With the amount of exposure soap stars receive on our TV screens it’d be easy to forgive anyone for being typecast, but in Kent Riley, here is an actor who has consistently proven to be far more than just a one trick pony. After four successful years playing loveable scouser Zak on Holloaks, Kent has gone on to star in hit shows such as ITV drama Brief Encounters, Jericho and the critically acclaimed ‘Cilla’ alongside Sheridan Smith. This week I caught up with the 33 year old to chat acting, Hollyoaks and of course dating and relationships.
Kent, you’ve come a long way since an appearance on Footballers Wives, what was that like? A good experience it had a great following and it was a nice cast and crew. I had auditioned for the part of Harley three times where it didn’t go my way but the producers liked me and I ended up in it anyway. Funny week or so in London it was.
You started your career in musical theatre, is that something you’d ever consider doing more of? I love musical theatre and most definitely my acting bug stemmed from doing musical theatre in the national youth music theatre. I would love to do more theatre work but it would have to be something quite cool and something I had an interest in I think. I’m waiting for back to the future to be a fully fledged musical or narcos the musical haha.
Iconic city, iconic lady, what did it mean to you as a proud Liverpudlian to land that role in Cilla? It was brilliant it was a real hustle to make sure I was seen for it and thankfully I was. Once I was seen and I found out I had the part of Kenny I was chuffed! I knew from the off it was going to be a top show. The atmosphere and performances captured made it feel really authentic and of course it’s always nice to be filming in your home city. Paying tribute to a ‘Mersey beat’ legend was a lovely acknowledgment to Cilla and she seemed to really enjoy what we did which was all we cared about.
You played Zak Ramsey in Hollyoaks for over four years, how big a challenge was it to live in that soap bubble for such a long time? It’s not a challenge whilst you are in that soap bubble it’s more the adjustment to not being in it afterwards. Hollyoaks was a terrific adventure, in terms of it being local and a flexible place to work and try things out, it was great. It has a nice close-knit feel and everyone was great. Leaving after 4 years to do other things is always a task because you’ve been ‘out of the loop’ so to speak in the wider industry. The assumption of many is that because you have been working for for years solid you will be in demand but the business just doesn’t work like that. There are loads of Actors out there finishing drama school and becoming the new kids on the block. You have to start again sometimes but it’s quite refreshing in a way as it gives you your drive back and tests your true commitment to the industry.
Was it a relief to be able to grow the barnet out when you left haha? Hahaha I had started growing it maybe the year before I left Hollyoaks so by the time I left it was really curly again. As an Actor your hair is never your own haha and I’m happy to do whatever is needed for a role, but yes I was chuffed to be able to do what I wanted with my hair for a few months.
Will Nick Pickard ever leave? Haha I doubt it. There’s no need to now, he’s an integral part of the show at this point. All soaps are strengthened by the mainstays, the characters everyone knows and he’s certainly the main one in the village I’d say. If he decides he wants a change of scenery then I think he would go but I don’t think that time has come just yet.
Any strange fan mail from your time on the show? Haha not really, had a few requests to sign some weird sh*t like a packet of biscuits, but I reckon that was a wind up from one of my mates. Fan mail is cool though and mostly just flattering and complimentary.
Who’s been the standout Actor you’ve worked with during your career? Hard to pick Actors out like that to be honest. I just enjoy working with the good ones, ones who are tuned in, smart and unselfish. There’s loads of Actors out there who are all about them in scenes we shoot and generally you can see it translate to screen – for us actors anyway. A lot of audiences won’t notice a selfish Actor.
When your character is invested romantically with someone is it ever difficult to separate your feelings from real life? No, it’s a job at the end of the day and you have to be professional. I mean you hear about romances starting on set from time to time, ultimately though it’s a tough task to film any real ‘romance’ in a scene. At times there’s about six or seven people on a set fixing lighting, sound, you have your Director, the other Actors and it can be challenging to create that intimate feel. That challenge though is what’s magic about the job.
What are the key qualities you look for in your own partner? My partner is my soulmate, so that’s easy. She’s Someone to laugh with, cry with, fight with and love with. Nice eyes, lips and a great sense of humour. Someone who puts up with my sh*t and someone who will celebrate as hard as me when I achieve what I set out to do.
Do you think our perception of love changes as we get older? Of course! Like appreciating the finer things in life like a nice cup of tea or a haircut and a beard trim. Or being on your own and drawing. Love for me is about appreciation.
Confidence must play a huge part in what you do, what advice would you give to any young men out there who struggle with it in any aspect of their life? I feel like I could speak on this all day. Without sounding like a wanky actor I always try and motivate anyone I meet who has a dream, to pursue it! Chase it and do so with confidence. Confidence, however, I appreciate is not something you just have. Some people really struggle but my honest opinion is tht you can build confidence and it’s something that fortunately nobody else can dictate. YOU decide if someone will affect your confidence and you also decide how confident you are in life. I guess it’s just about knowing yourself and not giving a f*ck about anyone else and really taking control. We are all on our own crazy little adventure on this earth and confidence just assists you in whatever route you decide to take.
And finally, how do you think Liverpool will do this season? Hahaha well firstly I will never not love footy or love watching my beloved team, however, I have become a tad disillusioned over the last few years about the culture of football these days. Far more emphasis, ok, ‘hype’ rather than the game itself these days. The big hyped up games fall flat at times because the managers and players have no doubt bought into their own hype, it’s annoying! That said I think we can do okay, injuries permitting. Our squad still feels too small to compete in both the league and the champions league, we signed Salah in a department we are already strong in yet have still not addressed the defensive problem. I fancy a good cup run somewhere and another top 4 finish. We have to see progression again even if it’s only a little progression. It’s a super tough league so any progression is good.