Ian McNeise (Bert Large) and Joe Absolom (Al Large) of the hit British drama Doc Martin were in Boston recently to promote series six of the show. They were kind enough to give Anglotopia a few minutes of their time and we chatted about the new series, the restaurant business, and their love for Port Issac.
Joe: Hello Heather! You sound bright and breezy.
Heather: Well, thank you. How are you?
Joe: We are bright and breezy too. We will be bright and breezy together!
Heather: Fantastic! How’s Boston treating you?
Joe: I’ve never eaten so well. I’ve had chilly burgers, pancakes for breakfast – Wow!
Heather: We here at Anglotopia are very excited about the new series of Doc Martin! What secrets or details can you tell us about series six?
Joe: Interesting, series six. Bert becomes smitten and you see a love angle developing it’s both moving and entertaining at the same time. And Al becomes quite depressed actually, he’s in a quite low place because he sees his dad having this romance and Al has very little. So Al moves in with Penhale the policeman. He becomes quite depressed but then rises like a phoenix from the ashes with a wonderful business proposition and an idea to better himself and to become a man!
Ian: I actually throw my son out because I need his room for a bed and breakfast. I need to make a bit more money so I actually ask him to leave.
Joe: I think there’s a scene where we were actually sleeping in the same bed together, aren’t we? And Al can’t deal with the snoring. So there are some interesting developments!
Heather: Ian how did you feel about getting a love interest?
Ian: I was very excited when I heard it was on the cards. I got very excited and there were quite a few people I put forward as my costars: Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Anniston – yet none of them were available, apparently.
Joe: All very interested, but were busy.
Ian: They did get someone who is delightful, I have to say, and we’ve had a lot of fun on the set, and long may it continue!
Heather: Joe how do you feel about the separation between father and son?
Joe: It was liberating. It’s absolutely necessary! If you live in a small community like that your lives are naturally entwined. Bert and AL have always worked together, and now Al is realizing he’s not actually going anywhere. He’s trying to brighten his prospects a bit. I think he gets to stand on his own two feet a bit, which is really good fun filming because I sort of have to go to a very low place and be a bit moany. Acting moany is easier than acting happy!
Heather: And do you find Joe that Ian gives you fatherly advice off the set?
Joe: Yeah, he’s my tax advisor! I often ask him if that’s allowed and he says,” No, don’t be silly!” And he’s helped me at numerous social events.
Ian: I told my own children that Joe was the son I always wanted. Because he is such a delight to be with and work with. I tell them – do take notice what he’s like, because that’s what I like in a son.
Heather: Bert and Al seem to bounce around from job to job – in a perfect world what would be their dream jobs?
Joe: I would sell Christmas trees! I would only work for one month of the year.
Ian: I have a feeling that they somehow end up on a boat and end up in the Caribbean.
Heather: And would they own a restaurant?
Ian: I think they would leave the restaurant behind because it’s really not a big success. And there is a bit of a salmonella scare going on right now (in series six) so it’s shut down unfortunately.
Joe: What amazes me is we went from plumbers to restaurateurs! I mean my mate is a plumber, and I wouldn’t eat his food!
Heather: I’ve been in the restaurant business. Have you ever considered that as a possibility outside acting?
Ian: We are thinking about opening up a restaurant ourselves.
Ian: Yeah, I think we should. With the amount of time that I spend down there, I might as well open a café. It might as well be on the back of Doc Martin.
Heather: It’s well-known that the entire cast of Doc Martin truly loves Port Isaac. What can you tell us about the village and what it means to you both?
Joe: It’s been a very good place for me. It’s been very kind to us. I’ve made really good friends, and my little daughter goes to school there. We just had a baby there. When your child goes to school there you immediately become a part of the community.
Ian: I’ve been asked to open several fetes and dog shows and a local supermarket and all sorts of things. We are all very much thought of as minor celebrities.
Joe: I’m like Michael Jackson in that village!
Heather: How large of the village is it?
