Interview with actor Philip Clayton Smith
How did you become
involved in Bill & Ted's Excellent Musical Adventure and land the role of
The Grim Reaper?
Phillip Clayton Smith: Well, I'm a jobbing actor so it was just another audition at the time, albeit an interesting one. I did my thing (a song and an acting piece) and luckily they hired me.
B&TEOA: You got to play Grim a bit different from the movie version . . . the rapping was brought over but the character was more of a game show host, which was a lot of fun. Did you use anything from William Sadler's movie interpretation of Death for your role or did you just start from scratch? And was your makeup similar to Death's in Bogus Journey or totally different?
Phillip Clayton Smith: I was a fan of the movies already but when I went for the audition I rented them again to refresh my memory. I went into the casting with the Bill &Ted vibe in mind and I think that's probably why I got the role. I just had fun with it rather than trying to mimic William Sadler's version of Death because there's nothing worse than a bad impression. I think they were looking for people with energy and passion and hopefully fans of the movies. In terms of the make-up; we had a very quick turn-around because we had shows on before and after us so I had to do my make-up myself very quickly. I went with your standard white face and dark eyes; kind of the 'Scream' scary mask look. I tend to scare people with or without make-up anyway.
B&TEOA: If it isn't too much trouble, could you give us a little idea of how Grim's scene was introduced in the musical? From the soundtrack I get the impression Bill and Ted die at some point in the plot and must play for their lives . . . would love to know more about how this develops in the story. Grim also introduces the historical figures at the end in the final presentation, right?
Phillip Clayton Smith: Oh God! It was so long ago, I'm not sure I remember! All I know is that I was backstage for ages waiting to go on at the end!! Bill and Ted get up to all sorts before they meet me as Grim. The show is an amalgam of the movies and you get to see all the best characters along the way before I come on at the end. My scene was very Jerry Springer and I got to 'rap' (ha ha, if you can call it that!!) to the audience. It all ends up with me as MC Death/Grim Reaper being a good guy and helping the lads out.
B&TEOA: What was the thing you enjoyed the best about playing the Grim Reaper in the musical?
Phillip Clayton Smith: Er . . . it was a job! No, seriously, we were at the Edinburgh festival for this show and they have a lot of late license bars. Plus there were tons of other shows to see, obviously. Playing Grim was cool because it was such a fun character to do. Although I must say, all that rapping made my voice hoarse.
B&TEOA: Can you give us some background on the show . . . how it came about, where and when it was performed (if ever) and what (if any) audience reaction there was to it?
Phillip Clayton Smith: As I said, it was performed at the Edinburgh Festival. We were at the Pleasance which is a highly respected venue and we were totally sold out. The audience loved it. Really, we were a hit. As for how it came about? You'd have to ask the producers, I'm an actor.
B&TEOA: Tell us something about yourself . . . your background, how you came into acting, some of your favorite roles and what you're currently doing?
Phillip Clayton Smith: My name is Philip Clayton Smith and if you type my name into a search engine on the internet you'll find out all you need or want to know.
B&TEOA: Do you think there is a chance that Bill & Ted's Excellent Musical Adventure will ever be produced as a full-fledged show? If so, would you like to play Grim again?
Phillip Clayton Smith: Hell yes!!! That's to me playing the role. As for it going to the West End / Broadway, who knows. They'll probably get Sarah Jessica Parker in.
B&TEOA: Were you a fan of Bill & Ted before doing this show? Did you feel the musical carried over the spirit of the movies and did you enjoy working on the project?
Phillip Clayton Smith: Sure, as I said I'm a jobbing actor so work's work but this was an experience. It was great fun but also hard work. We all as cast members felt passionate about Bill & Ted. I mean, I don't know anyone who isn't is fan so we were all totally committed to giving the audience a Bill & Ted experience. I really felt for the guys playing Bill & Ted (who by the way were very very talented) because we weren't sure if the audience would connect but luckily they did and we had a hit.
B&TEOA: What was your favorite thing about working on Bill & Ted's Excellent Musical Adventure?
Phillip Clayton Smith: As with any job it's great fun to work with and meet new groups of people. That has to be one of the greatest things about being an actor; the opportunity to constantly meet different fellow professionals. We had an amazing cast on this gig (not to say we didn't have a few legendary fights!) and as I said before, Grim was such a cool character to play, especially because he comes on at the end and because of that all the punters bought me drinks after the show (people have very short memories).
For more information on Philip Clayton Smith, click here.
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