“Hollyoaks is not afraid to kind of push that narrative because people that are not from, maybe my background need to understand that that’s unfortunately the norm for us, being stopped and searched without probable cause”. Richard Blackwood
Richard Blackwood is a British actor, presenter, comedian and rapper. Currently in Hollyoaks. He has fast become a favourite in some of the UK’s biggest soaps, from 2015 and 2018, he played Vincent Hubbard in the BBC soap opera #EastEnders.
Mr Hollyoaks: Felix Westwood aka Richard Blackwood
In 2020, he began portraying the role of “bad boy” Felix Westwood in the Channel 4 soap opera #Hollyoaks, for which he is up for 2022 National Television Awards Serial Drama Performance.
He has been on our screens for well over two decades with a multi-faceted entertainment career running for just as long. In 1996 Viewers were treated to a fresh faced Blackwood on The Real McCoy.
In 1998/ 1999 Blackwood presented the UK version of Singled Out on Channel 5, and had his own series, titled The Richard Blackwood Show which ran for 2 years. In 2001 he was appeared in Brass Eye, he has presented Top of the Pops and the MTV television show, MTV Select with Donna Air.
In 2000, Blackwood had a number three single on the UK Singles Chart with the song “Mama Who Da Man”, based on Mama Used to Say by his uncle Junior Giscombe. He later followed it up with two singles, “188.8.131.52 Get with the Wicked” (number 10) and “Someone There for Me” (number 23) and released the album You’ll Love to Hate This (number 35) in 2000. He played the title character in the 2002 television series Ed Stone Is Dead. In 2003, Blackwood appeared in Channel 5’s Celebrity Detox Camp.
Further acting credits included 2007, the Bollywood film Don’t Stop Dreaming and Princes of Comedii DVD release. His theatre credits include: in 2005 he was cast in Angie Lemars The Brothers, 2010, Blackwood played Brightie in the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, alongside Adrian Lester and James Earl Jones at the Novello Theatre in London. In 2011, he played the role of Donkey in the West End production of Shrek the Musical. The show opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 14 June 2011.
In 2015, Blackwood joined the cast of EastEnders as character Vincent Hubbard. He made his first appearance on 17 February 2015, and his last appearance aired on 20 April 2018. In 2019, Blackwood took part in the eleventh series of Dancing on Ice, partnering with professional skater Carlotta Edwards.
In 2020, it was announced that he would be joining the cast of the Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks. Since joining Hollyoaks, Blackwood has been nominated for a #TRIC Award for Soap Actor of the Year, as well as a National Television Award for Serial Drama Performance. ALT ventured down to #Liverpool on a warm May afternoon to talk to the cast of Hollyoaks about a new storyline tackling knife crime in which Blackwood (Felix) and his screen son DeMarcus (Tomi Ade) are in the centre of, but we also got talking about his love for comedy, fame and more … Part of ALT’s Hollyoaks Takeover launching our new section #SoapBOX celebrating diversity in the UK’s much loved soaps
How did you find comedy or, when did you realize this could be a career path for you?
It was twofold, so I knew that I wanted to be a comedian, or I thought I did at the age of eight.
I watched Richard Pryor Live in concert one late night, I snuck downstairs when my parents were asleep, it came on, I remember around midnight vividly. I taped over a Charlie Brown cartoon. I had literally the first two minutes of Charlie Brown come on and then it goes to the Richard Pryor concert that was my Mecca, my holy grail for stand-up. Then some years later, Delirious by Eddie Murphy came out and everybody had that on video and had it on their Walkman’s as well, listening to it. I was very good at reciting the jokes.
Then my friends, when I was like, maybe early teens used to say, you should do stand up, you know, and I’d be like, stand up, because back in the eighties, you’ve only had Lenny Henry. So that wasn’t really an option, or we didn’t think it was. Then it was really this, when I say twofold, when I reached 20 going on 21, I kind of got a bit more serious about it. I thought maybe I have what it takes because by this time everybody and their brothers and sisters are telling me that you are that guy, you need to do it. There were certain vehicles at that time, like The Real McCoy started on TV and things like that, where I started to see people more like myself, that were being funny. That’s basically when I made that leap.
Fast forward to now is it possible to have some kind of censorship in terms comedy in terms of what you can and cannot say in relation to that Oscar episode?
With regards to the Will Smith situation, I mean comedians, every comedian has their own kind of ideology as to whether that stuff should be out of bounds or not. I think certain things should be out of bounds. In relation to the Will Smith thing, I don’t think he should not have hit him at all. And I think that it was something that was taken totally over the top. Everybody can see that something deep is going on, unfortunately for Will I hope he sorts it. But there was nothing that needed censoring out of that material, if that makes sense.
