Daniel Mays talks Temple:
How would you describe Temple tonally?
It reminds me of the Cohen brothers, Three Billboards, that sort of thing – it has that temperature to it. It’s slightly off-centre and has a quirkiness because Mark O’Rowe, the writer, has that dark humour that runs through it. I try and tell people it’s about an operating theatre underneath Temple tube station and they go, ‘Um, what do you mean?’. There are elements of it that are a thriller, but you can’t categorise it – there is a thriller aspect, there is a love story at the heart of it with Daniel and his wife. It is not apocalyptic or anything like that. It is a normal contemporary world. It’s a high concept show, though.
Can you describe Lee?
Lee is into ‘prepping’ because he works for an underground network, and his job gives him access to all of this underground space. He would much rather exist underground anyway, and so this is like his dream world, that he can set up this huge bunker underneath Temple tube station and be self-sufficient and grow his own food, stockpile all the materials and supplies he needs. He is a completely bonkers character in many ways, but I have loved playing him. He is insular but quirky and funny at the same time. It’s hilarious to do.
I didn’t know anything about prepping – I did some research. Lee is adamant he is a prepper, not a survivalist; apparently, they are very different things. It’s that feeling of thinking the world is going to end at any given moment and you should be prepared for that. It’s very nihilist, and he comes out with all this stuff about chaos theory and all this waffle.
Is he quite comedic?
Yes, in terms of the humour we have played it completely straight: it’s the circumstances, and situations he finds himself in that are funny. He meets this girl, Céline, who is an old school friend he falls head over heels in love with, but they’ve only gone on one date. He is temperamental at the same time and can fly off the handle and be quite pedantic about everything. He tends to make the wrong decisions.
How do Lee and Daniel end up working together?
Lee comes to him initially in the canteen of the hospital as he’s got a friend who needs a hernia operation but doesn’t want to go through conventional channels for whatever reason. Lee approaches Daniel and says, ‘Look I have a private space, I have access to equipment, can you help,’ but Daniel shuts it down. He advises him not to get involved in shady dealings like that, and then the story unfolds, Daniel needs a private space away from prying eyes. The first person who pops into his head is Lee, and that is where their working relationship kicks off.
What’s the relationship like between Daniel and Lee?
It is a great central partnership because they’re like an odd couple, and in any other walk of life, they wouldn’t be connected in any way. It just so happens that Daniel is a surgeon, and he treated Lee at the beginning of the story. They like one another because Lee comes out with all this chaos theory, and Daniel can respond to that. In any other walk of life, they wouldn’t be friends because they are different characters, different personalities, different class – everything. Yet in the bunker they are co-dependent, and Daniel needs the bunker for reasons you’ll see, and to make money, whereas Lee is on the dark web, he is a blogger, and that is where the criminality aspect comes into it.
Do we learn why he is the way he is?
The story is so well written, and obviously, Mark O’Rowe is a playwright, and you can really see that when you’re working on the scripts. Initially, Lee is in the hospital because he has tried to kill himself, so he is prone to depression and has driven himself into a wall, hence why he has this small scar on his face, he has gone through the windscreen, and that is hinted at. It will pose lots of moral questions for the audience, won’t it? Yes, that is what is great about the writing as well; in terms of your moral compass, it is about how far can you push it. It becomes quite macabre and dark, and there is a gruesome element to it as well. It’s not a medical drama at all, but there are elements of that. There is an emergency spleen operation in the first episode, and Lee is entirely out of his depth helping.
How are you with the prosthetics and fake blood?
I am okay with all of that; the people they got in to do all of that are top drawer. In his surgery scene, Tobi had half a body because his legs were hidden under the table, which was so weird to look at. The audience will love those scenes and key to the whole show is this sort of mismatch of people that live in this bunker – it is its own character the bunker, and so we want the audience to really like these characters. They are morally questionable, and that gets worse as it goes on, but if you’re with them, then you’re going to go on that journey.
Did you enjoy working with Mark?
He’s a tremendous actor and the loveliest bloke you’ll ever meet. It is great when you work with people you greatly admire, and you look at them, observe them and see how they work. It’s not rocket science to see why he has got where he has because he is 1) brilliant 2) professional and 3) a nice guy.
Your careers are not dissimilar, are they?
He works in America more than me, that is the box I need to tick, but he is brilliant in this part. He is so minimal when he acts, and that is a great difference between the two characters. I am quite manic.
How have you got on personally?
Brilliantly and with his wife Liza as well who is our exec producer. They have two sons, and they’re roughly the same age as my boy, Mylo. Halfway through shooting, I went to Lapland for Christmas. I was at Gatwick phoning the cab company on the way back when my wife Lou was like, ‘Look, there’s Mark.’ They were coming back from Madrid at the same time, so the kids all met each other at Gatwick Airport! What are the odds of that?
Tell me about Jamie, how does he fit into the picture?
It is hinted that Lee’s parents were foster parents who took in impoverished children. I speak about Jamie’s mum being a drug addict, as that is where they’ve had history. But Jamie’s gone down the wrong path and gets involved with this wrong crowd and in this bank robbery. That’s another interesting subplot, him and Michelle having a baby because he has to go into hiding in the bunker. As the series develops, both his girlfriend and the police are hunting him down.
Do you do many stunts in this?
Oh my gosh, I had to do one stunt which was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. There is a moment with Cormac, this mad Irish patient that we bring down and tie to the bed. I let him go, he grabs me, and I must move away from him, but there is this huge sewage pipe hanging from the roof. I knock myself out. It was a nightmare to do because it was a real pipe and they strap a load of padding onto it, but because I was going backward into it, I was going into it completely blind. I also have a punch where I put my hand through glass, and in another scene, I’m tortured by Craig Parkinson, who’s my former flatmate. We used to live in Crouch End together. That was an exhausting day. We didn’t hold back; we went for it! I have complete trust in Craig, and we knew how far we could push it. There was a stunt coordinator there, but you can’t fake it. You have to throw yourself into it, within reason. I have such admiration for all stuntmen when they put their neck on the line. It can be quite dangerous.
What do you think of the bunker set?
They utilised the space brilliantly. This set is one of the best sets I’ve been on. Not only its scale, because the actual room in there is as big as the Bond stage, it is massive, but the actual build. Our designer has done an amazing job; it’s an amazing thing to act in because the centre of it is like a stage, it is quite theatrical, so that is great. The location stuff has been great too. We’ve been to Paddington overground station, and Aldwych underground station too. It is so dusty down there but very atmospheric. I think it will be a very atmospheric show. They have the budget and the gadgets to realise the scripts and bring it to life.
If you ended up in an underground bunker, would you survive?
No, I would be absolutely useless! I can only just make beans on toast. I don’t know how well I would get on. I’d need my wife with me to sort me out. Bloody hell, I’m coming across like Harry Redknapp!
Who and what would you take down there with you?
I’d need a record player. I am getting into vinyl just lately. Where would we be without music? And old photographs. And alcohol! The older I am getting, the more solitude I like. But I would take my family, that’s a given.
Temple airs Fridays at 9PM on Sky One beginning 13 September.
Follow Daniel Mays on Twitter @DanielMays9