DINO FETSCHER.

The Bri­tish ac­tor on shed­ding his Mr Gay UK im­age to be­come one of the bright­est stars on the small screen.

Gay Times Magazine - - CONTENTS: - Pho­tog­ra­phy Jez Smith Words Lewis Cor­ner

We speak to the Bri­tish ac­tor – best known for his roles in Chan­nel 4’s Hu­mans, and Rus­sell T Davies series Ba­nana and Cu­cum­ber – about his jour­ney from Mr Gay UK 2008 to one of the bright­est stars of the small screen.

Af­ter be­ing crowned Mr Gay UK back in 2008, Dino Fetscher started his ca­reer as an openly gay ac­tor. “There’s no tip­toe­ing back into the closet now,” he re­calls think­ing. But the Welsh star hasn’t let his sex­u­al­ity de­fine who he is as both a per­son and an ac­tor.

You may recog­nise Dino from high-pro­file roles in Chan­nel 4’s hit series Hu­mans, as well as the Rus­sell T Davies-penned Cu­cum­ber and Ba­nana. He’s now busy at work on a huge new BBC and HBO pe­riod drama along­side Suranne Jones, and just won him­self a role in a big new series com­ing next year. Es­sen­tially, he keeps jump­ing from suc­cess to suc­cess.

We caught up with the ac­tor to get all philo­soph­i­cal about A.I. af­ter por­tray­ing a ro­bot, the chal­lenges he faced break­ing through, and he talks for the first time about an ex­cit­ing new role he’s just been given.

Let’s go straight in with a philo­soph­i­cal ques­tion: How has your role on hit Chan­nel 4 show Hu­mans changed your view on ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence?

I’ve been a fan of Hu­mans since it first be­gan, I found the con­cept of the show and how creep­ily close to re­al­ity it all seemed im­mensely im­pres­sive. It wasn’t un­til I was cast as Stan­ley last year, when I started re­search­ing A.I., that I re­alised how close to a pos­si­bil­ity the series ac­tu­ally is. It was mind boŠling to dis­cover how tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced we al­ready are. Pre Hu­mans, when I thought of A.I., I thought of Alexa, Siri, Cortina, face recog­ni­tion, fin­ger­print phones etc, stuff like that. How naïve I was. That doesn’t even be­gin to scratch the sur­face! As I delved deeper it be­came very ap­par­ent to me that the rate of de­vel­op­ment in A.I. over re­cent years has been as­ton­ish­ing. So much so that sci­en­tists be­lieve we will reach what’s known as ‘Strong A.I.’ in the next 10 years (where ro­bots will have abil­i­ties to rea­son, just like hu­mans). They will not be lim­ited by the pa­ram­e­ters of their pro­gram­ming and have the abil­ity to make de­ci­sions in­de­pen­dently of hu­man in­put. Con­scious­ness. Lit­er­ally what Hu­mans is about – freaky deaky. So, ba­si­cally Skynet is com­ing and we’re all screwed... that all said A.I. is also won­der­ful and is re­spon­si­ble for some of the most ma­jor ad­vance­ments in medicine, ed­u­ca­tion and non-mur­der­ous tech­nol­ogy over the last few decades. I think that A.I., like any great power, has the abil­ity to be an im­mense force for good or evil. We just need to be care­ful with who is al­lowed to wield that power. Which, at the rate it’s de­vel­op­ing, is dif­fi­cult to con­trol.

Sea­son three of the show dealt with the eth­i­cal ques­tion of ‘synth rights’ – did you draw com­par­isons be­tween that and the bat­tles marginalised com­mu­ni­ties have faced in the real world when be­ing seen as less than hu­man by the pa­tri­archy?

Ab­so­lutely, I think the rea­son I loved this par­tic­u­lar series so much was for this very rea­son (not be­cause I’m in it, I swear). The par­al­lels drawn be­tween the fraught and dra­mat­i­cally po­larised world of Hu­mans and our own, right now, is un­canny. One of the rea­sons I think dra­mas such as Hu­mans are so es­sen­tial, to­day, in our so­ci­ety is be­cause they have the abil­ity to evoke think­ing and spark these types of con­ver­sa­tions. The way Jonathan [Brack­ley] and Sam [Vin­cent – cre­ators of the show] have so clev­erly crafted an im­mensely de­tailed fic­ti­tious world about hu­manoid ro­bots, that so ac­cu­rately re­flects our own and re­ally makes you think in a dif­fer­ent way, is just in­cred­i­ble to me. It’s why I love do­ing what I do, be­cause I be­lieve that shows like Hu­mans have such a far­ther reach and greater power for good than sim­ply just en­ter­tain­ment... that and the in­sane ro­bot Ninja fight scenes I got to do.

Your next project will see you on screen with Suranne Jones for BBC and HBO drama Gen­tle­man Jack. What can view­ers ex­pect from that?

Yes, I’m cur­rently film­ing at the mo­ment. It’s writ­ten and di­rected by the won­der­ful Sally Wain­wright (H appy Val­ley, Last Tango in Hal­i­fax) and has been 20 years in the mak­ing. The show is based en­tirely in his­tor­i­cal fact, from the diaries of an in­cred­i­ble and sur­pris­ing woman: Anne Lis­ter (Suranne Jones). It’s not your typ­i­cal pe­riod drama ei­ther – it tells the story of this charis­matic, stub­born, de­fi­ant landowner who con­stantly re­jects tra­di­tion. She’s a ruth­less busi­ness­woman and has many a pas­sion, in­clud­ing medicine, travel, moun­taineer­ing, life and...women. I’m gen­uinely thrilled to be join­ing such a stel­lar cast on such an ex­cit­ing project. And it’s my first pe­riod drama, which is ex­cit­ing enough in it­self, be­cause I get to wear such in­cred­i­bly cool cos­tumes. I even get my very own cape.

