Cold Feet makes a surprise return to ITV on Monday 5 September 2016 at 9.00pm, here star John Thomson talks about the show coming back and why the time was right.
Mem TV: Why is now the right time to return to the Cold Feet characters?
“There was talk of Cold Feet coming back around five years ago. For various reasons it didn’t come together. But now is a very good time for it to return. There was no recession when we did Cold Feet the first time around. Everyone was on a relatively even keel. Times are different today.
“Also after the doom and gloom of recent months it will be nice for people to seek solace in something they know and loved from before. But you can also come to Cold Feet fresh, without having to know too much background. It’s self-explanatory. The problems they’re experiencing aren’t necessarily just late fortysomething problems. They are people problems.”
Mem TV: Was it difficult recapturing the cast chemistry?
“Not at all. It just happened. It’s been a joy working with everyone. I relished every single minute. Because we all get on. And it shows. You pick up where you lem off. Like old friends who haven’t seen each other for a while do.
“The script read-through before we started filming was the most nerve-wracking thing because it’s not a natural situation. There’s a lot of people at that initial meeting. Every head of department and his brother. It’s a daunting prospect.
“Also, the first day of filming is always a bit nerve-wracking. Especially if you’ve not worked for a bit because your brain is not trained for the lines. If you’re a jobbing actor and are going from job to job, your brain gets into such a good rhythm for learning. I hadn’t had too long off work but the first day is always nervous.
“And then three weeks later, Jimmy, Robert and me were filming a scene in the pub and Jimmy said, ‘How weird is this? It feels like a few weeks ago we did this. Not 13 years.’ And I went, ‘It’s great, isn’t it?’
“We don’t hang out together. I’m in Manchester and we’re spread all over the place. We’ve got families now as well. That’s the big difference this time. We’re not as free. That’s why we filmed the new series of Cold Feet over five day weeks because it was very manageable to have a family life and work.
“If it had been six days it would have been impossible. I don’t think Hermione or Fay would have done it and I would have struggled. That was one of the things that had to be in place, five day weeks. Because back in the day none of us had kids.”
Mem TV: Asked several years ago where you saw Pete if Cold Feet returned, you replied, ‘I’m half the size I used to be, so probably down the gym with a beautiful model for a wife and splitting his weekends between Didsbury and Monte Carlo.’ It hasn’t quite turned out that way for him?
“No. I’m devastated! When I finished the last series of Cold Feet I was huge. I saw a clip recently of Rachel’s funeral and I couldn’t believe how big I’d got. I’m a bit more mindful about what goes in my body these days. So I am half the size but sadly no model or Monte Carlo for Pete.”
Mem TV: What happens to Pete?
“Pete’s storyline is huge. Because I’m sober – 10 years this Christmas – I think they knew I was no maintenance. Not low. No. When they realised that they made sure I had something meaty to try and deal with to see if I could handle it. And I have.
“There is, of course, light and shade in Cold Feet but a little more shade for Pete this time which was tough to play. There were days when I’d go home and I would be just washed out because of the emotion and the scenes, some of the stuff I had to do. I found it quite hard. I saw a little bit of one scene where they screened a tease at the wrap party. The room went quiet.
“For me, it’s been a fantastic opportunity. I didn’t anticipate Cold Feet coming back. I feel blessed to be able to play Pete again and be given such amazing storylines. I couldn’t be happier.
“Even though I’ve done five series of Cold Feet before, people ask, ‘Have you ever thought about straight acting?’ And I think, ‘Well, what’s Cold Feet then?’ Unless they mean Hamlet. I don’t know!”
Mem TV: Did you draw on some of your own life experience to play Pete’s story in this series?
“Absolutely. Oh God, yeah. With the ups and downs of my life there was a lot I could draw on. It was useful. The Americans don’t admit they have off days. That’s why they’re all in therapy. It was good. But it’s nice for me because my pedigree is comedy and it’s expected of me. I think it’s a very personal storyline to the writer Mike Bullen. He’s delighted with what I’ve done, which is great.
