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Doc Martin Series 10 | Interview with Jessica Ransom (Morwenna Newcross)



You joined Doc Martin in series five in 2011 as the new surgery receptionist Morwenna Newcross. What was it like joining an established and popular series?

When I first started I auditioned for what I was told was the last ever series of Doc Martin, and now five series later we are making the last ever series of Doc Martin. So I didn’t have any idea that it would be this long a gig. I knew that obviously Lucy Punch and Katherine Parkinson, and particularly Katherine Parkinson because she had been on it for three series and Lucy Punch had done one series, that I had to bring something different to it, but also also fulfil the expectation of what the receptionist does and how she interacts with the Doc. But I think Morwenna as a character has developed over time. I have had more and more to do across the series. We have seen more about her home life, she’s got married to Al and she has a more developed relationship with the Doc. So it has really grown over the six series I’ve been in.

Jessica was already well known on the comedy circuit for her one woman stage shows, and her appearances in the Alexander and Miller Show. But Doc Martin is her first dramatic role on television. This was your debut in television drama after your early career as a comedy actress was it a bit daunting?

This was my first TV drama, so it was a big call and completely different from what I have been doing. I didn’t allow myself the possibility of daydreaming about getting the job at all. I thought it was dangerous to start thinking, ‘I will go and live in Cornwall for four months, it will be wonderful’.

Coming onto something like this, which is established and popular, was quite daunting. Also Lucy Punch and Katherine Parkinson, who played the previous receptionists are doing amazing things, so it felt like big shoes to fill. But everybody was very welcoming.

What was your character like when you first started ?

Morwenna was quite mouthy, didn’t suffer fools, and didn’t mince her words. She has grown up in the village and as a teenager she was a leader of the bevy- the gang of giggling girls on the street of the village, laughing at everything the Doc said and sneering at people, and being a bit mean, but in a lighthearted way, not in a trouble making way.

She lived with her granddad, who she is very close to. Granddad was played by the legendary Peter Vaughan. It was pretty amazing to work with him.

Morwenna was so much fun to play; she had an attitude to everything. But she wanted to stick at a job because she is fed up with being fired for mouthing off.

You quickly had to get used to wearing some extraordinary costumes for the role, along with lots of jewellery and make up which isn’t your own style at all?

Yes and it has – it is still pretty quirky but it is less mad which has come partly through a change of costume designer and partly through I think the character seems a bit more mature. I certainly am older than I was then. I think now it feels less mad. There’s something quite eccentric about the things Morwenna wears but it has definitely chilled out a bit and is less wacky over time.

Do you feel more comfortable about what you have to wear for the character?

I have never really minded because I think it is just really fun to dress up and to wear things you’d never wear yourself. I probably have more things I feel self conscious about now than I did then. I have had two children since I made that first series so certainly I feel now I can say ‘that would suit me better than that’. It has always been collaborative with the costume designer. We would get our heads together about Morwenna’s costumes. They have definitely evolved over time.

At the end of series will you be taking home any items from Morwenna’s wardrobe?

I have my eye on a couple of things. There’s a slightly eggy thing I always think as an actor you have worn something lovely in a show as an actor, if you wear it in real life people are going to think ‘oh there she is, desperate to be recognised’. Of course nobody cares or notices, but I feel self conscious wearing things I’ve worn on telly.

Morwenna has worn some pretty extraordinary outfits: little tiny hot pants and things that are quite far away from me. She is not someone who worries particularly about clashing colours. She always wears more jewellery than is necessary, and lots of flowers in her hair.

How did you master the Cornish accent?

Sheffield born Jessica went to Birmingham University before moving to London to start her comedy career, writing her own material for one woman shows. She met her boyfriend Ben Wilson while they were at university, and he is also in a comedy sketch group. Ben proposed to Jessica in February 2011 and they married in Sheffield at the end of September that year. The couple live in London but share a dream to live by the sea one day.

You faced another challenge when you started working on Doc Martin: arranging your wedding. You were writing your wedding invitations during breaks from filming.

While I was working on that first series of Doc Martin I was planning our wedding and going back to Sheffield for food tastings and to sort out my wedding dress. I sat in my trailer on set writing out the wedding invitations.”

Since the first series of this, I have got married, I have moved house three times and I have had two children, so life is really different. Because it has been across 11 years and if they give you a year off you are going to have a baby. So things have changed, but a lot is the same, and also it feels like it has been part of of my life for such a significant part of my life.

Jessica’s first son Frank, six, was born in 2016 between series 7 and 8, and second son, four year old, Arthur was born in May 2018 between series 8 and 9.

Will you miss Cornwall?

My boys will miss it, just as much as I will. Frank was here for a series when he was one, and when he was three, then I had Arthur. This time because they have been at school they are both at home in London but they are here for the whole holidays. They know where I work, and they know Cornwall, and that it is not just a place where you go on holiday, but it is where I work and where I have been living for part of this year. So it is going to be a big thing for us to all not to have this ready made period of time where we are forced to spend time in a beautiful place. We have done all the touristy things in Cornwall, and now if people come to visit we know what a gold standard lovely weather day out is, we know wet weather days out are, we know where we are going to take people to eat. I am going to miss doing all those things.

