Radio Times

Andrew Duncan interview - 2nd October 2001

Andrew Duncan meets George Irving - page 3

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After that it was the National youth theatre, and then TV, where he was frequently cast as villains. In one year he died on screen five times. "I played bad guys because I don't have boy-next-door features. The shift to good guy came when I played Jim Robinson in 'Bad Company', about the Carl Bridgewater murder." Robinson was one of four men wrongly convicted, and released after serving 18 years in jail.

"I went along for the job, and the scale of the injustice came as a surprise to me. I didn't meet Jim at the time - the last person you want to see is someone who has a bigger claim on a character than you, namely the man himself. It only makes you aware of how much you're failing. We knew it was a good film that might make a difference, and, with the hubris of media people, assumed they'd fling open the gates the day after transmission. In fact it took another four years, until February 1997. The film did shift events dramatically. I'd hate to see television move away from that kind of production. It needs to maintain a social conscience, which it's on the verge of losing. There's nothing wrong with entertainment for entertainment's sake, but British audiences have, until recently, been brought up on stronger meat."

Before 'Holby City', the longest he was in a series was 'Dangerfield' (currently on weekdays on UK Gold), as DI Ken Jackson. "I left when they decided to go into his personal life. Professional work became less important so, as the man who employed Dangerfield, my character had gone as far as I could take him. In my job, regular work is the exception rather than the rule, so I'm used to saying, 'No, enough.'"

'Holby City' has provided him with a nice meal ticket for three years. "I'm aware of the trap. You can become dependent on a lifestyle you give yourself as a result of what you're earning, and it's difficult to make sound professional judgements if you become sidetracked by money. The obvious way to avoid it is to regard money as an opportunity to buy time to do other things."

These things include taking several parts at the small Greenwich theatre in London, browsing for interesting books in the flea market on London's South Bank, or walking. Later this year he will be spending three weeks hiking in aid of charity. "Nothing much has changed about our life. Don't misunderstand - I'm not averse to making money, but anyone who becomes an actor in order to be wealthy is a fool."

There is a plethora of doctors on television, many of whom are walking clichés, he agrees. "Television companies can be accused of saying, 'Viewers love medical drama, so let's have another.' Some have three-dimensional characters, some don't. I'd only want to do one that was distinctive, and there isn't another like Meyer. I think of him as an individual rather than a character in a medical drama. I'm aware of the clichés of the genre, and there's a fine line, difficult to avoid.. It's easy to get the stock reaction to a stock situation and it would be bad if we went down that route. You can only hope if you put together believable human beings, cliché will be avoided by default.

"ER is consistently watchable, but in the last series it went into the characters' personal lives, which might be an inevitable part of the process. To some extent that's happening to 'Holby City'. Perhaps that's what the audience wants, but it wouldn't work for Meyer. Whatever we did would be anticlimactic compared to what viewers imagine goes on in his personal life." next page >>

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