“There was huge amount of pressure on us to deliver in so many different packages. When I saw that first episode on screen I thought it was excellent and it did make me cry. Because of the emotion of the show. It was so well acted by everyone it got me a couple of times. I just shot off amerwards because I was overwhelmed. I felt we had achieved what we wanted to achieve.
“It’s more than just the fact of doing a good acting job. Did it gel? Is it true to what the fans want? All these different things. So when the first episode screening finished I was like, ‘Oh God, yes. I think they’ll be happy with that.’ That was a massive relief. Because we haven’t messed with it. We’ve kept the spirit of Cold Feet and been very true to our original format.
“Cold Feet is not a comedy drama. It’s a drama with comic elements. If you watch it objectively as an ensemble thing, I think it’s brilliant.”
Mem TV: What’s the state of Pete and Jenny’s (Fay Ripley) marriage?
“I think Pete and Jenny are closer than ever. Because they’ve been through so much. Jenny is a stalwart. That’s one of the beauties of this new series. Pete and Jenny are very popular because they’re the average couple. That’s why people identify with them.”
Mem TV: James Bolam plays Harry in this new series. What was it like working with him?
“He was absolutely brilliant. On the money. Word perfect. Just a joy to work with.”
Mem TV: Adam (James Nesbitt) and Pete remain huge Manchester United fans. Did that require plenty of acting on your part?
“A friend of mine saw a trailer for the new series and said, ‘It was you, in a Man Utd strip, drinking a pint. I’ve never seen anything so weird in my life.’ Because I hate sport and I don’t drink! To be doing that, drinking a pint watching football is my absolute idea of hell.
“Pete’s not so great in his choice of clothes. You have to keep things real but at the same time my rule of thumb for Pete is, ‘I wouldn’t wear that.’ The costume people love it. But it’s a bit weird putting football strips on. I wouldn’t be seen dead in one. Even if I liked football. Certainly not every day. I don’t mind people wearing them on a match day. But not day to day.”
Mem TV: Pete is in a cycle race with Adam and David (Robert Bathurst). How was that to film?
“Oh what a day that was. I couldn’t walk at the end of it. It was epic. With Pete in pink Lycra. I have a mountain bike and I do go out on it. That’s fine. You get on your bike, you ride a bit and then you go home. But for filming it was, ‘Right back to the top of the hill and down again.’ People don’t realise how many takes we did. So it was probably 10 hours in the saddle. Despite the fact I had foam reinforced cycling shorts on, I looked like John Wayne at the end of the day.”
Mem TV: Tell us about the Cold Feet children, a visible reminder of how much time has gone by?
“My eldest daughter Olivia is 13 now, around the same age as Pete’s daughter Chloe. Having a 13- year-old daughter really helped. That was easy to draw on. It’s nice to be a dad to be able to play what it’s like. To have that experience and not guess at it.”
Mem TV: David makes a speech about the bleak outlook of his own middle age. Are you as pessimistic?
“It really makes you think, what David says. For me it has a positive effect. Because I don’t want to be like that. I try to live in the moment a lot more these days, spiritually. I’m quite centered. So that kind of fatalist outlook doesn’t really go with my character make-up. Because you’ll never be happy, will you?”
Mem TV: Choices we make in life are also discussed. What different path might you have taken?
“A drummer would have been one. I could have been a full-time professional drummer in a band. And I do love to cook. Despite MasterChef being an absolute disaster, which we won’t go into, I still cook and love to cook. I love food. I’m a real foodie. So catering would have been something I might have liked.
“Something creative, definitely. I’m not a number cruncher. That’s one of the things you realise. When you don’t really identify with people you wonder why. What’s the boundary between someone you meet? And you realise creative people bond very well. Whereas left brains and right brains…I find conversation stilted with systems analysts. You find yourself lost. I’m not socially inept by any standard. But for those people I have to really pull out all the stops because they’re not creative. And I love creativity.
