Exclusive Interview: David Bamber on ‘What Remains’ Part 2

“It’s great to be involved with What Remains”.

What Remains

(C) BBC/Des Willie

Tony Basgallop‘s four-part series What Remains comes out on DVD this Monday (7th Oct), to celebrate the release we spoke to actor David Bamber who plays Joe Sellers – the mysterious neighbour downstairs with a secret. Find out what the stage and screen actor had to say about the BBC series and how he wishes some actors would “go and have a rest.”

To read part 1 of this interview (be aware it does contain some spoilers for the finale) click here.

How would you describe your character Joe?

Joe Sellers is literally my age, late 50s and a Maths teacher and he apparently lives on his own, though you’ve now discovered that he doesn’t. As you discover everybody seems to have these secrets as it investigates everybody’s lives. He runs the house in terms of holding the keys and being a bit of busybody. He’s disabled and he’s fairly private and grumpy.

What attracted you to role in the first place?

I worked with Coky [Giedroyc, Director – and sister of Mel] a long time ago and I was sent the scripts and asked to go read for it, which on the whole these days is what happens… and I really wanted to do it. I think that the writer Tony [Basgallop]… I saw his show Inside Men, which I thought was absolutely wonderful – that Steven Mackintosh was also in and I really wanted to do these scripts. I just thought it was a wonderful subject, and of course, it would be nice to say ‘out of the six offers on the table, I chose What Remains’ … but of course you’re asked to do it, and you want to work, plus I’d just finished a theatre job so it was absolutely great. It was a great team of people and she [Coky] really is fantastic and she’s got great performances out of people and I think she’s handled it so incredibly well. It’s been a big hit I think – it’s a critical success!

I think that given the number of murder programmes that are on at the moment, generally it’s now vogue; turn the telly on and it’s another murder … But I think this does have a twist.

It’s the way Len is absolutely determined to represent Melissa and find out what happened and I think in a way that is what it’s about – that he just won’t let go of thinking it’s not fair what happened to her and how these people treated her.

Most people probably remember your roles as Eric Slatt in ‘Chalk’ and of course your infamous portrayal of Mr Collins in ‘Pride and Prejudice’…

Pride and Prejudice was a really iconic series to be in, it seemed to come at the right time. There’s a wonderful version of Pride and Prejudice made in the 80s by the BBC. I don’t know why they were ready for Jane Austen and happy endings and the symmetry of her story telling; It’s a great part for anybody that’s played it and I did have fun with it. I still get people saying it’s there favourite show, they watch it every week and they buy all the formats and blu-ray. They just think It’s so comforting to watch.

Eric Slatt I was terribly proud of. We did two series, I thought some of it was absolutely wonderful. I still keep thinking, ‘god I wish somebody would put bits on YouTube and get it going’ because I think it sort of went under the radar a bit.

I was surprised it didn’t get more series…

Yeah I thought it would. That was 1995 to 97.  Occasionally –  just to blow my own trumpet –  I remember in Muswell Hill this man said: “can I say, that was one of the funniest things I’ve ever, ever seen.” He said, “we couldn’t breathe in our house.” And I thought, ‘well it was good that show.’ Of course, Steven Moffat who now is the king of Doctor Who, he wrote it, and he’s a very brilliant writer of farce and extraordinary situations.

But no, they pulled it after two [series]. It didn’t quite get the backing but I thought it was funny … couldn’t it go on one of these obscure channels late a night? I think it would get some kind of cult following – not because of me, for Steven Moffat even.

You could do a Doctor Who episode?

If I was asked I could!

What’s coming up for you next?

I’ve been to a number of things but these days unless your kind of Michael Gambon or Judi Dench, you’d be surprised at the number of people you have to go to, to audition and read for things. I’ve had a great year actually; I’ve had a great 12 months but it ground to a halt about two months ago. The whole industry seems to go away in August. It will all crank up again and I’m sure something will pop up and hopefully something will come out of What Remains. Who knows, who wants a miserable old… (laughs and refrains from continuing)

It’s just the way it goes. Not for everybody, but for the majority of actors. It looks like you’re busy but you are at home for some of the time waiting for the next job. It would be great to have a great slew of work lined up like some Opera singer. Or be in a series that you know is going everywhere. The plus side is you never know what’s going to happen next, and that’s probably what a lot of people in 9-to-5 jobs probably don’t get; they know precisely what they’re doing. I would swap places with them sometimes, and I’m sure they might swap places with me thinking it’d wonderful not knowing what you’re going to do for the next 10 years.

Does it seem more difficult now with less returning series?

I think it’s difficult! There is an unwarranted fixation on certain actors in a way I don’t think there used to be on television. I think one can get tired of seeing the same faces again and again and I just think they need to spread it out a bit and realise how many really fantastic actors there are in this country. And that’s why you see the same things again, and you think ‘my god I’ve just seen her in a whole series and now she’s pretending to be an out of work mother.’ You know what I mean?  Go and have a rest somewhere, and let somebody else have a go … but that’s just television and I’m not sure why, considering it has such a big audience; it should actually be exposed to a much bigger pool of ability. You don’t realise how small it is sometimes, considering the money that’s involved. You could imagine it happening in the theatre world but in television? Of course there are more channels than when I started when I left RADA in the late 70’s and that does create more work, but you do think, ‘is there anybody going to appear in this who’s over the age of 30?’ But maybe twas ever thus; maybe older actors have always felt like that when they watch television.

They seem to target audiences these days in some curious way, instead of just making something that’s really good. Now it’s ‘teenagers will only watch teenagers,’ which is bollocks. But then what do I know (laughs) … But it’s great to be involved with What Remains.

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

Click on the link below to buy the DVD.