My recipe for joy... Doc Martin, mu­sic, fam­ily & fash­ion

Caro­line Catz tells Prima about her love of vin­tage clothes, her pas­sion for Corn­wall and why work­ing on Doc Martin is a dream for an ac­tress

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Ac­tress Caro­line Catz on the pas­sions that light up her life

Caro­line lives in Lon­don with her hus­band, ac­tor Michael Higgs, and their two chil­dren, Sonny and Honor. The Ra­da­trained ac­tress has en­joyed roles in film, the­atre and TV. Most re­cently, we’ve seen her in DCI Banks and

I Want My Wife Back. This month, she re­turns in the new se­ries of Doc Martin to once again star along­side Martin Clunes as Louisa, one half of TV’S most­loved ‘on again, off again’ cou­ple.

LIFE ON DOC MARTIN

I find the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Doc and Louisa fas­ci­nat­ing. The fact that it keeps chang­ing is one rea­son I look for­ward to re­turn­ing to the show. They’ve fi­nally de­cided to make a go of it, so it’s no longer a ‘will they, won’t they?’ sit­u­a­tion. They drive each other crazy, but they’re bound by gen­uine love and by a child whose well­be­ing is para­mount. Louisa has also con­ceded that, de­spite crav­ing a nor­mal fam­ily life, there’s prob­a­bly no such thing. De­spite their prob­lems, she and Martin are de­ter­mined that they are go­ing to make their fam­ily work.

Louisa and Martin are an ex­treme ex­am­ple of in­com­pat­i­bil­ity. But if you look around, it’s not that un­usual. You of­ten see un­likely cou­ples and won­der how on earth they stay to­gether. But, some­how, peo­ple do. In the case of Louisa and Martin in this se­ries, the viewer is a fly on the wall in their home as they bat­tle through the mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion that re­mains in the re­la­tion­ship.

It’s funny to watch, but how ex­haust­ing it must be to be in their sit­u­a­tion. I’m happy to say that my mar­riage is a lit­tle bit less com­pli­cated!

Louisa is go­ing through some changes in the new se­ries. She’s faced with a dilemma, which may lead to her hav­ing to leave her job as head­mistress of the lo­cal pri­mary school. She’s con­sid­er­ing a new ca­reer in child ther­apy, which is se­cretly mo­ti­vated by her fear that their son, James Henry, might de­velop Doc Martin’s traits. She can’t change Martin – his cur­mud­geonly be­hav­iour, his lack of so­cial skills, his pho­bias – but, per­haps, if she stud­ies child de­vel­op­ment, she can pre­vent her son from be­com­ing as so­cially awk­ward as his fa­ther.

We’ve got through a lot of ba­bies film­ing Doc Martin! We started with seven play­ing James Henry as a new­born, four in the last se­ries and just one set of twins in this se­ries be­cause he is now much more recog­nis­able.

It’s fair to say that the twins are more in­ter­ested in be­ing tod­dlers than be­ing ac­tors! But they are ab­so­lutely gor­geous.

Be­com­ing a par­ent changes you pro­foundly. No one can pre­pare you. It adds lay­ers to an ac­tor and you can re­late to parts in new ways. The roles be­came more in­ter­est­ing af­ter I had my chil­dren.

Doc Martin is a unique job for an ac­tor. The fact we make the se­ries ev­ery two years gives us a chance to work on

other projects and come back feel­ing re­freshed. It also means there’s more time for the writ­ers to work on the scripts, de­velop char­ac­ters and find meaty sto­ry­lines for them. I’m sure it’s why the show has had such longevity.

As an ac­tor, you can of­ten find your­self in some grim lo­ca­tions. But the re­verse is the case on Doc Martin. We get to spend the sum­mer in lovely Port Isaac. It’s one of the rea­sons the cast and crew love re­turn­ing and it has cre­ated a spe­cial fam­ily feel­ing on set.

