Darren Boyd On Case Sensitive, Comedy and His Career

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If we were to play a game of word association the name Darren Boyd would, most likely, produce the pairing “comedy!” The Green Wing actor has been a regular in British sitcoms for over a decade, starring in such shows as Kiss Me Kate, Smack the Pony and Whites. While he’s also appeared in some serious dramas it’s always the comedy roles for which he is best remembered. Could a part in the new ITV crime drama Case Sensitive change this? Boyd hopes so, we caught up with him to find out why...

TV.com: Has it always been your intention to become a more serious actor?
Darren Boyd: Absolutely, yes. It’s no accident and it’s something that I’ve always felt; that drama or non-comedy is something that interests me.

My move into comedy was an unplanned thing; I don’t come from a stand-up or comedy background. I’ve always quite simply and humbly been an actor. I guess it makes sense that you do something and somebody hopefully likes what you do and then you do something a bit similar and then before you know it there’s a sort of a tag. And I have no problem with that whatsoever.

[Doing drama roles] has always been something that’s been on my mind--you can’t fight it. If you get lucky enough to get a role and start working regularly you’d be a fool to challenge that outright. But I think you’ve got to have some sort of idea of who you are and where your strengths begin, then hopefully at some point you can say: “I think I can do this as well and I’d love to have a go.” The timing’s got to be right and I think you’ve got to earn your stripes to be able to then make those stronger moves and requests. That seems to be now: I’ve managed to do a couple of things and that’s just enough to pique someone’s interest and to challenge their expectations.

So how does your new ITV show, Case Sensitive, fit into this new direction?
Not only am I playing the male lead in this genre that I'm not known for, it’s also a male lead opposite Olivia Williams. Hello! That’s pretty amazing for me. It’s turned expectation on its head. And so unless I fail catastrophically to convince people that I can do this, which obviously one works very hard not to do, the idea is that work begets work. I don’t want it to be seen as “Oh that’s different.” That’s just who I am and that’s what I want: I want people to feel comfortable and trust me with both; with any kind of genre.

Does it worry you that Case Sensitive is based on a book and therefore people will come to the show with preconceptions about your character?
It would do if we hadn’t had such an amazing experience with Sophie Hannah, the writer. Sophie’s written what? Six I think, maybe seven, books now so there’s a wealth of material. And I'm a big reader so I fully love, embrace and respect the power of the reader’s imagination.

I did Dirk Gently recently, which of course is another massively famous book. I'm not playing the lead so I'm off the hook a little bit in terms of that sort of pressure; the amazing Stephen Mangan is of course in that role. But we got asked a lot of similar things. With Adams, his fan base seemed to be almost, not aggressive, but incredibly protective from the get-go. That was different because Douglas isn’t with us any longer; it becomes an homage, a rewritten piece that’s based on his work and that was hard, I think, for some people to get around.

But with Sophie we were in direct contact from the start. She was open to suggestions and thoughts that I had about the character: a couple of little things where I sort of said: “Could I make him this? Is this okay?” I remember asking her if I could make him teetotal, which I don’t believe he is in the books. She was absolutely encouraging right from the get-go and has since seen it and is full of praise. That gives us the confidence to feel that we have honoured it. Sophie’s been so supportive and a massive advocate of it. If Sophie’s pleased then I hope and trust that her readers and fans of the stories will embrace it too.

Of course you can’t even begin to try and be everything for every reader. What you have to do, I believe, is capture a spirit and an essence, that thing that’s non-aesthetic, that’s purely what’s really driving these stories. What’s really interesting about these stories for me, and particularly now as a TV programme, is that we have a very recognisable genre but quite an unrecognisable sort of set-up.

How so?
We get a lot of these kind of [crime] programmes and particularly our male characters--and I don’t want to talk stereotypes--but a lot of them have drink problems, or they can’t keep a good woman and they’ve got anger issues. The nature of these things is that they serve a very specific function; they have to be heavily plot driven because of the nature of the genre. I think sometimes we lose sight within that--we get very caught up in what these people are doing and why, we don’t get quite such a clear image of who they are.

