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Silly voices? It’s Simples, says Benidorm’s Simon Greenall

IT started as just another voiceover job among many – and led to him hiding on the floor of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chunky Hummer in Los Angeles.

Such is the crazy world of Simon Greenall.

The versatile actor, currently featuring in ITV’s Benidorm, is the voice behind one of the advertising world’s most successful figures, Aleksandr the meerkat.

But Simon says he could never have contemplated the impact the lovable star of the Compare The Market commercials would make.

“Although the agency knew they wanted him to be Russian, it took a long time to develop it,” Simon told in10.

“But we never knew it was going to be such a success. They just weren’t ready for it and hadn’t made enough ads or got enough phone lines for people going mad for it.

“I hadn’t got a clue either. I was in Buenos Aires when it launched and got a call telling me to get to a studio to do more meerkat ads.”

Simon admits he’s hugely fond of the little meerkat and as the CGI has improved over the years he’s in awe of the development, right down to individual hairs blowing in the wind.

Such is the success Hollywood A-listers such as Nicole Kidman and Terminator star Arnie have been tempted to appear alongside Aleksandr and sidekick, Sergei.

While the meerkats are high tech creations, Simon revealed how he found himself providing Alexander’s lines in very down to earth fashion for the former California governor.

“I’d never have imagined I’d be curled up in the footwell of the passenger seat of a Hummer doing the voice while Arnie sang along to I Think We’re Alone Now,” laughs Simon.

“It’s definitely one of my oddest highlights. He looked down at me and said he’d worked with Danny DeVito so was used to working with a little, crazy guy.

“He was lovely and everybody was won over and charmed by him.”

The day after we speak, Simon was preparing for another Aleksandr studio session, this time for the toy launch in Australia.

And even when he was in a play in New York recently he was still doing recordings, not just for the comparison website but for other major UK and global brands.

He’s been in hot demand for 30 years now and his vocal prowess was something Cumbria-born Simon discovered at an early age.

“It was just something I could always do. I thought everybody could do hundreds of voices and slowly realised that wasn’t the case.

“I like money so I went into voice-over work and it’s now second nature to me.”

We’re seeing Simon’s face as well as hearing his voice at the moment in Benidorm.

Regular star Tim Healy took seriously ill and a new character had to be written and cast at the shortest possible notice.

Simon, who had previously auditioned without success for other parts in the sitcom, suddenly got the call.

“They asked which day I got back from New York and wanted me to fly straight out to Benidorm that same day,” he explains.

“But I’d been away for five months so I told them they’d need to give me half a day in London – to get my washing done.”

Simon plays Neville, a pal of Tim’s cross-dressing character Lesley. And it’s not the first time he’s had laughs as an on-screen Geordie.

He was almost-incomprehensible Michael in I’m Alan Partridge.

“I’d been at college with Steve Coogan who was two years below me,” adds Simon.

“I was only told the character’s name and that he worked in the hotel. I decided to make him ex-Army and a Geordie.

“It was the writer Armando Iannucci who suggested I make him almost impossible to understand and that’s what made it funny.

“A lot of it was improvised and the great thing about Steve is there was nothing you could do that would throw him.

“He was never a control freak who would say you can’t do this or that and that made it a brilliant thing to do.”

Benidorm, ITV, Wednesday, 9pm.

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