Interview: Jason Watkins, Inside No 9: The Bill, BBC2

What appealed to you about Inside No.9?

First and foremost working with Reece and Steve.  I’d taken part in Psychoville in a previous incarnation - I’ve always loved their work and love working with them. The particular Inside No.9 that I did, The Bill, it’s like a beautifully constructed little play for television. It’s got a great mix of characters and surprising plots - all those things that they do so brilliantly. So that was what was attractive.

What drew you to this particular role?
I love the character because he’s so put-upon and pathetic and petty. When you have people who are rather anal and petty, and you have to settle the bill up, it can be quite tricky. You can get a whole group of actors going out on a company meal and everyone is well intended, no one is trying to get away from anything, but it can get rather complicated. My character is always last to put his hand in his pocket, to get out his little purse and count out his money, which is a lot of fun to play.

What was is like working with Reece and Steve?
In television you’re always looking for good scripts, whether that’s W1A, The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies or Trollied. There are a lot of shows which aren’t dialogue-led, they’re thrillers or they have a different dynamic and they touch audiences in different ways and are often plot-led. With Steve and Reece’s work you get great plots, but also in terms of acting it’s always great dialogue and they’re great characters constructed on the page. It’s a real treat for actors to flex their muscles in that way. It’s the strength of the writing that draws you into the work. Over the course of the series to have that sheer inventiveness is an absolute joy. Despite their hysterical and often insane creations they’re both very down to earth and just brilliant creative people.

Have you enjoyed working with the rest of the cast?
I knew Philip Glenister from when we did a reading of a play together many years ago, so it was great to hang out with him and act with him again. Phil is a great actor, so to get Steve and Reece and then Phil was like a dream come true. I hadn’t met Ellie White before but she was hysterical and I know she’s done some really great work recently. She was great so it was a really, really good mix of people.

What was it like working with the team behind the scenes?
Guillem Morales, the director, was great. He’s quite young and very different to Steve and Reece, but he storyboarded it really well and he was meticulous, so it was great to work with him too. Also the whole production company, the way that they worked with both Steve and Reece I think that really does pay off on screen, I remember that being rather fun.

Do you have a favourite moment?
My character gets his little purse out and gets his bits of money and he’s always reluctant to play the bill. So while the other characters are fighting to be rather alpha male about settling the bill, he will do everything in his power to pay as little as possible - and that’s always fun to watch.

Were there any interesting moments from filming?
It was slightly surreal and unusual to do a whole piece for half an hour on one set. We also filmed it in part of a nightclub, so the room - although it looked beautifully like a restaurant - was next to a nightclub. It was just a surreal juxtaposition, from the rather warm glow of the restaurant into a nightclub, with music blaring out.

Inside No 9, The Bill, 10pm, BBC2, Tuesday, February 21. Read a review here.

Interview supplied by BBC.

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