MR HOPWOOD (1980-1983)
Firm but fair, Mr Stuart ‘Hoppy’ Hopwood, listened to the pupils but also wasn’t afraid to stand his ground. Accused of having a relationship with Claire Scott after her father found her fictitious diary, and ensuring that Gripper Stebson’s reign of terror came to an end, Mr Hopwood remained at Grange Hill until 1983 when he moved to a new job in Milton Keynes. Played by Brian Capron, Mr Hopwood became one of Grange Hill’s most popular teachers.
Grange Hill Gold talked exclusively to Brian about his memories of playing Mr Hopwood and his career to date.
“I got involved in acting at school. In those days there were no drama lessons but there were school plays. I played John Proctor in Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and people told me to apply to Drama School. I was just a lad from an estate near Staines and had never thought about acting as a career. I was fortunate enough to gain a place at LAMDA, which was fabulous and changed my life.
Before Grange Hill I had spent over 3 years in Repertory, and many TV shows like Z Cars, General Hospital, Beryl’s Lot (where Gwynneth Powell played my girlfriend!), Crown Court and The Sweeney. Just prior to GH I had just done a tour of Mrs Warren’s Profession with Dora Bryan.
The biggest appeal of the role was that it was a series and the opportunity to have regular work because I had two young girls. Also it looked to be a friendly likeable character.
The only thing I had in common with Mr Hopwood was a very hard won GSCE in Woodwork!! He was a woodwork teacher of course.
As regards input into the role, I was impressed by the natural acting of the child actors in the show and decided to make the character very informal and a listener, thereby attempting to appear as natural as them.
Re the racism episodes, I felt this was GH at its best and made you proud to be part of it. Stebson was my favourite character played very well by Mark Savage, he represented bullying borne out of ignorance and engendered some sympathy despite his poor character traits.
It was mostly a lot of fun working with the teenage cast, lots of laughs and micky taking along with the odd serious conversation, almost like a real teacher I suppose. They were a great bunch of kids. I got on with the cast very well. I was closest to James Wynn and Gwynneth Powell who lives near me and we are still in contact.
Coming to the convention recently was great, I had no idea of the affection the programme is still held in and it was lovely to catch-up with some of the old pupils. I still get a lot of reaction from the public re Mr Hopwood, along the lines of ‘I really fancied Mr Hopwood 30 years ago’ !!! I get a lot of recognition from playing a certain psychopath (Coronations Street’s Richard Hillman) so it’s always a bonus when people remember that actually I played a nice guy once!
Although GH was controversial I never think it went too far, it was very carefully vetted. I think the biggest problem some parents had with it was the fact that their perception of the show made them think that the kids spoke badly, i.e. not posh. That was the point, it was a comprehensive school with every different type of child from different backgrounds; it was real!
It’s a rewarding feeling to be remembered fondly by so many people and to have played such a part in an iconic programme, particularly in its early years. To my mind, GH was the first naturalistic soap, leading to more naturalism in the genre i.e. Brookside (Phil Redmond again) and Eastenders.
It certainly wasn’t a hindrance in my career, and I feel it helped make me a more relaxed and confident actor.
My favourite episode has to be the Claire’s diary one. Though it’s closely followed by one of the first episodes I did on location; all on film, about a certain ‘tight bra situation’ combined with ‘ the boys having a fag situation’ which I felt was beautifully a sensitively written, and would have stood alone a drama in its own right.
After 4 series my agent felt that I should move on and in fact was quite adamant that I did( in fact this turned out to be a good decision) and this was tricky because I knew they had probably written my character quite strongly through the next series. In those days they did not contract you until a few weeks before the filming and so it sadly was quite an abrupt departure with very mixed feelings, and probably why we learn in series 7 that Mr Hopwood went to Milton Keynes; the most boring place they could think of!( not that MK is really boring).
I think the episodes from my time stand up pretty well although sets look a bit bare and rickety. The all filmed episodes hold up the best.
Since I left GH I have been very fortunate to have had a wide and varied career in TV and Theatre, with the odd dash of reality TV thrown in (Strictly (rubbish!) and Celebrity Masterchef (bit better) I am still working, thank goodness, having recently appeared in Silk, New Tricks and Moving On and I have theatre work until next year. Naturally the biggest profile part I have ever had and one for which I am most known for is Richard Hillman in Coronation Street, which was fabulous to play, beautifully written and dare I say a bit more iconic than a certain teacher in a certain children’s programme. How lucky to be remembered for two roles that are, you might say, polar opposites, one Psycho and one Mr Nice Guy!”
Thanks to Brian Capron
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