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Jace: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
In the first season of The Durrells in Corfu, the widowed Louisa came a mere breath away from marrying the dashing and mysterious Swede, Sven, only to realize at the last minute that his homosexuality might make their marriage uncomfortable.
Still haunted by her near-miss with Sven, Louisa has been pursued by the frantic, fantastic Hugh Jarvis, a spoilt olive-oil-obsessed Englishman with a beautiful car, an elaborate Corfiot villa and a just-so mustache above his upper lip.
Hugh: You’ll never guess what I have under my trousers. Swimming trunks.
Jace: Hugh appears to be in love with Louisa, but her experience with Sven has left the widowed mother of four skeptical. On top of all that, her jealous new landlady, Vasilia — Hugh’s former lover with a history of stabbing her exes — has left her plum terrified.
Daniel Lapaine: She’s obviously unstable. And I think he wants something as I said before that’s stable and you know, Louisa reminds him of home as well — and Vasilia represents all that sort of mad Mediterranean passion
Jace: Actor Daniel Lapaine joins us here to discuss whether or not his dashing, almost-romantic character Hugh will succeed in his pursuit of the Durrells in Corfu.
Jace: And this week we are joined by The Durrells in Corfu star Daniel Lapaine, welcome.
Daniel: Thank you. Hello, everyone.
Jace: How did you come to be involved in Season 2 of The Durrells?
Daniel: Well, I, well I mean I sort of had the usual sort of thing that actors have to go through of meeting directors and reading scripts and reading bits out and seeing if it’s the right fit. But my sort of relationship with the Durrells started when I saw the trailer for Season 1 and just thought it looked like the greatest job in the world. So when Season 2 came around, and I got a phone call asking if I was interested and I didn’t need to think about replying very quickly, if you see what I mean.
Jace: Now you joined the show as a new cast member after Season 1.
Jace: What was it like coming into the show as sort of the new boy?
Daniel: It’s hard to join a show that’s already established as an actor, or I guess in any job where you’re walking in to a group of people who are already established and they have established relationships, but they were the most welcoming, lovely bunch of mad people—they’re actually like a family in real life, all the actors who play the Durrells. They’re as mad and in England, as we say, bonkers as a real family. So it was a joy and I was really welcomed into the gang which was made it sort of such a more pleasurable experience than I was you know, expecting, I guess.
Jace: You previously worked with Keeley Hawes on Identity.
Daniel: I did.
Jace: Did that help to give you a bit of a shorthand together?
Daniel: Yeah it did. I mean she’s such a sort of instinctive actress, she’s great, you know. You don’t need to have a lot of discussion about things. You just jump in and do them. When we worked together we did a show called Identity and we had a very sort of intense scene where she was a cop and she was she was interviewing me and grilling me and it was a very intense scene and there were sort of tears, but both of us could not stop laughing during the taping. And we got into so much trouble from the director. So we were sort of off to a good start when we came around to do the Durrells. ‘Cause she’s a very funny woman and, and as I said, very good, so we sort of picked up where we left off it was just a real joy to work with her. She’s great.
Jace: What sort of energy does Keeley bring to the set?
Daniel: You know, she’s the sort of matriarch of the set. The young kids go to her for advice. And she is like the mum but not in a sort of, not in a stuffy sense, everyone sort of gravitates to her as the center of the of the show and she just brings as I said great spirit and a great sense of humor and warmth, and she’s so good at her job, and she’s such a professional. I think she’s very much the sort of center of the cast and crew and she works really hard, but she brings great spirit and joy to the set.
Jace: I’ve heard that Milo Parker often pranks the other cast members. Were you ever on the receiving end of one of his pranks?
Daniel: No, towards the end I started to get a few pranks but he’s hilarious. Each in their own different ways brings in a sort of, it’s very cheeky and Milo is possibly the cheekiest of them all, but he’s great. He’s a great little actor, Milo.
Jace: You play Hugh Jarvis, a rather rakishly charming, olive oil obsessed Englishman. What was your take on the character when you read the scripts for the season?
