If you don’t have a crush on Freddie Fox yet, then you probably haven’t been watching him play Freddie Baxter on “Cucumber,” the 25 year old bisexual dreamboat played by Fox in his first big TV role. A college dropout working at a cafeteria in Manchester, Freddie owns the serpent’s tongue of Regina George with a body sculpted by some very talented gay gods. He is the Lolita to “Cucumber”’s Henry Best — that obscure object of desire who, on the dawn of Henry’s midlife crisis, represents the unattainable he cannot help but fawn over. The suspense beleaguering each episode, in fact, revolves around whether the protagonist will be granted one night with the boy: the “one more cock,” as he puts it.
As the show progresses we are let under the layers of Freddie’s tough exterior. We see how his sexually precocious adolescence may have affected his self-worth, we see how a years-long affair with a schoolteacher may have been his first heartbreak, and we see that he maybe isn’t so cruel, after all. He’s a modern man doped up on sex wherever he can find it, but his heart, beneath the ice, isn’t necessarily in the wrong place.
We caught up with the Freddie behind the Freddie (who you may also know from “Riot Club” and “Pride” — both films we highly recommend if not), discussing his character’s journey, “object of desire” status, and what’s next for the actor (among other things).
I read that you refrain from using social media, but Freddie Baxter seems to be quite tech savvy (at least when it comes to hook-up apps). You’ve also been a working actor for the past 6 years, whereas Freddie lives in a flat with an assortment of roommates, does his fair share of sleeping around and partying, and works by day in a cafeteria. Do you relate with your character in any of these aspects? In another space-time, could you see yourself living like Freddie does?
I think Freddie Baxter is more feral than I am or will ever be. There are days when I’d love to be as bad as Freddie B. Then again, I suppose I have my fair share of late nights too, I’ve just never had to go to work hungover in a cafeteria the next day. And I’m hoping to keep it that way.
When Henry first moves in, Freddie goes on a bit of a rant forbidding Henry to ever fantasize about him. In my research I’ve stumbled across more than one fan blog followed by hordes of people who worship you! What does it feel like being an object of desire, and do you share Freddie Baxter’s sentiments about being fawned over?
I’m flattered that people like the show and the character enough to set up a fan page about the actor playing him. That’s very nice. And, for any of those fans reading this, this is my opportunity to say thank you as I’m not on social media to be able to say it in person. So, “Thank you.” And in answer to your question, no, I don’t mind people doing that sort of thing if they want to, although I am admittedly not that aware of it.
Being an object of desire to the other characters in “Cucumber” was very enjoyable though. Very seldom in my life will I ever enjoy ‘object of desire’ status, so for those 6 months filming up in Manchester where it was written in the script that I was to be treated and spoken of as an object of desire, it was great!
You’ve described your character very bluntly: he’s been sexualized from a young age, and thus is sort of hardwired to fuck. Yet he’s also a very complicated, elusive figure. Did Russell T. Davies incorporate a lot of that in the writing, or did you have to go to lengths to uncover Freddie’s innermost fears and desires to portray him as more than a pretty face?
I’d say 99% of him was in the writing. Of course it takes commitment to bring him off the page and into life, but Russell had written him the most fantastic and unusual character ark, so the hardest work was just not to screw it up. I think the 1% though, my 1% if you like, was total immersion into the character. I talked, ate and in some part lived like Freddie, so when there were little moments where I was able to add to what was on the page to make Freddie’s journey that much more dramatic, I was able to do it.
Do you think that today’s youth being bombarded with sexuality earlier than past generations is leading way to more troubled adults like Freddie — or making things better, à la the teenagers portrayed in Banana?
In the main, I don’t think it’s swaying the balance either one way or the other that much. I think each generation struggles with its own set of problems. This generation’s may be connected with becoming too sexually free, whereas yesterdays generation’s may be connected with sexual repression. Both can lead ultimately to the same awful extremes. However I would say that I think over exposure to pornography, for example, is not a great idea for anyone at anytime, especially for young people. At best it makes sex easy, at worst it makes it impotent, loveless and violent.
Lastly, I wish you the greatest success in the future. I want to know what is the upcoming project you’re most thrilled to be a part of, but more importantly, if you could choose any role or any person to work with in the next few years, who or what would they be?
Thank you very much for those kind words. I am delighted to be working with Guy Ritchie on “King Arthur,” who’s been a boyhood hero of mine ever since “Lock, Stock” and “Snatch.” But I think the project I’m most excited about is playing Romeo on stage later this year. It’s gonna be up in Sheffield and I have high hopes it’s going to be a cracking show. I’ve wanted to play him for ages, and now’s my chance. Beyond that, I could list a million things I’d like to do over the next few years, one as much as the other. I guess if I get as lucky as I have been for the last five years then they might all just happen too. Fingers crossed.
“Cucumber” airs on Monday nights on Logo in the US and Tuesday nights on OUT TV in Canada.