How would you describe your character Simon Waterhouse?
"In the novels by Sophie Hannah, he's described as humourless and arrogant. He's referred to by some others in the office as 'Rain Man', which I think gives quite a good indication of his social skills! He's definitely not one of the lads, and he basically considers himself to be better than most at what he does. There is humility within him, he just doesn't really show it. I don't think anybody ever gets to see that side of him. His ability to deal with, talk to and have relationships with women is equally as uncomfortable and unpractised. He's just not very good with people, but the one thing he does, he does well."
What is Simon's relationship with his partner Charlie Zailer (Olivia Williams) like?
"Simon has an instinctive, from-the-gut type of personality, which of course works wonders against Charlie Zailer's by-the-book approach to everything. I think that's certainly one of the levels of their conflict and why they butt heads initially."
Were you familiar with Sophie Hannah's novels before you were cast?
"I was familiar with Sophie's work, but I hadn't read Point of Rescue. I came to be much more familiar with them once I was on board. Sophie herself was absolutely amazing. As great as it is to get a piece of work adapted for television, I can't imagine how weird it must be to have written six or seven novels with these characters, and then have to give them up to a production team and a couple of actors. It must be really hard, but Sophie couldn't have been more open to it or more encouraging and supportive of it. I had a myriad of questions and thoughts, and dared to make a couple of suggestions, and she was so embracing of it."
Did Sophie give you any tips on how to portray Waterhouse?
"She sent me a couple of books and she'd earmarked chapters or sections of chapters that were specific to Simon and Charlie, that she felt would help. We don't start our story in exactly the same place, relationship-wise, as the books do. It doesn't progress in exactly the same way so we have to create our own linear element to these characters and the story for our version. In terms of what pertained to the relationship and what could help to create that overview in our mind, Sophie was amazing."
Were you nervous about meeting the expectations that fans of the novels might have?
"Well, I've had this recently with Dirk Gently and Douglas Adams fans. I found that hardcore Adams fans were quite outspoken about what they did and didn't like. But I can't allow myself to feel that pressure because if you're given an opportunity like this, then you're grateful for it and you can't spend your time feeling intimidated or being worried about it. You have a responsibility to grab it, run with it and make it your own. Otherwise you're not doing your job. I'm an avid reader myself, and what any one reader accesses at any one time is very powerful and personal to them. Clearly you can't even begin to touch that. A novel is a singular vision, and then a myriad of readers have their own experience of that. What we're doing here with Dirk Gently and with this is a collective vision. It has to take on a different form. From the acting point of view, you can only hope that you capture the essence and the spirit of something. These characters have existed before, but they've existed in a different form. I have to have the confidence to say 'This is [that character] in my form'. You have to take a leap and hope that others will take a leap with you."
Would you be interested in playing Waterhouse again in future adaptations of Hannah novels?
"100%, absolutely! There's two very exciting things about this project, which I think will turn things on their head. An ITV two-part crime drama is not a new concept. We've had a lot of those and I think we're used to certain stereotypes, particularly with male leads. It's not uncommon to see a guy with a drinking problem, who can't keep a good woman and perhaps has anger issues. That's all good, that works and it's great. But what I don't think we've seen very often is the domestic element within this world. Within this dark, very real world, there's this domestic bickering going on. What I think is interesting also is the boy / girl, will they / won't they scenario, which is another concept that we're very familiar with, is turned on its head as well. It's become, they have [got together] and now how are they going to deal with that and resolve it? Will they come back around full circle or will it drive a wedge between them? So there are these lovely conceits that I think you haven't seen before that we get to play with."
With your role in Case Sensitive, are you making a conscious effort to move away from comedy and more into drama?
"Not move away. Never move away! I love comedy with a passion and I hope that shows in my work. I would never want to move an inch away from comedy. What I want to do is continue to grow and extend myself, so if anything I'm adding things on. From an external point of view, it's very clear that if people become familiar with you in any way for [doing] something and then you do something different, it seems like a tangent or a side-step. For me, whether I'm in comedy or drama, it's all about character. It's always about finding the comedic truth or the dramatic truth through that. I don't come from a comedy background or a stand-up background, but I think that sometimes there's a misconception that an actor who works primarily in comedy is a comedian. There's nothing wrong with being a comedian, but I'm absolutely not that. I can't think of anything more terrifying than doing stand-up! I've always been first and foremost an actor. But I don't feel like I'm done with comedy and now I'm moving on to drama, no. It's all just about growing."
Case Sensitive begins on Monday night at 9pm on ITV1.