TV Guide's Interview w/ Jamie Bamber
Here's the transcript of TV Guides interview with Jamie . Everything is as they sent it to me , they wrot eit out , not me . I only have a tape of his 30 second or so Ask the Stars Clip that aired in April. I have decided not to clean it up (it does give us an idea of he he talks :@ ))
I: So tell me a little bit about the second series...
J: Well um two very exciting films that - that differ from the other ones that we've done so far in that they are one story. Uh its all revolving around one long protracted sea voyageUm and basically about um a mutiny. A captain who uh hasn't got the respect of his crew and his officers. And its about the decisions um aany bullies certain of his officers. And its about decisions those uh that group of uh men that they make to try and you know rectify the situation. It's a dilemma and its also a courtroom drama because they uh then um held it a court martial for the mutiny. Um and it sort of told them in flashback from - from a jail cell. So um the whole thing hangs together very well. It's very suspensefull of suspense and uh it works the thriller. Uh - um and as a courtroom drama so its - its very different from the ones we've done so far.
I: Wow have we learned everything about uh Archie yet at this point. Or are we gonna see some - some more? Uh no there's - there no he - he changes um so far he'salways jokes. Archie gets all the afflictions and all that - uh everything that bad that's gonna happen seems to happen to him. So uh at this time no hhhe - he's much more settled, much more uh mature, much more comfortable with his new role as a Lieutenant. He's been promoted um and he isn't the directfor the first time in the series he's not the direct sort of focus for the bullying uh senior officer. There's a new character called Willard who sort of takes that role and Archie's able to be a bit of a comfort to this uh younger Miduh he's a Midshipman I think yeah.
I: Talk to me about that because in the beginning Archie was a - a M-Man, and then a Midshipman and then a Lieutenant.
J: Uh the - the M-Man is just uh an abbreviation for Midshipman. Uh - um so Archie starts it off as a Midshipman uh same as Hornblower the lead character. Uh he then becomes an acting Lieutenant which is the - the -the step that uh a Captain can make an acting Lieutenant before someone's actually been commissioned because he's short of a Lieutenant. So in the third um film The Duchess and the Devil and in the fourth uh no I mean the fourth film Folks and Lobsters as its called in England or The Wrong War I think it was called over here. Uh he was an acting Lieutenant but now he's uh he's a full Lieutenant. He's fourth Lieutenant on the uh on the Renoun.
I: What are the differences and duties between a Midshipman and a Lieutenant?
J: Uh well the Midshipman was its - it's the lowest rank of uh officer rank. And it's wwwhen um in the Navy uh it'd be the son of a gentleman or a - a um a doctor's son something like that. You'd be sent aboard ship a Captain would take him for a certain. The - the - the parent would - would give money for the Captain to take his son so basically train him. So it was the it was the sort of training rank of a young um officer and there'd be young boys of eight, nine, ten. Very young who'd start off as Midshipman uh then the Lieutenant is the first rank proper when they have tothey pass an examination for Lieutenant and they become commissioned. So that's sort of an official uh the first sort of official rank the first step up and - and maybe people didn't move beyond Midshipman. Um uh iiit was a stumbling block for a lot a lot of people. But the more promising ones were made into Lieutenants and then they would be on their way up hopefully to - to greater things.
I: You said something about the episodes in England having different titles.
I: Why do you think that is?
J: Wwthe - the I'm not sureuh in - in - in a wordI know the English titles ten percent on the titles in the book they're short stories. And they've stuck with thoseover here (Indecipherable) have decided to uh to - to change them slightly. I think they're more punchy and shorter just a little more memorable perhaps in the Frogs and the Lobsters or - or what was the other one? Um the Duchess and the Devil ininstead of um whatever they came up with over here which was much more punchy.
I: Well getting back to Kennedy tell me a little bitwhat - what's your favorite thing about Lieutenant Kennedy?
