By Terry Miller
Having lived a good deal of my young life in Devon and Cornwall in southwest England, I was immediately drawn to a quirky television show on KCET called “Doc Martin.” In this outstanding comedy/drama, the beautiful and almost idyllic fishing village is really one of the main characters along with the protagonist, Doctor Martin Ellingham. Now about to launch season seven, this side of the pond, Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) took a few minutes to talk with us about the zany, albeit brilliant buffoon of a doctor.
What makes this irritating doctor so bloody marvelous? That depends on who you ask. But for this reporter, it is just plain brilliant acting and writing, combined with a dash of cheekiness, all baked carefully into one a scrumptious Cornish pasty.
“Doc Martin” is a catchy comedy/drama that stars Clunes (“Men Behaving Badly”) as Martin Ellingham, whose truculence and tactless manner causes mayhem in a small Cornish community. The series details the trials and tribulations of the brash Ellingham, once a celebrated London surgeon who left his job after developing a phobia to blood. After retraining as a general practitioner, he gets a job in the beautiful but sleepy village of Portwenn, replacing their deceased local doctor – but his abrasive personality does not exactly mesh with the pace of the Cornish Village where time has stood still since the 15th Century … that is, until now.
Beacon Media (BM): Are you surprised by the global popularity of “Doc Martin?”
Martin Clunes (MC): We were really surprised and delighted to see so many countries embrace “Doc Martin.”
BM: When you are shooting in Port Isaac, Cornwall, how long are you there?
MC: Well we are there generally about five and a half months and I always pop home to the farm on Fridays for the weekend to be with my wife and daughter in Dorset.
BM: The incredibly quirky characters absolutely make the show and the writing is brilliant. This year “Downton Abbey” has a float in the Rose Parade … any chance we may see a “Doc Martin/Portwenn Float” in a future Rose Parade here in Pasadena?
MC: What is “Downton Abbey?” Never heard of it [laughing]. Actually, I had never really thought of it but I would not rule it out. That is funny.
BM: Season seven is rumored to be the last, is this true?
MC: No, definitely not. We are having way too much fun in Cornwall. I just love it there.
BM: The doctor’s marriage to Louisa is at a critical stage, hence the need for some therapy.
MC: Yes, couple’s therapy obviously and perhaps the timing of this intensely difficult subject will be of some help to others in a similar situation.
BM: You are obviously a great animal lover but particularly horses. Why is this?
MC: Well, my wife (the television show producer, Philippa Braithwaite) and daughter are very fond of horses so I had to go along with it otherwise I would be left alone on the weekends. Actually, I love riding my Clydesdales at home in Dorset and actually once rode the Budweiser Clydesdales in New Orleans, that was great fun.
BM: You are a big supporter of animal therapy, in particular with horses. Are there any particular charities you are fond of?
MC: Yes, you know horses never lie. They are wonderful and I try to help Horse Course, a young offenders program where they teach these young people respect for living creatures. Also a group called Fortune Center for life skills and The Horse Boy Project that is having tremendous success with those afflicted with autism.
BM: The brilliant cast, crew, and writers have led to a hugely successful show. But I have been told that until the moment you actually put on the suit … then, and only then do you transform into the dreaded, but terribly efficient Dr. Ellingham.
MC: Yes, well, [laughing] I suppose we all do really when we dress up. Sort of changes your personality. We all play roles … I once put on a Nazi uniform for a TV show … I was not very good. Or it was not very good, I do not know.
BM: You have become legendary, if you will, not unlike King Arthur and Merlin in Tintagel [a few miles away from Port Issac, aka PortWenn].
MC: Wait, I have to write that down, that is fantastic!
For those not familiar with the show, we highly recommend seeing the show from the beginning as the characters develop and story lines take you into this marvelous world in Port Issac, Cornwall.
For schedules of the shows please go to: www.kcet.org/shows/doc_martin/.