“I’m grateful every day because I do a job I love and I’m paid for it. Not many people have that luxury these days.”
Mem TV: Tell us about the location of the final scene you filmed for this series?
“It was at Salford Boys’ Club, made iconic by The Smiths. I’d never been in the place. I was born at Hope Hospital in Salford and so were my two girls, Olivia and Sophia. Which is great. The maternity ward has gone now at Hope. It doesn’t exist. Sophia was one of the last babies to be born there.
“So I’m Salford-born and I was adopted in Didsbury. It all inter-links. I live in Didsbury, as does Pete. That’s my spiritual home. Just a nice place to be.”
Mem TV: Is Salford’s neighbour Manchester still an important ingredient of Cold Feet?
“Absolutely. As a city it was great 13 years ago. But it’s got better and better. Manchester has changed so much. It’s been massively regenerated and I hope that continues. It’s thriving.”
Mem TV: What happened at the end of series wrap party?
“Because I don’t drink, wrap parties aren’t great. So I said, ‘Let’s try and make it a bit Phoenix Nights-ish.’ We had bingo and a comedy raffle. It was my idea to bring in unwanted gims wrapped in newspaper. The greater the comedic value the better. The bingo went down a storm.”
Mem TV: How do the cast feel about filming another series after this one?
“We’d love to. I don’t see why not.”
Cold Feet, Mondays at 9.00pm on ITV.
The Miniaturist Interviews: Romola Garai
Romola Garai plays Marin Brandt in The Miniaturist, premiering soon on BBC-1, here she talks about what drew her to the drama and being in a costume drama where she pretty much only gets to wear one costume.
What attracted you to the role of Marin?
I’d read the book shortly after it came out and I thought it was a really surprising novel, really interesting and with very strong feminist themes in it, so I was very excited about it. Time passed and then an email popped into my inbox with the subject, The Miniaturist. I thought it was fantastic they were making it and I was really excited to read the script.
It’s a very genre-bending novel; it appears to be like a costume drama we have seen before, but very quickly we realise that it’s not that. It’s about a woman coming into her own in a society that’s very patriarchal, it’s about a love affair, it’s about discrimination, and it’s about people trying to survive in an incredibly controlled state. It’s a thriller and it’s also a story about political and emotional awakening.
Marin is a particularly interesting character, I think she has one of the best arcs. When I first read the book, she was the character that stayed with me, and when I read the scripts I immediately remembered everything about her. She’s told in beautiful detail in the novel, which John has retained in the script. Marin is just a great character to play, it was a real treat.
Tell us about Marin.
When you first meet her, because the story is told through Nella’s perspective, you meet a woman who seems very cold and intimidating. Then gradually you get this drip-feed of information about her; you see she’s been helping Johannes run the business and you learn that they were orphaned at a young age. She’s very intellectual, she’s very well read, and she’s not married, which is very unusual at the time.
One of the reasons I found her such a fascinating character is that she’s full of secrets and she’s layered; very conflicted and has great faith, but also passions. The house they live in is essentially a tinder box of secrets that Marin has been sitting on to try and stop the secrets exploding out. However although it seems she is trying to keep a lid on it I think she believes that they could subtly break all the rules and be free within the house at least, if only her brother stopped acting so recklessly.
Hopefully audiences will question what is driving her hostility towards Nella. Marin needs Nella a lot to maintain the appearance of being a normal household but it’s also very important that Nella is afraid of her so that she doesn’t try digging and discovering the secrets that they are all trying to keep – because if anyone finds out then their futures are ruined.
What was it like doing the scenes between Marin and Nella?
I loved working with Anya, she’s an incredibly accomplished actress. She’s got a difficult job in this, because Nella has to be very innocent at the beginning of the story, which is always difficult for an actor to play, and also more innocent that a woman of that age would be now. She’s constantly making discoveries, she doesn’t have the information that the rest of us do so she’s always learning new things, and she’s done that with real beauty and subtlety. I really enjoyed doing all our scenes together.
