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Interview: Callum Woodhouse

Callum Woodhouse chats about his role as Leslie Durrell on Prime TV’s The Durrells.

Q: You went straight from drama school to this major ITV drama series. How did that happen?

“I’m from Stockton-on-Tees and went to LAMDA (London Academy Of Music & Dramatic Art). I found out I had got this job an hour before my final ever performance there, which was exactly seven days before I graduated in July 2015. I had done the audition on the Thursday and had a chemistry read with Daisy Waterstone, who plays Margo, the next day. Then on that Friday I was in my dressing room ahead of my final play – Journey’s End – putting my costume and make-up on. My agent rang me and said, ‘You’ve got it.’ And then I went on and did the play, playing the role of Stanhope, and had to be depressed and very moody. Which was hard. At first I thought my agent must have got something wrong. I thought he was joking. Everything runs through your mind. Especially when it’s your first job and it’s something so amazing as this project. I never thought I’d be that lucky…I was just bowled over. It didn’t really sink in for me until the first day of filming. I was still thinking, ‘I’m dreaming here.’”

Q: How did you tell your family?

“I waited to tell my family because I wanted to tell them face to face as they were coming to see me before I graduated. I don’t really like telling them too much about roles I’ve gone for because then they might get their hopes up and be disappointed. They were over the moon. My mum was so cute when I told her. She said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this job, mam, I’m going to be working for ITV.’ And still she said, ‘What does he mean?’ It was so funny. It didn’t sink in for hours. Then the next morning she said, ‘I’m sorry about last night. Well done!’ There’s no history of acting in my family. My dad always likes to credit himself for my acting roots because he played Joseph when he was in primary school. So maybe that’s where it all stemmed from! He’s a managing director at an oil company and my mum is a nurse practitioner. They can’t wait to see this.”

Q: Who is Leslie?

“Leslie is a funny old character who only seems interested in shooting and guns. He appears to very much despise everything his family are into. Especially Larry. So he can’t stand literature and art or any of that world. He’s very much a hands on guy. He likes to get his gun and spend all day hunting animals which the family will later eat. Which is a really funny contrast to his younger brother Gerry who is all about the conservation of animals. And Leslie is going out to shoot them to eat them. His interests could not be further away from other members of the family. Leslie is also very protective of his mother. He’s a bit of a mummy’s boy. His mum is everything. I’m a bit of a mummy’s boy myself, so that wasn’t too hard to step into.”

Q: Have you read Gerald Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy of books?

“I’ve read the first book and I’m just starting the second. The first book is amazing. What I didn’t realise until I read that is the fact that The Durrells’ writer Simon Nye has taken stories from all three of the books. He’s not following a linear route from the first book to the third. He’s taken stories from all three and put them in this first series.”

Q: Leslie loves shooting with his guns. Did you need any training before filming?

“There’s an armourer on set called Tom who is amazing. I’ve been working very closely with him. The first day I met him was the Friday before we started filming. He opened this big box of guns -a double-barrel shotgun, a 12 gauge, a single barrel and two air rifles -and talked me through how to dismantle them all and put them back together. Also how we would be shooting them, if we ever did shoot them. I hadn’t had to shoot any of the blank firing guns, I’d just used the air rifles. But then I had to do a scene where Leslie shoots a rabbit. It was in the script that it was going to be an air rifle. But when we got there the director Steve Barron said, ‘We’ll change that.

We’ll use a 12 gauge.’ So I had a very quick lesson on how to load and fire and how much recoil you would need. Hopefully that’s going to look good.

There’s another scene where Leslie is acting like a gunslinger in the garden of the family home in Corfu and drawing his gun. It then gets snagged on his pocket and he shoots a rug out of the Lugaretza’s, the maid’s, hand. That was a very funny scene. But it was hard to get right because we had to sew a little bit from my pocket to the gun in order for it to snag. In the end it was fine and we managed to get it right. I had fired blank pistols at stage school and the blank pellet for the shotgun was actually the same size as one of the ones from stage school. There’s a scene where I have to clean a gun. I’m also going to get taught how to skin a rabbit. Which will be very interesting.”

Q: Does Lugaretza take offence?

“Leslie is still her favourite. He’s the best child. Which I found very strange as he nearly kills her. It’s a really sweet relationship between them.”

Q: What has it been like having Keeley Hawes as your screen mother?

“It’s been amazing working with Keeley. She is so lovely. Keeley has taken all of us under her wing. It really does feels like we’re a family and have known each other all of our lives. That’s because we all get on so well. We’ve been going out for meals a lot and have our own private in‐jokes now.”

Q: One day Leslie leaves the house without a gun. What has happened?

He meets Alexia, his first girlfriend. I don’t think he’s interested in girls at all until he meets her. His interest is in guns. Then he meets this beautiful girl played by Hara Ermidi who is amazing. It’s her first acting job as well and she’s such a natural. He falls head over heels in love with Alexia, forgets about the family, his mother and hunting, stops taking guns out with him every time he leaves the house. Everyone is thinking, ‘What’s going on with Leslie?’ And then Margo tracks him down and sees him with her.”

Q: Aside from shooting them, does Leslie have any other encounters with the animals?

“He gets stung by a scorpion in episode six.”

Q: Do you get much reaction from local people when filming in Corfu?

“Lots of people stand around and watch us when we film. But the most attention we’ve had is when we’ve been out for a meal or a drink with Alexis Georgoulis, who plays Spiro. Because he is very famous in Greece, like the Greek answer to Leonardo DiCaprio. If you ever want a free meal just make sure you go out with Alexis.”

Q: How would you describe the family’s move from Bournemouth to Corfu in the 1930s?

“It was a very bold thing to do. There was no electricity in Corfu then. No telephones. I don’t think we’d cope with that today. No more mobile phones, no more laptops. It would be like losing a limb. They were so off. It was a brave and astonishing thing to do.”

Q: Do you have a personal paradise?

“I went to the Dominican Republic for two weeks and that was rather special. But Corfu is lovely. It’s the first time I’ve been here and there are some wonderful places. The sea here is crystal blue overlooked by amazing mountains. I think it’s fair to say that Corfu is, perhaps, the main character in The Durrells, the driving force. It’s beautiful.”

Based on author and naturalist Gerald Durrell’s much-loved Corfu trilogy of novels, The Durrells sees impoverished but sparky widow Louisa Durrell (Keeley Hawes) make the radical decision to leave 1930s England to seek out a new destiny for her family before her offspring go completely off the rails. As Louise relocates her reluctant brood to a dilapidated house in the Greek sun, the Durrells face a whole new set of challenges as they meet new friends, rivals, lovers – and animals.


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