Posted on November 16th, 2015 by admin

The actor and producer on leaving school at 16, speaking out on politics and finding the humour in playing a hangman.

 
 You’re the baddest baddass ever,” the man says, enthusiastically shaking David Morrissey’s hand. We are in a cafe in south London, and despite his quiet demeanour, self-effacing manner and multipurpose grey fleece, the actor has been recognised from his role in the post-apocalyptic US TV series The Walking Dead, in which his character – the Governor – is more terrifying than the hordes of zombies stalking the earth.

Morrissey smiles, warmly accepting the recognition. “I’m very proud of that show,” he says. “It’s quite an odd show, a genre show. But the production values are great and I loved being in it.”

The part he is rehearsing in an egg-yellow rehearsal room in London’s Elephant and Castle is every bit as memorable, and in some ways just as frightening. Morrissey plays Harry Wade, the central protagonist of Hangmen by Martin McDonagh: “the second-best hangman in England”, made redundant by the abolition of hanging. This is a comedy so inky black that audiences gasp even as they laugh, a play that sold out at the Royal Court earlier this year as soon as the ecstatic reviews appeared. It is now transferring to Wyndham’s theatre in the West End, where it can simultaneously entertain and shock once more.

Morrissey knew it was a gift the moment he read it. He had returned from America, where he had been making another TV series – Extant, starring Halle Berry as a pregnant astronaut – when his agent sent him the script, with the prospect of the central part. “From the first two pages I thought, I want to do this. Sometimes when you read a script you are slightly outside it, thinking technically about how you will do this and that. But very quickly I forgot that I had even been offered the role. I just read it as a story. And it was wonderful.”

He places heavy emphasis on the word, breaking it into three weighted syllables. “All the way through rehearsal I kept thinking, how am I going to do this justice?” Did he not worry that people would be horrified? “It never occurred to me. All my worries were personal. It has been a while since I have been in the theatre” – he played Macbeth at Liverpool’s Everyman theatre in 2011 – “and even longer since I’ve done comedy in theatre. So my worries were all about that. I never had any about how the play would be received.”

 
The main action of Hangmen takes place in an Oldham pub in 1965 just as hanging is finally abolished. The owner is Harry Wade – a composite figure based loosely on Britain’s last hangman, Harry Allen, and his colleague Stephen Wade – who has laboured throughout his career under the shadow of Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s most famous Home Office-licensed executioner.

From this starting point, McDonagh has fashioned a work so intricate and surprising that even a hint of plot gives too much away. While watching it, you feel the play is capable of going in almost any direction, and for Morrissey, that richness is its appeal. “It dares you to laugh,” he says. “There are things inside the play that are awful. The laughter comes from an absurdist sense inside it – and a truth.

“The danger for us as actors is relying on the comedy, when what we need to do all the time is to tap into the truth. There are moral issues in there. The play starts with state-licensed murder and by the end there is mob rule. It asks what are the differences between those two events and where would you stand.”

On stage Morrissey perfectly embodies Wade, a conservative patriot who stands squarely at the centre of his world, sure of his own righteousness until events conspire to knock him off his axis. One of his qualities as an actor is that he finds an understanding for the flaws of the characters he portrays, whether that’s Gordon Brown in The Deal, the MP in State of Play, the corrupt policeman in Red Riding, or indeed the brutal Governor in The Walking Dead.

He researches each part intensively. For Hangmen, he read Pierrepoint’s autobiography and books about Harry Allen, discovering in the process that both of them came to doubt the value of hanging as a deterrent. “But in the end what you are doing is just confirming the play. Martin has created his own world and his own characters. You are just soaking up the atmosphere.” The reading, however, is an important part of how he works. “I don’t really leave a lot to chance. My instincts get more alive the more research I do. Even on something like The Walking Dead I did a lot of reading about the Black Death in Europe and how that affected the populace. I probably used half a percent of it, but I just found it fascinating.”

At one level, this study represents the education he abandoned when he left school at 16 to become an actor. But on another, it is salve for a restless, inquiring mind. “My work endlessly leads me to different worlds, different education, different looks at things, and I didn’t really have much of that as a kid myself so I do find it interesting. That’s what I love about the job. It is always asking me to look into different areas of life.”

His passion for acting was forged in his early years as a working class lad in the Everyman youth theatre. He instantly knew it was more than a hobby, but his parents were worried. “When I told them I wanted to be an actor it was like telling them I wanted to be an astronaut. Not because it was highfalutin but because it was a world they didn’t know. They were worried about the unknown.”

His father died just as he was starting to find success. “Obviously that was traumatic for me, but it also opened the way because it meant that I suddenly saw that life was short, that I had better get a move on and go for what I love and what I want. I did that thing everyone advises you against. I just put all my eggs in one basket. I thought, this has to work. ”

It did. By the age of 18, he was cast in the Channel 4 drama One Summer and since then has never looked back. There have been bumps in the road – the disaster of Basic Instinct 2 probably set back his now-thriving career in America by a decade – but his progress has been marked by the combination of consistency (in performance) and variety (of character and form).

“I don’t really have a sense of where I’m going,” he says, cheerfully. “I do try to do different things because I get bored.” Although happily married to the writer Esther Freud, with whom he has three children, he admits that he needs work to make him thrive. “I am terrible like that. The job is what makes me happy. I can find happiness – or contentment – outside it, but I can be very antsy if I am not happy in my work.”

This leads him in different directions. Being an actor is, he says, “who I am”, but he has also directed and produced, and is a founder of the production company On the Corner, which has recently enjoyed huge success with documentaries such as Amy and Ronaldo. “Not that I had any creative input.” Other projects are in development. “I’m greedy really,” Morrissey says. “I like to do it all. I love working with writers and one of the reasons I wanted to direct and produce was that I wanted to get closer and closer to that blank page, where you bring something from an idea right through to the screen. As an actor you tend to come to projects very late, so I love meeting writers, discussing ideas, finding a home for them and bringing them to fruition.”

He has written enough to know he is not a writer himself. “I live with a writer and the discipline it needs is not my discipline. I am very much a collaborative person. I love working with people in rehearsal rooms. Sitting on my own in a room writing is not where my talent lies. Sitting on my own reading, maybe …”

 
He smiles as the thought dies away. Even a short conversation with Morrissey ranges widely. He has many enthusiasms – football in general, Liverpool FC in particular, music, books – and certain causes. For a long time he has been an articulate supporter of UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. “I’ve been to Lesbos and I saw the refugee crisis at first hand,” he says. “You can’t not speak up about this. There is a collective European need for all of us to come together and address this problem. It is desperate – the challenge of our age. And how it gets mixed up with the terrorist attacks is very dangerous. You have to be very careful about the demonisation of a population because of terrorist individuals.”

We talk about the opprobrium Benedict Cumberbatch attracted in some quarters for speaking out on similar themes. “It drives me mad, that. Why shouldn’t he speak out? Why shouldn’t anybody speak out?” he asks. “The fact is that the media give him that oxygen, and that space, and he says what he wants. His passion is his passion. I don’t see why being an actor I should shut up about anything. Why anybody should.”

Morrissey believes culture is thriving in Britain today, yet is in need of protection. “I particularly worry about the BBC and its future and the attacks on it. When you travel around the world, you see that the impartiality of the BBC is something we need to protect. It holds up a mirror to us as a nation. It is really important and we should be very proud of it and I think it needs a lot of support from all of us. It is for us to champion it, but it’s the public that need to actually save it.”

