Recently, Tellyspotting had the great good fortune to sit down with The Coroner Executive Producer Will Trotter and the two main stars of the series, Claire Goose (solicitor/coroner, Jane Kennedy) and Matt Bardock (DS Davey Higgins). Yesterday, we chatted with Trotter and today we sit down with Claire and Matt less than a day before the series 2 premiere Monday at 1415 on BBC1.
Tellyspotting: Executive Producer, Will Trotter, mentioned that when he and creator/writer Sally Abbott sat down to develop The Coroner, the two main characters of Jane Kennedy and Davey Higgins were loosely based on two rather famous actors from the film, Adam’s Rib. When you hear that Spencer Tracy and Katharine were the basis for your characters, it doesn’t put too much pressure on you does it?
Matt Bardock: No, not at all (laughing). No pressure there.
Claire Goose: I think it was actually in the bible that Sally Abbott wrote. She gave us the background on every character and I know that was mentioned in there but I think it’s good to know what someone’s trying to achieve and you just take the character yourself and make it your own. You have too, really.
TS: I know both of you have been in a number of series (New Tricks, Death in Paradise, Judge John Deed, Midsomer Murders, etc) as guests actors. Does it help to either know what a backstory is of the character you are portraying or, if you don’t know, do you try to make one up so that it gives you a sense as to how to portray the character you are doing?
Matt: I think, for me, it’s nice to have a little bit of a backstory especially if it is something that is new to have a chance to put your own mark on it and try to create something new. It’s great to have a bit of both to give you an indication as to where everyone wants to go with it. It’s also lovely to have the freedom to be able to create and bring something of yourself and your own ideas as well.
TS: Looking between series 1 and 2, from a procedural standpoint working with Will and Sally do you get the opportunity to help your character grow? Is there a give and take to where you can say “how about this” or is it just as written in the script?
Claire: For me, it’s a very open communication which is lovely. It’s not something I’ve experienced on many shows where you have that opportunity to have the writer at hand and have a producer and exec producer who are very open to giving you a certain amount of creativity. When you are given a character, there are lots of blanks that have to be filled so I think you have to fill those yourself. There were a lot of questions for me that weren’t answered. We were never told really what happened between Jane and Davey, why they broke up when they were in their teens.
In the first series, we were left with more imagination as to what happened or think what happened between them. I think in series 2, those questions are answered and some of them slightly differ from what I might have had in my head. It’s a very collaborative process and I think, for me, it’s vitally important. I couldn’t be an actor that just shows up and hits my marks and say my lines. It would be very boring. The fun for me is when you put the lines down and then you explore or create something. That’s the fun part.
Matt: I have to agree with Claire. I think we’ve been given a lot of freedom with The Coroner. It’s fantastic to have that opportunity and, also, I think Will said it early on and, I know, chemistry is an overused word but not just between Claire and I but the whole team, the whole crew, everyone involved in it. It’s just a very creative vibe. Whether it’s the location or not, it’s got a very rare atmosphere. We’re very lucky to have landed on that.
TS: As series 1 progressed, audiences were shouting “get together!” Described the on-going relationship between Jane and Davey.
Claire Goose: I think in series 1 there is a definite feeling that her back is up having to deal with Davey. She’s not really sure how to conduct herself around him because although she’s in a very strong position in terms of her work, this is kind of his domain. He’s never left there but she’s been away. She feels a bit like an outsider coming in so she’s sort of got her back up. It’s nice that you see the progression through series 1. They bring out the fun side in each other and I think that’s what really fun. You get a sense of what they were like as teenagers. They were naughty. There are several references to them smoking weed or getting caught having sex in a summer house. So, there’s lots of references to them being quite naughty when they were in their teens.
I think that’s where they bring out the fun side in each other and you can see through that that there is a genuine connection and love for each other even though they can’t be together. They have a lot of fun together and the way they can be together is through their work. I think in series two, what that does is it allows them to be a bit more vulnerable with each other and be a bit more open because they have that time together again.
TS: The strength and importance of the ensemble cast in The Coroner is very evident. The chemistry between the two of you is wonderful but the chemistry of the entire cast is wonderful.
Matt: I definitely agree. It’s definitely a testament to a brilliant casting director in that we were selected and put together. Claire and I had known each other and I had known Beatie (Beatie Edney, who plays Judith, Jane’s mother) but I hadn’t worked with anybody else, certainly never on a day-to-day basis so it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. It’s been a revelation actually because it’s been a genuinely wonderful experience. We were all encouraged to bring something to it, to put a bit of our own mark on it. I think that’s really helped, like I said earlier, to have that creative freedom has allowed all of us to kind of bounce off each other. That comes through in the work. As you say, it’s quite evident. It’s just one of those chemical things.
Claire: And, each of the crew, too. They’re a lovely bunch. I think also, when you are creating something new, the lovely thing is that you are all starting together, you’re all in the same boat, not like previous series where I’ve done Casualty and Matt’s done Casualty where you go into a long-standing show where there had already been people who had been there so many years and you would come in and then go out. What’s lovely about when you start something fresh, you do rely on each other an awful lot more because you are in it together and I think that helps you make a quicker bond as well because everyone has their days where the go “…oh, I don’t really know what I’m doing, I’m not sure this is right” so now you have everyone saying “…what about this” or “…why don’t you try it like this”. It’s a very collaborative and a very supportive environment as well.
