Exclusive – David Bamber on ‘What Remains’: “It does have a rather spectacular finale”

“I do watch TV, but I don’t watch myself.”

What Remains

(C) BBC/Des Willie

Two days ago I caught up with experienced stage, TV and film actor David Bamber to talk about his part of Joe in BBC One’s Sunday night drama, What Remains as he revealed what we can expect in the finale episode (some minor spoilers).

Part 2 of the interview is now available to read here.

Do you think Joe’s misunderstood or do you think he is as he appears on the screen initially?

I think what you find is that to some degree it’s an act of kindness that he’s taken in this person who turns up at his door, which you find out about in the final episode. So that is quite nice. Of course Russell Tovey’s character shows how horrible he was at school. I think he’s a kind of old school teacher, you know, he’s not going to be friends with the students. He’s kind of harassable. I think he does have another side but when you see it… I’m trying to not give anything away… It is for a reason. And he does get something out of it, and you know he’s got this little domestic life going on downstairs of secrecy, and it’s about to be all tumbled by his ex-pupil. So I think seeing an ex-pupil moving into the house is a huge shock. I say to him when he first appears: “Are you delivering something”, he obviously doesn’t think a lot of him or his prospects, or the kind of person he is in the social pecking order. He really doesn’t like the fact that he has moved in. He makes comments, at one point he says to Kieran when he says they’re [the new tenants] having a baby, he says: “With any luck that will drive the lesbians out.” He’s very conservative and not very liberal.

In some ways he has the biggest secret outside of the Melissa plot, with him hiding an ex-pupil in his flat?

Exactly – for several years. It’s quite a feat (laughs). There is a reason and you find out there’s quite a big reason. It is a big secret!

He’s is very pivotal as he’s connected to everything. That must have been interesting to play?

It was great. I had a kind of quiet episode three; I do a lot in episode 4, everything obviously comes to huge head in episode four and he actually does an act of gallantry. It was great to play. Of course It’s always nice to play those kind of miserable, difficult people and hopefully, I’m not, although my children might say otherwise. A lot of the time, Indeed i did think “am i doing anything or am I just being me with a limp.” (laughs)  I think what’s been interesting about watching it, and I don’t usually watch things cos it all seems like an act of confusion to sit down and watch yourself in something. I said to my wife, who is a very experienced actress, no matter how much you film and how much you learn about the process of filming and what the camera is doing, you never quite actually know what it’s getting. I find it completely fascinating how she (Coky Giedroyc the Director) shot it and the kind of detail – I’m thinking of last week when Steven Mackintosh was lying down drinking and it showed him from different angles, and when the camera lingered on him ‘should I have this pint or not.’ it’s amazing how she tells the story.

A lot of actors say they don’t watch TV. Is that because it ruins the magic knowing the process?

I would certainly say I do watch TV, but I don’t watch myself. I usually go and sit in the kitchen while everybody else watches and my wife says “oh it’s very good.” But with this I feel I’m watching somebody else almost, I was just fascinated to see  it. And it may surprise you, I rather stupidly while we were making it hadn’t realised how creepy it was, and how the house is such a character. Those still shots of it from the exterior and then the hallway, it’s like the Bates Motel inside. It seems to have life of its own. And of course, you’re not aware that’s going on in the director’s mind of how they’re putting it all together. But, you just come in and concentrate on your contribution.

Was you aware from the start of filming the fate of Melissa and Joe’s secret?

It was there in the script. It changed ever so slightly, but essentially it was there. I knew where it was going and it does have a rather spectacular finale, I’m just warning you.

What can we expect from the final episode?

I think it completes a lot of journeys, the journeys of the people involved you may be wondering about and why they’ve done what they’ve done. And it does answer the riddle of Melissa and it sort of vindicates the persistence of Len. It ends in a very… it’s very sad actually, I think the whole thing is sad when you watch it tonely. Not in a sort of depressing way. I think it’s very moving. And when you see Melissa and you hear that repeated theme. I think it’s very moving the way the people are in it and the way they are hiding. It’s very relatable too but of course, yes, in the last episode the threads are sewn up and there’s one thread that in being sewn really comes to fruition right at the end.

Does the show reflect what society is like now?

Yes, there are examples of people found in their homes dead. It’s alarming what happens here, because literally nobody really bothered. They must have known the flat was empty and that nobody had moved out. Joe says “oh I live in the basement. I don’t hear any comings and goings.” Well that’s bollocks cos he’s such a nosy so-and-so, he’s the kind who’d be twitching the venetian blinds if a removal van turned up. He has keys as well. And I also think there is an element of, because she was large that plays a part in everybody’s perception of her. As if that also gave them some right not to really bother about her and to characterise her in a certain way. I think she is like that for a reason and it’s trying to show that she was unusual in that way, but that then amplified the way people made rash judgements about her and how she seemed to irritate people and was ridiculed because she was overweight.

Everybody is terribly selfish actually, I think there are acts of kindness – every day in London probably – you do hear about them. I think one can be over romantic about the old days when everybody left there front doors open. My mother used to say that during the First World War in the 20s, if you wanted your neighbour you’d rattle your poker at the back of the fireplace and that would go through to their house and they’d come running.

They’re all kind of wrapped up in themselves. I think it is a metaphor for society and he [Tony Basgallop – writer) does develop that theme and it may be a trend to some degree that we mind our own business. It’s not just we don’t care, it’s sometimes we’re worried about interfering or worried about how we’ll be perceived, but in this case Melissa was taken advantage of by lots of people and not cared about subsequently.

Don’t miss final episode of What Remains on BBC One this Sunday (15th September) at 9pm.

What Remains is also released on DVD as a two-disc set on 7 October 2013.

Read part 2 of this interview here