J: Um well I like him because he's um he's - he - he has a lot of um there's a lot to play because there's a lot going on. He doesn't find the roles he's confronted with uh that easy. He's not like Hornblowerhe seems to think through everything and seems to make the right decisions on a gut level. Archie just doesn't he - he's sensitive he sees I think what - what I would see in those situations which is fear and death. And he sort of wonders how he's able to cope with those whereas Horatio seems to be able to just cut off and - and uh and - and to dig deep into some sort of result that he's got deep down in him. Archie uh - um really does let things get to him and when he's bullied he - he wonders why him. And he - he - he can't respond in the way that - that Horatio does. And he and yet what makes him interesting is he's best friends with this character who does seem to make all the right decisions. So Archie's forever holding a mirror up to himself which is just showing himself as falling short the whole time. So he's very interesting to play cause he's human and he's also outspoken. He - he voices his own qualms and his problems with decisions that are made. He voices his own fears, he reacts um with incredulity or hewith quite sort of uh - um he - he - he will you know makecomhe'll communicate his - his shock and his um his difficulties and uh - uh Horatio doesn't always do that. He's very internalized um he tends to deal with things on his own whereas Archie sort of voices them to other people. Um so it's a very interesting relationship to play iiin that relationship. And in these next two films Archie's very much um aware ofcause he's got anuh this other Midshipman - Midshipman Willard in a sort of um who looks up to him. He's just trying to replicate the relationship that he has with Hornblower to this younger character. And so there's lots of things there which are - are interesting to play for an actor because uh iiit sort of you know its more interesting just playing hero all the timehe makes the right decisions. He's always um got a conflict to resolve
I: Tell me about the pony taildo you like it or not?
J: Um no I - I really don'tit's - it's a real pain to wear. It's - it's something that a lot of people ask um were they permanent? Are they real? Um the answers a bit of bothtttheir definitely permanent they stay in there for the whole shoot. So they're in there for three monthsbut its like a weave it's um - uh you know its sort of glued to your to your head basically. So you shampoo with it you - you live with it you sleep in it. Um and in the sun you know iiitsI'm not used to having long hair like that anyway. So it's a bit like a wet fish down the back when you're in the shower which I'm not used to. And the whole thing about um for the first time ever I understand a woman's excuse to not to go out is - is that you're washing your hair and its perfectly justifiable. (Laughs) and that was a shock but um no ththe funny thing about them is they're actually not real hair either. They're sort of a - a nylon strange thing so it doesn't actually feel natural. So no I really don't like wearing them but you know they have that comedy value too. You can go have hair down nights and the boys go out looking like Deaf Leopard which is sort of fun.
I: Talk to me a little bit about the wardrobeis it cumbersome? Do you like it?
J: I mean I think that they're cool clothes you know they look quite cool. (Laughs) they're sort of fun in a new romantic kind of a way. But um they are heavy and we - we always rerecently have been tending to shoot in - in sort of warmer climates so yeah. Thewe have to watch you know re-hydration and stuff like that to make sure we're drinking enough liquid. Because they're woolen and they're very bulky um and I don't know how they would have coped inwell I mean I know what they didthey just didn't wear it all the time. Um but it was um yeah I know itits tough but they're good looking clothes and they're - they're nice to wear and they're very flattering so you know you put up with it (laughs).
I: Tell me a little bit about some of the locations
J: Well we've umover the years we've filmed um well we started off in the Ukraine um which is a very interesting experience. It's very different from everywhere else we've filmed. Uh down in (Indecipherable) in the Crimea but it also was a very tricky time because there's lots of economic problemssocial problems there. Uh which are very interesting to see at first hand but very difficult to work with as well. Um and the other thing was just on a fffrom an actors point of view. We're out there for a long time uh I wasn't - I wasn't in one of the episodes we're shooting out there. But I was out there for weather cover a lot and I got very bored cause there's nothing to do. And it used to be a big resort "Yelta" when - when um (makes click sound) when the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. And the Muscovite party faithful would use it as their Rivieratheir playground and that's been cut off so iiits - its not the prosperous place it once was. And its in the grip of um lots of organized crime so its an interesting place. Um and it was an experience visiting there but not always easy. And then after that we were in Portugal which was just a pleasure you know its lovely and right near Lisbon so easy to get to from London. Uh on beach on the Atlantic with a swimming pool in the apartments and that was great. And uh recently in Majorca which was uh very much the same sort of thing. And - and interesting to be there as well because the British Navy has a long history there. So um it was much more close to uh you know where the action that we're shooting probably would haveyou know those ships would have passed through uh Port Mulholland and places like that so that's kind of interesting. But there were lovely places to shoot and then back in England we're in (Indecipherable) which is sort of familiar territory for most of us.