TS: Claire, can you look at your role of Jane Kennedy and think of this as being a sort of a role model for young girls?
Claire: Well, hopefully. One of the attractive parts for me is that although she is all these things, she’s also flawed and I think that’s very endearing. It’s very nice to see someone who doesn’t always get it right, who does have problems at home. It’s not all plain sailing for her. She’s moved her daughter from London, her daughter’s not happy about it. She does rely heavily on her Mom to support her with Beth. But, certainly in terms of her tenacity and the way she has kind of taken herself on this path and she was someone who fell pregnant when she was twenty and she was at university and she got herself through university with a newborn on her own as the father left. So, she had a choice.
She could have turned around and gone back home at 20 and said, “Mom, I can do it, I’m just going to come home”. She didn’t. She really pushed herself and that is one of the things I love about her. For that reason, she’s a strong female role model in that sense that she is flawed. I think it’s important we see those flaws. Her relationships are a mess and I think, to her, that’s always been very difficult because she looks back at what she had with Davey and probably looks at that with a bit of rose-tinted glasses and thinks how simple things were back then as a child. She didn’t have any of the outside pressures. But, she’s gone on to have Beth. She’s not great at relationships but she’s very good at her work. I think that’s one of the things that’s very positive in she’s someone to sticks to something and does very well at it.
TS: Have there been scenes in The Coroner or serious moments that have been hard for you to shake when you go home at the end of the day?
Matt: We did one episode that was quite difficult, quite problematic. The story is quite bleak. It centers around a baby and I think that’s one that was kind of the hardest to deal with given some of the images we were filming with. It’s such a powerful episode and I don’t want to say too much about it since it’s in season 2. That one was tough. It generally is the stuff centering around children. That’s been the hardest.
Claire: Like Matt said, anything to do with children since I have children, Matt has children, it’s inevitable that you are going to feel something a bit stronger when you are doing an episode like that. There’s another episode where a teenage girl is killed in a car accident. She’s the same age as Beth and you know the Mom. In terms of playing serious parts, that’s probably the hardest one. And, they are hard because it only takes you a second to try and put yourself in that position and how horrendous that would be.
That’s one of the things I love about the series is that, somehow very cleverly, the writers balance the dramatic side with a slightly lighter side that can lift you out of there. At the end of all the episodes, there’s always a really nice sense that everything’s coming together. Everything’s going to be alright and it always feels like you’re putting everything to bed quite often with those final scenes ending on a good note, on a high instead of dwelling on what’s gone before.
Matt: I agree with that. We always have a sense of hope at the end of every episode and that’s really important. It runs through the entire series and I think it’s really important to hang on to that.
TS: You both have done a fair amount of theatre. Does theatre help you doing television or vice versa. Are there things you learn from one that helped the other?
Matt: Well, I’m back in the theatre now and I’m finding the process quite hard, actually. The process is very different in terms of speed. With television, you have to hit the ground running. You don’t get a lot of rehearsal time, you have to have it in your pocket before you’re on set and you have to sort of go to work and your working through a lot of scenes, you get up the next day and you’ve got a different scene, different location. You’re probably shooting out of sequence. It’s a very different set of skills. Theatre, now, gives you the opportunity to explore, try things out, fail, it’s live so I would say the disciplines are different, very different. I find it harder to drop back into the theatre than doing television and film, which is something I’ve probably done a lot more of. Mainly a different set of skills for me.
Claire: You work at a much faster pace. You’re working on the minute details in television quite often. You’ve got the camera in close focused on something very small. With The Coroner, a lot of scenes are only a page long or not much longer than that. You’re having to convey an awful lot in a short period of time. With theatre, you working on a much bigger scale. It has the fluidity because, naturally, with theatre you’re telling the story from beginning to end and you don’t have that in television.
I do miss that in television. I like working through from start to end and you don’t do that in television. Theatre allows you to explore stuff. It’s a lot braver, I think. Maybe it’s I do a lot more television than theatre so it’s a lot scarier doing theatre. The rehearsal process for me, once you’re on stage, that’s the fun part because you pretty much got what you want and you get to play with it every night.
Matt: I’m doing a George Bernard Shaw play at the moment and some of the sentences are a page long.
TS: In your available spare time, what do each of you watch? What do you enjoy watching?
Matt: I’m working my way to the last season of Tremayne. I love boxed set stuff as I sort of just have to grab it while I can. I like a lot of the Scandinavian noir stuff. I loved Narcos. There’s some great stuff being made at the moment.
Claire: Narcos was a favorite of mine. Absolutely loved season 1 and 2. I’m now watching The Bridge. I tried about four times and I couldn’t get beyond the second episode. More because I was finding myself home alone and I was too scared on my own. Now that my husband’s home, I find myself watching them all back to back. I love the relationship between the two main characters. Funny enough, for me, it’s a lot of crime drama. Others include The Fall, Happy Valley and other Scandi dramas.
The Coroner S2 begins Monday at 1415 on BBC 1 with S1 coming to a number of public television stations in America in early 2017.