In the lead up to the Jonathan Creek Easter Special The Clue of The Savant’s Thumb, I was privileged to have the chance to sit down and chat to the stars of the episode, Alan Davies, Sheridan Smith and Rik Mayall, along with the creator of Jonathan Creek; David Renwick. Despite all involved being very careful not to give any integral plot points or twists away; for a long-standing Jonathan Creek fan like me, it was a real treat to be able to hear about the close knit bond between cast and crew, along with the crucial thought process that goes behind creating some of the most elaborate and baffling tricks and mysteries on television.
First to chat to Den of Geek was a very animated and glowing Sheridan Smith.
The offers keep coming in for you don’t they, you’re the woman of the moment aren’t you? You’re doing a lot now…
What’s that down to?
I don’t know I am baffled really, I don’t know. I have always just been glad to be working, it’s exciting to have more things coming in but in a way it makes it a bit harder because you don’t know what to do and I want to do everything and it’s not physically possible! I am so grateful and you never know what might happen so like I say I always touch wood! I am very superstitious.
Were there problems making schedules work for this special of Jonathan Creek?
There wasn’t, because we booked this quite a way in advance actually, they knew that I was doing Hedda Gabler up until October or November, then I went to Lancaster and filmed this little Christmas special for ITV which was Panto with John Bishop so we worked it all in. I did this film Powder Room as well but I was literally finishing one evening on set and starting the next one at 6am the next morning, so there were all kinds of different hair changes, extensions in, extensions out, tan on, tan off.
We started Jonathan Creek just a few days before Christmas and then had a little Christmas break so I could see family in Doncaster and then back to carry on with Jonathan Creek. It was so lovely because we hadn’t done it for three years and it was like coming back to a family, it is one of those really special jobs. I had worked with David Renwick on Love Soup years ago, so we’ve known each other for ages and Alan hosted an awards do with me last year, so even though we haven’t done Jonathan Creek for three years we’ve been really good friends. We’ve seen each other but just to have Joey and Creek back together has been great.
The episodes of Jonathan Creek have been quite sporadic and people might think ‘Oh is that still going?’ Do you think that hinders its appreciation?
I think it’s been going for so long and people know it so well, right back to Caroline Quentin who was brilliant, and Julia Sawalha, and then Alan and I have only ever done a special, so I have just done two specials and three years off and now this special. I have never done a full series, and I think a lot of that comes down to David and how much time he needs to think of all these twists and turns; just think of how many episodes they have done and he still comes up with new ideas and new plots, I don’t know how he does it!
It has to remain fresh as well doesn’t it…
Yes exactly, I think the fans are so loyal, when I put it on Twitter that I was doing another one, I got so much feedback, they call themselves ‘The Creek Geeks’ and they all went mad. It’s so lovely for all that and for all of us to be back together, it wasn’t like working every day, it was like going to work with your friends.
Do you know the twist when you are filming it or is that kept from you until the end?
No, we know all along, we know it from the read through. I get terrified of even talking about plot lines. I just know I am going to drop a big clanger and I don’t want to be the one that does it.
Alan Davies tweeted that there are going to be some more specials coming up this year. Are you going to be involved at all?
I am really not sure because I am going to be in the theatre doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, right from September to November so it is whether it is going to be tricky with dates. It’s whether they could make it work really.
You are someone who has gone from drama to comedy and theatre to TV, then back to drama and back to theatre. Is there something you still feel you would like to tackle, is there anything you think you would still like to get your teeth into?
I’d love to say ooh yes I have planned all of that, I do love musicals and I love stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself, trying to avoid being typecast. When I saw Legally Blonde on Broadway, I rang my agent and said ‘I want to be seen for this’ but the rest weren’t big choices really. Hedda Gabler was a phone call offering it to me and as I’ve said before quite embarrassingly, I didn’t know the play, so I didn’t sit there thinking ‘I would now like to tackle Ibsen’. All these things have been just been very lucky really that they have trusted in me.
With so much going on and starting one thing one day and then moving onto something else the next, do you find it hard to make those transitions into different characters?
I’d go from being bright orange, with hair extensions and playing a real Essex girl and the next day I would have a pale face and be completely different. It is a bit weird; you start going a little bit mad. I am just so grateful though to have that level of work and it can be nice, it’s escapism really to be all those characters. It’s when I stop and it’s just me twiddling my thumbs or walking round with my dogs that I start to go a bit mad!
How much downtime do you get then? You can’t get much?
I have at the minute. I’ve got a few weeks off at the moment. I finished Jonathan Creek and then I did a channel 4 thing called Dates, which is a new nine-parter but I am only in two episodes, each episodes follows a different date and different characters. My character is a school teacher, I love playing characters that are so different from me with different accents and things. It’s written by the same writer of Skins. Since I finished that, I’ve been able to go on holiday with my friends, for the first time in ages! I’m trying to hold onto my tan in this weather. I was able to go to Swansea to see all my Welsh side of the family. I haven’t been able to do things like that in ages, so I am really enjoying a bit of time off. I have about two more weeks and then there is a thing… a thing I am not allowed to talk about. A movie thing. Then there is a thing I am allowed to talk about which is going to be in Turkey, called Belly Dancing for Beginners, so I have to learn to belly dance! I will be away for quite a while now, so mum and dad are having the dogs.
What can people expect from this episode of Jonathan Creek that might be a bit different? What’s in store?
We’ve got Rik Mayall back for a start! He is amazing, and Joanna Lumley who is just fabulous and I wanted to curtsey to her every day, she is just so elegant and gorgeous.
Would you say this is a bit darker or is there still a lot of comedy?
There is a lot of bickering and three years have passed. Jonathan Creek has changed a lot in those three years and Joey is the same old Joey, so she can’t quite understand some of the things that have changed. I don’t want to spoil it! It is still very creepy and eerie which is great! There is nothing like it on TV!
Sheridan Smith, thank you very much!
The Clue of the Savant’s Thumb airs on BBC One on Easter Monday the 1st of April at 9pm.
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