OTB Interviews: Mark Williams

Father Brown

In the same tradition as Agatha Christie’s Marple and Poirot, Father Brown is the classic late afternoon BBC series. Based upon the GK Chesterton novels, it’s a detective story in all but name and his portrayal goes back as far as Alec Guinness.

Williams is Oxford educated, he’s had roles in classic films like 101 Dalmatians and Shakespeare In Love and over the past decade has become synonymous with the kindly father Arthur Weasley in Harry Potter whilst his role as one of the Suit You tailors from The Fast Show remains memorable two decades later.

“So Mark, a priest who solves crimes…do you feel viewers might have trouble relating to that? This was the question I wanted to ask. Except I was beaten to it. Although this did spare me the speech about equating all priests with paedophiles, it was a disappointing tone-setter for the rest of the allocated time.

Whilst it’s always unwise to make character assumptions based upon an actor’s previous roles; it’s not unreasonable to believe that there might be some overlap. An adorable clumsiness? An overfamiliar new friend? It was closer to an unrepentant popstar doing remedial PR after a tabloid sting.

“Is [Father Brown] very comedic or does it just have comic elements?
“What do you mean by ‘comic’?
“Well, funny…?
“Oh! Funny, yes. (Nobody has mentioned the Fast Show) I keep being fingered for being in the Fast Show, and people still sometimes call me a comic, which, one is extremely demeaning towards comics and two, really annoying to me…why are they going on about the Fast Show?

For small feature pieces like this, four hundred to six hundred words is the norm. A good anecdote can easily provide a quarter of that. Which means that as a journalist that if you can prepare four to six good questions, you’re golden. It’s not a hard job.

The celeb knows that they’re only there to promote their new show, the journalist knows he’s only getting time with the celeb for the same reason. However the relationship is necessarily reciprocal: without good copy, there is no feature. Unless you’re a Kardashian or equivalent; someone whose fame so thoroughly eclipses the need for interesting prose that their every utterance is treated like a golden shower, instead of as the indicator of severe dehydration it actually is.

“Comedy for me is people looking for a laugh?

“Now, Mark, the role of Arthur Weasley obviously brought many challenges…has being a ginger for that long caused you any adverse effects?
“Yes…(Long pause) I suppose it must be about ten years ago now, I was walking around the West End after just having my hair dyed [for the first Harry Potter] – and it was a bright orange – when I saw Stephen Fry and he said to me ‘Is that for professional reasons, or sexual reasons?’

One viable anecdote in twenty three and a half minutes. It was like going to a Sisqo gig and being made to wait until the encore for ‘Thong Song’ – you knew he had something worth hearing, but you don’t understand why he made you suffer so long for it.

Father Brown is on BBC 1 at 1415 on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week

Nick Arthur