I: What's it like when you shoot the scenes on the ship are you actually on a ship out somewhere?
J: Well we - we've done it every which way really um for the first two first four films we made a couple of years ago. We were on the ship the whole time uh which involves you know leaving harbor at six in the morning and - and you're out there for twelve hours. Uh seasickness all you know all the variables - weather. Um and so it was very complicated and it wasthe decision was made at the end. Um Andrew Benson um the producer took a decision that actually a lot of the shots that we got when we're really on the ship um you could've got on a - on a land set. So ttthe next time we've done it they rigged up this extraordinary full ship on a cliff buff sort of thing. With um you which used the natural seas horizon and the ocean's horizon but um we were actually about two hundred feet up on - on a cliff on a full rigged set. Which they thenwe shot in one direction and then spun it round and - and did the reverses so that has its own complications because youwe did one scene half in one direction one week and then uh like three weeks later it was dddo the reaction shots. Like I think my stuff was uh was in the later one so we were running in the back of the lorry trying to look at what we did the first time and all. So that made it difficult too but it works really well. And all the motions done with the camera and with the actors rather than having you know actual horizon changes. Which is I suppose if you looked at it with uh through um a microscope you'd spot that perhaps we weren't at sea. But I rrwhen I first watched the films I completely forgot about it. I thought I was gonna be there going it doesn't look right it doesn't look right but um it - it did and um but most of the shots they'reall the stuff on the "Renoun" is a land based set.
I: What's it like when you shoot the - the rain scenes or when there's
I: You have a huge rain scene
I: And the mutiny
I: What's that like?
J: Um wet (laughs) I know (laughs) that its always you know you can sense that these are gonna be the scenes that are - are very striking and so yyyou, everyone knows we have to do them. We have to do them well but we don't look forward to them certainly the actors. Um it was a night sequence as well so it was a week work uh a week a week's worth of work. All at night um and you know with these rain machines um they get you so wet and you're wet fromfor the whole evening. And then those big costumes you never can dry out and so its pretty grim and it was actually also a horrendous week when we shot that in Majorca the weather hit anyway. So we actually had fall on rain plus the rain machines. Plus these gales and uh actually we had a couple of sort of accidents that luckily nobody was - was injured by. But huge towers were bbblown over and stuff and we're on the edge of a cliff so it was pretty hairy for a while but uh - um what you see is not all fake (laughs).
I: Well speaking about that tell me a little bit about what's involved. I mean these are basically - these could be feature films.
J: Yeah the
I: You know because it has the same production quality
J: Mm hum
I: What's ininvolved in putting in together and what are some of the challenges?
J: Well you know they - they're huge I mean when we - when we started filming this series um there were a lot of doubter that it couldn't be done and especially on a TV budget. But we don't really have a TV budget I mean its - its a lot bigger than that so um and then nobody tried to shoot has tried to shoot the TV series as far as I can tell on these kind of ships. They - they builtthe original ship was built especially for a TV show you know. And that - that cost a fortune and hugely logistical problems. It was all done in - in Turkey um the - the whole the thing about shooting on water is really unpredictable. I mean its hard enough to shoot on land um uhwhen - when the land is - is not land its water. And when its moving and when the weather's unpredictable uh you know the directions and when you've got like um ocean-going vessels coming by ferries and things. And doing a period piece obviously you can't have any of that or aircraft its - its very difficult. And all those are logistical problems um and then there's always the just for an actor you know you have to know um a bit about the life. Uh there's certain things that sailors did and didn't do so we have you know fantastic experts there. People like uh John Meyer who's the wardrobe designer who's a complete aficionado of the period. And we - we'd use people like - like him um who just know everything there is to know um - um about you know the - the behavior the spekind of speech patterns we'd use. Cause a lot of times we're improvising when we're doing the big open scene so. And - and Andrew Grieve the director is uh you know a seagoing kind of a chap so he - he helps us out as well. Uh there are lots of difficulties but yeah I mean I think it I think we do have a sort of feature a sort of feel to the whole thing. Um and that's definitely because of the people we use they all work on films. I mean everyone involved is you know is uh has experience in movies and that's - that's where we aspire to be.