Such concerns spring from his deeply held belief in the power of art to effect change. “I went through a stage as a younger actor of feeling that what I did wasn’t worth that much, that it was frivolous and unimportant,” he says. “I don’t feel that now. I really believe in the power stories have to illuminate and the need of a collective audience to witness things together. Now I am getting older I feel it is a very important job – not that I am being pompous about it – but I do feel the import of music, writing, acting. All those things.”

Hangmen is at Wyndhams theatre, London WC2, from Tuesday. hangmentheplay.com


Posted on September 16th, 2014 by admin

State of Play star says creative industries have an ‘intern culture’ that is failing people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 
 The actor David Morrissey has said young working-class people are being priced out of the profession and called on the creative industries to do more to end their “economic exclusion”.

Morrissey, acclaimed for his role as Gordon Brown in The Deal, said the arts was a “very rich community” but was not doing enough to support young people.

“Television is doing very well for itself, but the trickle-down effect isn’t working,” he told the new issue of the Radio Times.

“We’re creating an intern culture – it’s happening in journalism and politics as well – and we have to be very careful because the fight is not going to be there for people from more disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Morrissey is the latest star to air concerns about poorer people being squeezed out of the acting profession amid fears that it no longer reflects all sectors of society.

Dame Judi Dench said financial barriers to training had made the profession more elitist.

“Anyone who’s in the theatre gets letters countless times a week asking for help to get through drama school,” she said. “You can do so much, but you can’t do an endless thing. It is very expensive.”

Morrissey, who starred in BBC1’s State of Play and US drama The Walking Dead, said: “There’s an economic exclusion of working-class people happening now.

“I got lucky, but if I was starting out now, it would be a lot harder, because my parents could never have supported me through that ‘Is it going to happen?’ period.”

A lifelong socialist, Morrissey left school at 16 and went from Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre to study at Rada. He will return to BBC1 next week in three-part drama, The Driver.

He said: “I was able to go to drama school with a grant. I was able to do stuff at the Everyman and work there at the same time. Too often now, people come into the profession subsidised by their parents and they’re not being paid.

“It worries me that in the arts, which is essentially a very rich community, we’re not offering more support.”

The BBC’s controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson, and the chairman of the Arts Council, Sir Peter Bazalgette, are among those to have aired concerns about the make-up of the acting profession.

Stephenson told the Guardian Edinburgh TV Festival last month that acting had become a middle class profession because it was too expensive for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, while Bazalgette said actors from public schools were “out of proportion”.

Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch, who went to Harrow and is one of a number of public school educated stars, including Damian Lewis, Dominic West and Laurence Fox, has railed against the typecasting of “posh” actors and said it was lazy to treat all public school actors the same way.

Cumberbatch, who has said he was sick of being seen as a “moaning, rich, public school bastard”, said last year: “One of the best things about being an actor is that it’s a meritocracy.”

But actor Freddie Fox, son of Edward Fox and another of the Fox acting dynasty, rubbished Cumberbatch’s complaint that he was the victim of “posh bashing”.

Fox, who stars in the new film The Riot Club, about a fictional, exclusive Oxford undergraduate dining society drawing comparisons with the Bullingdon Club, told the Radio Times: “A load of bollocks. I mean, Ben’s doing alright isn’t he? It’s not like too many people are hating him in Hollywood.”

Source: The Guardian 


Posted on November 27th, 2013 by admin

 
 The Walking Dead heads into a mid-season finale for season four on December 1, but not without briefly checking in with a character last seen retreating from the show’s third season: Philip “The Governor” Blake. David Morrissey’s return to the show was kept under tight wraps, and The Walking Dead has devoted its last two installments to reintroducing Morrissey’s one-eyed tyrant, filling in the blanks between his disappearance and sudden arrival outside the abandoned prison occupied by the show’s protagonists. As for Morrissey himself, he spent his time outside of zombie-ravaged Georgia filming the AMC pilot Line Of Sight, recording the audio version of a book written by another Morrissey, and informing no one (beyond his wife) about when he was due to strap on the old eye patch again. The A.V. Club spoke to Morrissey about keeping that secret, what the Governor’s recent escapades mean for the character, and the strange thrill of being booed by a crowd of thousands.

The A.V. Club: When did you find out the Governor would be returning for season four?

David Morrissey: Not until the last episode [of season three]. That’s the way it works on the show: You never know until you read the episode. They’re eight-day shoots—we get the next episode four days into our shoot, so on that fourth day, we all disappear to our trailer and read the next episode. I tend to read it backwards to see if I’m still alive. So I didn’t know until they delivered episode 16. I always felt I was going to die, so I was so happy to make it to this season—and hopefully make it to the next.

AVC: How long did you have to keep that secret?

DM: We’re sworn to secrecy until the episode hits the screen. I told my wife, because plans needed to be made for next summer. Everyone wanted to know; it was the one question I got asked—particularly taking my kids to school. The kids didn’t know—I wouldn’t tell them if I was coming back or not.

AVC: What’s it like to keep that secret for so long?

DM: It’s hard. With the fans, a lot of people ask me, but I know they don’t want the answer. They want to spin theories at me, and they want to ask questions about where it’s going. I don’t think they really want the spoilers—they want to find out when everybody finds out. They want that element of surprise, so asking the question isn’t really someone asking for the answer—it’s about them telling me how much they love the show. It’s quite fun, though, people asking me the question—it means that the show is working. People tend to think of The Walking Dead as a “young” show, but that’s not my experience of it walking around the streets. The demographics both from age and class are phenomenal. It’s a show that transcends—and I think its viewing figures show that. It has a broad range of appeal and that was very encouraging to me.

AVC: In spite of the character’s despicable nature, the reaction is typically positive?

DM: It can be positive [Laughs.] in a negative way. I walked out at Comic-Con this year and 10,000 people booed me. And I thought, “Brilliant!” That’s a testament that I’m doing a great job.

AVC: Of the different shades and sides the Governor has shown, which do you find the most compelling to play?

DM: The interesting thing to me as the actor is that it’s the whole package. He does things that are very, very questionable: At the end of season three, I think he went into a traumatic space—he went into a blackout and fired on his own people, and that’s an unforgivable act. But to be able to then take him to a place contrary to that, a man who’s behaving well and doing the best by people and falling in love with people—the fact that both those places are the same man, the challenge for the actor is making sure they’re consistent in his head. Do you believe that the same man could behave in such opposite extremes? I believe you do with the Governor. No one is all wise; no one is all bad. It’s so easy to put people into boxes and champion them or condemn them, but I think that everybody’s got a little of that together.

 AVC: So what’s the glue that keeps those parts together?

DM: His desire to survive and protect the people he cares about. His moral decisions inside that are very questionable—what he will do in order to survive and what he will do in order to protect the people he loves. It’s human nature. When you see [“Live Bait”], you see a man who’s given up on humanity, and given up on himself. He just doesn’t have the wherewithal to kill himself. He’s a man who doesn’t want human contact—he’s isolating himself and punishing himself, really. And it’s only until he gets a connection with that little girl—who reminds him of his daughter—and with this woman, that he finally starts awakening and wanting to care and wanting to protect them. And as soon as he wants to do that, and as soon as he engages in that, he’s slightly lost. He knows he will do anything to keep these people alive, and that question of what is the “anything” he will do is where his moral code gets very, very muddy.

AVC: Is that what pushes him to fill the power vacuum in “Dead Weight”?

DM: It’s about where your natural character is. You see it on the sports field all the time. You’ll see guys who go out there and the coach has said to them, “You hang back, you’re playing here, don’t go out here. Stay on defense, don’t go out on offense.” And then you get them out on the pitch, and suddenly they’re right up the field and you’re like, “What are you doing?” It’s impossible for you to be on the back foot sometimes. Some characters have that thing you see in the workplace: Sometimes people are natural leaders. Sometimes people are not natural leaders, but they want to be the leader, and you’re like, “Ah, God, can’t this person tell?” I think the Governor is a natural leader. He’s someone that people will look at and go, “I’m following this guy.” Because he’s a survivor, he’s a winner. And although he’s morally suspect in everything he does, if you want to survive in this world, he’s the one that you might follow.

