Following the release of comedy Golden Years, the story of bank-robbing pensioners who use their bounty to ease the financial strains of old age, The Metropolist catches up with Mark Williams to talk growing old gracefully and the truth behind Werther’s Originals:
The Metropolist: How did you come to work on Golden Years?
Mark Williams: I was in Soho and met Mark Foligno (Producer) and he suggested I get on board. I thought Golden Years was a great idea and was really pleased to be asked. It also meant working with Phil Davis. I knew of Phil but weirdly we’d never worked together … the whole thing was a complete and utter pleasure.
TM: What appealed to you about the project?
MW: I just think it’s timely. I think it’s about: ‘don’t underestimate old people’, they’ve got issues (even criminally!) which is quite interesting. After the script was worked out and everything there was the Hatton Garden heist … they were all in their seventies!
TM: Golden Years is a comedy but one that explores some important and seldom discussed issues. Did that change the way you approached the role?
MW: Yes, it did. Well I’m 57 and as David Bowie said, “when you get older you become the sort of person you should have always been”… I think that’s a direct quote. That’s how I think about it. I think: ‘now I’m 57 I’m me, before I was an apprentice.’
TM: What do you attribute that greater self-awareness to?
MW: Time. It’s just about time spent. It’s the same as friendships, you know. Your friends are the ones you’ve been with for the longest time.
TM: Tell me about Phil, the character you play in Golden Years
MW: Well I was slightly indulged, I have to say. I wanted to do some nice physical comedy and I wanted it to be genial. Phil’s one of those sort of posh blokes who has given up a bit, so now he runs a bowling club bar. And I enjoyed that very much.
TM: With the exception of bank robberies, Golden Years shows pensioners partaking in all their usual pursuits: caravanning, bingo, bowls etc. How will you spend your golden years?
MW: Reading. I want to do a Ronnie Barker [Barker retired and opened an antiques shop]. Then I could sit behind my desk surveying my stock and bore people about it. But I think mine would be a book shop not an antique shop.
TM: In the spirit of Golden Years: Corrie or The Archers?
MW: Corrie, all day.
TM: Quality Street or Werther’s Original?
MW: Werther’s Original is not an English sweet, it’s German! The idea that they’re imbedded in our national culture slightly irks me.
TM: Antiques Road Show or Gardeners World?
MW: Oh no … Really, really difficult. I couldn’t, no, can’t do that. One is visual, one is … no I can’t choose. They’re both exactly what they should be.
TM: Countdown or Crosswords?
MW: Cryptics, every day. Can I make a confession? I can’t do countdown. It’s too quick. I get clock anxiety.
TM: Younger readers will know you for your portrayal of Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films, but this ol’ timer likes to think of you for your work on The Fast Show. Do you have a favourite Fast Show sketch?
MW: Yes, I do. And Paul [Whitehouse] will deny this, but I suggested it to him! It’s when Rowley Birkin does a whole monologue with just sounds. He does planes and sonar. And I bet you £10 that Paul will say it was his idea but actually it was mine; I know it in my heart! That’s meant light-heartedly, it was a very collaborative show, but I remember thinking what an idea it would be.
TM: Of the sketch shows that have come since Fast Show, do you have any personal favourites?
MW: There aren’t any sketch shows any more. They’re not funding it, it’s ridiculous. So you’ve got all these really talented, intelligent people just doing comedy quiz shows. I really, really rebel against it.
TM: Looking ahead, what have you got in the pipeline?
MW: I’ve got a film called Heidi coming out, with Bill Nighy playing Grandpa, and that’s a joint English and Indian production which is going to be very, very interesting indeed! There’s also a new season of Father Brown which I’m involved in right now, which will be out next January.
Golden Years is available for purchase now on DVD and Digital.