The real Commander Mike Parker’s relatives were horrified by how he was depicted in The Crown as Prince Philip’s philandering right-hand man. Now actor Daniel Ings has said he is saddened by the family’s reaction – but that it was never his intention to play Parker as a “bad guy”.
Season two of Netflix’s royal drama threw the spotlight onto the Private Secretary to the Duke of Edinburgh. Mike Parker was caught in the centre of a media storm in 1956 when his wife Eileen filed for divorce while her husband was halfway across the world aboard the Yacht Britannia. In The Crown, we see Prince Philip’s five-month royal tour become a crisis waiting to happen as Parker encourages his boss’s wandering eye (or so it is implied).
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But the late Commander Mike Parker’s 73-year-old son Michael Parker told The Mail on Sunday that there was no evidence of the royal tour being a “shagfest” – and that his father “was an honourable man and looked after Philip very well.”
Ings tells RadioTimes.com: “Obviously, playing someone real – it is a responsibility. And of course I was sad to see that they weren’t happy with it… I didn’t want to hear that.”
The actor, who also stars in the Netflix show Lovesick as Luke Curran, said he hadn’t spoken to to any of the family, explaining: “For my own part, I guess I just kind of wanted to play the role as I saw it in the script.
“Obviously I didn’t know the man, you know? That was my impression of it, and actually I think it’s been interesting seeing the response to that at this moment in time. [The character I play is] a kind of difficult person to sympathise with, because he is being unfaithful to his wife and he’s leaving his wife and children.
“But actually I never really saw him as a bad guy at all. I think they got caught up in a lifestyle that maybe got a bit carried away… There is the responsibility of playing someone who really existed, and I suppose there’s a sort of tragedy to that character, because he pays the price, you know? He pays a fairly heavy price.”
As the divorce scandal refused to go away and the media attacked his reputation, the real Mike Parker offered his resignation – and a month later, Prince Philip and the Queen reluctantly accepted it. Parker became a businessman, moved to Australia and married twice more. He also remained in touch with the Duke of Edinburgh, meeting regularly and exchanging letters until his death at the end of 2001.
Ings was cast as the “philandering” Mike Parker shortly after making his debut as womaniser Luke in Channel 4’s grotesquely-titled Scrotal Recall – before it moved to Netflix and was re-named Lovesick. The comedy drama is now in its third season. So why does he keep getting chosen to play the role of the (in his words) “charming, loveable cad”?
“I don’t really think of myself as a womaniser,” Ings tells us. “I like to not think of myself as a womaniser.
“But it is kind of fun to play a cad in a way. I mean, in Lovesick we play around with that a bit more, and kind of reveal that that’s not entirely who he is.”
On his role as playboy Luke, he says: “I mean, I’ve been in a relationship for the entirety of my twenties, and I’m 32 now! In a funny sort of way I missed out on all of the dating that people often do in their twenties. So it’s not really a story that that tacks itself that closely to my personal life.
“But I can relate to lots of the individual things that people go through, awkward conversations and the weird revelations and certainly that idea about something happening that perhaps hurts you in your past that has such a bearing and a knock on effect that it takes you years to unpick that and sort of unravel it. I can really identify with that.”
Luke is the best friend of our protagonist Dylan Witter (Johnny Flynn), and in case you’ve missed it, Ings is on hand to explain why it should be your new favourite Netflix drama.
“Well, it’s basically a show about a man who, for various reasons, mostly Chlamydia-related, realises that he needs to get in touch with all of his exes,” he tells us. “Being a sort of soppy romantic, he decides to actually see people in person. And it becomes a kind of quest to understand himself a little bit more and understand why he’s still looking for love.
“Each episode kind of dives back into one of his previous relationships. And along the way he shows his friendship and his relationships with his two or three best mates… So it’s basically a love story, but it’s also kind of a love story about a group of friends.”
That was the concept for the first couple of seasons – but now Lovesick is evolving. In season three we leap six months into the future and move the story beyond Dylan’s sexual health problems, taking a closer look at what’s going on with his friends. And (SPOILER ALERT!) there’s a huge storyline for Luke, who finally gets it together with his long-term crush Jonesy.
So will we ever find out what happens next?
“I actually don’t know whether or not there’ll be a series four,” Ings says, disappointingly. “But I think the end of series three is quite a satisfying place to leave the characters if we don’t do any more.”
Still, don’t give up hope quite yet. He adds: “I want to know what happens with Luke and Jonesy, I have ideas but I think definitely there’s scope to tell more stories. They’re brilliantly written characters and it’s such a cool structure to the show and feel to the show, I think. All of the writing is so bang-on and we’re lucky enough to have brilliant directors and producers. So I think there’s more scope for it, and we all have such a good time doing it. But we’ll see.”
Lovesick seasons 1-3 and The Crown seasons 1-2 are available on Netflix now