 He sees two things: He sees that Martinez isn’t totally confident in the camp. He’s not totally confident in being able to protect people. You can’t have that little chink of doubt in your mind. He knows that, so he’s got to take control. He doesn’t want control, but he has to. The guy who steps up is just not up to it at all. The Governor just has to step in. He does everything that he can to escape—and he can’t escape. It just keeps dragging him back in, and in the end he has to take the reins and say, “Okay, this is me now.”

AVC: There’s a point in “Dead Weight” where the Governor tells Lily, “Things are about to go very wrong here.” Do you think he can recognize the qualities in other people that he doesn’t like about himself?

DM: Absolutely. I think when he says that, what he means is, “If we stay here, things are going to go wrong with me. Things are going to go wrong with us, because I’m not going to be able to stand aside and let this community fall in danger.” He can’t do that anymore, so let’s get out of here. When he jumps in that car with the girls to drive away, he’s absolutely trying to escape himself. He’s trying to run away from himself—but of course you always take yourself with you wherever you go. He wants to get away from those thoughts, but he’s not allowed to in this world. He’s got to step up to the mark and do what he needs to do. And I think that what he does is very shocking.

AVC: You’ve played a lot of leaders, some who assume power, some who are anointed with power, and some who’ve been elected to power. How does playing the Governor compare to playing Macbeth or a politician like Gordon Brown?

DM: Leadership’s a very interesting question. It’s a mixture of guile and luck and intelligence, but you definitely need the opportunity to open up in front of you. You look at somebody like Lyndon Johnson, who, he’s on his way out, he’s never going to be the president of the United States, the Kennedys want him out—the next minute, Kennedy’s assassination happens, and then there he is. He takes on the mantle and he has to be the president. And those things, there’s something where the opportunity opens up in front of you whether you want it or not, you have to fill the vacuum. Some people can step into that role; other people can’t. You can have all the plans in the world, all the trajectory of “this is what I’m going to do in order to become the leader of this company or this football team or this political party.” But when the opportunity opens up in front of you, how do you take that opportunity? Can you recognize it when it lands at your feet? That’s what makes great political leaders. With the Governor, he recognizes the opportunity—he fights the opportunity at times, but he’s the only man that’s being called up.

 The other question is once they gain the power, how they use the power. The Governor gets really drunk on power. In State Of Play, Stephen Collins gets really drunk on power. For all the good decisions they make for the benefit of their people, sometimes they have to do terrible things in order to keep their overall goodness intact. That’s a moral quicksand. Do I have to kill this guy in cold blood to save these hundred people? They’re the decisions our political leaders are making on an hourly basis, I’d suggest.

AVC: As an actor, how do you get into the headspace of a man convinced he’s a born leader? 

DM: There’s two things to that. The first: It has to be in the writing of the piece I’m in. You can’t shoehorn those things into a bad piece of writing. What’s been very good for me in my career is that I’ve worked with good writers. So what you’re doing is you’re illuminating what’s on the page. And I read a lot of books about leadership. I read a lot about cults: Jim Jones, David Koresh, people like that. But I also read a lot of political biographies, people like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Lincoln. All those things inform you about what it’s like to be a leader.

Also, the interesting thing about the Governor is that even though it’s a modern-day piece, he’s a leader without Twitter and spin doctors—he’s much more like leaders from bygone days who have to stand on a box and address 200 people in a marketplace. He’s much more of an orator—that’s where his gift suddenly lies, this new situation where he can stand up, make a speech, and the populace will say, “I’m with this guy.”

AVC: The look that the Governor takes on in his days of wandering—long hair and a beard in addition to his eye patch—had people comparing him to Snake Plissken from Escape From New York. You told Rolling Stone he looked like a “thin version of Jerry Garcia.” But there’s another visual analog there, given the Wild West feel of the sequences: Rooster Cogburn from True Grit. Did you feel the Governor becoming a bit of a Western antihero?

DM: There’s certainly an element of the Western to this show. The fact that we all have guns on our hips—it is a gunslinger-like place. Civilization is shutting down; the rule of law has gone out the window. So there is an element to that. But, you know, all stories now you can think of it as the Western antihero—the great, John Ford’s Searchers sort of thing—but you can also think of it as Kurosawa, you can think about it as the British medieval stories. It’s all about those wandering men coming back into town and sorting things out. There is an antihero thing there—but all stories have that, and all legends have that.

AVC: Do you think those archetypal qualities factor into the show’s popularity?

DM: It’s a survival show—it’s about characters surviving. The reason the show’s so popular is that it hasn’t rested on its laurels. It’s pushed the envelope as far as its storytelling is concerned. That sense that no character is safe—that’s what I think the show is really brilliant about. You’re never having the Star Trek moment on this show: Four guys beaming down, three of which are lead characters plus one guy you’ve never seen before. I don’t think he’s making it back to the Enterprise. With our show, you really know that no one’s safe. It’s about asking the fundamental questions: What would you do when the chips are down? How would you survive? Who would you save? What moral decisions would you make? [Those are questions] we all tend to ask ourselves a lot. They’re big questions, and I think The Walking Dead is a forum to explore those big questions.

AVC: You recently recorded the audiobook version of Autobiography, by singer-songwriter and former Smiths frontman Morrissey. As a longtime fan of his, what were you most surprised to learn while reading the book?

DM: He’s always had that tag of “miserable Morrissey,” and he certainly can indulge that side of himself. But his humor is unbelievable. I had to stop reading many times because I was laughing so much. His cutting wit is second to none. Not that that surprised me—the consistency of it is amazing. There’s something Wildean about his writing—his putdowns are genius. It was just constantly jumping out at me. He’s somebody who’s in a place now where he’s very secure in his life and his music and I think that security and that belief in himself comes through in the book. He challenges many things in the book, many aspects of his past. There’s a lot of anger toward the music press, but in such a witty way. I hope I’ve done it justice, because it’s such a wonderful book.

Source: avclub


Posted on October 13th, 2013 by admin

The actor discusses his role as one of the narrators in an animated film, Guantánamo Bay: The Hunger Strikes.

 
 Actors David Morrissey and Peter Capaldi narrate Guantánamo Bay: The Hunger Strikes using the words of those still held inside. Here, Morrissey talks about his involvement.

Why did you decide to do the film?

I’ve always been a supporter of Clive Stafford Smith and Reprieve [the organisation Stafford Smith founded in 1999 to provide legal support to prisoners who are unable to pay for it themselves]. I first became aware of Clive after seeing the 1988 film Fourteen Days in May [Paul Hamann’s documentary featuring Stafford Smith about a man on death row in the US], and I got involved with Reprieve about five years ago. He’s just a great campaigner for human rights and has been fighting for those on death row for a long time. This animated film about Guantánamo Bay is part of an effort to keep the men who are prisoners there and the hunger strikes that are going on [as a protest against the conditions they are kept in] in our minds and at the forefront of a very packed news agenda.

Why is it important that people know what’s going on inside Guantánamo Bay?

We’re living through a time when there’s a lot of kneejerk response to world events – there’s a lot of paranoia around. The fallout from which is that a lot of innocent people are being picked up, herded and victimised. It’s our job to keep people informed. It’s extremely important to highlight the truth about Guantánamo Bay – the fact that men who’ve not been charged with any crime and have been scheduled for release are still being held and that nothing is happening. It’s about throwing those facts to the public and saying: “This is happening in your name. Are you happy about it?”

