Interview: Kevin McNally On Playing Captain Mainwaring In Dad's Army – The Lost Episodes

Dad's Army – The Lost Episodes is on Gold over three nights, Sunday, Monday & Tuesday from August 25th nightly at 8pm. Below Kevin McNally talks about playing the iconic role of Captain Mainwaring.

  

What interested you in The Lost Episodes project?

Well, I had spent the last five years on a lovely project recreating the lost episodes of the radio show ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’. We did 22 of them. I really enjoyed that process of bringing things to life that you can’t hear or see anymore. So, when the opportunity to be involved in Dad’s Army came up I obviously leapt at it. I was quite surprised because I think people knew that I had a Tony Hancock in me, but I was surprised that anybody thought I had a Captain Mainwaring in me. After the initial shock of that I thought it would be really wonderful to try to pay homage to his performance and that wonderful character that people love so much.

How did you approach the character of Mainwaring?

My approach to the character of Mainwaring was that I was going to try to be as much like Mainwaring as possible. It’s a real hybrid thing to do to recreate somebody else’s performance. The rule I have is that I would never do anything that you could see the original person doing because that would seem absolutely pointless. The temptation is that you do something singular, you just remember the ways that they spoke and focus on that one thing. But the important thing when you find out that you are going to recreate someone’s performance is to watch as much of them as possible and you find out all the tropes they have and all the voices they use, all the mannerisms they have. For me, I really tried to immerse myself in him. I watched as many episodes as possible and read about the show and their attitudes towards the show. The balance I want to get is to be give a performance of me reacting to the script and working with the other actors, but it having a real essence of what the man was, which is just slightly shy of a slavish impression. I think when people do impressions of people, often it’s very impressive but not very funny, so you have to have the freedom to still create and be comically inventive yourself.

How much of Arthur Lowe was there in Captain Mainwaring?

I think, in Arthur Lowe’s case, Croft and Perry saw him and instantly started writing part of him into the part. I mean, I understand that everyone loved him, but they all said that he had a pompous side and he could be a little aloof. He was a northern man who spoke very posh and he had himself adopted a patriation character that Croft and Perry mined, I think.

What is this series hoping to achieve?

Dad’s Army is a show that is repeated all the time and there are three episodes that were written, made and transmitted and then wiped with the BBC’s 1960s reuse of tape policy. So, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we tried to respectfully and lovingly recreate those episodes in great detail? People who had heard about them over the years might actually get a chance to see what it might have been like to watch those episodes and, in a way, it’s sort of a completion of the whole Dad’s Army journey. I mean, they’re just waiting there to be done and I’m really pleased they came at the time when I can play Captain Mainwaring.

What is the plot for ‘Under Fire’?

The plot of Under Fire is terrific. It’s the most slapstick of the three episodes. Mainwaring and Wilson turn up, both having had a rough night’s sleep. There’s been a lot of air raids as the Germans are raining down fire bombs on London and they think they’re going to come down to the south coast on this particular night, so the platoon are preparing their fire drill. At the same time, Godfrey and Frazer come from their night guarding and they see that there is a light flashing somewhere in town and they go there to find out what’s going on, in case it’s a fifth columnist signalling to bring the aircraft over. They find what appears to be a German man, who is actually British but of German descent. They’re very suspicious of him, so they arrest him and bring him in and while in their custody a fire bomb lands in the church. The rest of the episode then follows them trying to use their stirrup bump, their buckets of water and their fire extinguishers to try and put this fire out. They signally fail to do so, making it really funny and really slapstick and probably one of the most enjoyable ones that we’ve done.

What would you say to the viewers before they watch The Lost Episodes?

Go easy on us. We have decided, as a group of performers, to really enjoy plugging this little gap in the repertoire and I think they should sit back and really enjoy it because we’ve made it with love and hopefully you can watch it with love.

Interview supplied by UKTV

 

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