Marcus Garvey on Wolfblood series 3, Broadchurch, David Tennant, Buffy, Chocky & more….

Interview Louisa Mellor 20 Nov 2013 - 07:00

We chatted to the very affable Marcus Garvey about Broadchurch, Wolfblood, children's TV, and his love of Buffy The Vampire Slayer...

Marcus Garvey is a tall and funny man. The first part doesn't come across as much as the second on the phone (which is where I spent a very enjoyable half-hour chatting to him about his parts in Broadchurch and Wolfblood) but it is borne out by his roles. Policemen and comfortingly daft dads are Garvey's self-described speciality so far - hapless, affable types who can deliver a punchline and make you a brew.

I say we chatted about Broadchurch and Wolfblood, in which Garvey plays, respectively, Pete, the ineffectual Family Liaison Officer assigned to the Latimer family, and Daniel Smith, father to Maddy and Wolfblood in his own right. That we did, but it was via his childhood terror at Chocky, the sexism of the Carry On films, his deep-seated love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and subsequent joy at working with Anthony Head in Gold comedy You, Me & Them this year), and more than a few jokes about whittling.

He's almost too easy to talk to, Garvey (incidentally, the brother of Elbow frontman and BBC Radio 6 DJ, Guy). I merrily ran over my allotted slot without noticing because I was having such a nice time. To thank him, then, let's end this intro with an appeal: please Mr Chris Chibnall, write Pete into Broadchurch series two. Whatever harrowing events go down in the second run, people are always going to need a brew...

I was planning to speak to you mostly about Wolfblood and Broadchurch, but looking into what else you’ve done, there’s a ton of great stuff. You’ve been in almost every great UK comedy of the last few years, The IT Crowd, Peep Show, Psychoville, Four Lions

Thank you very much. I’ve popped up and shown my face and done the odd thing, yeah. I kind of fell into it. I really don’t know how it happened. I’d gone up to the Edinburgh Festival a few times and done comedy shows up there and I don’t know, I seem to get called upon to be daft for a living, which I really can’t complain about.

Four Lions must have been great…

I think Four Lions was the big thing. I seem to get a lot of work as policemen.

I was going to comment on that! You are TV’s go-to policeman. You must have a kind of judicial, reassuring air?

I don’t know. I’m tall, and when you shave my beard off I’ve got a surprisingly young face and they do say that policemen get younger every year, so maybe that’s it. I do come from a family of policemen as well, I’ve got three bobbies in the family.

So you’ve internalised that whole legal justice thing?

[laughs] Well, depending on your viewpoint I might have internalised an air of incompetence.

That leads us into Broadchurch nicely doesn’t it, as your character, Pete [the family liaison officer allocated to the Latimer family] isn’t the most effective copper in the world. Or is that an unfair thing to say?

[Laughing] No, he was the most inept policeman in the world. It was a joy to do. I had no idea how big it was going to be, because I have no idea when I read a script about how it’s going to turn out, so I was thrilled that it did well. Also, I’m one of the few characters in it who… I mean, it’s such heavy matter, it was nice to be the light relief in something like that.

Pete just wanted to make cups of tea didn’t he? That was his only solution to the Latimer family's tragedy.

Tea and toast. Constantly eating toast, or pies that had been made for the family, I was having them. I didn’t have the Broadchurch accent. I kept my own accent, so maybe it was saying something about Northerners and pies.

An insidious Southern bias! From evil genius Chris Chibnall.

[Laughing] I’m not going to call him evil because I believe he’s writing the second series at the moment and you never know. My fingers are crossed that Pete’s going to make a comeback, if only to pop his head in and say ‘Brew, anyone?’ So yeah, fingers are crossed for that.

Perhaps Pete could come into himself in the second series, he could show some hitherto unrevealed heroism?

