Joseph Mawle: Birdsong was a fantastic journey

The actor talks about his favourite TV and theatre roles – and recalls embarrassing moments on stage

Which do you prefer – TV or stage?


I feel more at home on a TV set as I have found that there is more time to get to know people and create a company atmosphere. It all feels very collaborative and every day feels brand new and exciting.

Although it is a myth that if you get it wrong on film you can have another go. Most of the retakes are to do with the sound or the camera – the camera wants another rehearsal, the camera wants another shot – actors have to get it right the first time.

Favourite TV role?

Birdsong was a fantastic journey. It was hard work but we were 12 guys just outside Budapest telling a story based on an amazing novel. And although the weather was hot and we were dressed in proper wool tunnellers’ uniforms from the First World War, I think the heat helped us, in a way. We got sweaty and it was raw – you have to have something to fight against and it brought us all together.

Favourite role on stage?

My most rewarding role on stage was Judas in The Last Ages of Judas Iscariot – the way it was staged I was sat on the stage staring out at the audience in a catatonic state without blinking for up to 45 minutes at a time, so it was gruelling. In order to get myself into that state I had to think of some pretty awful things and take myself to a very dark place.

Role you covet on stage?

Many, too many. I would love to do Hamlet but there have been a few too many lately. So I’ll take a bit of time before attacking that one, but it is something I would love to do.

Worst moment on stage?

During Troilus and Cressida I had to get out of bed naked and there was obviously a moon side and a sun side and I desperately tried to make sure that when my family and friends came they were sitting on the moon side. That was quite mortifying.

Joseph Mawle’s most recent theatre work was his acclaimed performance in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Almeida Theatre.


See pictures and interviews with Britain’s leading actors – including Joseph Mawle, Russell Tovey, Eve Myles, Celia Imrie, Mackenzie Crook, Anne-Marie Duff, Jessica Raine, Kara Tointon, Tom Chambers, Ben Miller and many more – in Radio Times magazine’s fantastic Olivier Awards special! Also in the new issue: Paul Weller, Jools Holland, Pamela Stephenson, Mary Beard, Clare Balding, Two Greedy Italians and Dara O Briain. In shops now.