What I love about Sophie’s books and our programme is that I think that we’re taking a genre that’s established and we’re adding this domestic element to it. That’s really exciting to me. And not only are we adding a domestic element, we’re also changing the ‘will they, won’t they’ element to a ‘well they clearly have and now what are they going to do about it?’ We’ve sort of turned a couple of things on its head there and I think that’s really exciting.

It’s suggested in the first episode that Simon and his new boss may have had a night of passion. When do we find out what actually happened?
Well, it’s not so much about finding out the details of what happened. Quite quickly that almost becomes superseded by where it’s left them. I think just enough is hinted at, but we never really find out the details of that night.

Presumably this unanswered question will leave viewers wanting more: a renewal perhaps. Would you be up for that?

Completely. I absolutely feel that there’s just enough of a tease there, where we end up at the end of episode two. We’re not going to tell you what happened but we’ll tell you that something did. And I love that. For us, the actors, we definitely want to explore more. There’s a wealth of material in terms of crimes to solve, obviously, but as importantly, there’s the question: how’s this thing going to end up?

Talking of renewals how much involvement will you have in the second season of Dirk Gently?
All I know at the moment is we’ll be doing it sometime in the autumn. I believe we’re doing three more. And I believe everyone from the first one is on board and excited.

So you haven’t been put off by the negative comments from vocal fans?
I think those hardcore Adams fans perhaps felt a little confused, I won’t say betrayed. A novel is clearly a singular vision [whereas] a film or a TV show is a collective vision. You can’t possibly expect to have played out in front of your eyes what you’ve already played out in your mind through your experience. I try not to read Internet threads and chat rooms because I find that--not to make a point about it--but I just feel like it doesn’t seem to go anywhere constructive.

I think we’re being respectful of [the novels]. In Chris Carey, our producer, you won’t find a bigger fan of Adams and these stories. You won’t find someone who respects Adams more than that man. So there’s just no way that anything would go down that would betray him. Adams always said that he felt Dirk Gently would make a better adaptation than Hitchhikers and it’s interesting that that never happened in his lifetime, but now we’re having a stab and I'm proud of it. I'm really excited to see where Howard will take it with these next three scripts.

If you could choose between doing an adaptation and an original series, knowing what you know now, what would you go for?
Oh that’s a really interesting question. I think the idea of creating a character from scratch, one that has not been done in a novel or an existing story, is immensely exciting, terrifying and ultimately rewarding. Having said that, with Simon Waterhouse and with Dirk I don’t allow myself to worry “am I letting anybody down?” I just don’t think you can let that in.

It’s the same as when they talk about comedy in general. You can’t make or do something that you think is funny for someone else, you can only do it if it makes you chuckle. You have to quite selfishly say: “Okay, this has been bestowed upon me and I'm very lucky and grateful for that. Now I have a responsibility to not be intimidated by that fact but to take it and run with it and make it mine and treat it as an original thing.”

It’s tough question to answer because my experience of working with Sophie on this was such a pleasure and I think if you have the support like that and you feel that you’ve done a good job, that’s incredibly rewarding. I feel very passionately about elements of both.

If you had to pick the highlight of your career so far what would it be?
Oh my goodness; the highlight of my career. I couldn’t pick a show or a moment because that would just be impossible.

Kiss Me Kate was my first ever TV job. I’d moved to London, I was doing theatre and I got the opportunity to do this show. I’d never done television, I’d never studied television, I’d never worked in front of a camera and I didn’t go to drama school. I had every reason to run screaming from the room at the mere suggestion of having a go at that. That stays with me.

I think the most powerful moment was standing behind the set for the first time, in front of the studio audience and in front of the bank of cameras; this world that I could not know less about at that time. I could hear the lines and I knew that in seven lines then six, five, I was about to walk through this door. Then, this very calm voice in my head said, “You know you could just get up and leave. Actually you should probably just walk out the door. This has been fun, but this is clearly not...” And then I'm hearing this dialogue and something happened; my body stood up and I walked through the door and I began delivering my lines. That was a transformative feeling of something other-worldly; something that I think people talk about when you are in and out of yourself at the same moment. Suddenly there is this overwhelming sense of validation. That moment for me, it wasn’t like “Ooh I like this. I want to do this...” It was so much bigger than that and so much bigger than myself. It was a truly powerful moment for me.

Case Sensitive starts on ITV1 on Monday, April 2 at 9pm.

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