For the first time ever, we al­ready know there’ll be an­other se­ries. It will be in 2019 and it will def­i­nitely be the last – al­though we’ve said that be­fore! I love work­ing with Martin Clunes. He’s

the op­po­site of the Doc: funny, charm­ing, em­pa­thetic and gre­gar­i­ous. Prob­lem is, he’s start­ing to be­lieve he’s an ac­tual doc­tor, giv­ing me un­wanted di­ag­noses if I have so much as a cough or snif­fle. A triv­ial bruise on my hip re­cently war­ranted a scan, in his opin­ion! He’s also been known to write me a fake pre­scrip­tion from the prop pad on the Doc’s desk.

If we knew what has made the se­ries such a suc­cess – both at home and abroad – we’d bot­tle it. But maybe it’s about the re­la­tion­ships, the sense of com­mu­nity in the vil­lage and the quirky char­ac­ters. It’s also to do with Port Wenn, of course – a place that’s a world within it­self that runs at its own pace.

We film Doc Martin in Corn­wall, which is like an­other char­ac­ter in the show. I’m sure that the beau­ti­ful back­drop is part of the show’s ap­peal, but it’s also an ever-chang­ing land­scape. It can be a beau­ti­ful sunny day – all ice cream and beaches – and then, sud­denly, the sky goes dark, a seag­ull swoops and nicks your chips, and a tor­ren­tial storm drenches you to the bone. It’s a per­fect metaphor for the show it­self, which can be light one minute and dark the next.

MY FASH­ION PAS­SION

Dur­ing breaks in film­ing, I spend a lot of time on ebay. It’s my lat­est re­source for vin­tage clothes. At one time, you could hardly get a mo­bile phone sig­nal in Port Isaac, now we’re fully con­nected to wi-fi. It will be the ruin of me!

I love the clothes I’m wear­ing in th­ese pic­tures for Prima. It’s like wear­ing my fan­tasy wardrobe. I chose them with my friend, the stylist and fash­ion his­to­rian, NJ Steven­son. We had a day with Cleo and Mark But­ter­field – an amaz­ing cou­ple who have cu­rated the most as­ton­ish­ing col­lec­tion of vin­tage clothes at C20, their com­pany in Devon. They have thou­sands of items, from Vic­to­rian gothic pieces to 20th-cen­tury at­tire. We chose beau­ti­fully cut dresses and skirts and ex­quis­ite blouses by fash­ion icons, such as Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell. I could have lived in that place!

We chose the clothes for both their beauty and glam­our. The Ossie Clark cre­ations, for ex­am­ple, are not just beau­ti­fully cut, they also have a rock ’n’ roll edge, which I find so ap­peal­ing. It’s as­ton­ish­ing, too, that all the clothes still look as fresh and fan­tas­tic as the day they were made. It’s one of the rea­sons I’m such a pas­sion­ate vin­tage col­lec­tor.

I es­pe­cially love clothes from the late 1960s and early 1970s. From the age of 10, I pored over posters, record cov­ers and pic­tures of mu­si­cians of the era. My teenage bed­room had wall-to-wall posters of my ab­so­lute idol, David Bowie. I love how glam rock made fash­ion avail­able to ev­ery­one, not just the elite, and how mu­si­cians and artists took clothes from the past – in­clud­ing aus­tere Vic­to­ri­ana – and wore them in a dif­fer­ent way. It was a way of re­claim­ing his­tory while be­ing play­ful and sub­ver­sive with it.

I’d have loved to have spent a day walk­ing down the Por­to­bello Road in 1973. It’s where Cleo But­ter­field started her col­lec­tion and she told me how, at the time, she bought vin­tage trea­sures, such as beau­ti­ful hand-printed chif­fon dresses from the 1930s, for next to noth­ing! You could own the most gor­geous things with­out break­ing the bank. It was when the con­cept of re­cy­cling fash­ion and dress­ing up for fun be­gan.