Daniel: My take was that he, you know he’s a good-time boy who likes to have a good evening cocktail and likes to have fun and wants to make Louisa laugh; he is a playboy. But he ultimately is looking for something a little deeper than that and he’s obviously got some secrets. There’s obviously sort of intrigue and mystery with Vasilia and what that relationship’s about. But it’s a gift of a part. And he’s funny and just…he wants Louisa…she’s going through her own sort of issues and she’s also looking for levity I think as well. But I think what he offers to her. But I mean hey, I got to drive a red MG sports car around Corfu and wear the most beautiful tailored clothes. And you know it was it was a joy. It was a joy. It was such a pleasurable job to do.
Jace: Was that actually a vintage MG sports car? And were you concerned at all…?
Daniel: It very much was. No, I wasn’t, it was probably better serviced and looked after than my own car here in London, but no, it was a beautiful piece of machinery and you know an authentic beautiful car that had been sort of re-serviced and you know it’s a gorgeous thing and not the easiest thing to drive but you do feel sort of, makes you feel quite special and drew some interesting comments from the passing Corfiots at when we were there driving down the freeways of Corfu.
Jace: I can imagine. Period dramas often mean moustaches.
Jace: Did you enjoy growing your moustache for this role?
Daniel: I enjoyed every second of it. Because often I mean the deeper stuff of being an actor where you look for the internal sort of motivations and the psychological objectives of your character…I also quite enjoy the other stuff which is oh, which way am I going to part my hair and I have a moustache or a funny walk or a you know monocle or a beard or all that sort of stuff I love and I was more than happy to grow a pencil-thin moustache and one of the hardest things was keeping it trimmed. But hey I mean you know there’s harder things in life. I think I shouldn’t complain about that.
Jace: And you get to shoot on Corfu for the exterior scenes. What was the experience like shooting on the island and did you fall in love with the magic of Corfu?
Daniel: It’s incredible. I mean if any of your listeners are thinking of ever heading to that side of the world they have to go to Corfu. It’s a magical, magical place, it has a history that goes back obviously thousands of years but it’s steeped in in its own folklore and it’s not…it’s Greek but it’s not as close to Greece, you know you can actually see sort of other you know you’re very close to other European countries and anyone who’s read the Durrell books as well gets a sense of that place. And it’s absolutely gorgeous. Wherever you point a camera basically you’re gonna’ find beauty. And it was, it’s magical.
Jace: What does Louisa Durrell represent to Hugh? Why would she make for an ideal partner?
Daniel: Because I think she represents stability for him which is maybe something he’s never had in his life before. And a family, an instant family, I think that’s the thing about the Durrells, they’re so seductive as a group. I think for not only the audience but for the other characters. Everyone’s always constantly turning up at their house. And I think they’re all so charismatic and interesting and different that they’re just one of those families that I think people gravitate towards and want to be a part of.
Jace: There’s a cadishness to Hugh that makes it difficult to fully trust him. At first, just as Louisa initially does, I didn’t know what to make of him in that first episode.
Jace: How much of a backstory did you have for the character going in? Were you are wary of his portrayal as sort of a cad?
Daniel: Yeah. I didn’t want the lovely audience and viewers of the Durrells to turn on me and hunt me down but when you’re an actor no matter what character you’re playing you try and find the goodness in them and why they’re doing things as coming from a place of…like it may seem like someone’s disingenuous, or catty, or whatever it is, but they’re not necessarily trying to be. And I think I really like Hugh and I feel he’s a bit misunderstood. But you know it’s what happens. You fall in love with your character and then sort of you feel like you need to defend them. I think he’s had a sort of crazy play boy past and now he wants something more and he’s I think, without giving too much away, I think his intentions are really good. And you know he falls for Louisa. I think it’s safe to say he completely falls for her, he’s smitten with her.
Jace: So he’s not, as Louisa says in this episode, “a congenital bachelor.”
Daniel: Congenital. Interesting choice of words. Well maybe he is, maybe that some people just can never settle down and maybe he’s asking too much. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe he maybe he will. Maybe it’s his time. Is Louisa the right person? I don’t know. He certainly seems to think so at that time, I think [it’s] up to the viewers to think who’s the right person for Louisa to be with as well.
Jace: Well, we learned that Hugh previously dated Louisa’s rather terrifying femme fatale landlady, Vasilia.
Daniel: Yes, Vasilia.
Jace: Which did not end well. How did his relationship with Vasilia change Hugh’s perspective on love?
