After four years and four seasons of television, Louisa, Larry, Leslie, Margo and Gerry Durrell are leaving Corfu. It’s a departure that’s true to life, like much of the sunny series, and actors Callum Woodhouse, Daisy Waterstone and Milo Parker join The Durrells in Corfu creator Simon Nye to reflect on the fantastic family at the heart of it all.
Jace Lacob I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
And with a final toast to their delirious years in Greece, the Durrell family bids goodbye to Corfu.
Spiros: To us all, and these sacred years, and the future.
All To us all! To our future!
Jace It’s a finale that’s true to life — the real-life Durrells spent but four short years together in their Corfiot ramble, reluctantly decamping in 1939 as the rumbles of World War II grew louder.
Louisa Larry, please come with us, Larry.
Larry I can’t. When they start trying to take away your freedom of speech, it’s time to stop talking – you know what I mean – and help.
Jace But we here at MASTERPIECE Studio weren’t ready to say goodbye to The Durrells in Corfu just yet.
Callum Woodhouse I would love to be a sloth because the thing about sloths are, like they do literally nothing and then they’ll turn their head like an inch, and then everyone in the room will go, ‘Oh, well, that’s amazing!’ Like, they do like minimal effort and get maximum like praise and like appreciation. It’s just amazing. Like, I’d love to, it’d be so cool.
Daisy Waterstone It’s a really special place. It’s a bit like what I’d consider heaven to be like. I think I think that’s what it would be, it is just incredible.
Milo Parker I mean, personally, I adore the show because of the amazing memories that I’ve got filming it and also because I think, I used to watch it with my mom, my dad and my sister at home, and they they’d all loved it, And they say to me, you know, ‘Even if you weren’t in here, we’d absolutely love this show because it’s just magical.’
Jace We spoke with three of the fictional family members at the heart of the series — Callum Woodhouse, who plays Leslie; Daisy Waterstone, who plays Margo; and Milo Parker, who plays Gerry — about saying goodbye to the beloved series after four seasons in the Mediterranean sun. And we checked in with series creator and head writer Simon Nye to discuss just how he found such a satisfying way to leave the Durrells behind.
Simon Nye: It was nice to end I think with them with their feet cooling in the sea, and enjoying for the last time the sort of simple pleasures before the war encroached on them.
Jace What’s obvious to any Durrells viewer is the genuine closeness of the actors playing the family at the heart of the story. It’s something that all three Durrell “children” spoke of when they reflected back on their years filming the series.
Daisy When we all kind of met at the same time at the read through, we all had this click. And it was interesting because it’s kind of like a click that doesn’t come that often. And it’s kind of like we’d known each other all our lives, when we’re all together. And it was so quick that kind of sudden, best friendhood that we all had. And I’d never had that before so quickly. And it was very special for all of us. And I think that really helped a lot with the show, and how we felt so close to each other and that we’d known each other all our lives.
Callum In that first week rehearsing in Corfu, by the end of that first week, we were a family. And like, it’s not it’s not our relationship hasn’t grown stronger since then. We just, we were a unit like one week in,. And it’s and it’s and it’s just stayed that way throughout our whole whole four seasons.
Milo It was crazy how quickly we all started to get on with each other, it was really amazing, and how a real sort of family, there was a real family sort of tight unit on set and that really comes across on screen, I think. And I absolutely adored working with the family. It was all fantastic. And I looked forward to going into work every day and seeing them all. So it was just fantastic. I loved it. The close bond really stayed through, actually, I think the only thing that changed was…we got closer every year. I mean, we spent a lot of time together during filming and, you know, we were all always working very closely together. And that sort of made us become, you know, like a, I mean, it’s a real cliche, but we were like a real family and we gave each other advice and we took each other’s advice. And it was a real, as I say, a real tight unit. And it was just fantastic to get to know these amazing group of people over the last four years.