[Laughs] “Unrevealed heroism” He might. No, I don’t think he will. I think if he is there, he’ll be there in the capacity of eye-rolling, ‘Oh, not Pete again’. But I’m more than happy to do that, more than happy. I mean it would be nice of course to chase down a criminal and roll across the bonnet of a car and that kind of thing, but chances of that are very, very slim.

So you’re waiting to hear about Broadchurch series two?

I haven’t heard anything, but then again I didn’t hear anything about series one. I was given my scenes, so I didn’t know who the killer was. I had my own theories but everyone was saying to me, oh, you must know, you must know, and I genuinely had absolutely no clue who it was until the end.

What were your theories on who the killer was, before you found out?

I got who it was. I got that about episode five or six, something twigged. I think everybody did know. I only had a few scenes with a very limited number of characters, it was mostly with the two investigators and the family, so I didn’t really know the rest of the characters. Kind of like with The Killing, my theory changed as I started watching it. I never thought it was going to be the dad, because Andy Buchan’s just too much of a lovely man. I never thought it was going to be him, but I was very happy with the outcome. What I liked most about it was that the last episode wasn’t like a cliff-hanger up to the last two minutes, you found out who it was fairly early on in the episode, and then it was about how people dealt with it, which you don’t often see in a drama. I thought that was really cleverly and nicely done.

I reviewed it at the time and I remember it feeling as if we’d all got a bit carried away with the whodunit aspect. I was offered a press tour of the locations at one point and I was all ready to go and pose, grinning with my thumbs up in the place this fictional kid’s body had been discovered, then I had a word with myself and thought, it’s not really appropriate for a show about child death and grief.

Very tasteful. Very tasteful. You’re absolutely right, people did get caught up in the whodunit, though I don’t think that people’s performances were overlooked because of that. Pauline Quirke was just incredible. I absolutely loved her performance in it. And Snidey Nige [Joe Sims], the plumber…

We called him Crossbow Nige

Of course. That was the worst thing about it. It’s all about a little ten year old lad who’s been murdered, but the minute Nige kidnapped a dog and aimed at crossbow at it, people were up in arms. You can’t do that do a dog – you can murder a kid, but you can’t do that to a dog.

Nige was just absolutely fantastic. It was absolutely chock-full of great people – of course, David [Tennant] and Olivia [Colman], who are just incredible. It was lovely working with them. Talking about the heavy subject matter, on set, we just laughed, we laughed a lot.

Really? Because it was pretty harrowing stuff some of it. That didn’t bring the mood down on set, then?

No, not at all. Everyone was… not dicking about, because we had a job to do, but we were certainly having a giggle in between takes. It’s one of those things, when you’re doing a comedy, in between takes it’s usually quite serious because everyone is trying to work out the best way to get a laugh, whereas in a heavy drama like that, everybody’s having a laugh because they’ve got to laugh because otherwise… you don’t want to be wading through that all day, you want to be able to have a little bit of release I suppose.

Little windows of levity. The drama itself wasn’t without comedy too, I mean, in addition to hapless Pete eating pies, the memory of Olivia Colman threatening to piss in a cup and throw it at David Tennant sticks out in my mind as a really cheering moment.

[Laughing] And also – I was talking about this the other day – when Brian SOCO [Peter De Jersey] tried it on with Ellie [Olivia Colman's married character]. On set, whenever he rustled in - bless him - there was one scene where he came in wearing his white overalls and people on set were going ‘Brian SOCO!’. As soon as he tried it on with Olivia’s character, I turned and went [in an admonishing tone] ‘Dirty Brian SOCO’ and then I think David Tennant said it about five minutes later ‘Dirty Brian SOCO’.

In that accent!

[It’s been cut for your sakes, but about twenty seconds of the two of us repeating the phrase ‘Dirty Brian SOCO’, and then a Taggart-style ‘muhduh’ in dodgy Scottish accents followed. Marcus Garvey’s Taggart impression, it has to be said, is pretty good.]

Tell us about working with David Tennant on Broadchurch. It was lots of fun and jokes then?

