TV - McDonald & Dodds

McDonald & Dodds outside a gothic building

With the third series of ITV's popular, contemporary detective drama McDonald & Dodds back on our TV screens on Sunday (19th June) read an interview with DCI Lauren McDonald aka Tala Gouveia...

Reuniting DCI McDonald, played by Tala Gouveia, and DS Dodds, played by BAFTA award winner actor Jason Watkins, season three of the Bath set detective series consists of four standalone films.

In Sunday's first feature length episode, Belvedere, when a young woman dies in a busy park in broad daylight, McDonald and Dodds are called in to untangle the mysterious circumstances of her death. Who is she? How did she die surrounded by witnesses? And how is it possible that she is…smiling? All roads seem to lead to Professor George Gillan, a linguistic anthropologist who lives in a rambling mansion with his eccentric mother, Agnes, whose 100th birthday is days away. DS Dodds is sure that the house has something to do with the murder, but in uncovering Belvedere’s history, Dodds also unearths secrets in his own past.

The latest series sees Claire Skinner (Outnumbered) join the cast as Chief Superintendent Ormond while Lily Sacofsky returns as DC Milena Pachiowski with Danyal Ismail joining the cast as DC Martin Malik. Guest cast members starring in the first film include Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek), Holly Aird (Waking The Dead), , Catherine Tyldesley (Coronation Street) and Dame Siân Phillips (I, Claudius).


What can we expect from series three?

It’s a really great season, it was so much fun to film. The second film is based around Formula 1 – there’s a murder in a race and it’s all set in that world, it’s fast and sexy. There’s a really nice McDonald storyline in that film too, where someone from her past comes back into her life and is involved in this case. You get to see a bit more of her personal life and another side of her, I really enjoyed that.

We filmed it at Haynes Motor Museum in this room filled with all these amazing red sports cars, it was very flash. F1 is one of McDonald’s favourite things, she’s a superfan, so it’s a really exciting case for her – she’s a bit of a fangirl at the beginning, but as the case takes over she gets a bit more controlled and less excited! And she sees the darker side of the industry. It’s like when they say don’t meet your heroes. And she has a personal distraction running through that case, it’s quite a whirlwind for her.

We still don’t get to meet Lauren’s boyfriend, but she’s still with him. There are certain doubts in her mind at this point though, and you get more of an idea of their relationship.

Is McDonald still happy in her job?

She was quite settled in season two, but now we have a new boss, CSI Ormond, played by Claire Skinner, who is a fabulous actress. So just as McDonald was getting comfortable, she now has to prove herself again and try to figure out who this new boss is, what her agenda is and whether she can trust her. It puts McDonald on the back foot a little bit, she can’t quite work her out and she can’t tell if her comments are compliments or criticism.

McDonald and Dodds have a real rhythm of working at this stage, and a good trust in their professional partnership, but that trust gets tested this season, which is always fun to play. Someone comes back from McDonald’s past, who causes some issues between her and Dodds and tests where everyone’s loyalties lie. And then in the last film, which is a really exciting one with multiple murders, the murderer is playing games with them, which also manages to cause a rift.

Dodds looking in through  a kitchen window

It sounds like McDonald is also helping Dodds come out of his shell a bit this series?

Yes, he’s still single but he’s starting to get out there a bit more and enjoy his life, getting out of the rhythms he’s used to, which she encourages. He’s lived in a certain way for a really long time and now he’s looking for a bit more adventure and surprise, and we see him being unpredictable sometimes. I think by now the audience is starting to get an idea of who we are and how we will react in certain situations, so now there’s a lot more opportunity to surprise them and do unexpected things, which is a really fun element of this series that I loved.

Do you have many action scenes this time?

The series opens with a big chase, and that was the main bit of action, but it still took a few days to get that filmed. I remember opening the script and thinking, “Oh no, they’re making me run everywhere!” It was a really fun scene in the end, so it was worth it, but it was a bit of a workout. There were a lot of takes and I’d just forgotten how to run because nobody usually watches you run, you’re normally just trying to catch a bus or jogging, so that was a bit weird. We all had this insecure running paranoia, thinking of a few million people watching us run!

Have you got to grips with the big denouement scenes now?

No! It’s still a little bit daunting because there are just so many pages of dialogue to learn for those scenes. Alan Davies guest stars in the first film, and he’s had to do a lot of those for Jonathan Creek, so he said to me that he felt my pain! They’re not quite as intimidating as they used to be, but they’re still quite tough.

I’m still not the best at working out what’s going to happen in the cases either. I’ve got slightly better since I’ve been reading the scripts on this show, but I still don’t get it right most of the time, and when I’m watching other detective shows I never guess who it is. I always fall for the red herring or the most obvious one, I always get really surprised.

Sian Phillips

There are more amazing guest stars lined up for this series, do you have a favourite?

The guest stars are all amazing, but working with Siân Phillips was definitely the highlight, she’s brilliant, and so kind and professional. Her character is incredible – when I read her in the script, I couldn’t imagine who they’d be able to find to play her, but Siân was perfect. We were really lucky to get her, the audience is going to love her.

How does it feel to be working on series three, now that the show is more established?

It was really nice going back and knowing what the show is and what people like about it. I’ve relaxed a lot more since the days of series one – we’ve still got to do a great job, but now we know there is an audience that likes the show and there’s not the same pressure to prove yourself, so I get to have more fun! We’ve got a lovely crew that come back each year, and we know them, it’s like a family, so we have a good support network, and it’s always so enjoyable to work with Jason. McDonald and Dodds have developed a rhythm in their partnership, and as their relationship has grown, so has mine and Jason’s alongside that – we know how each other operates now and can work in a really quick way. My favourite scenes are always the comedy moments that come from McDonald and Dodds being together, and what comes out of their relationship – we always love doing the comedy and creating those really nice moments.

It always takes me a couple of days to find McDonald again after leaving her for ages, and then I think “There she is!” I’m closer to her than Jason is to Dodds, so it’s sometimes hard to disconnect those similarities at the beginning of a series. I think she has more fun in general now – she came in really hard when she first arrived, with a lot to prove and wasn’t necessarily as likeable as she is now. I think she’s probably more secure these days, which means there’s a bit more cheekiness to her as she’s developing.

We get recognised in Bath all the time and people are lovely to us, saying that they love the show and it got them through lockdown. It’s really lovely to think it helped people during that horrible time.

Were there any stand-out moments from set this year?

We were lucky enough to shoot in so many beautiful locations in Bath, which were so pretty, we saw lots of wonderful big houses. But my favourite day of filming was Jason’s birthday – we had beige day in honour of Dodds, which was amazing. The costume department arranged for everyone to dress up as Dodds, so we came into work and everyone looked like him, all the crew – it was weird, but they all looked brilliant. I’ve got a framed photo of everyone dressed up, it was like non-uniform day at school and Jason was very surprised!

What would you like to see happen to McDonald and Dodds in the future?

Sometimes we make suggestions for storylines – Jason and I are both very keen on a holiday film. McDonald loves Tenerife so we think it would be great to have a film set there, especially as we film in the winter! I can see Dodds in his Bermuda shorts, I think it would be such a great opportunity for loads of comedy, that’s my pitch.

It’s strange because when you play a character, you start feeling empathy for them, so you want good things to happen to them. But actually, good things are often quite boring for the show – you want the problems, break ups or to see someone getting reprimanded, all that drama. So I’m probably hoping for more tension and more challenges for her, which is fun to play… but I do wish her the best!

The first episode of Series 3 of McDonald & Dodds is on ITV on Sunday 19th June at 8 pm.

Images & info - ITV/Mammoth Screen
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