Joe: It’s tiny. It’s got one road in – it’s a working fishing village. It’s a seasonal holiday place. When it’s out of season there’s only like five families there. It’s really quiet and then in-season all the houses are full of the holiday people that come and sit and watch the sea. And now they come and watch the Doc’s house! It’s changed the village a bit, our show, because you get a lot more people visiting for the day. Some of the villagers are a bit proud of that. When we started, there was very little in the village, but now there are tea rooms to appeal to the new clientele. So it’s been good for the village.
Ian: When we film now we are inundated with tourists. Two to four-hundred people every day will come through as we are filming. I have now taken to collecting for charity when people ask for photographs I tell them, ‘put something in the bucket will you’? I’ve managed to collect several hundred pounds for cancer relief and the local lifeboat people.
Heather: So you’re taking something that could have been difficult and turning it into a positive.
Joe: Yeah, and that all comes down to Martin. Martin is very good with people. He did a documentary about dogs. So that means that anyone that watches the show that has a dog goes to Cornwall and asks him to have a picture taken with their dog. I have worked with some actors that wouldn’t even do that, but he understands that you have to have a good balance. He is a nice man, and it’s not hard for him to be polite people constantly all day and have pictures with their dogs.
Heather: So he is completely opposite of his character?
Joe: Yeah, very much so isn’t he? He does an amazing job with the character he plays! He’s really impressive. He makes the show what it is, along with Caroline Catz as well. They have continued this romance which not many actors could’ve continued through six series. I think it’s because of them that they’re still making the show.
Ian: They did something really very clever from the beginning. They actually got together a group of actors who were very good, and that’s really been the standpoint all the way through, and if there have been replacements – they’ve always gotten a really good replacement.
Joe: We have lost a couple haven’t we over the years?
Ian: We’ve got a good team behind us.
Heather: There are eight episodes in series six – how long were you in Port Isaac filming?
Ian: April through July.
Joe: I think it is 18 weeks?
Heather: If there is a series seven where would you like to see your characters?
Joe: I believe Ian said something about the Caribbean? No. It’ll be interesting if there’s a series seven. In series six there is an incident something that happens, it actually got no complains, but some viewers were a bit disturbed by it – it was quite a shock. They were a bit put out!
Ian: Series six is a lot darker than the others have been, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all.
The five-minute warning is given.
Joe: You can have six minutes! I like you Heather!
Heather: Oh, I like you. Thank you!
Ian: Let’s get a room – stop it! (Laughter)
Heather: I truly adore Bert and Al, but sometimes you’re not in an episode very much. Is there anything we can do about that?
Joe: I’m out playing golf. I love it
Ian: I’ll give you the address to Philippa Braithwaite, can we please have more Bert and Al in the show? I think you’re absolutely right!
Heather: Of all six series what is your favorite episode?
Joe: I like (long pause) episode two (long pause) of series two.
Ian: He’s got no idea! (Laughter) . Don’t even go and ask him. He doesn’t know. I think the one that we both hold very dear and for an awful lot of fans as well is the episode where Al tries work out whether his dad is really his dad – a very touching episode.
Joe: I recently stumbled upon that episode on television. I was very moved by Mr. McNeice!
Ian: If you believe that you’ll believe anything! (laughter)
Heather: As you probably already know Doc Martin is a tremendous hit here in the US. Is there anything you’d like to say to your US fans?
Ian: We would like to thank all the readers of Anglotopia for watching the show and reading this interview. And Merry Christmas and you’ve got Thanksgiving coming up haven’t you? Enjoy your turkey!
Series six of Doc Martin is set to air on PBS in February 2014, however the sixth series in its entirety (as well as series 1 – 5 and TV movies) are currently available to stream online Acorn TV which has a 30 day free trial!
Doc Martin Special Collection (Series 1-5 plus TV Movies) is currently available on DVD and series six debuts on DVD December 10th and is available for purchase at AcornOnline.