Daniel: She’s obviously unstable. And I think he wants something, as I said before, that’s stable, and you know Louisa reminds him of home, and Vasilia represents all that sort of mad, Mediterranean passion, feisty–without wanting to talk in clichés or stereotypes. But I think he’s looking for home, I think is what he wants. And I think Louisa represents that home and family.
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Jace: Now I want to talk about the cricket match between the Greeks and the British and other countries as they say it reveals a lot of anger within Hugh.
Hugh: If you’d like to bring us together, let’s have a cricket match. Greeks against the English.
Louisa: Well no, because someone will win and then the other team will be sad.
Jace: Is it just the spirit of competition that we’re seeing or are there deeper elements at play?
Daniel: Yeah I think he wants to win and in Spiros, he finds that sort of male competition and jealousy and yeah he wants to win. I mean I don’t think there’s anything darker and more sinister there. He wants to prove that this is how he’s been all his life you know it’s about winning and it sounds like someone else we know, but that he’s not that bad. Yes so I think he you know he just he wants to be the sort of alpha and maybe is doubting whether Louisa is as in love with him as he is with her. So maybe there’s also that I think as well, but I don’t think there’s anything sort of darker than that.
Jace: I mean there’s definitely tension between Hugh and Spiros and you talk…
Jace: About winning. And to me it’s not just winning this cricket match but perhaps winning–
Daniel: Winning her heart.
Jace: Louisa’s heart. Yes.
Daniel: Exactly. Exactly, that’s what I meant I guess when I was saying that and I think he thinks that by winning the cricket she will sort of swoon over him.
Jace: The post-cricket tea party descends into a food fight between the Greeks and the English.
Jace: Was this as much fun to film as it looked on screen?
Daniel: Yeah it was but it was a real nightmare for the director and the crew because you know as when you film things obviously, you know you only get so many turns to do it. For instance, if someone when you’re filming when you’re an actor if you have to have a wet shirt you know you’d have a dry shirt and you jump in the water and it’s wet. You can only do that so many times so they might have three or four shirts so you can do three or four takes because obviously you have to then sit around and wait for the shirts to dry. So say it was the same with the food on the cricket day so we had a food fight and we all knew that you know you can’t sort of have a massive food fight. Stop, clean it all up. That’s going to take two hours and then do it again. So we had to sort of — it’s one of those things, like those stunts where you have to get it right once. So everyone even that looks mad and fun and it sort of was. It was also very tense, as tense as a food fight can get. We all had to get up right make sure it was on camera make sure. But it actually funnily enough got off to a sort of funny start because we’re all everyone was very careful not to make a mess at the beginning. One of the Corfiot extras had to sort of stand up and pretend to throw something which is how it starts. And this poor old chap actually did stick his hand into a I think a bowl of tatsiki or yogurt or hummus or something, his whole hand and threw it across the table before it even rolled the camera over so everyone was like, ‘AHHH NOO!’ So that sort of set the proceedings but it was it was fun, it was mad. But at the same time, it was it was very tense and I’ve never been in a food fight like that in my life, so it was quite fun to do those things for real and throw cake and buns and drinks and things at other people. It’s quite fun.
Jace: What can you tease about the final episode and where things end up with this couple?
Daniel: I can tease that Louisa doesn’t know right up until the last moment. Yeah. I think she’s really torn. And I think that also things need need to be resolved with Hugh’s past before any of them can sort of move on, I think and I think we can say that that stuff gets dealt with in the very last episode so I think you know it makes for a really sort of exciting and fitting climax to this series, I think the last episode.
Jace: The role that cemented your career was that of David Van Arkle in Muriel’s Wedding.
Daniel: Yeah. That’s going back a few years.
Jace: Did you see it at the time as a major turning point for you, that film?
Daniel: You know I really I really honestly didn’t. I just finished drama school and sort of I didn’t really understand what the film world was about. And Australian film was just finding its feet at that time, that was the year that “Priscilla” came out, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Strictly Ballroom had just come out the year before and there was something else at that time. And what it was but there was sort of like there was just this moment that happened as often does happen in culture. You know there were just sort of everything clicked so and we were sort of in that when you’re in the middle of those moments you don’t you’re not really that aware that they’re happening. Do you know what I mean. Like whether it’s music or film or you know this distilled energy around and I just I didn’t know because I didn’t know the power of. Power of what really good films can do and the fact that still 20 years later people still want to talk about that film and love that film and have seen it 20 times and you know and that character of Muriel just sort of has touched so many people. Yeah I mean God, if I knew then. God, you know and you never know as an actor you can go into something with all the good intentions in the world and think it’s going to be brilliant. And often they’re not. And often the things that you don’t know like that suddenly turn into this sort of phenomenon. So yeah I’m really proud of it. Proud to have been a part of that even though.