Yeah. He’s so focussed. The thing was, Olivia, when she was doing her takes, did it very, very naturalistically and she occasionally stumbled over lines or she’d say not exactly the same line every single time, but David Tennant was a master class. He nailed it and he knew what he was doing at all times, and even when he wasn’t on camera. Sometimes you have to do takes where the dialogue that’s spoken can’t be heard, so you have to almost mime, and he was spot on every single time. That was incredible, because I’m fairly slipshod [laughs] and occasionally a bit crap at stuff like that, but he was amazing, he was on it.

Just a pro

A consummate professional.

Had you been a Doctor Who fan beforehand?

Funnily enough, I never watched it as a child. I wasn’t allowed to watch it, our mum was very careful about letting us watch stuff that might give us nightmares, probably because she wanted an easy life and she didn’t want to have to get up in the middle of the night looking after a nipper who’d had a bad dream, which is fair enough.

Doctor Who was genuinely terrifying for me as a kid. There seemed to be a lot of family television that was terrifying when I was a kid, so I never really watched it until it came back with Chris Eccleston, and then I saw pretty much every episode and I enjoyed it a lot. I think they’ve done a very good job with that. They’ve made a family show that can be watched by the family and isn’t too ridiculous for adults to enjoy and isn’t too adult for children to enjoy.

We weren’t allowed to watch Coronation Street as a kid, but I think my mum was just being snobby about ITV rather than worried about us having nightmares.

I wasn’t allowed to watch James Bond. I wasn’t allowed to watch Carry On

Carry On?

Yeah, Carry On. It was too sexy and inappropriate. And you know what? I watched one now and it’s unbelievable what they get away with. I don’t think so much that it was to do with there being allusions to knockers and bums and stuff like that, but that it’s rampant with sexism, and my mum’s fairly switched on and right on. I wouldn’t want my kids watching Carry On. Apart from anything, I don’t find it that funny.

Fair play to your mum.

Speaking of consummate professionals, all this stuff about family television and the messages in film and TV shows has just segued beautifully into Wolfblood. You’re doing my job for me. Now, I don’t have kids, but I think it might almost be worth having them just so they could watch Wolfblood. That’s how big a fan I am.

[Laughs] It’s really weird, in the last week I’ve been approached by three people, all of them were adults, two of whom said they loved watching Wolfblood with their kids, and that it was the one show that they can all sit down and enjoy together. One of them said that their daughter even saves it on the iPlayer just so she can watch it with her mum, and I loved that. I genuinely loved that because I love being a part of something that touches that kind of audience.

Talking about Carry On and sexism and the messages in the TV and films we watch as children, with Wolfblood, I enjoy the story, but part of my love of it is that I really admire the politics at its heart. It doesn’t overshadow the story, but it has some very strong messages about what girls can do and be, and how they relate to one another and so on. It feels very positive.

Absolutely, it’s interesting that many of the male characters in Wolfblood are almost buffoonish. You’ve got Mr Jeffries [Mark Fleischmann], the teacher.

Aww, love him.

He’s not particularly switched on though is he? I think he’s kind of the adult that the kids run rings around. Then there’s me playing the dad, who is a big daft dad. I do a good line in daft dads as well, policemen and daft dads I do very well.

You’ve got the market cornered in those

I’m hoping. One day I’d like to combine the two, but that project has yet to arise.

It’s absolutely jam-packed full of strong women, that show, and that’s something that [creator and writer] Debbie Moon’s done really well. I don’t want to invoke the ghost of Joss Whedon and Buffy, but it’s a similar thing to that. In Buffy, it’s strong women all the way through. There are very few weak characters in Buffy and it’s the same with Wolfblood. Maddy [Aimee Kelly] is a great little character, and it’s an allegory for puberty and growing up and the changes that you have around that time. She’s changing into this wolf and has her first transformation in the first series. I think they do it really, really well.