Were the testimonies of the detainees upsetting to read?

They were, yes. These men are going through huge suffering and pain on a daily basis. When you’re reading their words you’re trying to take your own feelings away from what they’re saying and just get to the stark reality of what it’s like for them.

You’re an actor who is known for getting into the minds of the characters you play yet with the animation you sound like you’re deliberately playing it straight…

The more dispassionate the read, the more powerful it is sometimes. Peter Capaldi and I are not trying to “be” these men; we’re not characterising them, we’re not doing accents. It can make for a much more powerful read if you take out the passion from your voice… which is actually quite difficult to do. When we listened back to ourselves in the studio, there was a sense that there was this emotion creeping in and we worked to remove that. The facts speak for themselves – they don’t need embellishing. I’m not reading it as an actor, I’m not doing a characterisation. It doesn’t need that.

Can animation create the required emotional reaction in an audience?

Well, the public’s access to these men is nil; a documentary is out of the question. The problem is that sometimes a re-enactment using actors reaches a very fine line between what is real and what is not. That was part of the debate around Yasiin Bey [in July, the rapper formerly known as Mos Def was filmed live being force-fed to draw attention to conditions inside Guantánamo] – whether his force-feeding was a dramatisation or not. In that case it wasn’t – everything you see was real. So avoiding acting helps us get to the stark reality very quickly, and it’s also a way to get the message out.

By narrating the film you are figuratively and literally giving voice to the detainees…

I think we all have to act as their voice for the outside world, and that’s why I wanted to try and get the message out to as much of the public as possible. It’s impossible for the detainees. Their phone calls are monitored. Any conversations they have can have subtle repercussions for them.

You’ve just come back from filming in the US. Does Guantánamo Bay crop up in conversation much over there?

Among some people, it does. I guess, as an actor, I exist in a liberal world. In terms of the wider public, I’m not sure. It’s hard to get this message through. That’s why it seems Obama has lost his will to act to close the prison. There’s no political capital to ensure its closure for a man who led his campaign trail on it. It’s very disappointing for us.

Source: The Guardian


Posted on February 11th, 2013 by admin

 
 This interview contains spoilers for anyone not up-to-date with season three, episode eight of The Walking Dead.

He’s dealt with Cybermen in Doctor Who, political conspiracy in State of Play, and a singing David Tennant in Blackpool… Currently though, David Morrissey is the man behind The Governor, Rick Grimes’ chief antagonist in The Walking Dead‘s exemplary third season.

A few weeks ago, we chatted to Mr Morrissey about The Walking Dead, which returned to AMC last night in the US after its mid-season break, and comes to Fox in the UK this Friday the 15th of February. As is to be expected from any actor wishing to keep hold of a great role, Morrissey was reluctant to speak about AMC’s recent removal of showrunner Glen Mazzara, but he did talk to us about the Governor’s future, his relationship to the comic book character, and all things Woodbury…

How’s the eye?

[Laughs] It’s okay, it’s on the mend.

Presumably episode nine picks up immediately where number eight left off? The Governor is injured, grieving Penny, and out for revenge…

Yeah, it’s a direct continuation, there’s no time difference really, so we’ve seen him in the arena with the Dixon brothers and the crowd baying for blood and Andrea is at the side line just wondering what’s going on and it takes off right from that moment.

And you’re returning from the mid-season break with the iconic eye-patch. Does that signify the genesis of the comic book Governor?

I think the look is certainly there from the comic books, but I still think the Governor has a little bit more complexity going forward than in the comic. He is someone whose humanity is closing down very rapidly and I think he will act on that. But what’s been great for me so far in the series is how it’s surprised people. They both hate him and love him and they don’t know where they are with him. They find him repellent but also they’re attracted to him [laughs] and I think that sense of uncertainty about the character will continue. I don’t think he will ever become, hopefully, totally evil.

Would you agree that the Governor and Rick are two sides of the same coin, both with the same mission, just taking different approaches?

I think the difference really, certainly at the beginning of this season, is that the Governor has time. What he’s done by creating this oasis of Woodbury is he’s bought himself time, time to think about the future, time to enjoy what they’ve got. They can have parties and gatherings and they can eat and they can drink and you can leave your door open and your kids can run outside without you having to freak out about what’s happening, so that security that he’s created buys him time to relax and plan.

Rick is constantly on his toes, he doesn’t have time, he’s just trying to get through that day. That’s the difference between the two men. But as far as looking after their people is concerned, they’re both similar, that’s their priority, to look after the people around them. The ‘Rickocracy’ that Rick talks about at the end of season two, I think that they governor has a sense of that as well, in that sense of saying ‘It’s my way or the high way, this is how you’re going to be, you can take your chances in Woodbury with everything we have or you can go out there and basically die amongst the undead’, that’s what he’s saying. So it’s a stark choice that people have with Woodbury, but in that world, I know where I’d rather be.

What’s the Governor’s scope of ambition would you say? Is he content with Woodbury, or does he want to expand the empire?

 
 

He’s managed to secure himself and give himself breathing time, certainly at the start of season three, and I think he would be thinking of expanding that, not just geographically but being able to bring more people in, but he has to be careful about that because his real thing is to contain, and continue to be the leader of that community. He doesn’t want to bring anybody in who’s going to be…

A threat?

Yeah, threatening his authority at all. So it’s a very fine balance between keeping what you’ve got and expanding, he’s got to be very careful for that. I’m sure he regrets bringing Michonne in…

Understandably! Talking of threats to his authority, we’re going to be seeing your first scenes with Andrew Lincoln soon aren’t we?

I don’t know about that. I don’t know whether you are actually. I think you’re going to have to wait and see with that.

There’s a whole sense that that’s what people want. They feel that the stars are aligned for these two people to meet and they may do, they may not, but what I like about the season so far is that it surprises its audience, not least of all by killing off its leading characters sometimes, so you never know. There’s a sense of ‘what will that meeting be about?’, ‘what will be the outcome?’ and do they even meet at all? The main thing for me is that it’s definitely not going to be what people expect.

So we’re not looking at a big confrontation from the off as the posters have been teasing?

It’ll be interesting [laughs], I think people will just have to wait and see with them. It’s a really hard show to promote because there’s obviously the whole ‘spoiler alert’ and stuff like that but I think they are the two big alpha males of the piece, so it will be interesting to see what the writers do with them.

Did the choices Andrew Lincoln made with Rick influence your choice as to how you approached the Governor at all?

No, not at all. I think the Governor character for me came right out of Robert Kirkman’s two books, Rise of the Governor, and The Road to Woodbury, they were the two books I read, much more than the comic books. The person I discovered and worked on was that character that came out of there so I didn’t really look to see how Rick was doing and how he was performing, I was still a big fan of the show but I wasn’t trying to…

Play off him?

It didn’t influence me in any way.

Your character calls Rick’s group ‘terrorists’. Is that how he sees them, or is that more rhetoric for his people?

No, that’s definitely how he sees them, because that’s what they are as far as he’s concerned. They are people attacking his security and his freedom, they are people who have infiltrated his town and killed his daughter, killed his people, they’ve brought devastation. I don’t see how you can present them in any other way; that’s what they are. They are a threat to his security, terrorists are a threat to our way of life and that’s how he sees them.

He has kind of a ‘bread and circuses’ approach to Woodbury doesn’t he? Keeping the populace distracted with spectacle and security. Would you compare him to any real-world political leaders?

 
 

He doesn’t distract his populace with security, you know, that’s it. Security is everything.

