Ben Miller: I was intimidated acting Scottish with David Tennant and Billy Connolly

The What We Did On Our Holiday actor says playing Tennant's fictional brother was "infuriating" - "anyone who looks that good in clothes is just too annoying"

Ben Miller has an unenviable task in new film What We Did On Our Holiday. As Gavin McCleod, the English actor has to act Scottish opposite two of Scotland’s greatest exports, Billy Connolly and David Tennant. It was not an undertaking he took lightly…


“I was a little bit intimidated about playing Billy Connolly’s son and David Tennant’s brother, if only on their Scottishness stakes. If that was a high jump, they’re setting the Scottish bar right at its limit.”

That they are, but Miller at least had the film’s stunning Scottish setting to get him in the mood. “We were filming in the western Highlands, completely in the wild, in this fantastic little hotel on the shores of a beautiful loch. We would go trout fishing and walking in the hills – it was just amazing – and there was nobody there apart from us. It was a magical time.”

Although, shooting scenes with Connolly weren’t without their problems. “Being in the west Highlands with Billy Connolly is a bit like going for a walkabout in Rome with the Pope. People just flock to him.” 

What We Did on Our Holiday – the new film from Outnumbered creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin – follows Doug McLeod (Tennant), his soon-to-be-ex-wife Abi (Rosamund Pike) and their brood as they head for the Highlands to celebrate the 75th birthday of terminally-ill patriarch Gordie (Connolly). Miller portrays Gavin – the highly-strung brother to Tennant’s Doug and mastermind of the extravagant celebrations.

So, how was is playing Tennant’s on-screen sibling? “As a fictional brother, he was infuriating. He’s so suave and good looking and seems to have it all together whereas, I think as a fictional brother, certainly for my character, he is an absolute nightmare. Anyone who looks that good in clothes is just too annoying.”

Miller – who dramatically departed detective series Death in Paradise last January – has relished a string of different roles in the subsequent months, including a guest spot playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in series eight of Doctor Who, a show he has loved since childhood. 

“That was one of the best jobs I have ever had. I’ve always loved the story of Robin Hood. That was such an inspiration to me when I was a kid. I remember reading the final story about Robin’s death – it’s one of the most crystal clear moments of my childhood when I was ten – so it’s brilliant for me because the other thing I loved when I was ten, and still do love, is Doctor Who.”

His appearance opposite Tom Riley earlier this month went down well with Whovians. “They’re not an easy lot to please, the Doctor Who fans, but there’s been a fantastic reaction which is great because the last thing you want to do is not get their support.” 

As a Who fan, Miller was an avid viewer of his co-star Tennant’s tenure in the Tardis – but did he talk Who with him on set? 

“Not only did I chat Who but I brought my son with me and David was absolutely brilliant with him. The tenth Doctor was where he started when he began watching and I remember sitting in the make up trailer and Sonny just sidling up to David and asking, ‘How does the sonic screwdriver work?’ And David giving him the most brilliant explanation that literally went on for 15 minutes describing all the different buttons and what they did. Sonny was just so smitten at the end of it, it was fantastic – a really magical moment.” 

What We Did On Our Holiday is released in UK cinemas today (Friday 26 September). Read Radio Times’ review here