Having been in the industry a while, how has fame shaped you what’s it like being in the public eye? <laugh>
I mean, it’s not for everyone, and the reason why I say that now more than before, is social media. Most people like to be kind of semi-famous, it shows on your social media, people say, oh no, I just want to be normal, but your pictures don’t show that. The pictures show that you want to be revered and liked. And that’s fine because you know, it’s part of vanity, it’s part of wanting to be appreciated and whomever developed Instagram they worked that out. Most people suffer from vanity but to what degree is individual.
Now you think about it but this level of fame, when you’re on TV, on an ongoing show it’s completely different to a couple of pictures on Instagram, because Instagram has a cult following TV, you are famous everywhere. It’s like the first time I got off a train somewhere out of London, the taxi man went, oh, Richard Blackwood. So, before me doing shows like this, and let’s say MTV, I kind of knew it was young kids or, if it was The Real McCoy, it was a Black audience and so forth. And it’s only when I started to do mainstream shows like this, where everybody knows who you are. Didn’t matter what part of the UK you were in. You could travel and people knew who you were. That part, you have to be quite strong because you are now a public figure.
In one sense, sometimes people don’t respect your privacy. I remember being with a girlfriend years ago and we were flying out somewhere. I was at the airport and I was literally about to bite into a burger and a person put their hand on my shoulder and said, could you stop it can I take a picture with you? And my, girlfriend at the time goes, can he at least bite his burger first. And the person was like, could he not put it down? <Laughs>
I saw you on stage at the Soho theatre in Typical do you prefer stage or screen?
Two different buses. I love stage because I think you need stage for screen personally. I think it helps you as an actor, to have done stage. TV allows you to do it again, it allows you to do a wide shot and then maybe you do it closely and then they want you to do it real close. So, every actor knows when they come to the close up where they go, okay, this is the shot. And as soon as they go close up, you see something happen. You go, Ooh, that’s not what you did just a second ago, but it’s because they know this is the money shot.
Whereas with theatre you don’t have that chance, the money shots from the time the play starts. And you have to know when, if you mess up on lines how to still keep the intonation of what it is you’re talking about until you find it again, it’s so rural that I love it because I come from a stand-up world where it’s the same thing. You’ve got one go at it, but then TV, I also do like the fact that you get to fine tune it. And so, you can hone it down to a point where when you deliver it, you don’t even need to watch it back. You know, when that goes out, people are gonna feel that. So, I think they’re equally yoked when it comes to that. But you need one for the other.
Playing Felix is it easier to do non-comedy roles than to do comedy?
No, it’s harder because my natural bone is comedic. I love doing serious. I mean, now I’ve had a fair run at it because I’m now two years and some into Hollyoaks and obviously I’ve done previous shows where I’ve done three years or whatever. And obviously Typical, you saw Typical to know that that wasn’t a comedy, it had comical elements, but it was very serious. So, I’ve had time to get that drama side down and to calm down that comedy bone. But what I’ve also done which I think is good is that they’ve allowed me at Hollyoaks especially, to allow Felix to have a humorous side, a side that makes him infectious. A side that kind of because the audience, he was a bad guy initially, but there’s gotta be a reason why the audience like him and that can’t be because he’s just always angry and always doing something to hurt people.
There’s gotta be something that’s warming about him. That in a sense would make sense. Why he’s had the relationship with Martine for so many years and why she found it hard to kind of let him go when she knew that he was bad for her. There’s something warming about him, charming, you know, the audience have to see that. And then there was a whole period of would they, will they not get back together? And the audience at that point was like, we want them to get together. Which means at that point they liked Felix, if that makes sense. So that is why that is where I think my comedic bone came in and they wrote for that actually, the writers were good. They would write things knowing that I would be able to extract that. And then I had certain directors that would kind of give the game away and go, yeah, they said, tell Richard that you can have fun with this line. So, they were giving me free license to kind Richardise it. So that helped, you know, with the character and it gives the character layers.
That’s interesting. Cause that kind of answered my next question, which was, what do you bring from your life to Felix as a character?
It’s definitely the humor, but also, like with the storylines, with myself and Tomi, the father and son, I kind of use my father and me, me as a father and the way I was with my father and so forth. I kind of used elements of that. Lucy Allan (Exec producer) been good cause me and Lucy sat down, and we spoke about certain things I went through and she kind of incorporated it into the storyline. So now I’m playing the father, but I can relate as the son. It resonates more and it allows me to play and also see it from where my dad was probably at you know what I mean at that time.
There is new storyline around knife crime how does Felix deal with DeMarcus being accused of murder?