What we do sitting here in our world is to make choices from a much more advantageous point of view, and I think if you can provide people in that world a place where you can open up your door and your children can run out into the street and they are safe, that’s not a tactic, that’s a reality.

But it does come at a cost and I think all leaders are playing a balance with their people where they’re saying ‘Only I can provide you this, only my party can provide you this, the other party will create instability. You’ll be less safe with them, you’ll be poorer with them, you’ll be more unhappy with them’. What the governor is saying is that everything that you’ve got that is secure, good, that represents freedom, you’ve got via me, purely me, so he has to create in himself the embodiment of security and I think he’s done that very successfully until he literally and emotionally let his guard down and let people into the community that he shouldn’t have let in, primarily Michonne.

But I think there are parallels in leadership all the time with that, with our own leaders and around the world, and not just cult leaders, I think someone refers to the Governor as a Jim Jones-like character but I think it’s not just cult leaders, party political leaders do that all the time. You look at any of our leaders in the past and present and they do that all the time. Turning up the gas on our sense of insecurity as well as our sense of security in order to manipulate us.

He’s new to power though…

He’s definitely new to power. Before, he wasn’t in a position of power, but the circumstances have thrust power on him and he is slightly making it up as he goes along and because of that he is being corrupted by power.

Are you playing a character who is playing a character then, would you say?

I don’t think he’s aware that he’s playing a character. I think what he’s doing is he’s finding his way into a new self, there’s a sense that he is walking in shoes that aren’t naturally fitted to him, that’s true. That’s where sometimes the mistakes he makes come from, the fact that it’s very new, it’s a new jacket he’s wearing.

Presumably when you came aboard, you discussed the Governor at length with Robert Kirkman…

Yeah, but also the showrunner Glen Mazzara, that’s who most of my conversations were with. The way American television works is that you sit down with the writers really, which is a team of writers led by Glen and that’s what was talked about really, is how the Governor can manipulate people and how this world is new to him. Is this a natural place for him to inhabit, or an unnatural place for him to be? We’re finding that answer in the season.

Appreciating that you can’t reveal anything about it, have you had a conversation with Glen about the Governor’s eventual exit?

No. I haven’t actually, because I don’t really want to have that conversation. I love being in the show, it’s such a great place to be so it’s a conversation that, you know, I’d like to avoid! [laughs].

But you’re contracted for five years, so that shouldn’t be an imminent threat?

Well you never know, I think the other thing about The Walking Dead is that no-one’s safe. That’s what creates a frisson with the viewers and the fans really, it’s a character-driven show and they care about the characters, but they don’t know whether they’re going to be safe. We’re not in a Star Trek world where the leading character is beaming down with one guy you’ve never seen before, so you think ‘Well, he’s going to die’, we’re not in that world, we’re in this world where people we love dearly and we love to watch and care about, can be killed. I think that’s what gives the show its frisson.

That instability is reflected in real life isn’t it, with the many changes in showrunner in the last three years [Scott Gimple has replaced Glen Mazzara, who replaced Frank Darabont]. How do changes upstairs ripple down to the set?

I think in any industry, things do ripple, but what’s wonderful about The Walking Dead is that there’s such a professional atmosphere, led chiefly by Andrew Lincoln who is just one of the great leading actors. He reminds me of David Tennant in a way as he’s the first guy on set and he’s the last guy to leave. He knows everybody, he cares about The Walking Dead from the bottom of his heart, it’s not a job for him and that sort of professionalism filters down to not just the other actors but everybody on set. So, while decisions are happening higher up the food chain from us, it’s our responsibility to get on with the show on a daily basis.

Having directed in the past, is there an opportunity for you to tackle an episode of The Walking Dead from behind the camera?

I’d love that, but you know, I’ve said in the past that if they wanted me to make the tea I’d do it! I really love the atmosphere of being down there on that set. It’s like doing a sixteen-hour movie because you have all the equipment there, you have the budget to be able to do great things and have your ambition pushed and challenged in a visual sense and so from a creative point of view, it’s a wonderful place to be. I would love to direct an episode, but just being part of it is great.

Having brought up David Tennant, I have to ask, when you were playing along with those ‘Is David Morrissey the Next Doctor?’ rumours, was there a part of you that would have loved them to be true?

Yeah, there was a bit. Again, it’s a great show and I was slightly thrown by that. David announced he was going and this rumour mill began and I couldn’t say what I knew but it was a very fun place to inhabit for six months, when people thought it was going to be me, that was great. And also I think that Russell [T. Davies] is just a wonderful person, so it was great to even be associated with that, but I think it’s in good hands.

 
 

Were you a fan of Doctor Who growing up?

No, not at all. No, I was really not, it was not my bag. I was also slightly suspicious of people who were. I had one great friend who could quote passages from the books, you’d go into his house and he had all the books, and he wore a Tom Baker scarf and I loved him dearly but I was also slightly… Apart from Liverpool Football Club, I’ve never been in love with anything in that way. I was in love with acting and drama and film and theatre but never one specific genre in that way and Doctor Who, I thought it was alright, but it never got in my bones in that way.

Saying that, the relaunch did, and I watched it because my kids watched it, so I suddenly got into it in a different way, but no, I was never really into it as a child. It was always on at the wrong time for me, I was always out playing football.

The Doctor’s former companions often find themselves back in the TARDIS for an episode or two, is that something you’d be open to?

Ah, I’d love that. I would absolutely love to do it again. I had such a ball doing it. Mark Gatiss says, you know, there’s nothing more blissful for him to write than “Interior TARDIS: Day” or whatever on the top of one of his scripts, it’s living the dream. And for me, when I went down and worked on it, I thought ‘This is great’, it’s a really well-run show, people take it very seriously but you have fun on it. And l loved that character, I really loved Jackson Lake, I thought he was a really interesting man, he was in some sort of trauma himself and the Doctor liberates him from that…

He was another troubled parent, like the Governor…

[laughs] Another man going down the toilet, I wonder why! But also at the end he’s full of joy so I’d really jump at the chance to do that.

Having been involved in Russell T Davies’ press rumour machine must have been good preparation for taking on the Governor role, something very high profile role that requires such secrecy?

Yeah. Like The Walking Dead, Doctor Who‘s a very well-loved show, so the press was excited about it and it was very positive. But when I did State of Play, when I did The Deal, there was always that sense of press interest around it, which is great for me, but I don’t live my life like that. It comes from my work, which is okay.

The Walking Dead is different in the sense of that Twitter world, and I’d never been to Comic-Con before and that was a very interesting world to step into, so that’s all a bit new for me, that sense of the world.

Did you follow the fan reaction on Twitter?

Yeah, a little bit I did. It was all very positive so I was very happy about that. I followed a little bit of it and then there was so much of it, I thought I’d better spend some time with my children [laughs].

You have Comic-Con again this year I suppose, that’s going to be twice as crazy…

Yeah, I mean, that was such a blast, both of them actually, the one in San Diego or New York both were such fun so I have no problems doing that again, it was fantastic.

David Morrissey, thank you very much!

Source: DenofGreek


Posted on November 9th, 2012 by admin

Theatre was David Morrissey’s first love, making him a star at home, and now in the US, via a major role in hit zombie drama The Walking Dead. But is acting becoming a closed profession?

 
 When David Morrissey was a teenager, he gave up on school. Not academic, he had discovered acting, and that, as far as he was concerned, was that. “All of us, at some point, find the thing that keeps us ticking. Sometimes it lasts a lifetime and sometimes it lasts a couple of months,” he says, with rather more surety than that sentence deserves. “I sat outside the Everyman [theatre in Liverpool] the first time I went, and I could hear what was going on through the door, and I knew that if I went in, my life would change. And it did. It gave me a life, that’s what it gave me.”

