Geordie acting greats enact Joe Maddison's War
PUBLISHED: 08:33 27 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:54 20 February 2013
North East actors Robson Green and Kevin Whately talk about starring together on TV for the first time in the smash ITV drama Joe Maddison's War - just out on DVD
Former Soldier Soldier star Robson Green admits he didnt even read the Joe Maddisons War script before deciding to accept his role - once he realised it was the work
of Jarrow-born, award-winning writer Alan Plater.
They said it was an Alan Plater script and I said: Ill do it, no problem. Its a no-brainer - his work speaks for itself. Hes a wonderful writer.
Its an era I wish Id grown up in because everyone lived life to the full: they didnt know what would happen tomorrow or the next day, so they lived from moment to moment. I quite like that notion. Everything was spontaneous.
There was also a definite sense of community and togetherness and true patriotism. People were very proud of their country and what it stood for.
Robson plays the part of World War One veteran Harry, a cynical and rebellious character, and it is a part he identifies with.
Harry saw death and destruction on the Somme and thought thered be some sort of reward at the end of it - instead of which, hes spent his whole life at work, being ordered about by cocky little sods that have no idea what theyre talking about. He always rebels against authority and he doesnt like fake sincerity or liars.
He doesnt suffer fools easily and neither do I. He rebels against authority and Im a bit like that. I dislike people who self promote. I dont like the sort of people who run golf clubs and what they represent - who do they think they are with their presidents parking spaces?
The film has given Robson the
utmost respect for the veterans of both World Wars.
They were called heroes but they came back to poverty and rejection and they were left on the scrap heap to suffer. Its a time we should never forget and we should never forget those who gave their lives for our freedom.
Despite the sombre background of World War Two, the film has many lighter moments.
Robson, 45, says: The director said to me: This is not Dads Army. But there is an underlying homage to Dads Army - were crawling over turnip fields pretending to look for submarines and theres one scene where we arrest a statue that we think is a German solider.
And I loved Dads Army - it was wonderful. It doesnt tire and my son Taylor watches it - he knows all the words to Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler. There was pathos and humour and camaraderie in Dads Army, just like Joe Maddisons War.
The film reunites Robson with Trevor Fox, who plays Eddie, who he has known since they were teenagers together at the Live Theatre in Newcastle. But it is the first time he has ever appeared alongside Kevin Whately.
Incredibly, we have never worked together. We see each other and we both suffer in silence at St Jamess Park watching Newcastle United, so its a lovely privilege to work with him finally.
There was an instant camaraderie as soon as I arrived on the set. Kevin is lovely and hes the captain of the ship and a very good one. Trevor Fox Ive grown up with and hes a joy to be with too - and what a privilege to work with Derek Jacobi.
Robson grew up in the small pit village of Dudley on North Tyneside. After school he spent two year working in the shipyards before deciding to try his hand professionally at acting.
He now lives with his family in Surrey, but he still has a cottage on the Coquet where he loves trout-fishing. He was delighted to return there during the four weeks of filming earlier this year.
Its always wonderful when - during your time filming - you can see your brothers and sisters and your mum.
Its just fabulous and I love being there. Im always relaxed in the North East and I feel very comfortable. Its where I belong. Its home. Its my roots and my sense of identity - it means everything to me.
Meanwhile Kevin Whately, who plays nice guy Joe Maddison, says the characters dependable and easy-going nature suited him just fine.
Ive always played the boy-next-door. I cant play flash. I cant carry it off and I dont try, he explains.
Everyman parts are the ones I seem to get. I dont know why and Im not sure I want to know! Ive never had a matinee idol look and Ive never had any sense of fashion, so I tend to be ordinary and play ordinary, which suits me.
Joe Maddison is a perfect example. Hes a grafter with a strong moral sense and hes brave. I admire him a lot. Theres an old-fashioned honesty and generosity about him.
Kevin was delighted to be back in his native North East for filming in the spring, which proved a family affair, with his wife Madelaine Newton also appearing in the drama as Jenny Barlow, the local gossip.
We had a flat in the middle of Newcastle while we were filming. We had two or three scenes together. We havent acted together for a long time.
We actually met in a stage play in Newcastle. She played the lead in that and I had a little walk-on role. We also did a kids series together and she was with me in the second series of Auf Wiedersehen Pet.
To research for the role of Joe, Kevin watched several documentaries set in the 1930s, as well as reading up on the lives of World War One platoon soldiers.
And he also drew on real-life wartime stories from his own family - his father was in the navy during the war and his uncle in the army.
My dad was on North Atlantic convoys. And my wifes dad was a merchant engineer during the war and was sunk three times and torpedoed twice. But like a lot of people who lived through it, they just didnt talk about it.
Thats one of the things we try to show in Joe Maddisons War. Both Joe and Harry bottle it all up and only occasionally talk about it. It was a different time. The realities of the war were hidden from people.
Kevin had never worked with Robson Green or Trevor Fox before, but said the camaraderie amongst the almost entirely Geordie cast was absolutely fantastic.
Robson and Trevor have known each other for years and Trevor is hysterical. On screen Robson and I couldnt get our punch lines in, because when Trevor set up a gag on screen he just made us howl with laughter. We completely wrecked shots because we giggled through them.
The drama also saw Kevin reunited with Melanie Hill, who he worked with in the mid 1980s on Auf Wiedersehen Pet, when she played the wife of Timothy Spalls character Barry in the first two series. She plays pretty local widow Selina.
Kevin now lives in Milton Keynes and admits filming in the North East made him feel nostalgic.
The best times are a frosty morning somewhere and you find a lovely view. The great thing is weve had fantastic locations - a lot of them places I havent seen for 40 years. And I love being able to work outdoors.
Filming in Northumberland also brought back memories of Kevins big break in television, playing Neville Hope in the 1980s comedy series Auf Wiedersehen Pet, following the fortunes of a group of Geordie builders as they try their hand in Germany.
The series also launched the television careers of Geordie pals Tim Healy and Jimmy Nail.
I owe everything to that show really. We were all unknown and there was a real chemistry between us. We were - and still are - like a band of brothers. Were still in touch with each other. Auf Wiedersehen Pet led directly to Morse and everything else really.
And the 59-year-old actor, who has two grown-up children and a granddaughter - three year-old Ivy - admits he doesnt try to work all the year round any more.
I like to spend time with the family. Im a professional childminder to Ivy three or four days a week. I love being a granddad, but Ive not played one yet.