the end of last month, and has received strong reviews. The new series features Winterson’s actor, Andrew Greenough, and has been produced by Lime Pictures, the company behind Hollyoaks, a show on which Greenough also recently appeared as a regular. We spoke to the actor about the new show, his experience of working on a streaming-first production, and the changing trends dictating content production within the industry today. 

Free Rein is an interesting project and a Netflix original. Could you tell us a little about it please and how it came about? 
“Sure, well I was kind of thrown into it really through the producer, Angelo,” said Greenough. “He is involved with Lime Pictures and used to do some directing on Hollyoaks. I’m starting to write a bit myself these days, and we would often bounce ideas off one another. One day I just got a text for him saying did I fancy playing a photographer in this new series? That was it. I heard nothing for a long time and then I suddenly got a call from Winterson’s saying could I get something down on self-tape?”

“Well, I live basically in the middle of nowhere, so I remember getting my neighbour around to read in the other parts for me! The script said that I was to play a photographer at an event with one and a half days filming in place for my character. I really didn’t think anything else of it after that. Then filming came along and Angelo took me to one side and said how did I feel about playing a larger role? Maybe becoming a main baddie of the piece? It ended up growing into a much larger job, filmed over three months all around Wales, shooting beautiful drone captured scenes riding horses and the like. I loved doing it, I didn’t have so many lines, but I have a big presence in the show and I had a big part to play in terms of working with the stunt teams and doing all of the horse riding stuff, which was an amazing experience.”

And what does the show itself entail? Would you say that Netflix programming differed in any way from mainstream television, in terms of both production and final output?
“I think the show itself you’re probably talking about a younger audience. It’s got that kind of cool, quirky, American High School feel to the production – maybe taking the quirkiness of a Glee or something like into its blueprint. But of course it’s and English production set on a little english Island, and it also brings in characters of different ages, like my own. So it mixes up the traditional format and I think that will bring wider audiences in as well. The whole thing was very glossy, it definitely had some money thrown at it, and when you’re working with people like Paul Norton Walker and Steve Dent, who is the leading horse expert for the television and film industry, then the level of professionalism is something to behold. There were lots of drone shots, everything was shot in HD, so the whole thing looks visually stunning.”

Do you think that the internet and the growth of online content has changed the traditional entertainment industry? Will we see more UK Netflix originals?
“It already has. Everything is digital now. When was the last time you just watched linear TV? Or went to the cinema? And in a way that’s a bit sad – I’ve always loved going to the cinema – but the technology changes and along with it so do consumption habits, and I definitely think that Netflix and platforms like it are growing in prominence.”

“I’ve done quite a few video games for example, like The Witcher 3, which was a really popular game.  I remember I had a huge amount of dialogue to record for that one, and often with something like that you’ll be asked to play multiple characters. I’d just worked with Tom Hardy in Taboo and watched him do a thing called Locke where he had a – fairly dodgy it has to be said! – Welsh accent. So I can remember borrowing from that and developing it for certain parts… You’re still working in a hugely creative sector in the digital sphere and of course they need actors to bring those stories to life in just the same way film and television does,”

And finally, what’s next for you now? What would you like to do more of?
“Well I’m currently doing up a barn conversion… so that’s taking up quite a lot of my time! But no from an industry point of view I’m looking at some theatre, I’m doing as I say some of my own writing, but ultimate what I’d love to continue doing is more of those quirky, comedy parts, where you find yourself in a bit of a cameo position as the kind of eccentric brother-in-law or something like that. I love at this point in my career to dip in and out of roles, look for the quality projects, work with the quality directors, and hopefully create some quality work from there. I also love horror actually. Like I was mentioning with The Witcher, anything to do with horror and that kind of genre would be extremely appealing.”