This was Liverpool in the 70s. “The youth theatre had a great creative energy, but the theatre itself … Jonathan Pryce, Bill Nighy, Julie Walters, Antony Sher were there just as I got there. It was all coming at me, this creative force. I never wanted to be anywhere else.”

 Morrissey is the kind of actor whose name, when you see it on a cast list, makes you feel reassured you’re settling down to watch something good. He was astonishing as Gordon Brown in The Deal, the drama that told the story of the leadership agreement made between Brown and Blair. State of Play, in which Morrissey played the compromised MP Stephen Collins, is still one of the best dramas the BBC has ever made, and his role as the corrupt detective in the Red Riding trilogy was one of pure menace. Next year comes a film he made with James McAvoy and Mark Strong, Welcome to the Punch – a London-based crime thriller already being talked about as a step up from generic gangster films.
He doesn’t know why he keeps being cast in roles that require the kind of dour inner turmoil or quiet villainy he brings. “You get that box you’re put into. I think it’s being six foot three and a miserable bastard.” Is he that? He’s clearly a man who spends a lot of time in his head, but he smiles a lot, too. “No, I’m not really.”

Still, more darkness calls. Morrissey joins the third series of hit US zombie drama The Walking Dead as the governor, a beast of a man who runs a small town called Woodbury. For anyone who hasn’t caught the first two seasons, based on a comic book series, it’s about a group of survivors living in a post-apocalyptic Atlanta where most of the population have become shuffling, shambling zombies, or “walkers”.

Zombies have long carried weighty cultural significance. If George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead zombies were referencing growing nuclear fears, and 28 Days Later came out at the height of the war on terror in 2002, what do the Walking Dead’s flesh-eaters say about our time? “The unknown, I think,” he says. “The unknown threat. The idea of being besieged by an uncontrollable populace is very frightening. The idea that there is a non-negotiable enemy out there. There is a sense of the besieged community and that’s an interesting place for me. Woodbury is a community in the heart of a dangerous place that is finding a way of surviving. It has barriers and fences – it lives for its security. What the zombies represent is the instability and slightly crazed enemy.”

And the governor, then, is an authoritarian who uses brutality and fear to control his community. “He has to play this game with the populace, which is about reminding them how dangerous it is, so they stay within his governorship, and feel grateful to him for what he is providing,” says Morrissey. “He has created the world he wants to create in this madness, but as we know, power is a great corrupter.”

We meet in an overheated hotel room in London. Morrissey is home for a week. In the past, when US TV jobs have come up, Morrissey has never been able to commit to them – at the pilot stage, it’s typical for actors to sign up for seven years – because the timing hadn’t been right for his young family (Morrissey and his wife, the novelist Esther Freud, have three children, the oldest 17). Although he has to spend half the year in Atlanta and is signed up for five years, “that’s the great thing about the zombie apocalypse – there’s a way out, I guess. This seemed the right time. It happened really quickly for me. I phoned my wife and said what do you think, and she said: ‘Go for it.'”

His is a career notable for its few missteps, but this means they’re more conspicuous. He played the lead in Basic Instinct 2 opposite Sharon Stone, a film so bad that even when his friends bring it up, he says, they do it with the sort of hushed, disapproving tones “like they’re saying, ‘What about that time you were in the BNP?'” He laughs.

“It was a film that didn’t work, get over it.” The only other smudge I find on his CV is a voiceover for a McDonald’s ad.

“Yeah,” he says, sounding pained. “I felt quite conflicted by that. I did it … It was one of those things I wish hadn’t happened, but I did it, and I justified it to myself at the time. But yes, it was a blip, I absolutely wear that one.”

There has been much talk recently about how only posh kids can afford to become actors now; Julie Walters and Ken Loach have weighed in. “It is sad that so many of the young leading actors are coming from such a narrow social background,” Loach said. “It emphasises the fact that this is a society based on class and that privilege confers status.”

Morrissey, whose father was a cobbler and whose mother worked for Littlewoods, agrees, but adds that acting is not the only profession closed to many young people. “Certainly in politics – interns are mostly from middle and upper classes, because those wages are going, and I presume that’s true in most industries. There’s an age bracket – late teens to early 20s – when, if your parents don’t have the money, you’re not going to be able to do unpaid internships. Acting reflects other industries. You can’t survive on those wages at that level, so they have to be supported by parents, and so that has to be the middle-class kids, and that’s a disgrace.”

He pauses. “I think people are right [to complain], but it’s always been hard for those from a working-class background to get into the arts. It’s not going to stop people, but it will make it harder.”

Morrissey trained at Rada. Would he have gone to drama school if he’d had to pay fees? “No, there was no way I could have done that. But whether that would have stopped me being an actor is a different question. Fees for drama schools are ridiculous, and I know the drama schools feel that as well. At Rada, which I go back to every now and then, I do see a diverse demographic. But they have to struggle to subsidise people; there are bursaries and scholarships. Where the answer lies I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the industry itself putting money back in.”

It’s always difficult, he says, in times of economic crisis, for the arts to champion itself, “when something like the NHS is struggling, but it’s still our job to do that”. He is supporting the campaign to raise money to fund the rebuilding of the Everyman theatre. Has he seen the effects of the cuts on theatre? “You see younger actors working for a good theatre that gets good audiences, but being asked to work for £100 a week. How are they going to live on that, particularly in London? Touring was very important to me as a kid. There were some really strange experimental theatres – it was wonderful to see how diverse theatre could be – and that’s being cut. We’re spoilt in the south. Theatres outside of London can do one show in their season that has a cast over 10, and that’s not a great breadth of work to be doing.”

If Morrissey was wealthy before – he lives in, by all accounts, a very nice house in Hampstead – landing a big US TV show will have catapulted him into a new league. Can money make him feel disconnected from his roots, his siblings? “The great thing about coming from where I come from – Liverpool and my family – is that we’re very close. I have a great relationship with my siblings and their kids. I don’t feel I live in a rarefied world in any way. When I go home, people are very vocal in telling me what they think. I don’t feel disconnected in that way, and also my work tends not to make me rarefied. If you’re doing something like Red Riding, the places we film in, you’re investigating the real world there. I grew up in a great, loving place, and I try to recreate that; the difference, for my kids, is space and stuff like that.”

He says journalists often ask him about his marriage into the Freud dynasty “with the type of tone of ‘that snotty-nosed oik from Liverpool who ended up … ‘”, but anyone who has read Hideous Kinky, Freud’s autobiographical first novel, based on her bohemian and at times impoverished childhood, may make you doubt money has ever been much of a point of difference between them. But I wonder if he spends any time marvelling at the idea of having children who are also descended from two 20th-century giants (Sigmund is their great-great-grandfather, and Lucian, who died last year, was their grandfather) – and whether he thinks it could be a burden. “I don’t think they have a sense of that, really,” he says. “They had a relationship with Lucian, which was great, but I don’t think they see themselves in terms of their ancestry. If they do, they don’t talk to me about it.”

Americans, he says, are more bowled over by Sigmund; to Morrissey, Lucian was more interesting. “I wasn’t very close to him, but whenever I met him, I found him endlessly fascinating. I’ve been in his studio when he was painting. He used to do this thing where, as he painted, he would just put it [surplus paint] on the wall – the wall was that thick with paint.” He holds his hands a foot apart. “I would look at that and think it was amazing.”

Morrissey is a collector of such details. When I ask him what he likes about acting, he says, “I like the fact it gives me the opportunity to examine other lives.” For someone who claims not to have been academic at school, he takes a rigorously academic approach to his work – roles are researched thoroughly, through books and interviews, until he has absorbed not only the personality he thinks they have, but the time and place they were living in.