Would you come back to Cornwall for a holiday?

We will definitely come back because Port Isaac is such a lovely place. Imagine if I hadn’t got this job we would never have known about this place. I think what is different about coming for a weekend or a week’s holiday is you don’t get those lovely interactions you get from being here for a long period of time, like with neighbours, people in the shop, people in the pub.

You have also found time to take part in Marathons?

I have done seven marathons during the course of the five series. I have done the London marathon five times, as well as York and Brighton. I did the Brighton marathon in April this year when we were filming. I worked the next day and they were such bullies to me, making me move to pick things up when I was in agony. I did lots of running on the South West coastal trail in preparation for each of the marathons. I am not doing London marathon this year, but I will probably do it next year. I have maintained my times.

What happens to Morwenna in series 10

She’s has to find herself new employment with the local estate agent because the Doc is not the Doc when we start the series. It is not a job she enjoys because Samantha Trapp, the boss gives her a hard time despite Morwenna being very efficient and good at the job Samantha really tries to test her. She ends up coming back to work with the Doc because he has taken on someone who is not very good, and she steps in to save the day and sort out reception really quickly. He asks her to come back but she makes him work for it a bit, she’s not just going to bow down to him.

She and Al are happily married and living together. Bert comes to live with them and it’s like having a great big child. It is really like Al and Morwenna are Bert’s parents.

What are the highlights and memorable moments of the last five series?

Doing all the stuff rowing was amazing because we were out on a boat for a day. Crashing on a life boat when we were out on the south coast of Cornwall with Dan Ryan and Robyn Addison. Getting married and having a big wedding on the Platt that was pretty wonderful. The big outdoor scenes even though I will miss being in the surgery, those big adventure things have been really fun to film.

Had you done rowing before?

I had been out on the gigs because Port Isaac rowing club let us have a go, but this meant we got to take it quite seriously, as I did. That was great fun.

Is there a favourite personal moment you will never forget?

There is a bit filming Christmas where we were doing a night shoot on the Platt and it was night time and it was February. The Christmas lights were up and it was really amazing because I had never seen the village look like that before because obviously we are here through the Spring and Summer months. So doing a scene with Joe on The Platt at Christmas time was really special.

What will you miss about Doc Martin and Cornwall?

What I will miss is the people and being in a really familiar and comfortable working environment. Every thing becomes that over time, but we have been doing it for so long you feel really at ease and you feel you can be at your best because you are really well supported and everybody knows each other and it is – obviously there are times when there is pressure to get things finished, but it is all in such a comfortable environment because you know everybody. We all go to the pub together on a Wednesday. On days off when you are in the village for the weekend you see a load of people from work on the beach or in the pub – it is just that sense of community that you don’t get on anything else. It is really special because you don’t just go home, after a day’s filming, you are here and everyone becomes part of the community and the crew and cast have their own community. I have got to know people in the village from being here. This area is just so beautiful. You can sit and look out of the window, and look at a scene and think I don’t need to put the telly on because I can just look at the nice view, even when it is chucking down with rain. The scenery and getting to know all the quirks, having a favourite spot on the beach or knowing what time of day is best to go swimming in the sea.

What souvenir of Port Isaac would you take back to London with you ?

I am going to steal the painting next to Morwenna’s desk, don’t tell anyone. It is a horrible painting of a dog next to my desk that has been there all the time. I have spent so much time looking at it I’m going to have it. I think that would be a nice memento. We have got lots of Port Isaac things at home. My children have brought home most of the beach, I’m always finding stones and shells in my pockets.

You have said that you and Ben would love to live by the sea, is it a dream that could be realised?

I think it is a faraway dream. I love being here, but I think our life is in London. We really like where we live, but that doesn’t mean we won’t miss it here, an awful lot.

Will it be a sad moment when you film your last scene?

I am going to be an absolute mess. I don’t really know – it is so weird, you think ‘it is just a job, it is just ending the people are still here and the place is still here. But I got sad when I did my last scenes in previous series I suppose because we haven’t necessarily known that it was coming back But it does feel very different this time, it feels very final, so it’s going to be a tough day. I am taking one day at a time. We are all making lists of what we need to do before we finish; we need to eat there, and see these people. It feels like the sands of time are slipping away now it is about to stop. The last scene is all of us together.

Will you keep in touch with everybody?

Yes I have kept in touch with lots of people between series anyway. I have already got really close friends from this job, and hopefully they will still want to talk to me when it is over.

What’s next for you?

I am filming Horrible Histories pretty much straight after this, and that is another thing I have been doing for a really long time. It is nice to go onto something else that is so familiar with people I know. It is a very different thing, it is made in London and you don’t get the scenery or the luxury of time that you do on Doc Martin.

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