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Are you Svengali?

The cult internet comedy and some questions for Candy McCulloch who stars in the latest epidode

Published on October 22nd 2009.


Are you Svengali?

DO an internet search on “Svengali”. It's a good way down the page before it stops trying to sell you a 1931 movie, a 1980s TV drama, and all sorts of dictionary definitions for the word. Only scraping in at No 10 of the google hit parade do you get to what you really, really want.

Ironic, as Svengali, which has been described somewhere as the finest satire on the music business ever written, is the true child of its time, in that it has depended on the web for its viral survival since birth last year.

Now, after racking up 15,000 hits an episode, it appears to be flying the nest. Talk is of a major deal that will see Svengali go from You Tube to mainstream TV, ensuring uptown top ranking any time soon – and not just in the heady, sexy world of search engine optimisation.

Result, given that there are only 30 minutes of Svengali in existence. “The best kept comedy secret” consists of just half a dozen five minute episodes and the latest one, out now, features 23-year-old Candy McCulloch, showing her dad Ian (the Bunnyman) and her mum Lorraine (the well-known fashion PR), how one gets a leg on the ladder in this day and age.

Svengali, for the uninitiated, was dreamed up by Welsh actor Jonathan Lewis Owen who sunk a redundancy pay-off from ITV into funding a series of comedy sketches starring himself as “Simon Cowell-wannabe”, Dixie. Dixie is the manager of a rock band called the Premature Congratulations, and the series follows his attempts to get them a record deal armed only with a bag of cassette tapes.

All proper comedy is a serious enterprise and this is no exception. Written by Dean “Wedding Belles” Cavanagh, writing partner of Irvin Welsh, and directed by Philip John, regulars include comedy actress Sally Phillips and Creation Records boss Alan McGee (the man who discovered Oasis) as himself. A raft of well-known cameos have already looked in, like ex-Libertine Carl Barat, Bonehead from Oasis and Maggot from Goldie Lookin Chain.

"We wanted to show exactly how the music industry works in London, and create a kind of Spinal Tap for it," said Owen, 38. "As a Welshman in London I found it amazing the way people here, and those in the music business in particular, are so obsessed with being cool all the time. We also wanted to write something without the constraints of the commissioning process, and just see if we could make it go viral online."

Here's the first episode, catch up with them all on You Tube or download the whole lot, free, on iTunes

Confidential caught up with Candy McCulloch, who stars in the latest episode of Svengali, LA Woman

It must have been quite an exciting upbringing: Gigs, albums, fashion shoots, rock n roll. No wonder you fancy a bit of that.
Funny thing is, I never did. I think I rebelled against my parents by studying hard and doing well in my exams. I was a right swot!

How well?
Er, eight As at GCSE and an A and two Bs at A level. I had planned to be a lawyer. But dropped out of uni the day before I got there. I just decided it was wasn't for me.

What's brought all this on? The acting bug.
I got a small part in a film called Kicks, last year, after I met a friend of my mum's at an event. A casting director. They later asked her if would I be interested in reading for this film. I had never done any acting in my life and they called me up out of the blue. I had no idea why because Mum had forgotten to mention it.

They wanted me to take one of the main parts, it's about two girls who kidnap a footballer, but I just wasn't sure I was up to it at the time. It was a very strong role. And if I do something I need to be absolutely confident I'm not going to do it badly.

Then what?
So I played safe and I took a smaller part, the one they originally had me down for, and I loved it! I haven't been able to think about taking any other path in my life since then, other than acting. This is the first time I've ever been focused, in that I know what I really want to do.

You're not a full-time thesp quite yet, then?
No. I'm temping in a legal services place near Cavern Walks and I'm studying screen acting in Manchester.

Would you feel a bit bashful about using your connections to get work?
Do you know what? It's up to me to prove I can do it at the end of the day. So no, not at all.

Been away lately?
I'm going to New York at the weekend to see my dad's band. I felt really bad asking them at work for time off, but my boss, where I'm temping, said: “I can't not let you go to New York.”

Where do you live?
In Allerton, with my mum and my


sister, Mimi, who's 14. We are a house full of girls. I was an only child for so long that I was overjoyed when a sister came along. I love the closeness between us all. I can't think I'd ever want to move out, but when I go to interviews, I get asked by casting people if I'd be prepared to move to London and I have to say yes. You can always get home though.

How come you're in Svengali?
Jayne Casey asked Mum if there were any mugshots of me. She didn't say why, particularly, but she showed them to Dean Cavanagh who writes Svengali, and then I got a call.


Yes, we have watched every one at home. It's brilliant and I was absolutely over the moon to be asked.

Strictly Come Dancing or X-Factor?
X Factor, although I whizzed past Robbie Williams the other week.

Do you have a favourite Echo and the Bunnymen record?
Rust, and The Killing Moon, of course.

Where are you off to now?
Home. My mum's waiting for me outside.

Nobody's ever said that to us in an interview before.
Ha ha!

What's the next big thing?
I've got a part in Kevin Sampson's next film, Powder. And I would love to do more Svengali.

It's about to be commissioned for TV, isn't it?
Well definitely more Svengali then.

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