Jace: I can’t believe it was 23 years ago it came out.
Daniel: It’s so long, I know, neither can I. But anyway, still rockin’ on.
Jace: You’ve said that prior to being cast in Muriel’s Wedding you hadn’t set foot in a gym and were a quote pasty scrawny drama student.
Jace: How did you train for that role?
Daniel: Well they nearly didn’t give me the job because they were about the head they’re about to start filming in six weeks and I was a scrawny pasty drama student who was reading Chekoff and Shakespeare and sort of. And they were like okay you’ve got to get into the gym. And then I remembered that I had to watch a tape of myself in swimming trunks and that there was a personal trainer with me and the producer said to him, ‘Can you make him look like an Olympic swimmer in six weeks?’ And I knew that that was the moment if he said no I was going to lose the job. So I remember looking at him and just sort of sending rays of you know through my eyes going, ‘Please say yes.’ And because he was a really great guy and liked the challenge he said, ‘I can do it.’ So I should thank him for getting that job. And anyway so for six weeks I literally worked my butt off, literally. I had to look like an Olympic swimmer. So. But what happened afterwards is I ate the most incredible diet, eight meals a day, just ridiculous amounts of food, pumping iron. But the sad thing is when I felt I stopped I sort of got a bit lazy going to the gym but I kept eating the same amount of food. So I became a pasty fat drama student after that. But anyway it was good fun. It was good fun. It was great.
Jace: I mean did you feel a certain pressure afterwards to maintain that look?
Daniel: I think I was rebelling a bit against it. I didn’t think subconsciously, I didn’t want to sort of be the just the beefcake guy, I wanted to be on stage and sort of do serious classical theater and I didn’t just want to be…there were a few auditions that came up for things like Tarzan. I don’t know if that’s me really. But it was also a different time when I’m like now all the every actor looks like they’re you know stepped off the front cover of GQ a lot of you know a lot of the time in the Superman, superhero movies. It wasn’t as much like that. It was actually very unusual for an actor to go to the gym in those days, bizarrely. So it was it was a different time in terms of the way men are portrayed in film. I think.
Jace: You’re married to fellow actor Faye Ripley.
Daniel: Yes correct.
Jace: How supportive would you be of your children if they opted to follow you both in, we’ll call it the family profession?
Daniel: The family trade. Look very I mean my daughter’s already sort of making. She’s 14 she’s already making those sort of noises. And I mean if you know again I think they’ve seen a quite realistic sort of you know because we’re often not working and often we miss out on jobs we want to do. So you know I think she gets how hard it is. But I would support as long as it’s what she wanted to do. She would have loved to have done it when she was a bit younger but I felt protective of her as a child. I did. I didn’t want my own child sort of taking that step because I think, you know, that that’s that that’s a whole other area that I sort of for her I wanted to protect her in that way because I feel like I know the industry. But yeah as long as they’re happy doing what they want to do and I totally support them I mean it is a great job. You know as we talked about the Durrells, I was in Corfu for three months and driving a sports car and eating Greek food, so it’s pretty good. It would be hard for me to turn around to her and say ‘Don’t do acting, it’s a terrible job’ when I have just, as I sort of stuff another, you know, Greek souvlaki into my mouth.
Jace: You wrote and directed an adaptation of 48 Shades. What was that experience like, and would you like to return to directing or writing?
Daniel: Yeah absolutely I write quite a lot and have had various things in development over the years but that was a really great experience. It was a really small little Australian film that was based on a very successful book for young adults that the right sort of fell into the producer’s lap and we got to know the writer and people love this book and suddenly it all came together very quickly and I absolutely loved it. I had a brilliant time and I’ve always wanted to direct. Got to direct a film, hoping to direct more, but sort of it has to be the right thing, you know. And at the right time as well and it’s it’s great. I loved it because I’m an actor. You know as an actor I sort of approach it in that way that I know sort of hopefully what’s going to work for actors and make it a good experience for them because I think of actors having fun, it really shows on the screen.