I completely agree. Why do you say you don’t want to invoke the spirit of Joss Whedon? In the best possible way, his stamp is all over that show. As well as other things, it’s bringing something of Buffy’s brilliance to a young UK audience.

Yeah, absolutely. The only reason I say I don’t want to mention his name is that I don’t want to jinx it.

Oh, I see what you mean!

It’s going so well that I wouldn’t want to compare it to something that – because I do truly believe that Buffy, in the realms of television, especially fantasy and escapism television, I think it was landscape-changing. It never patronised the audience and it never seemed to jump the shark. It delivered week after week and the characters were ace, the storylines were brilliant and the last thing I want to do is jinx Wolfblood by saying ‘It’s as good as…’ We’ve only done two seasons, but as long as it’s reaching a similar audience, I’m more than happy, yeah.

I have a confession to make then. I’ve jinxed it already by writing a thing titled Wolfblood: Buffy for the CBBC generation...

I think I read that!

So I’ve already incurred all the evil jinx-y juju. Sorry about that.

I was thrilled to read that as well, because I’ve just been working with Tony Head doing You, Me & Them and I watched a bit of Buffy - because you know it’s always kind of on the digital channels - when I was doing Wolfblood because it’s a tricky thing to do to be an adult in a children’s drama. I’m not saying that I watched Tony Head and nicked everything he did, but it’s a fine line not to be patronising, not to be too stupid, and basically I’m really glad to have done a similar role to Giles.

To Giles? Respectfully, isn’t Daniel a little bit more of a grown-up Xander?

You’re absolutely right! You’re absolutely right.

Because Giles does actually solve the problems a lot of the time, with research or knowledge or whatever, but Daniel, bless him and Emma - I think they’re fantastic parents and I’d be happily adopted by them - but because of the nature of children’s fiction, it’s the kids that have to solve the crises in Wolfblood, don’t they? You and Emma, by necessity, have to be a bit, as you say, daft and useless.

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. In art, as in life.

My mum once said to one of my sisters when my sister had a child, ‘You’re the frame now, you’re no longer the picture’ which I thought was quite a lovely way of putting it. And I think that’s the job of me and Angie [Lonsdale], who plays Emma. We’re always there in the background, when things get rough, it’s ‘Alright, get the keys, we’re getting in the car’ and we’ll drive someone. It’s good to have that kind of supporting role because every now and then, we have an episode where we have a proper heartfelt with Maddy or Rhydian and it’s lovely to play those scenes, because we might be daft adults who make meat jokes when we’re having a roast, but we’re also there for support. It’s a lovely part to play.

Do you think we’ll find out a bit more about Daniel and Emma’s back-story in series three. What do they do for a living, for instance? Do you have jobs, you two?

Oh yeah, Daniel’s a carpenter. Every now and then you might see him out in his woodshed, and I think there was a scene where we’re all sat in front of the telly and I’m reading a woodworking magazine.

My fault, I didn’t pick up on that!

Oh come on! I was doing my best there! They’ve got some woodworking props on set. There’s a lovely big tree trunk that sits in the front room as a kind of ornament that’s beautiful and there are some really nice wooden boxes, which I’ve since found out they got cheap from TK Maxx, but they look like they’ve been really nicely wood-worked, which is what Daniel would have done.

That answers that question then. How about, because Daniel’s family is meant to have lived in the area for generations…

Oh no.

Why do you say that?

Because you’re going to say my accent wasn’t Newcastle!

I wouldn’t dream of being so rude. I was going to ask about the extended Smith family – uncles, aunts, grandparents…

Thank God you didn’t pick up on the accent. Just to put the accent thing to bed, I think Daniel studied in Manchester, I did my woodworking course at Manchester University and it rubbed off.

Got it

No, there are no aunts and uncles that we know of. I suppose they’ll create them as and when it’s needed.

Like Broadchurch, Wolfblood has just gone over to America hasn’t it, so it’s getting new legs and reaching new audiences. When I spoke to Debbie Moon earlier this year, she said that a film had tentatively been discussed with the BBC. Is that something you’ve been in talks about?

