Thursday, 6 October 2011

Oh crumbs! It's Terry Molloy!

Since page one of The Scarifyers, Terry Molloy has brought inept paranormal investigator and terrible author Professor Edward Dunning to life. But he's best known for playing milkman Mike Tucker in Radio 4's long-running drama serial The Archers, and for the role of Davros, creator of the evil Daleks, in Doctor Who. In real life he is neither a milkman nor a crippled alien genius, but a winning combination of both.

When you first read the part of Professor Dunning in The Scarifyers, was it immediately obvious how you’d play him?

The great thing about a really good script is that when you receive one and read it, the characters jump off the page and bite you in the.. er.. on the nose!

Without trying to ‘big up’ Simon and Paul, in the case of the Scarifyers I was instantly immersed in a world I could see peopled by characters that simply had unique vibrant ‘life’!

Dunning was instantly recognizable to me although I couldn’t at first say for why or for whom. It was only after I listened to The Devil of Denge Marsh that the penny finally dropped…. Dunning is the natural descendant of a character I created in my very first professional job back in 1968. Then, however, he was called Mr. Spectrum, the keeper of the Rainbow Box for the Rainbow Queen – a bumbling old professor who enlisted the help of the children in the audience to help mend a broken rainbow and save the Queen - in a children’s theatre production that had been written by the master of the art – Brian Way.

He just came back to life in my imagination as soon as I read the script for The Nazad Conspiracy that had been so cleverly written by Simon.

You seem to enjoy playing him. Are you fond of him as a character?

I love playing Dunning, he has all the childlike qualities of a true innocent coupled with all the enthusiasm and na├»ve excitement for ‘the chase’ along with a complete ineptitude at being heroic. He makes heroes of those around him - be it Lionheart, ‘Thumper’ Crow, or even (to a lesser degree) the other Fantasists – and has a unnerving belief in the goodness of everyone and expresses that in his total trust of what they say, which turns into a perplexed puzzlement and sadness when they show themselves to be less than what he thought them to be.

I have now to freely admit that of the many characters and persona I have inhabited on stage, TV and radio… Dunning is without doubt the closest to my real self beneath the mask that as actors we so often put on! Oh Crumbs!!!

Your biography says that you were born in 1947 into a Tyneside theatrical family... were you forced into the acting profession?

Absolutely not! My father was vehemently opposed to my entering the theatrical profession when it was mooted by my Mother – “That child will be a ‘clown’ over my dead body!” he stormed – which proved sadly prophetic as he died when I was just 16. He wanted me to enter a ‘real’ profession and become a Doctor or a Vet or follow him into the RAF as a pilot. I actually thought this quite a good idea until my 'O' Level exam results proved I had about as much idea or aptitude for science as a penguin!

You studied Music and Drama at Liverpool in the mid 1960s, moonlighting in a soul band at The Cavern Club. Tell us more!

I had done well in music while at school so, not having achieved a drama school place, I headed north to Liverpool where as you say I spent a lot of time between lectures playing in a soul band in most of the clubs around at the time – yes, including The Cavern! I played Baritone and Tenor Saxophone and seriously considered becoming a musician, but being an innately lazy individual I knew I would have to work really hard to be as good as I felt I possibly could be as a musician and so I turned to acting instead as it seemed easier… and had more days off! And so Dunning was born!!

In 1973 you joined The Archers as milkman Mike Tucker. Nearly 40 years on you’re still playing the part, during which time Mike has lost various parts of his anatomy. Is he the unluckiest milkman (in the west)?

‘Mike’ has been a part of ‘me’ virtually all my working life… he is an uncomplicated son of the soil who believes in an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, he suffers fools with not much gladness at all and usually only opens his mouth to change feet! For all his failings he is a good egg at the core, but so unlucky at times. In fact we used to joke that the only way to make Mike a millionaire would be to start him off as a multi-billionaire… as he would probably lose most of it fairly quickly. He has mellowed with age and now seems settled and content with his curvaceous new wife Vicky…. but will that last? Who knows!

You formed the Archers fan club, Archers Addicts, and now seem to spend a lot of time touring the world on various Archers cruises. This seems like a terrific wheeze on your part...?

