Radio Times

Andrew Duncan interview - 2nd October 2001

Andrew Duncan meets George Irving

So far Holby City's head honcho, heart surgeon and heart-throb has kept quiet about his private life, but more is revealed in the new series. The man who plays him has also been an enigma, until now . . .

"I'm capable of all Meyer is, but I don't have his certainty"

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Here comes the latest in a seemingly endless collection of men voted "one of the sexiest on TV", and a wince crosses his vulpine features when I mention the accolade for his part as workaholic cardiothoracic surgeon Anton Meyer in the medical drama that begins its fourth series this week. "Everyone's called that, aren't they?" he says. "It's fairly predictable in terms of the nature of Meyer - tough and masterful - combined with the aphrodisiac of power, and the life and death aspects of his job."

Here is another reason too, he adds - mystery. "We decided that the less the knows about his personal life the better, so they see him as a strong man on whom they can project whatever they want from their own imagination. Today's television drama is usually about characters who disclose everything. They sit in their living rooms telling each other exactly how they feel, so it's clever and a refreshing change to have a man who behaves as characters did in American movies of the forties or fifties, like Humphrey Bogart or Spencer Tracy - not that I'd wish to compare myself with them in terms of acting."

At 51 he's enigmatic himself, rarely interviewed, eschewing the enticing baubles that TV stardom can bring. "I play interesting characters, but that doesn't mean people will find me intrinsically fascinating. I've been acting for a long time, so I don't buy into this 'celebrity' conflagration. Some people come into the business, at every level, in order to place themselves in the public eye in a way that I find odd. I'd hate to be a young actor suddenly confronted with fame. The celebrity world is driven by fashion and short-term expediency, with tabloids and TV feeding off each other, using actors as the raw material to sell programmes and newspapers. It must be very difficult to resist buying into the myth, but for anyone to believe they've become a different kind of person because of that process is ridiculous and potentially harmful.

"I'm one of those who became an actor to hide rather than reveal myself. I don't like cameras and if someone produces one in real life, I freeze because I know how powerfully it is able to see through you. On TV it's different, and safe. Then I'm pretending to be someone else and I welcome a camera because I know I can manipulate it. I like the idea that if I have the right thought going through my head, the camera will pick it up, but I don't want it looking into my personal life. Of course since Holby City, people recognise me in the street and think they know me. I meet intelligent people who say, 'You've pretended to do heart transplants for so long, you must be able to do them for real by now.'" next page >>

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