Jace: You seem to be cast often as a sort of cadish guy whether that’s–
Jace: Dave or Hugh.
Jace: Or Tim in Zero Dark Thirty.
Jace: Or drug smuggler Nick Parks in Brokedown Palace, a character I love to hate. Why is that do you think?
Daniel: I don’t know. A director said, ‘You’re like the smiling devil,’ which I think was a compliment. I don’t know maybe I need to take a good hard look at myself as to why. But they’re great roles. I love those parts of someone who can sort of charm people. But at the same time there’s a there’s a whole other thing going on in their part that I really like to play as well. I don’t know. I absolutely have no idea but they’re parts that I like, I should say.
Jace: You’re Australian.
Jace: But most of the roles I’ve seen you in have you doing various accents.
Jace: Whether it’s South African or American.
Jace: Or English.
Jace: Do you enjoy the accent work?
Daniel: I love it. It’s like growing a moustache or growing a beard. It’s like I actually love when I get sent a script that you know that they’re not me in some way. I really it’s part of the fun of acting and dressing up and sort of you know the whole experience of it. Absolutely. Yeah I love it. And funnily enough now I haven’t lived in Australia for 20 years. Funnily enough now when I get sent scripts there are straight and I have to sort of think twice before speaking. Whereas if it’s I don’t know I’m not you know as an actor my comfort zone is doing accents and I like it although I don’t ever ask me to do a northern English accent—it’s impossible.
Jace: Part of the appeal for me with The Durrells is the show makes it seem like paradise is forever within reach.
Jace: That you can pick your family up and move across the world on a whim.
Jace: Would you and Faye ever be tempted to move the family abroad somewhere?.
Daniel: Yeah, we’ve talked about it…I mean I think lots of families do but…Very few of them end up doing it or if they do then they panic and sort of come back to home like we were talking about before. Yeah we’ve talked about, we’ve dreamt about it, but it’s such a scary but brave thing to do. And I guess you know, Louisa did because she was she was in a corner you know, in that first series in that first episode. And I think when she’s so brave I really admire her character, and even though she’s a character I find it very inspiring, the fact that they do and I think again that’s why people love the show. This is a family who just did it, and Larry doesn’t have to be there, he’s a grown man, but he chooses to stay there with the family. They’re all sort of drawn to each other, they’re magnetized to each other and they know they need each other—it’s beautiful I think to see that family relationship and they have escaped and you know who that’s why again it works. You know what’s interesting, I think is that the books were written from the point of view of a 10 year old, you know the My Family and Other Animals—I don’t know how many of your viewers have read them, but I really recommend reading those books because they just capture the sort of the spirit of the show and of the family. But yes, they’re written from the perspective of a 10 year-old-boy, which I think is also there in the show. There is a sort of naiveté about that, which I think you know it may have been a different story if the book was written by Louisa. Do you know what I mean by that?
Daniel: It has a childlike sort of feel of…
Jace: Well that sense of innocence and and wonder and discovery.
Daniel: Yes, ‘wonder’ is a really great word because he does have that sense of wonder. And again, that is something that you don’t see on TV very often because we live in a cynical time, and to see sort of wonder being portrayed I think it really is a lovely thing.
Jace: Daniel Lapaine, thank you so much.
Daniel: Thank you, Jace. It was real pleasure to talk to you.
Jace: Coming up next on MASTERPIECE Studio, we speak with Poldark star Eleanor Tomlinson after the dramatic Season three finale. Love, lust, and loss, all on the line in Cornwall.
Demelza: I suspect what you think you’ve had, the woman you think you see, is not really there at all.
Hugh: You think I idolize her? It is not perfection that I seek. It is flesh. And blood.
Jace: We’ll also hear again from The Durrells in Corfu star Keeley Hawes after the season finale of her show, and hear what may be in store next for the Durrell family.
Keeley I don’t think they do change her notion of love. I think she’s just more sure that that’s not the sort of love that she would settle for.
Jace: While you wait for Eleanor and Keeley, be sure to subscribe to MASTERPIECE Studio on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever else you find your podcasts — and while you’re there, leave a review so other MASTERPIECE fans can find the show.
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MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Special thanks to Barrett Brountas. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
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