How did you do your “mascot research” to prepare for the role?
Mascots aren’t as big a thing over here as in the US, but you see them with some first and second division teams – it almost feels like the lower down the divisions you get, the more likely there is to be a mascot. So I’ve seen my fair share of mascots running up and down the pitch, but obviously if you’re going to the World Mascot Association Championship, you need to do a little bit more than cheering, sliding on your knees and shaking your head.
I also knew that Sid was going to be more of that old school, silent movie, Chaplin and Buster Keaton slapstick style. I have a fairly good understanding of slapstick and physical comedy, which I get from my dad (Colin Bennett). He earned a living falling over, so I grew up with it and have it in my DNA.
How do you physically prepare to become a mascot?
I do a lot of jobs where I’m quite physical. Funnily enough in Phoneshop, I spent four days running up and down Sutton High Street dressed as a bear, so it’s not the first time I’ve worn a fluffy outfit. Mascots was different because I was dressed as a hedgehog in 37 degree LA heat – it wasn’t pleasant. I was certainly fitter when I finished the job than when I started – I probably lost about eight pounds just in sweat. I’d recommend that to your readers – dress as a hedgehog and fall over a lot in 37 degree heat and the pounds will fall off.
Were there any unfortunate Mascot-related mishaps?
I’m good enough at pratfalling, tripping over and pretending to be incompetent, that I can do those things – touch wood – without actually injuring myself. It’s all quite padded as well, so even if I did fall over for real it wouldn’t hurt – it actually gives you a sense of invulnerability. You feel like you can do anything – you could get hit by a car because you’ve got 40 pounds of rubber protecting you, it’s fine.
What’s your most impressive personal best?
I did a job years ago where I got chased up and down this tunnel for about five hours. At some point every other actor may have been slightly sick, but I wasn’t, so that’s one of my most impressive personal bests. I also did a chorus line kick routine in a Thailand rainforest – that sweltering, stifling, wet heat – it was quite something.
Most of my physical feats are based on work. In order to workout you have to motivate yourself to get down the gym, get on a bike or lift those bloody heavy weights again, which I’m not very good at. But if you put me on a job, it’s mind over matter and my brain takes over – there’s no choice but to do this because there are 40 people all waiting for you before they can go home.
Have you ever pulled a muscle in less than heroic circumstances?
I pull muscles in less than heroic situations all the time. I played an eight year old on stage once. In the first week of the job you come in going “Oh, I’m in alright shape – not front cover of Coach Magazine shape, but still good – this is literally child’s play.” By the end of the first two days everyone sat around on a sofa going “Oh God, I shouldn’t have done this. I should’ve stretched.” I think everyone pulled something – groins, inner legs, there was a lot of pain going on.
Have you ever secretly impressed yourself with a feat of strength?
When I was 13 we had an arm wrestling championship in our science class and I didn’t come last. I might have even come second or third. Also, my dad used to make me do DIY with him quite a lot. We built our garage and we managed to carry this huge high beam girder. I nearly died and I passed out shortly afterwards. It was child cruelty really, but I survived.
What is your guilty pleasure?
All of them? Chocolate, lager, curry, butter, any sort of fat, salt, sugar, coffee, full-fat milk – almost every vice there is, I have, apart from the illegal ones. I know how much sugar there is in beer, but I like a good, strong European lager, what can I say?
If you could look like Arnie in his prime tomorrow, would you?
I’m waiting for a job – it’s not going to happen – where they offer me this gig and say “Sorry Tom, you’re going to have to be ten stone of muscle, 6% body fat.” There’s a part of me that really secretly looks forward to that happening and hopes it does, just because I know it’s the only way I’ll ever achieve it. If someone’s kicking me up the arse and I’m kind of being paid to do it, it’s professional. That would be lovely, to come out the other side of it with an incredible body. Then I’d let it go to shit again, obviously.
What about going the opposite way?
Just playing a slob? Yeah, playing an unemployed actor who hasn’t worked for twelve years and has really let himself go, he’s melted into his sofa, just eating Dominoes. It would be fun, but I don’t think my wife would like it. It would be easier than getting ripped though – I might get the call today, you never know.
At what point in your life where you fittest, and why?
I was at my peak at 17, in every respect – I was maybe nine stone, wet. I was as tight as a drum. The thing is, I mainly play loveable man-children, and loveable man-children aren’t often required to take their shirts off. If they were it would be weird if they were built like Brock Lesnar. It doesn’t play into my castability, so I’m allowed to have an average everyman physique.
What’s the longest you have gone without alcohol in the name of good health?
When my wife was pregnant the first time, I tried a bit of solidarity but it didn’t last very long. I should try Dry January – I’ve never been a massive drinker but I can’t lie to you and say I’ve abstained for any longer than three or four days, really. You get to the end of the week, you want a curry and you want a lager with that. I’m a terrible interview for you aren’t I? This is all disgusting…
Mascots is available to watch on Netflix now.