Jace Some of the on-screen magic came from the assembled Durrell family, sure. But everyone here agreed — the island of Corfu was more than just a picturesque backdrop, offering a majestic and wild element all its own.
Daisy It’s always going to hold an incredibly special place in my heart, as somewhere that I kind of feel like I call my second home now, because it’s nice to know somewhere that isn’t London like the back of my hand, and just every section of every cave in it, every beach, it’s just, it’s incredible. I love it so much.
Milo Corfu is the real star of the show more than more than any of us, really, I think. I mean, it’s just the most gorgeous place. Visually, it’s just, you know, some of the views you can get there are increidible. The people are, you know, they’re lovely, they’re so welcoming every year. We were welcomed with open arms and they couldn’t do enough for you. And that sort of combination and the culture as well was was very different to anything I’ve really experienced before. So it’s just a completely different way of life. And I absolutely adored it there.
Callum It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. You know, the sea is just amazing to swim in, the Adriatic Sea, I think. And the people there are so welcome. They’ll do anything for you.
Jace And as for that ever growing animal menagerie on Corfu? Mossup the dog — who plays Roger — has been usurped.
Milo: Do you know what? Every year I always say that most of the dog who played Roger is my favorite, but I think after series four, I may have a new one. I mean, this is breaking news. I think that my new favorite could be, we had an owl on the on the show this year and a beautiful barn owl who is the softest, most well-behaved owl I think I’ve seen, one of the only owls I’ve ever seen, really. But it was just beautiful. And we had two of them, actually. There’s only one in the show, but we used two owls. They were called Twit and Twoo. And they were just amazing. And they were identical. And they were they were so well-behaved and our fantastic bird trainer, Anthony, he could, you know, tap his his thumb and hold out at this owl, wherever it was, would just fly, you know, good as gold to his arm. And it’s just extraordinary. And it was the most gorgeous animal to work with. I think that may just have got the edge on Mossup there, which is, you know, very hard for me to say.
Callum I would always wanted to just sort of be around a sloth, and I got to be around one. And they’re just, they are fascinating creatures. Like, I would love to be a sloth because the thing about sloths are, like they do literally nothing and then they’ll turn their head like an inch and then everyone in the room will go, ‘Oh, well, that’s amazing.’ Like, they do like minimal effort and get maximum like praise and like and like, appreciate. It’s just amazing. Like, I’d love that, that’d be so cool.
Daisy I’d say actually my favorite is the pelicans because they used to just walk about the set. And it’s not every day you kind of you walk to the toilet, and there’s a pelican walking next to you. You know, just very tame and chilled.
Jace As this fourth season ended, Milo, Daisy, and Callum had mixed feelings about where their characters ended up, and explained how playing Gerry, Margot, and Leslie changed their own lives.
Parker, who is still deeply involved with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, was sad to leave his fictional zoo behind, but pleased to see that both he and Gerry grew up after four years on Corfu.
Milo: I’m an ambassador now for the DA Wildlife Conservation Trust and Jersey Zoo, which is obviously what Gerry went on to set up after he left Corfu. So I’m really involved with that side of things now, which is, you know, an honor. And it’s just really made me appreciate the need to conserve our biodiversity and all our creatures. And it’s just made me really aware of the issues and the threats that face these these creatures. So it’s made definitely made a lot more aware of things, I think.
Jace Waterstone was pleased that Margo ended the series with a stronger sense of self-confidence — and grateful that in playing her for four seasons, she, too, became more sure of herself.
Daisy If it I feel like she’s just grown into a great, sparky young woman. And I feel like she’s kind of taught me just to be myself, and not to be anyone else, and enjoy life and give it a go, even if you feel it doesn’t matter. You can do something else and and everything’s positive for her. And and I’ve really been kind of using that throughout my life now where, you know, not to be afraid of things and just to keep going. And it doesn’t matter if I fail because failure is at least a success always, you know, and I feel like she’s really instilled instilled that in me. And I’m very lucky that I got the chance to play somebody like that so early in my career. Just someone who knows herself.