He has directed a feature film – 2009’s Don’t Worry About Me, set over a day in Liverpool, as well as some short films – and would like to do more, but acting is his first love. “I love telling stories. I like the challenges presented to me on a daily basis. There’s nothing resting about acting. There’s something I must love about the insecurity I profess to hate.” Insecurity about whether the phone is ever going to ring again? “Yes, but mainly about self, of doing something and going: ‘Was that OK?’ All actors have a great level of insecurity, which can be really boring, particularly if you’re on the outside of that – it can seem egotistical. Sometimes you’re going: ‘Why didn’t I do that other job? Why is he doing that job when I’m not?’, and if you’re not careful it can drive you mad. My most creative time is in the car from the set at the end of the day: ‘I could have done that! Why didn’t I do that?'”

Still, he says with a slow guilty smile, he thinks he must secretly enjoy the self-flagellation. “I do give myself a bad time, but I sort of like it. I’m not a perfectionist at all. I find perfectionists boring because the real creative heart is in the mess somewhere.”

 

Source: The Guardian


Posted on April 24th, 2011 by admin

Fresh from BBC1’s South Riding, the newly-bearded actor takes on the role of Macbeth in his home town of Liverpool.

 
 In the Latimer Road area of west London, where the Range Rovers give way to dangerous dogs, David Morrissey sits in a scruffy rehearsal room and sets terms for the interview. “I do have certain superstitions, it would be wrong to say it was all bull, but we can mention the play: I’m doing Macbeth,” declaims the 46-year-old actor. “It’s intriguing, the frisson around the word, but I have more to worry about at the moment than the title.”

In an age of floor-to-ceiling Hamlets, it’s easy to forget what a plum and chilling role Macbeth is. It has ambition, greed, revenge – all at twice the speed of the Danish play; besides, every morning Morrissey is reminded of its modern relevance in the newspapers, whether it is Laurent Gbagbo retreating to his bunker in Ivory Coast, or a Gaddafi aide “tipping up” in London, in echo of Macduff’s flight. Morrissey’s perception of the part changes on a daily basis: “So far, my character analysis is the fact that he has a beard,” he says with a wry smile.

But what is making Morrissey really nervous is that this is his return to Liverpool’s Everyman theatre. It was here, as a teenager in the late 70s, that he discovered acting during a golden age for drama in the city. Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale were writing original scripts that would be performed by a roster that included Jonathan Pryce, Julie Walters, Bill Nighy and the McGann brothers. This Macbeth will be the last play ever performed in the theatre before it closes for redevelopment.

“Liverpool has always made me brave, choice-wise,” says Morrissey, his voice going that much more Scouse. “It was never a city that criticised anyone for taking a chance. Growing up, I could see musicians and actors doing very strange and experimental things. After the Everyman, if I went to the theatre and somebody didn’t drop their trousers and get their knob out I didn’t think it was a very good play.”

Morrissey’s bravery has seen him take roles as diverse as Gordon Brown in The Deal and Sharon Stone’s love interest in Basic Instinct 2. At one point it looked like he might become the new Hollywood heartthrob, but thankfully it never happened and he returned to TV roles in Thorne and South Riding. He concludes: “It’s always good to find out what you don’t want to do.”

What would Morrissey’s teenage self, hanging around the Everyman youth theatre, think of what he has become: actor, director and husband to novelist Esther Freud? “Oh, I’d have bitten off your hand for half of it,” he says. He pauses and scratches his chin. “There might have been criticism of the beard though.”

Macbeth is at the Everyman, Liverpool from 6 May to 11 June
This article was amended 26 April 2011

Source: The Guardian


Posted on March 2nd, 2010 by admin

From Crosby beach to a big match at Anfield, actor David Morrissey takes Amy Raphael on a tour of his hometown – and explains why it has inspired him to direct a new film.

 
 Past the Hillsborough memorial and beneath the legend “You’ll Never Walk Alone” atop the Shankly Gates, through the creaking turnstile and into the main stand. A subdued Liverpool team warm up on the pitch. Freezing fog swirls in the floodlights. David Morrissey warms his hands on a cup of hot chocolate and wishes he hadn’t left his gloves back home in north London. Two officials stare and nudge each other, but no one else even glances at him.

We are sitting five rows from the pitch and, for the first half of this Premiership game against Birmingham City, all the action is at the other end as Liverpool attack the Kop. Morrissey – 6ft 3in, broad of shoulder, very Scouse when he’s supporting his team – keeps standing up to get a better view. Two blokes sitting down behind us poke him sporadically in the back. They shout, “Sit down, Jack! Jack! Jack in the box, fuckin’ sit down!” Morrissey, lost in the game, is oblivious.

Liverpool go 1-0 up, 2-1 down and finally draw 2-2. Still, Morrissey finds it in himself to laugh as the City fans chant “You’re just a fat Spanish waiter” at Liverpool manager Rafa Benítez. When Stevie Gerrard steps up to take a penalty, a thousand flashlights sparkle in the fog, but this is not a game – or season – to be celebrated. As we leave an unusually grave Anfield, I wonder if Morrissey regrets agreeing to show me around his home city. But his disappointment at the result quickly evaporates.

He exchanges text messages with Albie, his 14-year-old son, at home in London. He explains: “Normally we sit in front of the TV watching the football, laptops on our knees. Him on Facebook and me half-watching funny videos on YouTube . . . ”

Although Morrissey, now 45, has been living in London since going to Rada in his late teens, his heart still belongs to Liverpool. He has spent the last three years co-writing, financing and directing his second film for television, Don’t Worry About Me; ostensibly a boy-meets-girl story about a Cockney lad who ends up in Liverpool and talks a local girl into showing him around, it’s really a love letter to his home city. While Passer By, a Tony Marchant drama starring James Nesbitt that Morrissey directed for television in 2004, was strong on characterisation and plot, Don’t Worry About Me is at its most impressive when the camera drifts along the landscape.

 The escape from Scouse roles

The most iconic shot is of the three graces – the Royal Liver building, the Cunard building and the former offices of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board – standing proud on the edge of the Mersey, if only because of the modern architecture now butting up against them. “Every time I come home, I’m amazed by how the shore line is changing,” Morrissey says. Is London – where he lives with his wife Esther Freud, and their three children, Albie, Anna, 12, and Gene, five – not home? “Liverpool will always be my home. In my 20s, I wanted to distance myself from it – I didn’t only want to be offered Scouse roles. But the older I get, the more of a pull it has.”

The day after the Liverpool game, we drive to Crosby beach to see Antony Gormley’s iron men. On the way there, like someone in the first flush of love, Morrissey talks endlessly about Don’t Worry About Me. He made it for £100,000, shot it over three weeks in September 2007 and worked on the post-production either between roles or on set (in the same period, he appeared in Sense & Sensibility, The Other Boleyn Girl, Is Anybody There?, Doctor Who, Red Riding and Nowhere Boy).

He says he is the sort of actor who hangs around on set even when he knows he won’t be called, watching how films are put together and feeling frustrated that he is only dipping into the process. “Actors come into the process late and leave early. As a director, your work is finished only when it’s on the screen. But I will always be an actor who occasionally directs. And no, I have no interest in directing myself. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on both jobs at once.” What has he learned from the directors he’s worked with? “To create a space for actors to work in and see not problems, but opportunities.”

The youngest of four, Morrissey grew up in a council house in Kensington, to the east of Liverpool’s city centre, that had been in the family since the turn of the 20th century; his mother, aunt and uncle were all born in the house, his grandparents married in the backyard. “It was a real Coronation Street, back-to-back, outside-toilet house. Terence Davies lived two streets away, and the area was his inspiration for Distant Voices, Still Lives. I very clearly remember women on their knees, scrubbing the front doorstep.”

