EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Red Oaks star Craig Roberts
Following the release of the intense Hand of God last month, today’s Amazon offering – Red Oaks – is a light-hearted coming-of-age comedy set in the vibrant eighties.
Starring Submarine’s Craig Roberts in the main role as a young man who takes up a role as a tennis pro at a prestigious New Jersey country club, Red Oaks is a fantastic mash of acting talent, eighties glamour and comic writing.
We spoke to Roberts about Red Oaks, which is exclusively available from today on Amazon Prime Instant Video.
How did you get into Red Oaks?
I got the script through and I sent in an audition tape, which is really hard to do because when you’re in the room its much easier to come across likeable, whereas an audition tape is essentially a lot of work, act, cut to black. It’s very strange. I sent that off and they liked it, I think. And then I did a chemistry test with Gage [Golightly, who plays David’s girlfriend Karen] and I got the role and I spent the rest of the time trying to keep it!
What did you like about the script? What drew you to it?
The character of David was just very likeable and relatable and yeah I could relate to a lot of things going on in his life. And the people attached to it were awesome.
Is there anyone in particular you enjoyed working with the most?
I loved them all. They were all pretty cool. Oliver, who plays Wheeler, is so easy to watch. He’s just so funny.
Did you have a favourite moment on set or a favourite scene?
We have a scene where me and Oliver go to film something and it’s very strange what we film. I can’t say [what it was] but that’s very interesting and very cool.
Did you play any tennis before you got this role?
I played zero tennis.
[Laughs] Did you know anything about tennis before you got this role?
I knew that… yeah… people played it… And it was going on in the world. But yeah, I didn’t really know much about it. My dad was very good at it. That’s all I knew. So I had to practice for a bit until I got better. I did some coaching, there are worse things to do than play tennis. I really enjoyed it.
What did that entail?
A lot of, er, trying to get better. A lot of just hitting it out – like serving – because there were certain shots they would like to use, like serving, backhands, basically just learning to look like I could play, because there were always ways where they could cut around me actually playing it and, er, looking bad.
Do you have a stunt double for any of it?
Yes, yes, there was a double and he was very good. A better actor too, he should have replaced me [laughs]. He was very good, so he would come in and make me look really good.
So do you feel like you’ve got a pretty good understanding of tennis now?
Yes. I think so. I understand that Djokovic is awesome.
Also, 1980s New Jersey, I don’t know about you but that’s about as far from my childhood as possible. How did you find that? How did you prepare?
There were a lot of references – like in Freaks and Geeks, Caddyshack, loads of like John Hughes films, so I pretty much watched them. But I don’t know, it’s so weird to do something that you weren’t a part of. You kinda guess, you can’t really do it exactly, so I just crossed my fingers and hoped that it was okay. Apart from that, where I grew up in Wales was a very small town, so yeah, very far from that.
Are you a fan of the period – the hairstyles, the outfits, the music?
I wasn’t a fan of how short my shorts were! They were pretty short. And my jeans were so tight, there was no way of avoiding… not looking. It’s pretty intense, but yeah it was good. It’s cool to wear all this stuff and it be acceptable.
Were there any outfit mishaps?
Ennis. I think Ennis revealed a little too much at one point.
Did that stay in?
I don’t think that stayed in. It’s like a gradual moment where they do it through his legs and onto me, and I got a lot… a lot. But it’s like, most people dress this way anyway. It’s the hipster generation. It’s not too far from reality.
Do you like any eighties music?
Yeah, not that I could name. I like listening to hip hop. I listen to hip hop and Al Jolson, it’s a very weird combination. But I like soundtracks from the eighties like The Fast Times of Ridgemont High – that’s got a good soundtrack.
What did you particularly like about the character of David?
He’s kind of at a crossroads in that he doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life and the relationship he’s in – he doesn’t really know if he wants to go forward with that. He’s frustrated with the situation and I remember being like that. I probably still am like that because I don’t really know what I want to do. But then that’s a hard question to answer, what do you want to do with the rest of your life? There’s no way of answering it so he’s constantly on this quest to find himself and stay on the right path and I can definitely relate to that.
How have you found working with Amazon – a streaming provider- as opposed to traditional channels?
It’s incredible. It’s such a difference seeing how they operate compared to anything else I’ve worked with because a lot of time the writers or the filmmakers have to compromise a lot of what they want to do, but with Amazon they let them do what they want but are also really constructive with what they’re doing. It’s fascinating to watch. Amazon’s great.
What do you think audiences responded to about the pilot so this got made?
I think, there’s a lot of serious stuff on TV, maybe that it was fun and charming and it has heart to it? And it’s weird, everyone is coming of age on this show, so everyones relatable – no-one knows what’s going on. And it looks cool! It looks very eighties. It’s very impressive.
Do you prefer comedies or dramas?
I like both. I like comedies that are really serious. I usually prefer that comedies – most comedies are set around a klutz or someone that’s on the backfoot – but my preferred comedies are probably ones like… like Roy Andersson movies. I like Roy Andersson movies, they’re like so depressing and so funny.
Do you prefer working on a comedy or a drama?
It’s weird, I would like to do drama but I can’t take myself seriously enough. It’s definitely harder to try and be funny.
What do you like to watch on TV?
There’s so many tv shows out that I would not be able to function if I watched them all. I like Nighty Night, it’s like a Julia Davis show, it’s very old but I watch it all the time. Transparent, I loved. Twin Peaks, I loved Twin Peaks. Probably my favourite TV show.
Do you worry about getting the laughs?
Yeah, absolutely. I just tend to not do anything and let everyone else be funny! There’s so many funny people in this show it’s alarming, it’s like a crash course in how to be funny, it’s just, like Paul Reiser’s timing is exceptional.
Have you got anything in the pipeline?
I directed a movie that’s coming out on Friday, it’s called Just Jim [Ed’s note: This interview took place prior to September 25, before the release of Just Jim]. I’m acting in it as well. I play a kid in Wales and then an American comes to down – played by Emile Hirsch – and sort of stirs things up. It’s a bit crazy. And then I’ve got a movie coming out called ‘Kill Your Friends’, with Nicholas Hoult and James Corden and a couple of people.
What would your dream role be?
I would like to be in Twin Peaks, that would be pretty cool. I would not like to do any role that’s already been done that I like, because I’d not be able to do it as well. The Graduate is one of my favourite films, that’s a good role. Or maybe 8 Mile.
All ten episodes of Red Oaks are now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Instant Video.