Interview: Kevin Whately, Lewis

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tw1_2213857bThere’s something reassuring about seeing your favourite characters return every year, and no one does that apply to more than Kevin Whately, who has been involved with the Morse – what Americans would call – franchise for several decades. He’s back playing Lewis this week, and here’s Kevin talking about series nine in an interview we managed to get hold of.

The Killing Times: How does it feel to be back? Have you enjoyed returning to play Lewis?
Kevin Whately: I enjoy it very much. It’s been 10 years of Lewis, including the pilot, so it all feels
very familiar, like family. If you add that to 14 years of Morse then this is my 30th year playing Lewis, so I’m afraid the character is me now.

TKT: Do you enjoy working with Laurence and Angela?
KW: It’s absolutely great, Angie’s very well prepared and takes the pressure off us, she also looks brilliant on camera. Laurence keeps us laughing; he’s chaotic but good fun. It’s still the original production team and we’ve had the same heads of department throughout the 10 years, which is fantastic. It’s like a big family. We’ve got an awful lot of septuagenerians now.

TKT: Have there been any memorable moments on set this series?
KW: Well Laurence has a running gag for everybody in the crew so he keeps us
laughing. This series is the first time we have used a drone to film. I think they have become
very common, but it was a first for Lewis. It’s the future really, I think cranes might be in trouble!

TKT: Lewis came out of retirement in series eight to act as a consultant. Where do we find him
now at the start of series 9?
KW: Lewis is starting to feel a bit jumpy and not sure how long his role as a consultant is going to
last. There’s a new Chief Superintendent who is starting to question his role in the force and
he’s feeling a little bit surplus to requirements. It makes him tetchy and he’s trying to prove
himself a bit. He’s never been much of a go-getter but he’s very comfortable with policing. He has solved thousands of murders and it’s what he’s good at. Policing is what he knows and what he
likes; retirement didn’t suit him at all. If he’s not a copper then what is he?

TKT: Lewis and Hobson are planning a trip to New Zealand. How does Lewis feel about his
impending trip abroad?
KW: The relationship is a happy one but the trip to New Zealand is a bone of contention between them. Hobson wants to travel and visit her family, and is contemplating retirement, but Lewis isn’t sure what that will mean for him. The nearer the trip gets the more he is fretting about his job and whether or not there will be a role for him on the force when they get back.

TKT: Can you tell us a bit about the new character, CS Moody, played by Steve Toussaint?
KW: Moody is an overly pro-active Chief Superintendent, who involves himself in every part of
the investigation and ends up treading on everybody’s toes. Initially he questions Lewis’s role on the force and whether they really need a consultant. He also questions his methods and pushes a more ‘by the book’ approach. Moody questions everything that Hathaway does, and because of this their relationship becomes quite strained and Hathaway won’t communicate with him at all. Lewis realises
that Hathaway could get himself into trouble so he mediates between them and tries to
protect Hathaway. It’s been great working with Steve too. Moody is a really three-dimensional Chief
Superintendent which is different from other crime dramas.

TKT: What is the relationship like between Lewis and Hathaway this series? They’re quite a
duo…
KW: Lewis is still quite paternal to him, but it’s very much equal in the workplace. Hathaway is
running the investigations and Lewis, as a consultant, is helping him. From that point of
view the dynamic’s changed a bit but they have se`led down and learned how to make it
work. Last series the lines were blurred slightly with Maddox not really knowing who she was answering to, but it’s a well-oiled machine this series.

TKT: We’re introduced to Hathaway’s family, but there seems to be issues between them.
Does Lewis help and encourage Hathaway in his relationships?
KW: Lewis is anxious because Hathaway and his dad have a very distant relationship and he
wants to bring them together: he tries to mediate as much as he can, particularly as
Hathaway’s Dad has dementia. Lewis realises it’s crucial Hathaway is there for his father.

TKT: What can we expect from the three films this series?
KW: They’re all very different with interesting scripts. The first film involves taxidermy and the
second is very dark and a bit different for Lewis. The third film involves an explosion, which
was great to film. We also have some great guest stars such as Steve Pemberton, Ralf Little
and Tim Pigott-Smith.

TKT: Ten years of Lewis and 14 years of Morse, can you work out whodunit?
KW: I always think I can when I’m watching detectives on the telly, but quite often I get it wrong.
In one of these scripts I spotted who the killer was because there was something that gave
it away for me, so we changed it slightly.

TKT: You’ve been filming in Oxford again, were the locals pleased to see you?
KW: I think they must be used to us now, over the 30 years! This year we’ve been based at the
old athletics ground where the first four minute mile was achieved. The new Bodleian Library opened two months before we started filming and I’d performed a reading there for a fundraiser for the local playhouse theatre, so we went and filmed there too.

TKT: Do you get a nice response from locals when you’re filming on location in Oxford?
KW: Yes, it’s great. We did a scene in the street last week and there must have been 500 people
watching within half an hour of starting the film. They’d just spot the cameras and come
over. It’s not just locals, because our films go out all over the world so we have lots of tourists watching too.

TKT: Lewis is globally successful. What is it that you think audiences love about the series?
KW: I think Lewis and Endeavour benefit a lot from the legacy of Morse; in particular what John
Thaw did with the character. The concept of a two-hour detective film was so new at the time, and it’s set a trend that TV has taken on over the 30 years. Morse established a huge fan base that we have inherited so really we can’t fail. I also think Oxford is quite unique and an important ingredient, because it is otherworldly in a lot of ways. Oxford is iconic. It looks so beautiful on camera because of the colour of the stone. It gives us another dimension to the Lewis stories that we couldn’t get if we filmed elsewhere.

Lewis: Tuesday 7th October, 9pm, ITV

For all our Morse-related news and reviews, go here

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