Every Time You Look At Me
Every Time You Look At Me: Interview with Mat Fraser
8th April 2004
Listen to the complete interview, or click on the audio links on the page to hear clips of each question and reply.
Q: Tell us a little about the drama.
A: Sure. It's called Every Time You Look At Me. It's a £1.2 million budget feature-length film, a commission for Lizzie Mickery to write a vehicle for myself and Lisa Hammond. It came off the back of two TV drama shorts that we both individually did the year before.
I think it started off as what one might call a 'disability project', but it has grown into the monster that it is now ... which is just a stonking good romantic drama that happens to have two disabled actors in the lead roles. And that makes it a television first.
Q: It certainly is groundbreaking to have two disabled actors in leading roles in this way ...
A: Indeed. And whilst our impairments do inform our characters and, albeit briefly, the storyline itself, it's actually just about two people who fancy each other like mad and fall in love, and then have to negotiate life's difficulties in order to get together.
Q: What I like is the classic disability angst in the drama - "should I really be going out with another disabled person?" What's your take on this?
A: It's a very difficult subject to cover accurately, and normally I'd shy away from anyone doing that issue. But I think this has been done with such realism that I celebrate the fact that we've done it. And apart from anything else, it's especially (hopefully) good for the disability community, 'cos God knows it's something that will resonate with most of us as disabled people. Whether you are from Chris's viewpoint or Nicky's viewpoint, or somewhere inbetween, you'll recognise it. I think it's great that it's being aired in a really mature, three-dimensional and realistic way. I'm really very happy about that.
A: Those experiences ring true for me very much. Chris has a problem with being identified as disabled, as reflected and magnified by being with another disabled person; I was like that until I was about thirty. However, I met my current partner about then, who happens to be non-disabled, and I've been with her ever since - so I've never really been able to put it into practice, as it were. Not that I've wanted to - ha! I'm digging a hole here!
What I mean is that by the time I matured enough in my life to accept what, and who, I was - and therefore other disabled people as potential romantic and emotional partners - I was already in this long-term relationship. However, I now can honestly say hand on heart that amongst the top ten women I fancy, a good half of them are disabled. Very few, in fact none of them, are supermodels. And one of them is that woman off the Dove advert ... but that's another question.
Q: What part of the drama do you particularly like?
A: I think the love-making scene. It's very tender and not graphic at all; people won't be complaining. I like it because there are long lingering shots of her kissing my hands, and me disrobing her top and kissing down her back, and it being sensual and erotic. I'm very proud of that. It's long been a bugbear of mine that the one thing disabled actors/characters don't get to do on stage is f*** or fight or fart, and we do all of those f-words. 'Nuff talking about it, lets just show that it happens. The benchmark for that is still a couple of decades ago, between Jon Voight and Jane Fonda in Coming Home.
The other scene I think I'm most proud of is when we argue outside the fascist pub after we've been in, and Nicky goes off on one. I just really like that bit of writing.
Q: Going back to the first scene you mentioned - and this is one disabled bloke to another - she's kissing your most disabled bits, Mat. What are viewers going to think when they see this?
A: I don't know. And the paranoid politico in me went "No!" and "How sweet, that'll pander to people's pity!" But that's rubbish. It's about accepting ... and Chris has had a problem with acceptance. The fact that she's kissing his most disabled bits is a manifestation of the fact that Nicky has no problem with acceptance of her own disability. It's done in a sensuous and erotic way and Chris finally chills out, lets it happen, and finds it pleasurable. And it should be pleasureable. I don't think it's as pregnant a moment as it might be perceived as by some people. But yeah, you've hit the nail on the head there - she's kissing my most disabled bits and that's another benchmarky moment, innit? Normally the person playing opposite me would go "Ooh, what muscular legs you have, Mat" - i.e. you may be weird up top but you're still a good lad down there, aren't ya? And I love the fact that we're not doing that.
A: Well, I've been banned by the director from talking about it or giving the title away or the names of the other actors, but I will say that it's dark and macabre. It's a menage a trois - I'm one of the trois - and it's set in and around a lapdancing club. I don't have to do any lapdancing though apparently, so we can all be rather relieved. I get beaten up in this actually - quite badly.
Q: Anything else on the horizon?
A: Thalidomide: a Musical is my current writing project, which is going to take me most of the year. Hopefully we'll be doing scratch performances in early autumn. And summer next year is a big Kung Fu project - a feature film, a fight flick basically. Operation success pending, I will be fighting fit and ready for it. It's gonna be a real Brit flick, full budget, cult doo dah.
Q: I hope Every Time You Look At Me is a success for you.
A: I hope people feed back to Ouch and that there is a bit of discussion about the piece afterwards. Obviously the thing that I readily accept in advance is that no one is going to complain about a drama that doesn't have any disabled people in it, but the minute they put one in all disabled people are going to pick holes in what was wrong with it. You get most criticised by the people that are closest to you, and I welcome that. It can only be a good thing.
(Interview by Damon Rose)
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