Adam Gillian is a former student of the Royal Belfast Academical Institute, which, weirdly, given how catchy its name is, is locally shortened to "Inst". Despite the fact that the story of "Popular" is set in Malone and Adam resides in Malone, the genius of the auditioning process lead to him being cast as one of the very few characters in the novel not actually from there. Instead, Adam, who is active in the local music and musical theatre, was cast as Blake Hartman, a native of New Canaan, Connecticut, who transfers into Mount Olivet Grammar School, south Belfast, and becomes entangled in the messy world of the BT9 cliques. Today, Adam's here answering some questions about Blake Joshua Elijah Hartman.
1. Adam, you're playing Blake Hartman in 'Popular'. Who is he and what attracted you to the role?
Adam: Blake Hartman is the 16-year-old, eldest son of an American pastor, who has moved to Carryduff, Northern Ireland (without even knowing that the north and south of Ireland are two different countries ... jeez). Originally from New Canaan, CT, his father has relocated after a problematic divorce, and has moved to Northern Ireland with his 'kid brother', Jack. Blake played tennis for his high school, and is therefore quite athletic. He is confident but not cocky, charming but not sleazy and works best in one-on-one friendships. In many ways, he is the epitome of the American teen, and he himself is somewhat aware of this. He is in Malone now, and come hell or high water he will be making friends. Little does he know what Malone has in store for him... I suppose what attracted me to the role of Blake is the amount of similarities there are between he and I. Where Blake could be seen as the anti-hero, I very much see him as a good guy who means well but gets crosswired along the way and loses his direction.
2. Tell us a bit about your new song 'Run to Me' about Blake's experiences in 'Popular'.
Adam: Well when I read the book and got more and more into the storyline and into Blake's head, I saw a lot of potential for a great song. He is a hopeless romantic and his relationship with Cameron is one of such bittersweet tenderness that it lent itself very well for lyrics and ideas. I enjoy songwriting quite a lot, so I felt I'd try my hand at writing in the mindset of a character. After a few weeks of playing around with ideas and lyrics I finally came up with 'Run to Me'. Lyrically it would be from Blake's point of view, how he feels about Cameron, how he wants to be the one holding him and basically says everything Blake can't say in the book/play. All being well, it will be recorded very soon and available to hear on iTunes, and there will hopefully be copies of it to grab on the night!
3. 'Popular' is set on the Malone Road and, obviously as an American transfer student, it's not a setting Blake himself is initially familiar with. But, because of his friendship with Cameron, he gets drawn into its wider network. What do you think his attitudes to the clique system at Mount Olivet really are?
Adam: I think Blake is quite surprised at how tight the cliques really are in Mount Olivet. He does find them trivial and somewhat petty and pointless, but he also sees how much it means to Cameron to be part of Meredith's group, and almost finds it endearing. Blake can get quite jealous of the girls being close to Cameron, in a selfish way but it never really causes many problems between Cameron and him. Sure, there were cliques in his school in America but never to the extent of the ones in Mount Olivet! The popular, or "plastic" kids got over themselves by the time they left Middle School and went into the big, bad world of High School. Then it was every polo-shirt wearing boy and flip-flop wearing girl for themselves!
4. In the theatre version of 'Popular,' we see a few new scenes and a side to Blake that we don't see with his storyline in the novel. I'm thinking especially of the scene with Cameron's birthday present and his scene with his younger brother, Jack (played by Ross White). How much do you think the Blake of the book and the Blake of the play differ?
Adam: The Blake in the book and the Blake in the play are similar yet totally different. The added scenes allowed for a far better insight into his personality and how he felt about a lot of things and consequently added more depth to his character. The Blake in the play is a lot more aggressive when he needs to be, but at the same time is polite when the occasion calls for it. He is compulsively friendly and does his best to please everyone. But it is this compulsive need to please others that leaves him in a mess. He would rather others were happy than himself; his best and worst quality and ultimately his downfall.
In the book Blake almost has the Edward Cullen factor, in that he is the dreamboy that the girls want, but his downfall leaves him with nowhere to run and therefore he can easily be hated. I feel that the play gives him a chance to redeem himself. I may be biased however, people may still hate him!
5. Okay. Usually I ask people who their favourite character is in these interviews, but to mix it up a bit, who is your personal least favourite? No pressure, but I will instantly be judging you. Obviously.
Adam: Wow, see what you did there. Cunning. Well I've gotten on very well with the cast and they are terrific people, their banter bus never stops! If I had to pick my least favourite character it would have to be Meredith. I get that she's radiant (obv) and she's beautiful and all the rest, but she pretty much epitomises everything I don't like about her world - at the risk of sounding like an Indie or, God forbid, Coral. Meredith is the one person Blake's charm and compulsive politeness does not impress and he's left with nothing to offer. I'm sure they get on later in the series.. lol jk, he will forever hate her!
6. One reason why people should come and see 'Popular' in September 2011:
Adam: You get to see what the kids of BT9, 'BT Fine' and 'BT Beau' really get up to with daddy's credit card and an interest for scandal!
Adam can be seen on stage at the Belvoir Players' Studio Theatre playing Blake Hartman in "Popular" by Gareth Russell from September 6th to 10th 2011. "Run to Me" will be available on i-Tunes soon.