McDonald And Dodds | Interview with Catherine Tyldesley (Kate Porter)

Tell us about Kate

This is a character who is leading a double life – she hasn’t always been the woman that she is now or seems to be, and she’s a great actress. She has come from a very different background to the life that she lives now. For me as an actor, it was just an absolute joy to play such a complex character, who is in essence living a lie. At the heart of everything she is striving so hard to be a good mum, but she’s got so much that she’s trying to cover up and she’s trying to move on with her life. She’s really complex and that was the main pull for me on this job. At the heart of it, it’s always character-led writing that appeals to me, which they do so well in McDonald & Dodds.

Was it fun to play such an intriguing woman?

It was an absolute joy to play her. She’s very difficult to figure out, and it’s a fine line playing someone like Kate, because you don’t want to give too much away or reveal too much too soon. Everybody has layers, we’re all like an onion, and as actors we strive for you to see those layers, or to reveal sneaky glimpses of other layers the character is trying to keep hidden, little teasers. So to be given somebody who has had such a past, and is still dealing with so many issues, was just wonderful for me to play around with.

The roles that I enjoy the most are when people do a double take and say, “Is that Cath?” – I love that, that means I’ve done my job properly. The further the character is from me, the more I seem to enjoy a role, so I loved it.

You had to adopt a different accent, was that difficult?

I love accent work. I actually nearly trained as a voice tutor, because they say that all actors need a back-up and I love doing accents, I love studying accents and phonetics, and for me the further away the accent is from my own, the more I enjoy it. When I did the drama 15 Days I did a Cardiff accent, which I’d never done before, and I really like to delve in.

The voice tutor they had on McDonald & Dodds was brilliant as well, she kept an eye on things – if the odd bit of Mancunian was sneaking in then she would let me know! My favourite part of being an actress if the research phase for any character, so it was just brilliant to have the chance to do a different accent, as well as playing someone so complex.

How did it feel to act opposite one of your idols, Siân Phillips?

The whole cast was an absolute dream to work with but I’ve admired Siân since forever! She’s one of those actresses – I just aspire to be even a patch on her, she’s absolutely fantastic. I would stand at the back of the set sometimes, watching her work and it was like a masterclass, she’s just incredible.

I must admit, when they told me that Siân was doing that role, I was a bit intimidated. If you’d asked me to compile a list of actors that I wanted to work with in my lifetime she’d have been on there. I love her theatre work, her CV is insane and I’ve just recently finished reading her autobiography, which made me love her even more. But even though I was intimidated at first, she’s so warm and witty, so you feel comfortable as soon as you meet her, and she’s a very generous actor with what she gives you on set.

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It was wonderful to see Jason (Watkins) again, because we did Trollied together and I adore him, and of course Alan (Davies) is hilariously funny. So, I was very lucky on this job, we had a blast!

Is it fun to play a guest role on a long-running series?

Yes, it’s a completely different experience – with something like Corrie I had time to constantly explore the character, that was seven years of an ever-evolving story, but it is lovely to come in as a guest, especially when the show is so well-written and the cast is so welcoming. I’d never been to Bristol or Bath before where we were filming, and I fell in love with both cities.

You were filming in the early days of your pregnancy, was that challenging?

The team was so accommodating! I’d just found out I was pregnant when I got the job, so when I went for my costume fitting we had to change all the costumes. Luckily, they were so well prepared and found me lots of floaty dresses. Normally I’d have a few cups of coffee during a filming day, but you can’t do that when you’re pregnant – I was limited to one in the morning and wondered how I’d get through it, but the team were brilliant and I could have a little lie-down on my lunch break.

The producer, Rebecca was absolutely fantastic because I was quite sick on some of the days we were filming, and I was so well looked after. We got through it as a team, they were on hand with a ginger biscuit whenever I needed one! Alan (Davies) was very understanding – there were a couple of times when I was retching after a scene and he was just so caring and lovely, everyone was, it was great.

How did you find working through pregnancy?

I was working up to three weeks before I gave birth. I did as much as I could, but towards the end it was harder – one of the jobs was London-based and my manager told the production they’d have to come up to Manchester because I was ridiculously huge and ready to drop!

I do feel our industry is getting so much better – years ago you wouldn’t mention the fact that you had children in case it went against you, but I feel like production teams are much more accommodating nowadays. I’ve got friends that are taking babies on set, who are expressing in their trailers in between takes, and that is wonderful. I’m so grateful that things are changing, and the theatre world is changing too with directors really trying to accommodate men and women with children. That’s where we need to be.

I think the more life experience that you have of any kind makes you a better performer, and having children brings a bucket load of brand-new emotions – your emotions are heightened too, and probably slightly easier to access. My drama tutor at theatre school was phenomenal and he always said to do as much as you can in life – read as much as you can, go to as many places, because the more things that you do, the better actor you are with all this life experience.

Do you enjoy crime dramas in your house?

We love them, very much so. For me, it’s the suspense and the constant guess work I enjoy, and you feel a little bit like a homebased detective. You put your own detective hat on and you’re convinced you know what’s going to happen but you end up being wrong 90% of the time! It’s that compelling writing that draws you back. There are a lot of crime dramas – some people say there are too many, but I don’t think there are, they’re all so different and brilliantly done.

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McDonald & Dodds is at the top of the pile for me because it has the comedy aspect as well, it has that light and shade and I think that’s why people come back to the show. The writing is so brilliant and it has that age-old Agatha Christie recipe that works so well, it keeps you intrigued from the start of the programme to the very end, and it’s brilliantly directed and produced.

Would you like to play a detective in a crime series?

I would love to play a detective – I’ve got my mac at the ready and I’m good to go! I was in talks about a new series last year that was detective-based. Fingers crossed I’ll get to play a role like that one day because it is something that I would love to do and there’s plenty of them around. But it’s all about variation with me – as long as my career is varied then I’m happy. I’d hate to get stuck in a rut playing the same character, that isn’t what I’ve signed up for. As long as the characters are varied and interesting then I’m in.

Are you good at guessing what will happen in whodunnits?

Sometimes, but genuinely the writing is so good on McDonald & Dodds that I couldn’t call which way it was going to go and that’s what you want really – if you do guess the right person then you’re almost a bit disappointed that you’ve done it. So as soon as I’d read the script, I knew I needed to do this show.

What’s next for you?

My agent is still sending me things since I’ve had Iris, and I love being a working mum, so I take every day as it comes. We’re doing a sketch show at the end of June but it’s up north and I’m taking Iris on set with me, and there’s a couple of other jobs at the end of July. As a family, if we can make a job work then we will, and if not then it’s not meant to be. I love my job so much, so Iris just comes everywhere with me – we’re producing a couple of shows at the minute and she came on set the other day and was as good as gold – everyone fell in love with her!

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.