As Grange Hill began its second series, a new class of First Years arrived to keep Tucker, Trisha and friends company. One of those pupils was sleepy Antoni Karramanopolis, played by Vivian Mann. Unfortunately, in Series 4, during a series of dares Antoni plunged to his death after walking along the edge of a multi-storey car-park. Vivian tells Grange Hill Gold all about his time at Grange Hill and reveals all about what he’s been up to since he left.
How did you get into acting?
I knew I wanted to act from an early age.
My brother in law was a director and I used to go through his copies of Spotlight (the actors directory) I saw a stage school in there with some kids I recognised and wanted to be part of it, then by coincidence I bumped in to three of the kids from that school on my way home one day, started chatting and we became friends, I still see them now.
I hassled my mum until she agreed to let me go for one term as the fee was expensive.
I started at Corona Academy and got work right through my school years enough to pay my fees until I left at eighteen to sing and dance in a show for the summer season in Scarborough at the Spa Theatre.
What roles had you played before joining Grange Hill?
Mostly commercials and voice overs, thngs like WH Smiths Cadburys crème eggs and Heinz ketchup and Persil ads, although I did work on a few films The Wall, The Mirror Cracked, The Medusa Touch, and some TV shows like The Dick Emery Show and To the Manor Born.
How did you get the part of Antoni?
I initially went for a part to be in one episode, the part of a boy who couldn’t read eventually played by Paul Miller my good friend at Corona, I didn’t get the part and thought they didn’t like me but the director had other plans, he read me through the audition and I remember he read so well I kept thinking he was asking me questions and not reading the script, then we started laughing, he must have liked me as I was offered the part shortly after.
What did you think of the character of Antoni? Was he in anyway similar to yourself?
Antoni was supposed to have come from a Greek background and work with his father doing his books for the kebab shop and staying up late, therefore falling asleep in class. I am English (of slightly mixed roots). My mother worked for a banqueting suite which had a chain of themed restaurants. I had an evening job as a singing and dancing waiter, I loved it and always had loads of money, so I related to the character in that way but I was never as shy as Antoni.
Who did you get on well with from the cast?
I got on very well with Robert Morgan who played Justin Bennett. He played such a wimpish character in the show, but in real life he was so funny, quite mischevious and lived in the same part of London as I did. We went on Holliday one summer to see some of his relatives, we had such a good laugh.
I got on well with most of the cast really, Lindy Brill (Cathy Hargreves) Michelle Herbert (Trisha Yates) Alan (forgotten his name now….the big guy) Todd Carty of course and then when the next years cast of kids joined there were people like Susan Tully, she was really lovely sweet and friendly, I’m sure she still is ( and in a good position to help out an old friend ;0).)
You joined in Series 2. Were you aware how popular the show was becoming?
Yes Grange Hill was the talk of the playground we were so impressed by it and lots of kids weren’t allowed to watch it so that made it even more popular.
Your character featured heavily in several episodes, before ending up falling off the top of a car park. What are your memories of filming these scenes?
Well even though the fall should have been from a very high building, It was filmed in the Arndale Centre Wandsworth or Putney. The car park was split in two, the wall that divided the car park was identical to the one that went down to the ground so the wall I fell off was only a couple of feet high. We still we had mounds of mattresses so I remember thinking that was clever planning, but stupidly thinking I would have walked along the high wall!
What lead to you leaving Grange Hill?
Well when a character reaches 16 they have to be paid more and so even though I was playing the part of a thirteen year old I had reached 16 and I guess the cast needed to be thinned out to make way for fresh blood.
Were you happy with the way you were written out? It is a scene that has come in for some criticism, with the body being covered over by staff immediately after the fall and then people quickly forgetting about Antoni.
Funny you ask that question, even though I was young and didn’t know anything about the protocol of accidents like that, but I did wonder why there were no ambulances, and I remember Tucker saying something like “ well you know Antoni always good for a laugh” when he was asked why I did the dare. And that was it….no more Antoni Karamanopolis!
Did you get much reaction to your character from the public?
Yes I got loads of attention from the public, mostly kids would recognise me asking for autographs and write in to the BBC, once Antoni had died I received letters of sympathy too.
It was fun being followed around and all the attention, what kid wouldn’t like it?
Grange Hill was at times seen as being quite controversial. Do you ever think it went too far?
No not really, if it had not been pushing the boundaries of acceptability it would never have had the following it got and probably been quite boring.
Does it surprise you that Grange Hill still has a big following today, with particular interest in the early years?
I guess it does really, but that’s just great! I had the time of my life and remember enjoying myself as much as I could at the time.
Perhaps the fact that we were all part of something new and exciting which created a buzz that transmuted its self on to film and is possibly one of the reasons why it is still so enjoyable to watch now.
Do you think the episodes from your time on the show still stand up today?
Yes I do, some of the subjects are still relevant now kids smoking, truancy, boyfriends and girlfriends, parent issues, race issues, drugs, bullying …..the list goes on.
What are your favourite and least favourite memories from your time playing Antoni?
My favourite times of playing Antoni were without a doubt the camping trip. Although we were taken there daily, it was such a good laugh being out in the fields filming and exploring in beautiful weather…..the location food was excellent and just doing what we all enjoyed, acting and as little tuition as we could! Heh heh!
I can’t remember not enjoying any of my time on Grange Hill other than having to get up so early in the mornings to commute to the other side of town by 7am etc….oh and the occasional chaperone clash. But other than that it was all good.
How do you look back on your time at Grange Hill?
I look back on my time in Grange Hill very fondly indeed, I knew I was lucky to be part of it at the time, but in retrospect I feel like I actually went there; I had my tuition with all the cast, we were together every day so I saw them sometimes more that my real class mates at Corona.
From the age of 14 to 16 my school day memories feature heavily my time playing Antoni and being with the other kids who made up the cast.
Has Grange Hill been a help or a hindrance to your career?
I could only say it has been a help, I’m sure it has opened doors to me especially when I had just left the show.
I got a great upbringing in the career I have chosen and learnt and experienced so much about the industry at age when learning is easier and quicker to digest.
Since leaving Grange Hill I have always kept a foot in the door although my interests have fluctuated between music and acting. I had a successful stint as a catwalk and photographic model working all over the world, alongside a recording contract with my band Velcro Fly of which I focused much of my attention during the early 90s, although I still continue to work in the film and TV industry now. I pop up every now and again in an advert or stage show. When I’m resting I take on roles in smaller companies locally. This way I get to play lead roles in my favourite productions and keep my brain working doing what I love…..I’m still very much in love with this industry and every aspect of it.
I would have done most of my work for the love of it but have been very fortunate to have earned whilst I have fun.
I am just about to appear in Guys and Dolls at the Bob Hope theatre in Eltham and when that is over I plan to continue my acting career and complete my websites which are about the Vocal Workshops I run, as well as an on-line musicians resource centre. http://www.studiosingers.co.uk and http://www.learn-to-sing.com both are work in progress but should be very exciting when completed.
Do you keep in touch with anyone from your time on Grange Hill?
I no longer have any contact with anyone from Grange Hill, I occasionally bump in to people at auditions or night clubs in London but have my own circle of friends and my family who I love to bits.
Recently there have been suggestions of a Grange Hill reunion. Would you be interested in appearing?
Are you mad? Of course I would love to be involved in a reunion, I have so many great memories and would love to catch up with old friends and colleagues….and all that publicity…..who knows where it could lead?
I wouldn’t mind a role as a parent or teacher or something….hint hint ;0)
Thanks to Vinny for taking part in this interview.
Interview © 2005 Grange Hill Gold