Entertainment & Arts

David Morrissey: In the driving seat with new drama

David Morrissey in The Driver
Image caption David Morrissey plays a Manchester cab driver on the edge in his latest screen role

Actor David Morrissey brings a morally-charged thriller about an ordinary man to life in his latest screen outing.

The 50-year-old, a stalwart of British television drama for three decades, plays Vince, a Manchester cabbie beset with family problems and facing a desire to escape in three-part serial The Driver.

"The drama is about everyday, good people in vulnerable situations making bad decisions," explains Morrissey in quiet, calm tones.

"You can make a decision that affects yourself and live with it, but when you make a decision that affects the people you love, can you live with that?"

His character decides to take flight and feeds off the buzz, but triggers "cataclysmic" consequences.

Morrissey, however, is not just the lead actor in this new piece of TV. He also takes the executive producer's chair, and firmly insists it created no conflict of interest.

"I like to think that I bring the same commitment to any job that I do whether I'm executive producer or not. I didn't approach the character differently, my research or daily routine was no different.

"The real difference is way before that - I get to start with a blank page, work with the writer and nurture the idea. And the other difference is post-production, with the music, the sound, the way we cut it along with the poster campaign and marketing.

"It's the front and the back, while the middle stays exactly the same," says the actor, who first graced our screens in One Summer aged 18.


Image copyright Rex Features

DAVID MORRISSEY: SCREEN HIGHLIGHTS

1983 - One Summer

1987 - Cause Celebre (pictured, with Helen Mirren)

1994 - The Knock

2003 - State of Play, The Deal

2004 - Blackpool

2009 - Red Riding

2012-14 - The Walking Dead


Morrissey points out that he has "had a lot of babies in my past", including directing and producing crime drama Thorne.

"I always feel responsible for so much, I'm probably a pain in the arse! I'm not a perfectionist, more of a collaborator. It's a controlling place to be and I'm not that controlling," he says - but admits that with The Driver he had the licence to cast himself.

Morrissey, who surprisingly has yet to collect a Bafta award for his work, is comfortable to reflect on reaching his half-century - and what the next phase of his career might entail.

"If someone had shown me a quarter of what I now have in my life when I was 20, I would have bitten their hand off. I'm very grateful for where I am and what I've got. What's kept me going is not having much of a plan and always challenging myself," he says.

"I would like to do more from a production point of view. I like working with writers and from conception of ideas to fruition."

He reflects on his work on the stage, notably with Liverpool's Everyman Theatre where he started out.

"I'd like to do more theatre - that's something I'm missing. I've been to the theatre a lot lately and have been totally jealous of the actors on the stage. I'm still in awe of them when I watch them. There's always more to learn."

But the actor is not afraid of moving into maturity, saying: "There are a lot of parts to be played. I don't feel that I'm moving into a place when it's all starting to close down."

Image copyright Gene Page/AMC
Image caption David Morrissey plays The Governor in US zombie show The Walking Dead

He concedes the prospects for female actors of his age are a lot different which "isn't right".

"It's a much different career path and it's harder for them."

Recently, Morrissey has made a successful foray into US TV with apocalyptic drama The Walking Dead and says, apart from budgets, there is little difference between the British and American experience of making programmes for the small screen.

"There's no difference for me as an actor. But it's 16 episodes so a season is a big old chunk and the canvas for telling the story [is] massive. There's more money about which buys you toys, but doesn't buy you shooting time.

"Camera crews are the same all over the world, continuity is the same. The approach to the work is the same."

However, Morrissey concedes that the "full-on" humidity in Atlanta is "brutal", with "snakes and tics that bury themselves into you" - quite a contrast to shooting in Manchester where the weather has a different sort of inclemency.

He says that he loves making the show, but isn't about to move away from his home base of Britain.

"The fans are great and really loyal to the show. But that doesn't equate to me turning my back on Britain. There's an ability to do both. It's all good."


DAVID MORRISSEY ON THE PLOT OF THE DRIVER

Vince is a cab driver in Manchester. He is married with two children. His eldest boy has left home, joined a cult and is unreachable. That's caused a great schism between him and his wife.

The lack of communication between them is breaking him up. At one point he says he wished his son had died. His daughter is 16 and not far from leaving home, so he's in crisis and at a dead end.

He picks up a friend who's just out of prison. This friend is running with some bad guys and says he can put some work Vince's way. He knows it's a bad idea but decides to do it.

At some point he makes a decision to run. It's really exciting - he escapes and feels alive. Like any rush, he wants more of it and decides to run with it. He makes some choices which are cataclysmic. By the time he decides he's made the wrong decision, it's too late.


The Driver starts on BBC One on 23 September at 2100 BST

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