He backs him because he trusts his son. He also knows what kind of son he’s got. He knows that DeMarcus, he’s going through stuff, but he’s not a tough guy. He’s not tough like Felix, he knows that regardless of the estranged relationship that they had, he knows that his son was more pampered, and he didn’t have to go down that road like he did.
Felix was a foster kid, he was in a home, the care system from day one. There is a scene where he says to his son, you don’t know how easy you’ve got it. Like, no one cared for me when I was growing up. You’ve actually got your mum, even though we’re not together, she cares for you. And I care for you, you know? So, to Felix, there’s a part of him that kind of doesn’t understand why he’s acting up. Cause he’s like, you’ve kind of got it good in comparison.
That’s been really nice to play as well because essentially Felix is not used to a kid just going through adolescent stuff. He thinks there must be a reason, you’ve got to be going through stuff. You can’t just have an issue for no reason. But when it comes to knife crime, now he knows that his son is not that. He cowers from a bully in a fist fight. He’s not a person that wants to do something like that.
So, knife crime is associated with being London centric, associated with young black men. how much, do you think stories like this go to breaking down those stereotypes?
I think this one is, because yes, unfortunately we have a vast number of young black boys out here getting involved with knife crime. But what we deal with here, number one, how potentially a young boy could be walking around with a knife because sometimes it’s not with the intention of using it. Sometimes it’s just out of fear.
I think doing this show and this storyline, we deal with the concept of the catalyst, as to why would you pick up that knife?
Hollyoaks is not afraid to kind of push that narrative because people that are not from, maybe my background need to understand that that’s unfortunately the norm for us, being stopped and searched without probable cause.
It doesn’t mean that people are going to go, oh my gosh, now I get it. But you might just wake up a couple of people, right? So, okay, this is that what you go through.
So since joining Hollyoaks in 2020, what’s it been like being part of the Holly Oaks family?
Oh, lovely I like Hollyoaks. I’ve said it before. I don’t know if it’s a Northern thing, but just generally friendly people, easy to work with. There’s a friend kind of energy vibe here. Like, no one is allowed to have any kind of ego and not because it’ll be stomped out, but you’d be quite embarrassed because everybody else doesn’t. You would stick out like a sore thumb. Do you know what I mean? Because you know, that hierarchy works. If other people are doing it as well. So, then you are part of that elite click. But if there isn’t one, then you are doing it by yourself. And if people look at you going, why are you being like that? I mentioned Nick, who has been on the show from its conception. I would say. And Nick is the benchmark for all the actors that came thereafter. He is the nicest, most humble guy on the show. If he has no ego and you come in and with all this, then you look like an idiot, you know? Like why would you even do that? You look stupid.
And what’s it like working with Kellie Bryan who plays your love interest?
Kellie is lovely. I’ve known her, she was at my son’s christening when he was six months old, and my son is 21 now. so, you know that I must have known her for a few years before that for her to be invited, her and her mom came. Right. So, we’re gained at least 25 years. It’s the first time we worked together properly though. We kind of, sort of worked together on a play called The Brothers, but we didn’t really work together because they had a new cast and I just left, but we’ve always known each other.
It made it easier, like say we’re doing a kissing scene, it’s easier because we are close friends.. Then when it was time for us to argue, it was easier because we would laugh if anything, I would make her laugh and she would get annoyed and go like stop making me laugh. I’m trying to be serious. And I’d be like, just find it then just find it. I wouldn’t even care. Right. And she’d go, I can’t work with him. But it was that’s us joking around. But it would sometimes help with a scene that’s powerful and maybe we’re being horrible to each other. And then afterwards we’ll kind of laugh it off. Cause we know that we got that room. So, working with It is positive all the way.
And last question it’s it is early days Hollyoaks. But do you have any other roles that you would like to play, any aspirations to play King Lear perhaps?
<laugh> I mean, I’ve always got aspirations to do a big Hollywood, music and stuff. That’s just normal for, I guess any actor, I’m very loyal though. So, you know, whilst I’m here, I’m loyal to Hollyoaks. Whenever that day comes, if ever it’s like, okay, that’s the end of that role then I’m gang ho for the next one. Right. And obviously that will be Hollywood! But whilst prior to that, I’m very much 10 toes down with Hollyoaks.
ALT: Richard Blackwood. Thank you so much for talking to Alt A review
Tuesday 30th August – EP 5927 (Monday 29th E4 at 7pm)
Writer: Thabo Mhlatshwa
Director: Kodjo Tsakpo
In this emotional special episode, Felix visits his son DeMarcus for the first time at young offenders, as flashbacks delve into the parallels of their upbringings. Later, Verity has some important news on the progress of the knife crime case…