I’ve just dis­cov­ered Lon­don fash­ion de­signer Jus­tine Tabak. Her clothes are based on the ro­man­tic 1970s look, but with a con­tem­po­rary twist. The fab­rics fea­ture his­toric prints sourced from an archive in Manch­ester (my home town!), while her clothes are made by Bri­tish man­u­fac­tur­ers, too.

I was thrilled when Jus­tine asked me to work with her to cre­ate a Louisa/caro­line dress for her au­tumn col­lec­tion. She’s look­ing through my vin­tage col­lec­tion for in­spi­ra­tion. I’d like to say that I have a spe­cial room for it all, but it’s more of a chaotic cup­board where ev­ery­thing gets squished. I’m not ex­actly a hoarder, but once I’ve bought an item, I fall in love with it and find it very hard to part with!

Louisa gets to wear one of Jus­tine’s cre­ations in the new se­ries. Giles Gale, Doc Martin’s bril­liant cos­tume de­signer, and I fell in love with a 1940s-in­spired blue wrap dress with white em­broi­dery from her col­lec­tion that’s just per­fect for my char­ac­ter, Louisa. Jus­tine made some mi­nor ad­just­ments – the lit­tle popped sleeves are now a bit more puffy and slightly longer be­cause

I need to cover a tat­too of a rose on my right arm. You’ll spot me wear­ing it at the very end of episode eight.

MY ROLE MOD­ELS

I’ve loved work­ing with Dame Eileen Atkins. She plays Doc Martin’s aunt Ruth. In our down­time, we talked a lot about clothes. I tried to con­vert her to my ebay habit, too, af­ter she chal­lenged me to find a par­tic­u­lar bag she liked on the site. I suc­ceeded and we’ve been in deep ne­go­ti­a­tions with Yvonne from Northamp­ton ever since! I ab­so­lutely adore Eileen – she’s funny, ir­rev­er­ent, sharp as a tack, a keen walker and an ab­so­lute pow­er­house. She also looks fan­tas­tic. I’d love to be just like her when I’m older.

I’m very close to my mum, too. I credit her with my love of fash­ion. When I was grow­ing up, she had an amaz­ing hat shop in Manch­ester sell­ing hats by Phillip Treacy and Stephen Jones. My idea of help­ing out was to stand in the shop win­dow with a hat on pre­tend­ing to be a dummy, just to see if I could pull it off.

My mum has al­ways looked fan­tas­tic.

Grow­ing up, I’d study old pic­tures of her in the 1960s look­ing so Dusty Spring­field, with her hair piled high and wear­ing im­mac­u­late eye­liner. In the 1980s, I recre­ated that look when I went to the clubs in Manch­ester. I never thought, ‘Why would I want to look like my mum?’ To me, she looked amaz­ing.

As a kid, my par­ents’ wardrobes were a big fash­ion re­source.

My dad’s was es­pe­cially use­ful, be­cause he never chucked any­thing out. There were shirts, sheep­skin coats and gabar­dines. I still wear some of his T-shirts from the 1970s, in­clud­ing one of his favourites – a red scoop neck with an ap­pliquéd Den­nis The Men­ace!

I’m not as good at mak­ing things as I’d like to be. I have a sewing ma­chine and have made cush­ion cov­ers, but I’d love to be able to make a sim­ple shift dress, for ex­am­ple, or a lit­tle cape from one of the many dress pat­terns that I col­lect from the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, my daugh­ter and I are about to have sewing ma­chine lessons to­gether.

I’m also learn­ing to cro­chet.

This is thanks to Mag­gie, our medic on Doc

Martin. She’s an ex­pert and got me started with a lit­tle cro­chet square along with a video of her demon­strat­ing the stitches. I watched it and prac­tised on the jour­ney be­tween Corn­wall and Lon­don. In the past 20 years, Mag­gie has made 300 blan­kets, and each one starts with a length of wool from the last, so it’s a con­tin­u­ous train. She was cro­chet­ing a beau­ti­ful blan­ket through­out film­ing – which she then gave me as present. It’s so won­der­ful.

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