Tell us about Marin’s costume.
Marin only had one costume until a very late stage of the story. Her costume is typical of the puritan values of the period which rejected anything that smacked of luxury or louche values. They also didn’t wear make-up in this period at all, certainly not women of this class and station, and the hair was very simple and scraped back. Her head would have been covered at all times, so I had a black cap that I wore, but to be honest when I wore it I couldn’t really hear what anyone was saying and also talked incredibly loudly because I couldn’t hear myself, so essentially I was shouting at the other actors!
What makes The Miniaturist stand out from other period dramas?
I’ve done lots of historical pieces but there’s something very unusual about this. When you do contemporary novels set in the past the writers are able to do a lot more, and tackle complex themes which writers writing at the time weren’t able to do. More than that, it’s interesting in that it explores a number of different genres. It has elements of a thriller and then it becomes a family drama and then it becomes a polemic about what happens in societies that are so controlling.
I hope people will sit down to watch the show because it’s a pretty costume drama and will be surprised that it is actually rebellious and constantly bringing up important issues – and that they’ll be so engaged they won’t be able to look away.
Trust Me Interviews: Sharon Small
Interview with Sharon Small, who plays Dr. Brigitte McAdams in new three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs this August on BBC One.
What attracted you to this project?
I liked the character and the premise of the piece – I don’t think we’ve seen this before. And everyone is like an armchair detective, everyone is an armchair actor or doctor, so I thought that people would get off on that and think, gosh what would I do in that circumstance? The audience are the people who are privy to the truth and not us. With my character, Brigitte, I like her neediness, her sassiness – she’s fun and quick-fire talking – and quite honestly I rather fancied myself as a doctor [laughs].
How would you describe your character?
Brigitte is a good person; she’s sassy and is a really good doctor. She has got some issues, but she is trying her best to run this ward and with great intentions, which I think a lot of NHS doctors are.
How did you prepare for the role?
I grew my hair so that I could tie it up – normally I have short hair. We had a fantastic medical training day with Dan and got to do airways and cannulas and stitching and things like that, I loved that. The most important thing for me was to go around the actual A&E department (or ED department as I now know it’s called) in Edinburgh. We met this fantastic doctor – just watching him and really getting to observe what goes on in a ward, the dynamic, what people do and noticing that people are always looking at folders, everyone’s always collaborating and talking to each other. Everyone is always moving around, a lot more than you think and not that quickly. It’s less dramatic than you think.
Is your character challenging to play?
She was. Similarly in something that Jodie mentioned, I had quite a lot of medical jargon to say quite quickly, but I had less of the procedural stuff to do in terms of operational things. As the character is more and more revealed I had to make sure that I took care of how that happened, and that it was subtly done.
What makes a hospital a good arena for a drama?
It’s an ever-changing landscape, a hospital. Every new sort of event that you’re presented with means that you’re having to make life-saving decisions. People’s lives really are at stake, and honestly, my little taste of pretending that I was an ED doctor made me feel quite powerful. If I could fix people so that they survived, that would be an amazing ability.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced so far during filming?
Saying the medical words Metronidazole – Met-ron-ida-zole, Metron-i-dazole – and trying to make scrubs look even remotely interesting, I don’t rock scrubs like Jodie does, I’m way too curvy for that!
What do you hope audiences will take away from this drama?
I hope that they’ll find themselves in that dilemma of wanting Cath/Ally to succeed, because she’s a good person and she ironically is brilliant at the job. I’m hoping that they’ll see the dilemma that she has, and as you want her to keep succeeding, it means she’s going to keep compromising people as she goes, as well as herself.
Trust Me Interviews: Jodie Whittaker
Jodie Whittaker plays Cath in three part psychological thriller Trust Me which airs on BBC One this August.
What appealed to you about this project?
