“Resting” is a euphemistic status that actors use when they’re not working. But you couldn’t accuse Craig Parkinson aka the late Detective Inspector Matthew “Dot” Cottan from BBC’s hit cop drama Line of Duty of wasting his downtime.
Having recently finished lending his voice to a new animated BBC1/Netflix adaptation of Watership Down, the now ubiquitous 6ft 4inch, 41-year-old character actor – seen in everything from Indian Summers and Misfits to Four Lions and Control – is effectively between jobs.
But since Christmas he’s been recording episodes of a brand new, free podcast called Two Shot, in which he chats with fellow actors about, well, acting.
“I’ve been a working actor for 20 years,” he says, in that mellifluous Blackpool twang. “So all my love and passion, time and creativity has been ploughed into that. But what started as small 2am thought late last year is now a reality.”
Calling upon some of his actor pals – Vicky McClure (Line of Duty, The Replacement, This is England), Kate Ashfield (Line of Duty; she also recently co-wrote C4 drama Born to Kill), Neil Morrissey (Line of Duty, Men Behaving Badly), and Susan Lynch (Happy Valley, Apple Tree Yard), who also happens to be his wife – Parkinson, along with producer Tom Griffin, now have a first run of six hour-long interviews in the can.
Two Shot – technically, a framed camera shot containing two people – launches officially on 6 July with McClure as the opening act. The format is simple: Craig and guest having a brew in the subject’s kitchen or front room and chatting about the realities of being an actor. And not too much luvvy-ish stuff about how marvellous it was, darling, working with other actors.
Listening to the first podcast, it’s clear that Parkinson takes to interviewing like a duck to water. A talkative chap in real life, he knows when to keep quiet, and his own experiences as a thesp keep the playing field level.
When McClure – who, unusually, didn’t got through conventional drama school, instead getting her training at Nottingham’s Central Junior Television Workshop from age 11 to 21 – mentions doing her first Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, Parkinson chips in with the comment, “Tough play.”
It’s such unforced moments of connection and empathy that make Two Shot unique. Knowing that McClure has a weakness for tea, Craig brings her some Teapigs “everyday brew” as a gift to lubricate the discussion, plus some Variety Packs of cereals. It’s less a case of Frost/Nixon, more Frosties/Nixon.
We discover that McClure danced from age of three and was “overly confident … annoying if anything.” Finding school “a difficult place to express yourself, because you don’t want to look like an idiot in front of your schoolmates,” she found an outlet at the Workshop, which eventually landed her a job, aged 17, in Shane Meadows’ second film, A Room for Romeo Brass. Though the rest is history, it’s heartwarming to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
Any plans to monetise it? “A firm no,” Parkinson says. “We didn’t get into this to make any sort of money. Although saying that, it’s totally self-funded and my producer does need his petrol money paying!”
Future plans include a round-table format involving a few guests and one topic: auditions. McClure reveals in the first pod that she auditioned for London’s famous Italia Conti drama school when she was 13 and performed Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – a word she can now no longer even say – and although she got in, her parents couldn’t afford the fees, so she stayed at Central Workshop, something she’s now grateful for.
As we speak, in a Chi-Chi teashop in Central London (Parkinson is all about tea), he is between jobs again, although he tantalisingly mentions a comedy that he is not allowed to talk about. And yet ironically he’s also busier than ever, thanks to Two Shot. “When do you actually get to sit down with someone for a full hour and turn the focus onto that other person and have a good old chat?” he asks, rhetorically. “Doesn’t happen too much anymore does it?”
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