I: You must have a huge crew
J: Yeah its very bigyeah - very bigI mean it varies enormously and then -then of course when we finish then the - the models start going underway and that's a completely different crew and so yeah it is very big. And especially with all the extras and stuff.
I: How long does it take to put the series together?
J: Well the principle to photography is probably the least of the problems. I mean we did that in about twelve weeks. Um but then the problems uh around it I mean I know that you know Andrew Benson the producer and Andrew Grieve their working on it the whole time they never stop. Uh I think Andrew Benson has just had his first holiday in you know how ever many years its been so. And they never stop they're always pre-preparing working on the new scripts. Um cause clearly its an ongoing thing that well as long as people watch ththey'll make them I'm sure so its uhit doesn't stop.
I: Would you like to see it continue?
J: Oh yeah - yeah I enjoy the series.
I: What's the most interesting thing that you learned that you didn't know before?
J: Um jujust definitely on a very basic level how horrible it would have been to have been on one of those ships. Uh iiin a battle when you've got that much lead weight flying through the air. Um at point blank range and I'm serious ththat these cannons would - would go off. You know they're twenty yards apart and you're looking right at it and the officers were expected to stand there on the deck and not take cover. And they're wearing different uniformsthey were the first targets. Um just hayou know recreating battles where you're um running around in absolute chaos with all theseI mean its scary enough as an actor when you've got a hundred people on the deck waiving around a sword. And they're all real swords and there's muskets going off and you think well its - its not actually skill or courage that will get you through this its just luck you know. Hopefully you're walking through clean air but um that's - ttthat's the thing I mean on a gut level. Uh and I've done a few war things now and it blows me away every time. The - the courage and the just - just inane randomness of the whole thing um cause we have this idea for movies that you know the characters that we get to know sort of seem to survive and the ones that show pluck and resolve they somehow make their own luck. But that's - that's fiction and um that's what I learn from - from doing this. I mean and also I mean it's a tremendously romantic period and it would have been tremendously exciting. And I -its probablyif I was alive then I probably would be on those ships that probably what I would've want to do but (sighs) I don't know whahow you deal with it. And that's why playing Archie is fantastic because he's not quite sure how you deal with it either.
I: So you would want to have lived in that time?
J: Well I mean I don't know recently I've - I - I've done abecause I've worked in - in this period now for a while theI've done a bit more research. And read um Patrick O'Brien for example, and there's something incredibly romantic and um pioneering and I mean they went to places I still haven't been to. And this was in the days before air you know flight that they would spend their lives on these places and these most extraordinary placesdealing with extraordinary people and extraordinary circumstances. Um so yeah I mean uh it does have a romance about it uh but when you got to the grit of those battles and the limbs that were lost and the surgery that was done um then - then I'm not so sure I wouldn't be able to deal with it.
I: Were you a fan of - of sea tales before working on the series or had you read (Indecipherable) before?
J: Um I'd only read it when I was auditioning so no - no - no I - I wasn't really I suppose. I mean I guess I was interested in the sort of rightyou know the same way that everyone is about things like that. Pirates and stuff but no I didn't have any practical knowledge really.