You started your act­ing ca­reer af­ter be­ing crowned Mr Gay UK in 2008, so you’ve pub­licly been out from a young age. How did you find that when try­ing to break into show busi­ness?

For a long time I al­lowed this to haunt me. I was to­tally caged by sto­ries I’d been fed: If you’re out you won’t work. You’ll limit your ca­reer! You’ll only play gay blah, blah, blah. Well shit, I’m Mr Gay UK, I kept think­ing. Tech­ni­cally the gayest man in all of Eng­land, Wales, Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land com­bined. There’s no tip­toe­ing back into the closet now – you’re screwed. Ev­ery time Mr Gay UK came up my stom­ach would plum­met a la Al­ton Tow­ers’ Obliv­ion. I was 18, I en­tered on a drunken whim for the free drinks and val­i­da­tion – it wasn’t ever a part of my life plan. I was con­vinced I had ru­ined my ca­reer be­fore it had even be­gun...Thank­fully, I fol­lowed my in­stincts and just fo­cused on what I love to do; tell sto­ries, to act. I got into a top drama school and have been for­tu­nate enough to be cast in an ar­ray of roles since grad­u­at­ing; gay, straight, and even biome­chan­i­cal. It took me years to re­alise that the only ob­sta­cle in my path was this poi­soned nar­ra­tive that I was feed­ing my­self. Now, I rel­ish the fact that I’m able to say I was Mr Gay UK 2K8! I did some amaz­ing work with some amaz­ing char­i­ties, I learnt a fuck load about my­self and got a tro­phy from Jane McDon­ald. Not many peo­ple can say that.

Do you feel like you’ve ever missed out on roles be­cause of your sex­u­al­ity?

No, not that I know of. I think it’s a much bet­ter idea to fo­cus on the things you have achieved, rather than the things you might not have...yet.

How im­por­tant is it that we have vis­i­ble LGBTQ role mod­els?

I think it’s ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial. Like any mi­nor­ity group, pos­i­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the me­dia is vi­tal for LGBTQ kids grow­ing up. I know I found it re­ally tough grow­ing up in Wales with no one in re­al­ity, or on TV, to re­late to. I lit­er­ally felt like the only gay in the vil­lage at times; which was ter­ri­fy­ing and made me feel in­cred­i­bly iso­lated – even with an amaz­ing, lib­eral and sup­port­ive fam­ily. At the risk of sound­ing in­cred­i­bly clichéd; read­ing letters from LGBTQ peo­ple who’ve sourced strength and con­fi­dence from know­ing that I’m gay, brings me great joy and reaf­firms ev­ery­thing. That’s why I think peo­ple in the pub­lic eye should never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of com­ing out – or the help it could give to some­one who is in des­per­ate need of it.

Who were your role mod­els when you were grow­ing up?

Robin Wil­liams, Brit­ney Spears, Jim Car­rey, Harry Pot­ter, Bette Mi­dler (specif­i­cally in her role as Winifred San­der­son in Ho­cus Po­cus, which I was ob­sessed with as a child and still am as an adult) and most of all, my mum. She’s the most in­spi­ra­tional of them all.

There has been much de­bate about whether gay roles should go to straight ac­tors – what are your thoughts on that is­sue?

I think that roles, re­gard­less of sex­u­al­ity, should be given to the best-suited ac­tor. The ac­tor who – be­cause of a num­ber or align­ing fac­tors – is best equipped to tell that char­ac­ter’s par­tic­u­lar story the most truth­fully and adeptly. Oth­er­wise, on the flip side, you could ar­gue that only straight peo­ple should be al­lowed to play straight roles. We are ac­tors, chameleons; it’s lit­er­ally our job to por­tray a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent peo­ple, be­ings, an­i­mals – or what­ever – from dif­fer­ent creeds, worlds and sex­u­al­i­ties. No ac­tor should be lim­ited be­cause of whom, or whom he or she is not, sex­u­ally at­tracted to.

You worked with Rus­sell T Davies back in 2015 when you starred as Ai­den in Cu­cum­ber and Ba­nana – what im­pact do you feel those shows had for the com­mu­nity at that time?

I think shows like Cu­cum­ber and Ba­nana will cer­tainly have an im­por­tant im­pact on the LGBTQ com­mu­nity, but I don’t think that their ef­fects are nec­es­sar­ily im­me­di­ate. Queer as Folk was be­fore my time but it still trick­led down into my or­bit, years later, and mas­sively res­onated with me. It was dur­ing a re­peat episode at 15 years old, late at night, when I first said ever said ‘I’m gay’ aloud. I’d like to think that Cu­cum­ber and Ba­nana would have sim­i­lar ef­fects on the com­mu­nity, like Queer As Folk did for me. I think the power of drama is im­mense and its reach is po­ten­tially un­lim­ited. Who knows? At the very least I think they’re ex­cel­lent pieces of drama.

Do you have any plans to work with Rus­sell T Davies again on any of his fu­ture projects?

Well – and this is a Gay Times ex­clu­sive – I just found out yes­ter­day that I am join­ing the cast of Rus­sell’s brand new BBC drama; Years & Years! It’s bloody bril­liant, the writ­ing, the cast, ev­ery­thing – I’m so ex­cited to start film­ing later this year. Un­for­tu­nately that’s all I can say at the mo­ment but it’s go­ing to be awe­some, just wait. Rus­sell is one of my favourite peo­ple to work with and favourite peo­ple in gen­eral. The love and en­ergy he brings to his projects is phe­nom­e­nal, un­prece­dented and as an ac­tor his writ­ing is a to­tal gift to play with. I feel mas­sively for­tu­nate to be get­ting to work with him again on an­other project. Stay tuned.

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