Craig Pinder has an unusal background for any actor living in Britain today. Born in Nassau, some of his fore-fathers were amoung the original settlers who arrived in the Bahamas in the mid seventeenth century. He is also proud of the fact that his geneology includes African and Arawak Indian.

The versatility of his inheritance has been equalled by the diversity of his roles on the British and American stage. His mother tells him that when at the age of four he returned from a Sunday church service with his grandmother, the entire household were duly treated to a full rendition on his grandparent's staircase of the sermon he had just heard, complete with gestures. The family decided he was either meant to be a minister ...or an actor.

He followed in the footsteps of his father, the owner of a small chemicals business in Nassau, who had a passion for amateur dramatics, especially those that involved the musical use of his rich baritone voice. The young Craig took part in his Dad's musical productions The Gondoliers and The Desert Song and got a taste for the footlights and the sweet sound of applause. When Bill Pinder swaggered onto the stage, a vivacious Petruchio in the musical Kiss Me Kate, staged at the local community theatre in Nassau, he did not anticipate that the small boy sitting wide-eyed in the front row would one day be playing parts at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe in Britain several years later.

Craig had his heart set on a stage career from the start, but his parents insisted his education should prepare him for a more practical way of earning a living. To make a career in his father’s company possible, he read chemistry at Reading University in the UK. But almost immediately upon his arrival on campus he joined the Drama Society where he snared the leading role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. With his then youthful shock of red-gold curls, it was a part he seemed destined to play. While at Reading he also appeared in several other plays including some that made it to the Edinburgh Festival fringe in 1972.

After graduation he returned to his native Bahamas, where he took a teaching job in a high school in Nassau, but in his spare time he played in a rock band. He played Romeo yet again in an amateur production of Shakespeare's famous play, this time in his home town of Nassau. During this production he was encouraged by a friend to prepare for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) Gold Medal examination. And while he was in London in the summer of 1978 taking that exam, he applied for an audition for RADA. Officially an applicant from North America, he was directed to an audition in New York City in a month’s time. The initial results of this audition were disappointing, but a few months later he received a letter offering him a place on the Acting Course at RADA, starting in January 1979, just a month away. That letter swiftly changed the course of his life.

The RADA experience was 'wonderful, exciting and a dream come true'. The building in Gower Street was constantly bursting at the seams with energy under principal Hugh Cruttwell. Some of his contemporaries at RADA were Paul McGann, Column Convey, Guy Henry, Kathryn Hunter, Lizzy McInnerny, and Mary Jo Randle. Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and John Sessions were also knocking around in the building somewhere, as well as countless other extremely talented actors, making it a pretty exciting place to be. Getting to play Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman in his final term was memorable, and when he graduated, Craig was granted the ‘Most Promising Actor of the Year’ award.

Craig went off to the USA immediately after finishing at RADA, in an attempt to break into the world of ‘show-business’ in America. He fairly soon landed his first job on the television soap opera Search for Tomorrow. But in the tough acting environment of New York City, he also performed many survival jobs as a messenger, cleaner and waiter etc. He had stints at several Repertory theatres, such as Hartford Stage Company and Kenyon Festival Theatre in the regions, and also at various Off-Off Broadway Theaters in New York City itself. All in all, Craig was very happy to be finally living the life of a professional actor.

He also yearned to establish himself in the Theatre in England, in spite of all the excitement that New York had to offer . He went back to London in 1984 where he soon found jobs in various repertory companies up and down the Country, playing some notable roles. He then auditioned for the as yet unperformed musical , Les Misérables. After five auditions he was offered a place in the initial ensemble of the now world famous Royal Shakespeare Company/Cameron MacIntosh production. He created the role of Coufourac in the ensemble when the show was first staged at the Barbican in 1985. He then went on to play the Bishop and Bamatabois before being offered the leading role of Jean Valjean, which he played at the Palace Theatre during 1987-88.

In 2006, Les Miserables was to become the world’s longest-running musical, overtaking Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats for that honour. It is interesting to note that some of the initial reviews for 'Les Miz' as it became affectionatly known, were quite discouraging and yet over the years the show has been well supported by a very devoted public. A special performance was given at the Queen’s Theatre in on October 8th, 2006 to celebrate its 2lst year since opening at the Barbican on the same date in 1985.

When Craig finished as Valjean he was offered a season at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which fulfilled another of his life-long ambitions. In the season at Stratford-Upon-Avon he played many Shakespearean roles, and stayed with them to play good parts in other plays at the Barbican. After his season with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he had many offers of exciting roles in a variety of distinguished productions both musicals and straight plays when he played in famous English theatres with renowned fellow cast members.

The new millennium started brilliantly with a year’s contract to play Harry (one of the potential Dads) in the hit musical Mamma Mia! After his stint in this delightful show, he returned to America for a brief sojourn where he was re-united with an old high-school soul-mate. They have since both returned to the UK and are currently living near Cambridge.

Since his re-return to England, Craig has continued to play many diverse roles in the theatre, including the title role in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, and toured in the musical in Footloose, playing both the Principal and Rev. Shaw Moore. He performed several leading parts in the production of ‘Micro Musicals’ at Alan Ayckbourn’s Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. In the spring of 2007 Craig played the part of the Astronaut in a new play, Astronaut From Finland at this year's Brighton Festival. In 2007 he filmed Flooding Mine, an episode of the True Heroes series for the Discovery Channel, playing Ohio coal miner Dan Beam.

More recently, Craig completed an MA in Actor Training and Coaching (with distinction) at Central School of Speech and Drama in London. While there he performed in a 50 year revival of the one-act play When Is A Door Not A Door? by John Arden, in the prescence of the playwrite. He returned to the Bahamas in summer of 2008 to film the ground-breaking Children of God. Upon his return to London, he began a West End run of the Olivier Award nominated Actor-Musician version of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard at the Comedy Theatre, directed by Craig Revel Horwood. Once again returning to the Bahamas in the summer 2009, Craig filmed the forth-coming Wind Jammers, and co-directed while also playing Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, as part of the openning season of the revolutionary Shakespeare in Paradise Theatre Festival in Nassau.

Early in 2010 Craig went to The English Theatre of Hamburg in Germany to play John Cleary in the Pulitzer Prize/Tony Award winning play by Frank D. Gilroy, The Subject Was Roses.

Craig still has a passionate love of acting, and looks forward to the many exciting roles to come.

Steve Bennett looks at some of this through his eyes...