‘I’ll never get a bet­ter job’

Doc Martin is back – but what can we ex­pect now the grumpy GP has saved his mar­riage? Martin Clunes talks to Ge­or­gia Humphreys about the drama to come, get­ting back into the role and Sigour­ney Weaver’s re­turn...

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IT’S been 13 years since Martin Clunes took on the role of Doc Martin, and his huge fan base – known as the “Clu­natics” – shows no signs of shrink­ing.

In fact, the “fans have or­gan­ised them­selves”, the 55-year-old ac­tor re­veals in his dis­tinctly calm­ing voice, so apt for play­ing a doc­tor.

“They’re in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous, they send presents and they sup­ported a show we did on Nepal and gave money to our ap­peal. There are some Bri­tish Clu­natics, Aus­tralian, New Zealand, all over the place.

“We’re all pleas­antly baf­fled by them but they’re so kind, they’re at such pains to tell you why they like it [the show], lots of peo­ple re­cov­er­ing or go­ing through ill­ness.”

And Clunes con­fides his fans aren’t al­ways hu­man.

“Peo­ple have started say­ing thank you to me af­ter I’ve said hello to their dog, like I’ve blessed it or some­thing!” he ex­claims.

The tow­er­ing 6ft 3in ac­tor, who pre­vi­ously starred in Men Be­hav­ing Badly, is more than happy to meet peo­ple’s pooches, though. While his re­cur­rently ir­ri­ta­ble char­ac­ter Dr Martin Elling­ham can’t stand dogs, Clunes him­self is an an­i­mal lover who spends months or­gan­is­ing Buck­ham Fair for char­ity. Held on his farm in Dorset ev­ery Au­gust, it has 1,000 dogs in at­ten­dance as well as a pony show and fun­fair.

“If I’m at home there’s al­ways a mil­lion things to do on the farm or with an an­i­mal, which I love,” says the star, when dis­cussing what he does with his time off. “That’s as far away from per­form­ing as you can get.”

Lon­don-born Clunes had a whole year away from film­ing Doc Martin in the tiny Cor­nish vil­lage of Port Isaac last year, in­stead work­ing abroad on his ITV doc­u­men­tary Is­lands of Aus­tralia. So how well has the ac­tor moulded back into the role of the na­tion’s favourite grumpy medic?

“It’s funny, it’s a lit­tle ten­ta­tive and you think, am I do­ing an im­per­son­ation of some­thing I did be­fore?” he ad­mits. “And then you get back into it.

“You reach a pe­riod now where there’s a love af­fair among the whole crew, they’re so tight and fond of each other and they’re all flour­ish­ing.”

The new dose of Doc Martin sees the bad-tem­pered GP and wife Louisa (Caro­line Catz) fac­ing the chal­lenge of liv­ing to­gether with their baby James Henry, af­ter hav­ing ther­apy to save their mar­riage in the last series.

And while there’s no longer a “will they, won’t they” el­e­ment in their re­la­tion­ship, there’s still drama in store for the couple – Louisa de­cides on a ca­reer change, about which Clunes says his char­ac­ter is “sup­port­ive plus slightly dis­mis­sive”.

“He’s so twisted and old-fash­ioned about ev­ery­thing, I don’t know what he thinks she ought to do,” he ex­plains.

“I don’t think he thinks she should stay at home but there’s a lot of her tor­ment at be­ing a work­ing mother and get­ting the bal­ance of time with James, but the Doc has a more dis­ci­plinar­ian ap­proach.”

Doc Martin’s job in the idyl­lic ham­let of Portwenn re­mains the same though, with his brusque bed­side man­ner and blood pho­bia very much in­tact, plus plenty more med­i­cal stunts for Clunes to get stuck into.

“We al­ways have a few knocks and falls, and a good few pro­ce­dures,” Clunes says. “There’s a femoral artery, the one in your leg, that’s a bit of a gusher, in real life you’d bleed out in about four min­utes and we have an episode with one of those that’s quite Taranti­noesque but un­avoid­ably so, it’s a thing in our story. I an­tic­i­pate some ne­go­ti­a­tion ed­i­to­ri­ally with ITV.”

And what about guest stars – can we ex­pect a sim­i­larly im­pres­sive billing again, maybe even Sigour­ney Weaver? Af­ter all, the Alien ac­tress sur­prised fans with a cameo in the show two years ago as brash Amer­i­can tourist Beth Tray­wick.

“Yes, she’ll be back re­ally soon”, re­veals Clunes ex­cit­edly. “I think it was her idea again be­cause last time it was all quite ten­ta­tive and the part had to be quite self-con­tained so it could be lifted out or some­one else could play it. But she turned up and she so loved it.”

The com­edy drama has be­come one of ITV’s most suc­cess­ful series, with seven suc­cess­ful runs al­ready un­der its belt.

Clunes uses the word “bizarre” to de­scribe turn­ing up to a job and be­com­ing so con­nected: “We added up the amount of time I’ve spent and it’s 3.5 years I’ve been mar­ried to Caro­line Catz bounc­ing around th­ese false walls,” he says.

“There are very few new peo­ple on our crew. We’ve all got kids that have grown up bounc­ing into each other ev­ery two years, we’ve watched each other’s kids grow up.”

Film­ing is even more of a fam­ily af­fair for Clunes, as his wife Philippa Braith­waite – with whom he has a 17-year-old daugh­ter Emily – is the show’s pro­ducer.

“It does crop up at home but we’re part­ners in enough things out­side of this as well, par­ent­ing and farm­ing and horses and dogs and all of that, so it’s fine,” Clunes re­marks.

“There’s so much else to talk about that goes on be­tween us. I can’t stress enough how much pres­sure it is on her get­ting eight hours out. She only lets me read the script re­ally late!”

In a sur­pris­ing – but wel­come – move from ITV, two series of Doc Martin were com­mis­sioned at once this time round, and a ninth in­stal­ment is def­i­nitely on the way. But what about af­ter that – would Clunes carry on play­ing the Doc un­til he’s old and grey?

“Prob­a­bly. I’ll never get a bet­ter job, I love play­ing him and be­ing here and I like all the peo­ple. I think it’s a once in a life­time, some­thing like this.”

Doc Martin is back on ITV from Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber 20.

Doc Martin (Martin Clunes) and friends

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