I was sent the script for the first episode and it fascinated me because it went in a completely different direction to how I thought it was going to. Particularly at the beginning when she’s suspended for whistleblowing and loses her job. It could have gone so many ways, and the fact that she takes on this new identity isn’t the way that I thought it would go. I love the fact that her choices are quite morally dubious – they certainly aren’t black and white. She makes decisions that are quite challenging to justify, even though we know her reasons. I’ve never acted in anything medical before, so it felt completely new.
How does Cath’s lie come about?
Cath starts off by having a conversation with her best friend, Ally, who is a middle grade doctor in A&E and is giving it all up to emigrate to New Zealand. Ally is packing up the life that Cath would have loved to have had, leaving it all behind to go and do something completely different. Suddenly there is an opportunity for her to take on the identity of her friend and in that panic, not necessarily the clearest thinking moment in her life, she does it. Once you set off on a path of lies it’s very difficult to undo it without bringing everything crashing down.
Did you receive any training on medical procedures?
Yes! The writer, Dan, who is also medical consultant and a doctor outside of TV production, showed us a load of stuff that he used when he was training people. He brought in the CPR dummy and showed us how to do a cannula and he, very bravely, let me put a cannula in his vein. I did it right, thank God! Also, YouTube is amazing. The genius of the internet is that you can basically sit at home and Google medical procedures, and TV shows such as 24 hours in A&E, which I watched hours of.
How else did you prepare for the role?
With regards to the technical stuff, we had an on-set consultant so that there was always someone to help when we had to do the procedures. The best thing for me was that my character was also out of her depth and didn’t always know what she was doing, so it kind of covered my own personal fumbles. I’m not someone who likes to over prepare for dialogue scenes, because I think that makes me not listen to what the other person is saying as I’ve already decided how I’m going to do it. It immediately makes it interesting and new and you can’t plan for that, which is great. You can’t ‘wing’ the medical stuff so I had to do my research for that. One of my friends is a Sister in A&E and I sent her a lot of messages asking ‘how do you pronounce this?’ and ‘what does that mean?’, so basically she was my personal medical coach even though she works full time!
Is it challenging playing someone who leads a double life?
Yes, but no more challenging that playing someone who has had something happen to them that I haven’t personally experienced. What’s hard is trying to gauge how good a liar she is, or how in a panic she is. You’ve got to be careful, because you can’t make the other actors seem stupid. These are intelligent, fully formed characters that you’re working with, so it was a fine line of being able to deceive and it not being something that comes easily to her. However, it can’t be that it makes everyone around her feel a bit like an idiot for not working it out. That was tricky, but the director is there to help guide you through it.
Did the uniform help to get you into character?
Yes. It feels odd when you put it on. I did five weeks of studio filming, back to back – all the medical stuff was contained so everything started to become a bit like second nature. The first few times I had to put on an apron, the ‘take’ ended up being about 15 minutes long. Then I worked out that you shouldn’t put the gloves on before the apron! There was lots of daft stuff like that, but you then get into a rhythm. It’s good because it makes you immediately feel like you look the part and then all I had to do was make sure that I knew the lines!
What were some of the challenges that you faced during filming?
I’m not very good with learning dialogue when there are lots of medical terms! I enjoy the adrenaline of being on set because I’m quite good at choreography, I respond well to being taught something physically. That’s why I was terrible at school, because they talk you through things rather than physically show you. I enjoyed doing the different types of surgery as it was fascinating, it’s nerve-wracking but you realise that you can do it. Also, the team who created the props put in so much hard work to make sure we didn’t mess up our bits. I struggled with having massive speeches that involved these medical words. I don’t have a brain for that!
Did you enjoy working in Scotland?
I absolutely loved Glasgow! The crew were phenomenal and the city is wonderful. I could move my family up there and we had a great time as there were loads of brilliant restaurants and everyone was lovely. It was brilliant and I would snap up another job there very quickly, although it does get very dark and cold over winter!
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