For our non-UK readers out there, let’s start by having you introduce yourself.
I was born in Birmingham – the eldest of three children, and both of my parents are from Southern Ireland. My mum was a school cook and dad a builder. Our house always seemed busy, I think the whole of Ireland must of paid a visit to us at one point or another and my dad would bring in quite a few characters! When I left school at 15 I wanted to be an actor but could not afford anything like drama school. Instead I joined a youth theatre group for a couple of years. We did acting classes and toured with plays. After that I did a string of different jobs, which looking back now has helped my acting, just by working with people from so many different backgrounds. I am married and we have two lovely daughters.
You’ve been making a real splash in the UK recently, such as with your role in the new short film "The Real Mario Grey" – please tell us more about that.
I was filming another program for Channel 4 and watching onset was Hywel George from Plasticbudda Productions. At the end of filming Hywel said he would like me to do a casting for a role in a film he was producing for the UK film council. I went along to meet the director Gavin Irvine who took me through a series of situations playing a beggar. Glad to say that I got the part and the film was selected for the Cardiff Film festival. This year it will be going on to all the major UK film festivals and will be shown on the BBC at some point in the future.
One thing that jumps out at me is the sheer variety of roles you’ve been involved in – from drunken accountants and drug addicts, to King Richard III and the Earl of Pembroke, to… the Sandman. What kind of preparation do you undertake to apply such a rich variety of roles?
I hope that people see the character rather than the actor playing the character. I would say that in very basic terms within every human being lies the same set of emotions – love, anger, fear, joy, jealousy etc. Each character will display at least a couple of these. Then by adding in their background and where they are at now you start to build up the layers. For example, a beggar just wants food, warmth and to be left alone. A king already has power but he wants respect, but at the same time has to watch his back! By the time the cameras roll the audience should be able to see the soul of the character in your eyes. So even if you just think the thought the camera will
see it. I also find it helps by watching documentaries of people going through different real life situations to see how they react.
Your acting CV also boasts an impressive range of theatre roles – do you prefer this type of acting to film / television?
I enjoy both theatre and film! Both are totally different art forms. With film the director is with you on every take; with theatre the director has done his work and its now up to you and the cast to deliver the performance. One thing that I like about doing stage performances is that you get feedback immediately afterwards!
A role you undertook that particularly stood out at me was you playing Jesus in ‘The Cross, the Tomb and the Stone’ – what was it like to play the big man himself?
I considered it an honor to be asked to play Jesus. I had to have a long think about which was the best way I could portray him. The play was based around the crucifixion. I thought the best approach was to build up the emotions and fear that Jesus must have experienced before he took the walk to the cross. My aim was that the moment the audience saw his face they would recognize the pain that he had endured before that point. It worked well and my job was made easy due to the great cast and powerful backing tracks done by Alan Russell. The final piece turned out to be a very moving experience for all.
One of my favorite pieces of yours is the short film XK7218 – please tell our readers more about this.
I wanted to write a piece about a man whose life had fallen apart but he wasn’t in a position to do anything about it. A prison seemed to be the perfect setting. It was a basic story about a man who had lost every thing – his job, his money and his friends. All he had left was his wife – but she leaves him as well! I had worked with Kate Deeley and Phil Howe on other projects, so it was nice to film with them again.
XK7218 was made in conjunction with Last Independent – can we expect any more of these collaborations in the near future?
I have spoken to Kevin Powis at Last Independent and we will be working on two more projects later in the year, both of which will be thought provoking.
Adding further to your range and variety of roles, you have appeared in a few comedies including the hugely successful UK comedy ‘The IT Crowd’ – please tell us more about this, and about your character.
When you cast for most programs you won’t have heard of them. Therefore I didn’t know what to expect. I got a small part playing Britain’s most stupid toilet cleaner! It was nice to be involved in some way with the people who brought us “Father Ted” and “The Office”.
Many of the directors you have worked with have commented on your preference for improvisation, why do you find this approach works best for you, and how do you feel it enhances your performance?
On set the director is the boss – so I am guided by the way they want to work. Improvisation only works if it enhances the character or the scene. As I’m dyslexic I like to learn the role first then add the correct lines after I’ve got the character. This is why improvisation suits me a bit better and I have been fortunate that directors have been happy to support me with this approach.
While many may recognize you from your on-screen work, what many do not know is that you are also an accomplished athlete – please tell us more about this.
From the age of 10 I have been a competitive runner. I found running suited me well (unlike school work!) It was a free hobby and became a daily routine. I became a member of the local running club and things took off from there! Later on I turned to triathlons and was fortunate enough to represent Great Britain at races in Europe. My fitness level as gone over the last few years but I am hoping to jog round this years London marathon in April!
Which actors or filmmakers do you admire?
I admire anyone who has a go in this business because all work is hard to come by, and it’s a shame that some great films just don’t get seen! There are many outstanding actors I like to watch including Sean Penn, John Malkovich, Robert Carlyle, Kevin Bacon, Tim Roth, Samantha Morton, Gary Oldman and of course Judi Dench! Every time they deliver a brilliant and real performance.
So, what’s next for Martin Nigel Davey?
I have just finished a film called “One Minutes” with Philip Pugh. He wrote and directed 60 short films in a year (60 films in 60 minutes). I did 8 shorts for him playing different characters so I look forward to seeing that. I have written a few more short films so I might try and get a couple of them made. And in the acting world you never know what the next phone call will
For all you readers who would like to see the talented Martin Nigel Davey in action, you can see the short piece XK7218 here.