No, no. I’m very much, as with all of my projects and all of my life, the last person to know about any of these things. I usually sit there nodding and go along with it. I wish I was in talks. Ooh. Then I’d be a lot more important than I am. But no, I’m just daft dad, that’s me.

How do you think Emma and Daniel are going to get on in the wild?

Well, I think Daniel will spend his time whittling stuff, and let’s face it, Emma wears the trousers, so she’d be telling me what to whittle.

She’d be dictating the whittling schedule.

I realised I really had to up my game when I met Alun [Raglan] who plays Alric at the beginning of filming for last season. In real life, he is enormous, I mean I’m six foot three, and he’s got at least a couple of inches on me. Either that or he’s stands up straight, but he’s built like a rugby player, he’s huge, and he did a great job of being a villain. He’s an excellent villain and he looks terrifying. That is something I like about Wolfblood as well is that they’re not afraid to put scary things in there because some kids’ dramas these days step back from nasty little shocks. Things that make you go [shudders].

When I was a kid, I watched Chocky, I don’t know if you ever saw Chocky…

[I mishear] Chucky? The Childsplay films you mean?

No, no, not Chucky. It was called Chocky, it was an ITV drama and it was about an alien that visits a boy and if you look up Chocky on YouTube, the opening credits are enough to give you the willies, and the programme itself was a little bit too much, but I’m glad that Wolfblood’s done that.

I think they have to tone Alun down because he was terrifying, so they had to use certain edits that wouldn’t give kids sleepless nights, but he did a really, really good job. With the tame Wolfbloods, we really did look tame next to these wild wolves. All of the new wolves, Jana and Alric, were just brilliant.

You didn’t get a father-to-father stand-off with Alric did you? There was a bit of snarling here, a yellow eye there, but no real throw-down.

No, because he would have took me down to China Town [laughing]. I can drive a car, I can grab me wax jacket and get in the Land Rover.

You can use a lathe

Daniel the spaniel, that’s who I am.

As Maddy’s dad, how would you like to see the romance between Maddy and Rhydian play out?

As Maddy’s dad, I don’t know. Obviously Rhydian’s already part of the pack. It’s a lovely thing, them. There’s an obvious connection between them from the very first episode of the first season, but you can’t play on it, for drama purposes it’s will-they-won’t-they, and when they do finally get it together, we have to quit Stoneybridge. It’s very nicely done and very nicely timed that. In real life, Bobby [Lockwood, who plays Rhydian], I’d absolutely love that boy for a son-in-law, he’s an ace human being.

Finally then, you mentioned working with Tony Head earlier. What was it like as a Buffy fan to go on set with him?

We talked a little bit about Buffy actually. I was really glad that he was going to be in it and that I was going to get to meet him. He did a really good job in Buffy. I mean, the show itself was excellent, but he was excellent as well because he could do serious, he could do comedy, he could do the love interest. Giles’ character went on a really big journey throughout Buffy, starting off as a stuffy librarian and by the end of it, he was a little bit mid-life crisis.

Singing The Who covers in coffee shops you mean?

[laughing] No, I didn’t mean that. I meant that he got a nice shiny red car.

Oh, of course.

But he plays the role of parent really well. Obviously, as Buffy went on and she got older, he had to leave and so she had to take on more responsibility and he came back [adopts official sounding voice] purely in an advisory role. Tony’s ace to work with and very very watchable when you’re recording scenes, when you’re just rehearsing and watching, it’s lovely to work with him.

Had you heard about the spin-off they talked about doing once for his character, Ripper?

Yeah, apparently so.

It seems like a missed opportunity.

Would have been lovely, wouldn’t it? Having a Buffy universe thing set in England and filmed in England, that would have been magical.

Perhaps they could still do it. Featuring a six foot three daft dad-slash-hapless policeman?

Yes! I like the way you’re going with this!

Marcus Garvey, thank you very much!

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