Jace In order to keep her vision of Margo grounded, however, Waterstone has avoided reading Margo Durrell’s own memoir, Whatever Happened to Margot?
Daisy Just before I started filming, I wanted to read it and I thought, hang on, it is gonna be her when she’s older and I’m not playing her when she’s older and playing her as a teenager. So I thought, okay, I’m going to read it when we finish the whole thing. And it will be a nice goodbye to Margo, and all that. And then, for my birthday this year, my dad got it for me and I burst into tears and he was like, ‘Why are you crying?’ And I was like, ‘Well, because I don’t want to say goodbye to her.’ And that was why I decided to read, I’ve been like when I’ve when I finish playing her, I’m gonna read that say goodbye to her, and I just don’t want to say goodbye to her. So it’s sitting on my bedside, table unopened. And I keep looking at it and I’m like, ‘I can’t do it. like, I can’t.’ And, you know, it’s it’s been quite a grieving process, actually. And I think I feel like it would make it worse, but maybe it wouldn’t. And, you know, it’s it’s becoming a bit of a battle. But I will eventually, I think maybe I need to leave it a couple of years.
Jace Woodhouse was pleased that Leslie grew up and grew into himself, too — but he’s avoided thinking much beyond the end of the series, as the real Leslie Durrell had a less than rosy future ahead of him.
Callum You know, I do feel quite close, as close to as you have to plan him for so long. So I don’t really like to sort of think about what happened to him. I guess I just sort of like to think that he was happy and I very sort of remaining years. But I really don’t know if he was.
Jace Before this next question, let’s take a quick break to hear a word from our sponosors…
Jace When filming for the series ended, Parker, Waterstone and Woodhouse all snuck offset with a personal memento or two.
Daisy Well, James Ellis Hughes, one of the props guys, when we finished, she gave me this little suitcase, that was Margo’s suitcase. And inside it has a lot of her belongings and makeup and things. And that made me quite moved. So I’ve got some of her books and, like lots of little trinkets and her hairbrush. And it’s interesting, I’ve said this before, but it’s interesting that back in the 30s, people actually had belongings. These days, all the stuff is so disposable, like we have we have phones or whatever. We, you know, we buy bags from Asos, but then that’s it. But but then people have proper nice belongings, have a nice hairbrush that was theirs, that was probably given to them as a gift, you know, they had special things that belonged to them and we don’t really have that anymore. And so it’s nice, I’ve got Margo’s belongings, and it’s sitting in my cupboard at the top of my cupboard now, and I’m probably not gonna take it down for a while. I’m just going to leave it there just now. It’s nice to know that it’s there. And maybe when I have children, I can show them and they can. I’m gonna give it to them, I think.
Milo: I did still quite a few. I’m not gonna lie to you. I’ve got, well I say still, ‘I got given,’ a pair of Gerry’s shorts. I got a couple of shirts from Gerry. I didn’t quite get his famous hat that I wore. So I think we rented that. We didn’t own it, so I couldn’t take that home. But I did get Gerry’s hunting bag as well. Hunting bag, when he goes foraging, he takes his little backpack with the net on it. And it was that I got that take, that’s in my wardrobe at the minute, you know, hanging up in pride of place. And so, yeah, I got quite a few mementos. From series three, actually, James, our prop man, actually gave me a little tin that was in Gerry’s room. And that was really that’s in my room now in pride of place. And I keep so little bits and bobs in that. And that’s just little things around my room to remind me of the four years that we spent in Corfu. So yeah, I did steal a fair few of Gerry’s items.
