Rez Kempton is a British-born actor who began his career in ITV’s The Bill he soon appeared in numerous feature films including BBC produced Brothers In Trouble, My Son The Fanatic and Merchant Ivory’s The Mystic Masseur.
Kempton likes to stretch his range from playing a jilted boyfriend in the controversial I Can’t Think Straight to taking on a more sensitive role as Imtiaz in Life Goes On. Kempton’s past work is undeniably varied. He has also appeared in Spooks, Banged Up Abroad, Roger Roger, So What Now? and Channel 4’s critically acclaimed ADHA CUP.
More recently, Kempton has appeared in several feature films such as the soon to be released Chakara and the multi award winning short Khaana. He has also sampled life behind the camera, working as a director for the comedy pilot The Mel and Wendi House, which won an Accolade Award in Los Angeles. Kempton also won an award for his role as producer at the Cinequest Film Festival for the short film Sharp Cookie.
We caught up with him while he was finishing his new movie Amar, Akbar & Tony
FTN: Rex, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Let’s get right into it, when did you first become interested in acting?
RK: Hi guys, no problem at all, good to meet you. I was 12 and my best friend’s dad had brought a camcorder for home movie-making. We had watched a documentary about the making of Indiana Jones and thought what a fun way to tell stories. Me and my mate got together, wrote our own version of an Indiana Jones story and decided we would make it ourselves using his dad’s new purchase. We did everything ourselves. Made sets, costumes, props, got our mates to be in it and that’s how it all began, really. If you’ve seen the film Son of Rambow – that is literary our story. Brilliant film!
FTN: You have received some wonderful praise from your previous performances in theatrical productions. What personally attracts you to the theatre?
RK: Thank you so much! It’s a privilege to perform live for an audience because the response back is immediate. To move people emotionally or make them laugh is such an amazing experience as an actor. It’s quite scary too. Unlike film and TV there is no cut and let’s go again; on stage you keep going. Certainly gets the heart pumping. Also, because of the nature of theatre, the scripts we get to perform are different. On a film or television show scenes aren’t as long, generally; whereas in a play you get scenes that go on for a lot longer. You can’t keep changing location, unlike a movie, you’re bound to your set. It’s a different discipline for the writer and it’s a challenge for all involved to make that come alive for the audience.
“If you’ve seen the film Son of Rambow – that is literary our story. Brilliant film!”
FTN: You were recently in the sell out play Drawing the Line at Hampstead Theatre. When rehearsing the play, did you ever think it would be the success it has become?
RK: I was really lucky on that show. I didn’t know it’d be a huge success. It’s about the partition of India in 1947. But Hampstead have an amazing reputation for really successful shows and they were a little concerned too – but they didn’t need to be because we had the fantastic Howard Brenton who wrote the script and the Master that is Howard Davies directing the show. We were in totally safe hands and it went down a storm
FTN: You are currently rehearsing – and about to star in – Khandan (Family) at The Royal Court Theatre. Can you tell us a little bit about the play and also the character you portray?
RK: Khandan is the Punjabi for Family. This is a story of what happens when the legacy of a father collides with the dreams of his son? I play Pal, the son of a widowed mother who is struggling with his role as the now head of the family after the death of his father. It’s about the clash of traditional values and what it means to try and achieve your own ambitions. It’s a very universal story and I think something for all ages and backgrounds.
FTN: As this is more of a comedy play centred around family, tradition and ambition; did you have to do any research into the role? Were you able to bring any of your personal experiences to help mold the character?
RK: I lost my dad a long time back and remember that feeling of having to turn from a care-free son to actually now having to be responsible and having to look out for my mother and siblings. No one said anything, but I felt a change in me to be more thoughtful about that. The family in the play are Sikh, so I did spend some time in that community, went to the temple, spoke with people to make sure I understood what I was going to portray was authentic. I also play a guy who has his own shop – competing against the likes of big supermarket chains on the high street and the struggle for those business owners and the hard work they have to put in to make a buck. It really is hard word and I went around the type of cash and carry that Pal, my character, would have to make daily visits to. I felt I really understood his need to want more than this for his life.
FTN: Playwright Gupreet Kaur Bhatti caused controversy and made headlines with her production of Behtzi. Is there anything in this play that you felt may be offensive?
RK: Behtzi had a rape take place in a temple. I believe that was the cause of controversy with that play. Khandan doesn’t have anything like that. This a good, honest story that’s very beautifully crafted by Gurpreet and it’s a pleasure and honour to do this for her, not only at the Royal Court in London but also Birmingham where the controversy took place. It’s exciting to be going there with this piece.
FTN: Aside from your theatrical work, you are no stranger to film and television. What attracts you to film and television and do you prefer it to the theatre?
RK: Film is my first love. It’s what drew me into acting but since then I’ve been so lucky to do great stage work too. It’s difficult to choose because, for me, it’s about the telling of the story and both mediums are excellent in their own way at doing so. Both have their challenges and it’s up to the performers to rise to those demands.
FTN: You have recently filmed Amar, Akbar and Tony in which you play Amar. Can you tell us a little bit about the film and the title character that you play?
RK: I play Amar in the film. It’s a rites of passage, feel good comedy that is hopefully coming your way sometime this year. It’s about three friends from different back grounds who’ve grown up together and the challenges they face in finding their true loves and growing up. I really enjoyed this film as it felt a true, honest film about men growing up and coming to terms with life in a multicultural UK. I think audiences will enjoy it.
“I’m in talks about that but can’t really say more at this stage as these days we have to sign nondisclosure agreements before producers even talk to you.”
FTN: With your play about to start and a film soon to be released, it seems that you are incredibly busy. Do you have have time for any hobbies?
RK: I’m an avid sports fan. I’m always following the football, cricket and F1. I love my movies too, so I feel I fill up my time quite quickly!
FTN: After your play Drawing the Line has finished, do you have any other projects you are working on or interested in?
RK: After the play I’m back on Amar Akbar & Tony doing the promoting thing and press for it. It’s going to a few festivals so I’ll be trying to get along to those too. Also I’ve another film in the pipeline – possibly set in Leicester. I’m in talks about that but can’t really say more at this stage as these days we have to sign nondisclosure agreements before producers even talk to you. I’ll keep you guys updated!
FTN: And finally – Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
RK: That’s like asking left arm or right arm – I need both!!
FTN: Good answer! Have a good day, Rez