Archers Addicts came into being in 1991 after I approached the BBC with an idea to have a fan club for the Archers run by the cast producing a newsletter and organising events for the listeners to the programme over and above the interaction they got merely by tuning in every night. The Beeb agreed that we could set up a Ltd Company separate and independent of the Corporation and for many years a small core of us worked day and night (for no real monetary reward) attending Agricultural shows, organising dinners and visits to the studios in Birmingham for fans, and generally chasing our tails. The culmination was setting up the NIA in Birmingham in 2001 for the 50th Anniversary of The Archers and producing a whole day event for many thousands of avid listeners to attend and meet up with the majority of the cast.

From there we moved to working with quality partners and linked up with Fred Olsen’s cruise line to present a flavour of the Archers as added value to their Arts Club (now called Vistas) cruise programme and take a few cast members on their ships for a couple of cruises each year to show the passengers how we record the programme. Yes, it has been a lovely way for me to see and experience parts of the world I would probably never have been to otherwise, however it is also surprisingly hard work with each cruise taking many months of preparation, planning and organisation to set in place!

Another interesting career footnote was being a member of the "hit squad" in Beadle's About. Happy memories?

Ah… Beadle’s About! A time of stress, very early starts and spending each day flying by the seat of your pants, as we never really knew how things would go until the subject of the scam appeared. Usually in a foul mood, if the research had been done well, so that we could just keep them off balance enough to develop the story until it was time for Beadle to enter and reveal himself. There were a few near misses in terms of things going belly up and one stunt which totally backfired when the subject who (having indulged in an overlong alcoholic luncheon) found the idea of his prize country garden in Hertfordshire being turned into a commuter heliport for London, complete with the noisy landing of a real Air King Helicopter, highly amusing and offered to crack open a bottle! An expensive production howler!

1984, and you take over the role of Davros, creator of the Daleks. How did you get the role?

The role fell into my lap courtesy of Matthew Robinson who had just been directing me in a series for TVS set in a local radio station – Radio Phoenix. He approached me to ask if I would take on the role, as Michael Wisher (who was the original ‘Davros’) was not free to do it. I watched the tapes of Genesis of the Daleks and agreed to have a go… and then they kept asking me back!

I won’t say it was the most physically enjoyable of jobs… the mask and chariot were hard work… but it was certainly a lot of fun to do and wonderful to be part of a programme that had already begun to achieve cult status.

They modeled a new mask for me, which required me to have a head mould made, and a new chariot - which was not the marvel of electronic wizardry it may appear! Four by two timber, two 12 volt car batteries to run the electric lights… all on something like a supermarket trolley base that always went in the opposite direction to the way you wanted it to go… and me squeezed in and dragging it around with my toes trying to make it look like a smooth glide!! The sweat began to pour – believe me!! Nearly 30 years later and I am still playing Davros, but thankfully now on audio with no mask or chariot to contend with!

Like Mike Tucker, Davros doesn’t have a lot of luck, but still seems to be with us. What’s the appeal of Davros? His charm? Good looks?

For me the appeal of playing Davros has been exploring the way he thinks and especially in his relationship with The Doctor. At its best it can be a wonderful and complex mental chess game between two creatures of equal intelligence who recognise the similarities in each other and yet play against each other’s weaknesses to try and win the battle…. though never the war!

In the four part audio miniseries I, Davros we explored the journey Davros made from boy to monster and in setting down the cannon of his early life I felt we had shined a light on how genius can, by the force of both nature and nurture, be overtaken by psychosis and teeter on a pin head toward possible madness. Every time I play him I find something new... and that is the greatest excitement for an actor!

For those who picture you as either a one-eyed milkman or one-eyed alien genius, can you confirm that actually you bear an uncanny resemblance to Eric Clapton? (and have two eyes)

Apparently that is the case! Having appeared in an episode of Casualty, I was asked by Harry Hill the very next week to appear in the closing credits of his TV Burp show (apparently they thought I bear this resemblance to Eric Clapton) wearing a hospital gown, attached to a drip and playing guitar as we segued from ‘Layla’ into the Casualty Theme!!! I tell you, my street cred with my children went up 1000% after that!!

It is spooky though that both the characters I am well known for - Mike Tucker and Davros - each have only one eye! I can confirm however that in real life I am binocular in my visual acuity…! Oh Crumbs! Dunning is always lurking round the corner isn’t he?

And finally, tell us something about Terry Molloy we don’t know…

In 1997 I joined a building team that went out to the north of Zambia as part of a charity project for six weeks and helped construct (with – at that time - absolutely no building experience on my part but by dint of hard graft) a large administration building from the ground up (including making the bricks from concrete dust and rubble). I believe the building is still standing!

And you can find out even more about Tezza at his official website: http://www.terrymolloy.co.uk/

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