Callum: I got a pair of Leslie’s infamous shorts, which I need to frame at some point. I got a couple, like a polo shirt of his. Ine really cool thing. I got the props guy, propsmaster gave me Leslie’s police notebook from series three, which is like, is that a, it’s a really like sort of like a real period piece, which is really cool. And I’m from series two when he sort of tries his hand at photography. All of those sort of really cools off sepia black and white kind of film, the art director gave me just like one of each of those in that is really cool frame, which I’ve sort of put up around my house. Like each one of the Durrells, including Roger the dog, just sort of, yeah, really sweet. Just sort of all around the house, all around my flat, which is a really, really nice sort of keepsake.
Jace The surprisingly moving Durrell family adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey didn’t truly happen, from what we can tell.
Leslie I AM ODYSSEUS. Come from across the sea. Fearing nobody,
Larry And ready for all.
Leslie Ready for all.
Margo And we the crew. Willing and devoted.
Jace That piece of cinematic invention was all series creator Simon Nye.
Simon Nye: They certainly didn’t do it as far as I know and I am also I didn’t want to repeat the end of the third season where there was a circus episode which I’m rather fond of. And so this was a slightly sort of more of, yes for those. I’m not a very very au fait with classical Greek literature but we all know the Odyssey was a story of a you know an epic journey around the Mediterranean so it was it was weirdly apposite I think and it sort of it’s very Larry thing to want to do to choose a sort of a grandiose sort of metaphor. And otherwise, the rest of the family Leslie thinks, ‘God you know, I’d really I’d rather go swimming,’ I think he says something. So it was I think it was a nice way of being a little bit pretentious but also showing something sort of flamboyant and very like the Durrells would have done. And also a bit of a fan of amateur dramatics. I and my parents both did it, and so I think I love to see people all acting badly deliberately unless it’s sort of on television. And so I thought it was sort of slightly there’s a lot going on. It was it was a nice thing to do and the idea of a rather uptight Greek policeman being persuaded to take a part in a in a silly show was was also quite fun.
Jace That final sequence in the Adriatic Sea, with the Durrell family and their Greek friends toasting goodbye to the gentle ease of Corfu, was also crucial for Nye.
Simon You want the last image to sum up the whole, don’t you really? And I think that was, yes you’re right there would be a temptation to have a slightly sadder music kind of ending with the chase, but that wasn’t the essence of the show and so I felt that this was the way to do it…the love is there the sense of these years of never going away. The memory of always being sort of living in them. That’s what we wanted to sort of end on really.
Louisa I can’t believe it’s our last day here.
Larry Can we now of all times enjoy the present?
Gerry Well that’s killed the conversation.
Jace And perhaps not surprisingly, the final scene was moving for the actors, too.
Daisy I mean we’d filmed the same scene in series one pretty much, with the table in the sea. And that was quite moving for us all, having spent four years with each other and just going back to one of the first scenes we saw in Corfu in the series one and being there being like, ‘Wow. This is it’s we’ve been here!’ It made us realize how long we’d actually been doing it. To be honest and how long we’d been filming it and doing the same job for four years. Those kind of scenes are so fun to film because there’s not many jobs where you film a scene where you’re eating a dinner in the sea.
Milo I thought it was a really, really lovely ending. I thought that we did everything that we could to really bring the story to life. And I think that, you know, it’s a very powerful ending, I think. It’s a sad, in real life, of course, it was a sad ending. The Durrells were forced to return because of the war. And I think that, you know, we really, really sort of showed that as it was. And it was a sad time, but also very happy. They’ve made so many fantastic memories there and so many lovely friends that they all kept in touch with. And yeah, I think it was really powerful the way we the way we portrayed that. Yeah.
Jace And with that, it’s a true farewell to The Durrells in Corfu — but not entirely! On Sunday, November 10 at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. central, MASTERPIECE will air a documentary special, What the Durrells Did Next, hosted by Durrells in Corfu star Keeley Hawes. You’ll hear all about exactly that, and revisit some of your favorite scenes from the series.
Here on MASTERPIECE Studio, we’ll hear next from Poldark star Kerri McLean, whose role as the real life Katherine Despard this season has gone through some dramatic ups and downs. You’ll hear that Sunday, November 10.
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