You have been training since you were 6 years old, but if you hadn’t gone down the path of martial arts, was there anything else that you wanted to do when you grew up?
Martial Arts has always been a major factor in my life. From the first time I saw a Bruce Lee movie, I literally became obsessed wanting to be like him. Outside of the Martial Arts, I was always very athletic. I played football to a high standard when I was young and played for Everton, Tranmere and eventually signed for Wrexham – although this was short lived, as I suffered an injury which saw them terminate my contract. My dream of becoming a professional football player then started to take a back seat. Even though I had always continued to train in Martial Arts, my love for it grew stronger, and from there I went on to represent my country winning 6 World Kickboxing Championships and I’m now making waves in the movie industry. So I guess the injury wasn’t that much of a bad thing.
Your 2006 trip to LA kicked off your career as a stuntman and ultimately to acting roles in some serious productions like Dracula Untold, what were those early days like?
When I set out on my trip to the States, I never for one minute thought this would open the door to what has now become a career. I was embarking on a journey of discovery in the Martial Arts, wanting to visit gyms/Dojos throughout the USA. My first port of call was LA and one of my hero’s Benny The Jet had his own gym there in West Hollywood.
I had been emailing them and we’d been discussing a training session (all I wanted to do was to get a few photographs and say I had been at The Jets Gym). So, on my first day in LA, I phoned the gym and went along in the hope of meeting everyone. I spoke with the gentleman on reception and I felt like I was kind of getting interviewed. During this time I got introduced to Benny’s wife Sara, we talked and she told me Sensei Benny was returning to the gym and he wanted to meet me. Well you can imagine how happy I was, going to meet one of my idols. We sat and spoke for hours, he invited me to attend the Lee Strasburg Theatre and Film Institute. The next thing I knew I was learning to act and perform stunts. I was literally in the right place at the right time – skills I have perfected over the years have served me well. I bonded with Sensei Benny, forming a tight friendship and becoming a member of his stunt team, working in Hollywood movies with A list actors. A crazy time which still makes me smile on reflection.
You clearly made an impression on Actor/Director Noel Clarke whilst working with him on ‘I Am Soldier’ – as he cast you in his next film ‘The Anomaly’ – a big release, what was it like suddenly working with the likes of Brian Cox and Luke Hemsworth?
It was crazy, I remember whilst working on ‘I am Soldier’, Mr Clarke mentioned to me that he was genuinely interested in me being in his next movie. We had a brief chat and I did a short performance for him and he said he would be in touch once we had finished filming. True to his word he called me a few months later and offered me the role of Patch in ‘The Anomaly’. Before I knew it I was working on a production with Ian Sommerhalder, Alexis Knapp, Brian Cox, Luke Hemsworth, Michael Bisping and of course Noel himself. A truly unbelievable time – filming on location in London and Times Square, New York. This was an experience I will never forget and I learnt a lot about my new profession from some of the best in the business. Since this I have had a great opportunity to work with Mr Clarke on several occasions most recently in “Brotherhood”, the final instalment of the hugely successful “Kidulthood” series.
You’ve been a busy boy with four films in post production, what was it like working with a Bond-Pierce Brosnan and a bond baddie – Dave Bautista on ‘Final Score’?
Unfortunately, due to contracts I can’t say too much about the movie itself. But to me I’m just a normal guy from the Wirral so to find myself on set with these stars is amazing. Anyone that truly knows me, will know how much of a geek I am when it comes to my movies, so although I always remain professional on set, deep inside I’m dancing around like a small child at Christmas!
In your first film for 2017, you play a cannibal in the horror comedy ‘Cannibals and Carpet Fitters’, that must have been a laugh?
Yes this was a fantastic opportunity to make something different from my normal roles. The script is fantastic and the movie we made was brilliant, being well received at film festivals all over the world. So when the chance comes along to play “William” I couldn’t say NO. Everyone I speak to is excited to see the movie and I can’t believe the physical transformation that I made for the role.
It has been reported that you used to train three times a day – do you still train so hard or has your training schedule and the type of training that you do now changed?
Recently I have been training as hard as I ever have, as I made the decision to come out of retirement and go for another World Title. Something I achieved 4 weeks ago, making me now a 6 x World Kickboxing Champion, something I am extremely proud of being close to 41 years young! My training regime starts at 4am daily and I generally train up to 4/5 hours a day.
Even though you’re titled ‘The Punisher’, you are famously regarded as an all round nice guy, has becoming a father softened you a little?
Yes definitely. My little boy has me wrapped around his little finger. I didn’t really know what to expect before becoming a father, but its nothing short of amazing. You start to look at life a little differently, acting a little more responsibly than I had would have done previously.
You have recently opened a new Black Dragon Academy to inspire youngsters, what was your reason for doing this?
My main reason is our children. I think its important to give children the best start in life. Martial Arts prepares you for a lot of what life throws at you. I thought why not get back to teaching full time and specialising in the teaching of children. I think it’s important to teach about discipline and respect especially in today’s society. If I can have a positive influence on a select group of children then hopefully they will have a positive influence on the people around them. Generally making better individuals for society. It’s also important for children to have an active lifestyle, I think too many children nowadays are too happy to sit behind a games console.
You were born on the Wirral and still live here, were you ever tempted to move away? If so, where would you have moved to?
Yes, there was a time I was tempted to move to London to be closer to the industry. But I’m only a 2 hour train journey from everything anyway and I love the Wirral and it’s surroundings. I think sometimes, we don’t really appreciate how beautiful it is, because we live here.
When you’re not filming and training how do you like to relax?
I love spending time with my family, days out and generally seeing the kids grow up. I think these things are important and really make you appreciate what life is all about.
Where do you eat out?
Rachel and I love to eat out and one of our favourite places is Fazenda in Liverpool. The food there is fantastic, especially their belly pork! If you haven’t tried it, you need to.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Well this is a tricky one, but I love watching Rom-coms… just don’t tell anyone!
Also, I would just like to say a big thank you to my sponsors CA Burke Construction and also Gravity Health & Fitness, Upton. They are a constant help and support, which is deeply appreciated.