When he was seven, the family – his father was a cobbler, his mother worked for Littlewoods – moved to a new housing estate in Knotty Ash. “We had four bedrooms and an indoor loo, but I was used to the community spirit in Kensington; I knew all the neighbours. I got a paper round in Knotty Ash, and I’d always have two or three papers left at the end because the estate was a labyrinth.”

Lazy and disinterested at primary school, he failed the 11-plus and was “fucking miserable” at secondary school. He left at 16, did “a bit of boxing” and joined the Everyman Youth Theatre. “As a kid I spent most of my time watching TV. Hollywood musicals, Colditz, anything. But they never reflected my life – until I saw Ken Loach’s Kes. I was a happy kid, but the football scene where Brian Glover bullies Billy Caspar reminded me of my school. I felt total empathy for the lad, but I was also transported. Like God knows how many blokes my age, it made me want to act.”

At 19, Morrissey was cast alongside Ian Hart – still his best mate – in Willy Russell’s One Summer, about two Scouse lads who run off to Wales. He got into Rada, acted at the Liverpool Playhouse, Stratford East, the RSC and the National, and, for a while, was typecast as a copper in television dramas.

In the early days, Morrissey took the job home with him. “As a younger actor, I indulged myself in murky, dark, depressive places. Now I try to have a laugh on set; if you are thrusting rats in Peter Mullan’s face in [Channel 4’s] Red Riding, you have to be able to laugh at the end of the scene or you’d go mad. I find humour helps in all sorts of situations: often you meet an actor for the first time, introduce yourself then strip off and jump into bed. If you can laugh about the absurdity of acting, the boundaries drop, and you quickly create an atmosphere where anything goes.”

Anne-Marie Duff, Morrissey’s onscreen wife in Nowhere Boy and Is Any-body There?, tells me that she approves of his method: “David makes me laugh till I cry. He’s one of the funniest, naughtiest men.” Yet there is a serious, thoughtful side, too, and it is probably this that has elevated him from the run of TV cop shows to being first on the list when it comes to casting quality British drama (this week he is part of BBC1’s impressive Five Days ensemble, even if he is playing a police officer).

Yoga and the iron men

Like most actors, Morrissey can look exposed by a weak script (he shone as the slippery MP Stephen Collins in 2003’s State of Play, but was lost in Basic Instinct 2), and he has an uncanny knack for getting inside a character’s head. He researches his roles – be it Gordon Brown in The Deal or, more recently, a memorably chilling police interrogator in the BBC drama Mrs Mandela. And while he is not without ambition, he takes nothing for granted, perhaps because his father died when he was 15. He has tried yoga and meditation but not therapy (he often says his wife’s name is the least interesting thing about her). If pushed, he would no doubt say that acting is his release.

There is a harsh beauty to Crosby beach: sand dunes frame an industrial landscape to the east, endless dark yellow sand to the west and turbines out at sea. Morrissey jokes that he has planned our visit to perfection: the tide is right out, and only a few of Gormley’s cast-iron men are submerged. Morrissey’s mum and his three siblings live just up the road. “The city centre is changing,” he says, “with new buildings flying up all over the place. Some exciting and vibrant, others I’m not so sure about. But, to me, these iron men capture the history of Liverpool as a port.” He places a hand on a silent figure. “Looking out to sea, waiting for friends and family to come home.”

Source: The Guardian


Posted on June 6th, 2008 by admin

 
 The house/flat I grew up in … was on a sprawling modern council estate in Knotty Ash, Liverpool, not far from Ken Dodd.

When I was a child I wanted to be … everything: a policeman, a soldier, an astronaut. Then I realised, being an actor, I’d have the licence to do all these things.

The moment that changed me for ever … was my father’s death, when I was 15. He was very ill for a very long time, and eventually died from a haemorrhage at our family home, aged 54.

My greatest inspiration … is my wife, Esther [Freud, the novelist]. I thought writers were inspired people, but she taught me that it’s about getting to your desk each day, not waiting for magical inspiration to fly through the window and hit you.

My real-life villain … is Dick Cheney. Bush is a puppet, with people behind him pulling the strings; mainly those who have American business as their agenda.

If I could change one thing about myself … I’d change my inner clock. It takes a long time to drag myself out of bed and at night I’m buzzing. As a young man it was helpful, but now I’d like to be tired when I go to bed and alive in the morning.

At night I dream of … I never retain dreams in any way. I get snippets of images. If I’m too hot I’ll have a nightmare, and wake up panicking. Sometimes I can’t move and I get frozen. But I never have a coherent idea of what happened.

What I see when I look in the mirror … As an actor, I look a lot. But I’m looking at a character, which is easy to analyse and adjust. If I look at myself, I’m slightly surprised by what I have, as opposed to what I think I have.

My style icon … Paul Weller, in the Eighties.

My favourite item of clothing … is an old navy-blue Crombie overcoat. It suits me, fits me perfectly and keeps me warm; it’s like that old coat that everyone talks about.

I wish I’d never worn … a lime-green pullover. I don’t know when it was ever right to wear a lime-green pullover.

It’s not fashionable but I like … Radio 2. Jonathan Ross on Saturday mornings, and Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe in the evening.

You wouldn’t know it but I’m not very good at … being a car passenger, particularly if my wife is driving – though it’s really nothing to do with her. I’m fine in the back, reading, but when I’m next to the driver, I become a bag of nerves.

You may not know it but I’m very good at … keeping my mouth shut and not getting involved in things that aren’t my business. It’s a new thing for me and I like it.

All my money goes on … home, the garden and my family. I tend to buy kitchen equipment and stuff for our vegetable garden, and I like to think that when I buy DVDs and CDs that they’re for the house rather than me.

If I have time to myself … I’m no good at down-time. I panic slightly and then plan a project or set up a meeting about starting a project.

I drive … a BMW 5 series.

My house is … a nice house in north London with a nice garden.

My most valuable possession is … my photo albums. I’d be very upset if something happened to them. Now all my newer albums are on the computer. I constantly panic and back them up.

My favourite building … is the National Theatre. Even though it’s not that great from the outside, it’s a wonderful and functional building on the inside.

Movie heaven … The one I return to a lot is On the Waterfront. As a child, it sort of galvanised me. The first few notes of the soundtrack make my hairs stand on end. I played it to my son and he didn’t get it. I was in tears.

A book that changed me … The first Graham Greene book I read was A Gun for Sale, which made me read all his other stuff. He was a genius.

My favourite work of art … Antony Gormley’s statues in Liverpool. I love the way he works in the community, like with Angel of the North. The last album I bought/downloaded … Duffy’s album Rockferry. There are a lot of those types of singers around – in the absence of Amy Winehouse – but of them all, Duffy’s my favourite.

The person who really makes me laugh … My son got me into The Mighty Boosh. I just love that surrealist humour.

The shop I can’t walk past … Any shop, really. I’m a window shopper, particularly Merc on Carnaby Street, where you can get sharp suits, circa Jam, 1980, Ben Sherman button-down shirts and Fred Perry T-shirts.

The best invention ever … The telephone is pretty great: it saves lives and builds communication.

In 10 years time, I hope to be … living with Esther in a different city, although she likes the country. I’d love to be in New York at some point.

My greatest regret … is not being closer to my father before he died, but there wasn’t anything I could have done. It wasn’t a choice on my part.

My life in seven words … tall, northern, married, father, happy-go-lucky.

Source: Independent


Network
David’s Official Twitter page