I: Well why do you think viewers have responded so well? I mean it's a Emmy award winning
I: acclaimed series
J: Because um for lots of reasons I mean I do think uh I - I do think the period is a remarkable period in history when a lotwhen the world was changing very fast. Um we - we tend to think about the twentieth century as being the most amazing. You know leaps and bounds made in all sorts of fields but if you look back politically the world was completely changing. And that whole Napoleonic war was about the foundation of Republicanism. I mean which is what you know this country is built on and that the French um and the Americans were - were pioneering in that direction and this was a complicated thing. It was - it was um you know the monarchy in - in Britain fighting thistheir - their nearest neighbors and - and their oldest enemies. And the alliances were constantly changing um the world was - was being formed. Um all the trade routes were being fought foreverything is happening, it's a melting pot. And at the same time you have some of the best stories that have ever been told. And - and Hornblower is - is an amazing character and you know and I think in these in these series is we - we do a good job to enhance the stories as well. Cause uh - um obviously we do make adaptations the producers do decide to change things. Um but with the actual C. S. Forester originals and they have to because a lot of them are short stories and they have to be fleshed out a bit. Um and I - I think they do that yu know tremendously responsibly with the Hornblower um estate. And also I think um I'm not sort of patting myself on the back but patting my colleagues on the back I think they get wonderful actors to - to come in and - and bring the stories to life. So from top to bottomyou know the costume designs impeccable uh everything its just its just quality so uh aaand if you're working with quality material youfingers crossed shouldn't be going too far wrong.
I: Tell me a little bit about what its like working with Ioan?
J: Yeah - yeah Ioan (pronounces the name) um iiit's a pleasure - absolute pleasure he - he's a you know one of my uh best friends so its - its great to work with him. Um I mean I didn't know him at all when I started working and we sort of uh just you know obviously the characters are best friends so that was easy to do. Cause all my scenes are with him and um its been very interesting watching him um grow and develop. Cause you know ithe - he you know he's done a lot of good work but that was I suppose his - his big break I think he'd say um and its been interesting to see him evolve as an actor and as a person as well as within the series. Um and he has immensely and I think his work in the last two you know iiis so good comI mean I'm not saying he wasn't good before um because he was always good. But he's brought a different level of uh complexity and his characters got a warmth and a wit about him that itthat is new and its um I mean fffor me as a contemporary of his its fantastic to see someone flourish like that. And uh you know, as a dear friend I couldn't be happier for him.
I: As an actor is it - is doing a period piece closer to theatre at all? Um I suppose it can I can be perceived to - to - to do that because - because the language is - is somehow removed from the way we'd speak today. But honestly we - we try as hard as we can to avoid the theatricality. I mean I - I suppose people will see it especially here because um you know British actors are - are rooted in the theatre and most of the actors uh that you see started off as theatre actors. Um and they bring they bring that um artthat there's a certain craftsmanship to a theatrical performance which has to have a discipline um that sometimes you know you can get away without in screen acting. So if it does I think its more because of the actors that we use uh but then I think that every performance in these films is uh you know brutally real. And - and that's the most important thing that's all we care about. So I mean that theatricality is just something that's ingrained in some of us and from our trainings but um you know certain times um the director will tap you on the shoulder and say a little less RSC please. So the voice has to come back and you have to you know remember that you're performing um to a lens which is only a couple of feet away. Well uh to some uh somebody sitting at the back of the (Indecipherable) but uh hopefully we don't we don't do too much of that. Although we can (laughs) sometimes
I: Well what's coming up next for you?
J: Um yeah um well the soon uh right after Hornblower I went off to um to do Band of Brothers which is um an HBO show uh which will be out here I guess at the end of the year sometimeI'm not sure. (Sighs) um so that's the next thing that will be seen uh that I've done uh at least over here uh in the States. Um other than that um I've just I mean I've literally I've just come over here into I'm in LA now. And um I'm sort of here for another month and just trying to do some meetings. So I don't actually know what my next projects going to be but uh the next one to air will be Band of Brothers.
I: What do you think of LA?
J: (Sighs) I really like it I you know I have to be honest I - I've been out here now three - three times. And um I think there's that expectation that its not its not gonna be real you know there's gonna be something uh nnnot quite I don't know I was geared up not to like it. But I - I do like it very muchI like the lifestyle um I love Southern California and uh I - I like the people's attitude to life. Uh I think its contagious and um I'd like to spend time here certainly over the years.
I: Good we hope so too