McDonald And Dodds | Interview with Jason Watkins (DS Dodds)

Were you excited to play Dodds again?

Yes, he’s such a great character to play, I always enjoy it. He’s such an interesting man – seemingly quite straight-forward, but actually rather complicated and I think audiences enjoy that about him. He’s often the one who you think is least likely to solve the case and yet he ends up having the little bit of insight that cracks it. It’s great to go back to Bath again and it’s always a joy to see what’s happening in the next script.

It’s a nice feeling that the show is finding its audience, it’s sold in 120 different countries now and that’s a compliment to everyone’s hard work. We’re not complacent, we know what the strength of this show is, but it’s a matter of looking after it.

What’s new for Dodds this series?

This time, I think it’s fair to say that he’s embroiled in some of the cases. Obviously, he hasn’t committed a crime, but he’s targeted a bit by the criminals involved. His personal life is being toyed with and for him, as a very private, shy person, that brings in another dimension. So, you’ve got these great crime puzzles but also a strong personal element for both of the characters this time.

There’s such a good opening to this series – you get to see a chase scene through Bath, and both characters are in their element. Dodds is a thinker, he’s not an athlete, so he thinks his way around the situation instead of running down the street like a maniac!

Will we learn more about Dodds?

Yes, we always bleed out little facts about him, trinkets of information. We already know that he was married briefly at some point and he’s always shy and a bit damaged by that. He’s slightly overawed by women in general, he just finds it difficult.

I think what’s great about his double act with McDonald is that they both help each other – she is more emotionally intelligent than him and helps him solve some of his emotional puzzles quite gently. She’s trying to help him have a fuller life because he has boxed off parts of his life and has decided not to have relationships, but she tells him he should. Then he tries to help her with her boyfriend in a paternal way. It gives a great depth to the series and I think audiences really enjoy that.

Any chance of discovering his first name?!

Well, it’s in the great tradition of detective series that you don’t really use his first name! I’ve got a few thoughts – my favourite would be Ken, in lighter moments on set we’ve toyed with that idea. It’s all part of the mystery, you can’t ask his first name, that would ruin everything. I suppose it’s the gateway into the mystery of him as a character. In real life I think a lot of people are very shy about what they reveal, and most people aren’t brilliant socially. We’re not all big personalities, lots of people never know what to say at parties and are a bit tentative in those situations. So, I think the audience likes to see characters like Dodds, who they can identify with and also root for.

McDonald and Dodds have a new boss this series, Chief Superintendent Ormond, played by Claire Skinner – what is her relationship like with them?

She’s very firm with Dodds. It’s brilliant to have such a talented actress like Claire coming in to play this part. Ormond has a connection with McDonald, and she’s rooting for her, there’s a kind of affinity there, but she wants Dodds to come up to speed a bit. I think she touches on Dodds’ insecurities about being near the end of his career. In comes this rather dynamic, incisive new head of the police station and it puts extra pressure on him to be seen to be playing by the conventional rules of detective work, as opposed to his slightly left of centre way of looking at things.

RELATED:   Love Island Tonight Thursday 13 June on ITV2 and ITVX

Do you think he fears for his job?

Yes – I think he always fears for his job. He’s lucky to be in his current position, he got there almost by accident but ended up excelling and having a flourish in his career, simply by solving cases. And I think that led to him being reborn, realising he has a new life ahead of him and that he’s good at what he does. But even when things are going well, he worries about messing up. He thinks it would be easy for the bosses to get rid of him because he’s older and maybe doesn’t fulfil the protocol a younger officer might.

The show attracts excellent guest stars – any favourites this year?

I really enjoyed working with all of them, but Siân Phillips is a national treasure, she was such a joy and brought real gravitas, keeping us all on our toes. One of the great strengths of the series is that it can house lots of different types of actors, and it’s so great to work with these people.

Film two is set in the world of Formula 1 – is Dodds a fan of the sport?

No, he doesn’t understand it at all, but McDonald is really interested in it. It’s so random and brilliant to have a Formula 1 film. Someone dies at the track in a very strange way, they can’t work out how it’s happened. You wonder how McDonald and Dodds can be involved in F1, but a lot of these smaller teams like Aston Martin and Red Bull are based in Middle England, so it’s completely conceivable that you’d have a team based around Bristol. It’s a family run team and a murder happens within it. With the joys of CGI you really feel as though you are there, and it is proper F1, not bumper cars!

I enjoyed F1 a bit as a kid, but my father-in-law Dennis loves it and it was a way of us bonding. So over the years I’ve kept an eye on it and I’ve been to the British Grand Prix a few times. I’ve met Lewis Hamilton and I do find the technological stuff quite interesting. But for Dodds it’s a real learning curve!

Are you bored of eating chips yet?!

I always like the prospect of doing those scenes, because they’re so funny. And it’s so typically Dodds, I know that I’m going to have fun with it when I’m working on those scenes, it’s just as a matter of punctuating the scene and finding the right moment to eat the chips. When you do lots of takes you start to feel it in your stomach a bit. Chips and butter are really nice, but only for the first four or five mouthfuls!

Do you enjoy playing the funnier scenes?

Absolutely, and it’s great having guest stars like Alan Davies who can play the comedy, and Rob Brydon last year. Tala is so fantastic because she’s able to be both funny and serious, and that’s the trick of it really. When a character dies, it’s not to be treated as a trivial thing, someone has lost their life and the family is affected. But the humour comes from the light relationship between McDonald and Dodds, that’s such a great part of the show. They’re very fond of each other – she ribs me a bit, but there’s a real affection between the characters.

RELATED:   Love Island Tonight Tuesday 11 June on ITV2 and ITVX

How has your relationship with Tala developed?

It’s such a joy to work with her, and we often try to surprise each other in big scenes. I’m always impressed with how brilliantly she negotiates those big denouement scenes, she has such a light touch. I hope that I offer things up differently, that I’m not just the same old Dodds every time, we want to keep it fresh. Without getting overly earnest, we do work very hard on the scenes, most days we have a moment where we sit down and talk about the script, and how to get the most out of it, which is a good feeling. It’s always great going into a new series knowing I’ll be working with Tala.

Do you ever suggest storylines for Dodds?

Robert Murphy, who creates the series, is just full of ideas and I know they are starting to have ideas stacked up for future films, but we do have the odd little chat occasionally. And for me it’s just about teasing out little secrets about Dodds’ past, and that really comes out in the first film of this series. He talks about his mother and his upbringing, which allows him to be slightly vulnerable – it’s like he’s in an episode of Long Lost Family, while also trying to solve a crime! That vulnerability also offers emotional insight, which I think is really exciting.

Which locations did you enjoy filming in this time?

In one film, we filmed the denouement scene at the Dundas Aquaduct, which was beautiful and rather epic. It was quite high up but we felt safe! We also filmed at Haynes Motor Museum down in Somerset, which was great, although it was doubling up as a Covid testing centre at the same time as well!

We stay in Bristol and film in Bath, and I love the area, it’s my second home – I’ve worked around there since Trollied and The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies. I’ve got my little routine down there and it’s such a beautiful part of the world, I’m delighted to be filming there. I like doing the accent as well, it makes you feel good when you do it, it’s lovely.

Latest Interviews

News Highlights

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.