David Frost may have been a huge TV star and household name in his day but young actor Daniel Rigby has a different memory of the man he is currently portraying on stage at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
Frost/Nixon is the story of how David Frost decided to take on disgraced US president Richard Nixon and get him to confess his part in the Watergate scandal on TV.
“My first experience of David Frost was Through the Keyhole!” said Daniel. “I found out a lot later about the political stuff and his whole playboy reputation in the 1970s where he was having a great time partying and lots of women, then his earlier life as a satirist in That Was The Week That Was and The Frost Report.”
He’s been researching by watching David Frost’s old TV shows.
Daniel admires how Michael Sheehan played Frost in the film, based, like the play, on Peter Morgan’s script, and said the story was told in the context of a championship boxing match.
So who won? “In the short term, Frost came out on top. He managed to get a confession of sorts out of Nixon and got an admission of wrongdoing.
“He ended up on the covers of Newsweek and Time as a result. That led to a great resurgence of his fame.
“In the longer term Nixon came out well from it. Without lancing the boil of Watergate and being seen to be on screen and contrite and apologising for at least some of his responsibility in the scandal, he would never be able to go out of his house again.
“That allowed him to very, very slowly regain a bit of dignity. It allowed him to be buried with full honours with other presidents present, which they would not have been able to do.”
Daniel added: “Jonathan (Hyde, playing Nixon) is excellent. He’s a really, really lovely, easy actor to work with. He is a wonderful Nixon. I saw him in Julius Caesar at the Crucible.”
He said of the play: “It’s a fascinating story if you’re in any way interested in history and politics. In the light of contemporary politics, it’s very interesting watching what happened in the light of what’s going on over the ‘Pond’.”
Daniel has portrayed famous people before, playing Eric Morecambe in the 2011 drama Eric and Ernie.
He said: “From playing Eric Morecambe I learned that the important thing is to get in as much information as you can, in order to form the character, especially when it comes to the voice and the physicality.”
Comedy is a great love and he was a stand-up before he was an actor.
He got lots of laughs in an early TV role, as one of three students friends in a series of BT adverts. Daniel said: “It’s probably one of the most visible things I’ve done. I was on TV every 12 seconds for three years. It was life changing in terms of earning money which I needed.”
Another memorable performance was in Black Mirror in 2013. Daniel played a comedian who portrays cartoon character Waldo, a blue bear who interviews politicians for a TV satire show, and finds himself running in a real by-election. He said: “When it first went out, I kind of got recognised for it but recently more and more for it because it’s been in Netflix but it also has resonances for people because of the story of a cartoon character getting elected in the modern era.”
Daniel is enjoying his first time on stage at the Crucible. “The first thing I ever saw here was Lear by Edward Bond with Rob Hastie, the current artistic director, in it. Rob and I were at drama school together. He was my introduction 15 years ago as an actor to the Crucible.”
Frost/Nixon is at the Crucible until March 17. Tickets at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk