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Daniel Ryan

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Daniel Ryan
Daniel Ryan stars in ITV's new two-part thriller Bon Voyage as the creepy Simon Holder.

Airing this Tuesday and Wednesday, the story follows Neil and Elizabeth, a couple who take their two children on a camping holiday in France. There, they make the acquaintance of Simon and Linda, who claim to be camping with their own family. However, Neil and Elizabeth find the odd couple increasingly unnerving as they appear to be in pursuit.

We caught up with Daniel to speak to him about his role in the production.

Could you tell us a little bit about the show and your character?
"We've seen quite a lot of ITV2 two-parters about families in trouble and crisis, and I think ours breaks the mould slightly because I think mainly because of the whole set up with the directors that we've used and it sort of - as a read, it sort of comes across - it's quite funny - most people who audition for it, and, notably, I'm not the only one who went in to audition for it and said 'it reads like a movie'. It's just different from your usual ITV two-parter and with John Fawcett directing, who is an expert in the horror genre, he's just darkened it. I'm loathe to call it a horror movie or psychological thriller, but it nearly is a horror film, which I'm not aware of ITV having done before. So yeah, I play Simon, who's married to Fay Ripley, and we turn up, we seem to be like a couple of bad pennies turning up and invading someone's camping holiday, and then travelling down through France, we seem to be...the family it looks like we're following, they seem to think there's something wrong with me and Hannah, but they can't quite put their finger on it. Nothing we say or do seems inappropriate - but it does turn out that we have some ulterior motives to being at every campsite that they stop at. From that, it turns into a nightmare in France for them."

You said there you did a few strange things - to name a few you dumped a kid's body and strangled a cat! How hard was it filming scenes like that?
"I hadn't quite realised it was going to be such a physical role. I don't quite know how that hadn't got into my head. I suppose because I was trying to get into the psychology of the character. I suddenly found that chasing people through forests and getting to a level where you might pick up a family pet and break its neck, dragging people out of cars, battering people with spades, fighting them in rivers, it was quite an arduous shoot. Saying that, it was ridiculous fun as well!"

You've nothing against cats personally, though?
"Not at all, I've got one myself - I will be keeping him out of the room when it's on the telly, I don't want him to see me doing that kind of thing. Of all the things in the show, I think if anyone's going to complain about anything - there are some scenes that will shock people - I think if any complaints come in it'll be about the cat."

What do your kids think about the show?
"It's a real problem, cos I'm sure my kids don't really understand what I do for a living, because it seems that everything I do is completely inaccessible for them to watch. There's nothing...at the moment, I'm getting ready to beg Russell T Davies to give me a part in Doctor Who, just to prove I'm an actor, cos I can't really show them anything I ever do!"

Has your agent come up with any roles in Doctor Who yet?
"It's a difficult one, cos the Doctor Who kind of people can get whoever they want. They don't send out casting briefs for it, they literally just cast the parts. I worked with Russell before, in the past, and also with Colin, who produces it, and so I'm just hoping at some point - they've been casting the four of us who were in Linda Green (?), Sean Gallagher's popped up in it, Rushbrook's popped up in it, I'm hoping to be next. I might have to send him a letter with words to that effect, saying 'any amount of prosthetics and makeup, I don't mind, just let me in the bloody thing!'"

We'll keep our fingers crossed! Did you do any kind of preparation for the part in Bon Voyage?
"I didn't, to be honest. I don't want to say I'm not that kind of actor, but all I wanted to do really was get my head around the idea of what possibly in my mind drives a person to behave in the way he does. I don't know if reading any books on psychology, looking at people who've committed offences against children, I don't know if it's helpful in terms of who you play. I just wanted to get in the head of this guy. He's got this huge amount of rage in him, born out of an obsession of the wrong kind of love for his own daughter. Also, this odd thing of somehow trying to please his wife and keep their marriage together by kidnapping the children and pretending that what had happened with their own children never happened. The complexity of what you see in the first 90 minutes of the show is somebody who, to all intents and purposes, you can't see anything is wrong with these two people. Marrying that up to the extremes of violence and torment that they have on these two kids in the second half is the hardest part for me.

"You realise that that's what people are doing - people didn't realise that Peter Sutcliffe was doing what he was doing - he was a nice bloke - so you just...I just launched into...it's funny, cos we did some dubbing on the show the other day, and they froze the frame at one point and Jake Lushington, the producer, said to me: 'Look at your eyes! What was going on in your head to make you look like that?' For me, I'd rather not think about it."

Why do you think your character killed his own kids?
"I don't know how long he's been abusing his daughter, but I think he realises she's getting to an age now where it's becoming more difficult and more and more unacceptable. The hatred he feels for himself - the back story we put together was that someone found out and I don't think that he murders them, I don't think it's necessarily completely premeditated. He seizes an opportunity on a canoeing holiday to wipe the rot within him out of his life. So, yeah, it's hard to - I can't imagine how you get to a position where you could do that to your own children but also I can't imagine what was going on with the kids for him to get to that point. So, there was a lot of leaps of faith as far as I was concerned about what I was doing, just in terms of committing to the performance, but hopefully, I dunno, I haven't seen the finished product yet, they're still frantically editing, hopefully it will all make sense, but who knows?"

Do you think there is any redemption in either of the characters?
"I think there is. Who knows? There's a scene with Fay where she basically releases the kids that we've got locked up in the cellar and I watched it on the monitor, and it was a very moving scene about how she accepts how she's been in denial of who Simon is, and comes to understand that what they're doing in taking these kids is completely and utterly wrong. In terms of her character being redeemed, I think so. I'm not sure about Simon. Hopefully, I've coloured him, what he does is so extreme it's very hard to forgive anyone like that. There are a couple of quite simple domestic scenes where Simon and Linda are talking to each other, and hopefully those are the scenes where you'll see they're more human, that they are ordinary people, they're not just maniacs. Hopefully that'll colour the whole show and make it more believable and somewhat more distressing to an audience."

Are you expecting some abuse from members of the public after you take up this role?
"I don't know. I've certainly never played anyone like this before. I know once before, I remember actually, this is quite a funny story, the first time, when our oldest son started school, the night before taking him to school, I played a suspected paedophile in Wire In The Blood. So taking him to school the next day, the first day of school - all the parents were checking each other out - I did get some funny looks. Simon's a little more extreme than that. If it's at all convincing, then people are going to feel a little bit uncomfortable seeing me the next day."

You won't be allowed on the school premises! What was it like working with John Fawcett?
"I absolutely adored working with him. I knew from the minute I went into the meeting that I got a sense that this guy was really interesting - he's unbelievably committed to his work. We worked phenomenal hours out in Canada - if he didn't get a shot he wanted he would just go on and on. He did more setups than I've done on any show before, even though we were working under the same rigid timescale as if we'd been shooting here. Three or four more than you would do generally - it took up time, but it's also going to add to the filmic quality of the show. He's a funny little feller, you can instantly see why he's made his mark in the horror films, because anything we did that was slightly disturbing, he'd appear from behind the monitor giggling and grinning and say 'awesome', which seemed slightly inappropriate a lot of the times he was doing it, but it's because he gets so involved in his work. If he gets exactly what he wants, he gets very over-excited about it. It was great. I'd jump at the chance of working with him again. Hopefully he's going to work in the UK a bit more, he really likes British actors. If he does that, I'll get to do it again."

Would you like to do more psychotic roles in the future?
"I would actually, I would. I've been very lucky as an actor to go from wife-battering racist copper to the nice neighbour next door who loses his girlfriend and you feel sorry for him. I love the fact there's a diversity in what I've done - predominantly I'm the nice bloke next door, but... I don't really understand the phrase 'character actor', that's what we all do all the time, but I think the variety of what I do is what keeps me interested in the job. Chuck another loony at me, I'll be straight there!"

Are you returning for the second series of The Street?
"Unfortunately not! As far as I'm aware, I know they're pressing the series at the moment, it's six new stories from different people who live on that same street, which is exactly what it should be. It follows the format of the stories bleeding into the next one. As far as I'm aware, he's not bringing any of us back. I think it's proper - they were specific stories to a specific moment in the life of all those characters, and to bring them back, you'd be searching for something that was equally dramatic, and people's lives aren't like that all the time. As much as I liked that - Jimmy McGovern's writing is a joy [and] I hope to work with him again - but it won't be on The Street."

That's a shame, I really did enjoy it!
"Thank you! We all loved it, it was a really great time, actually. Brilliant, really good. What was good about doing it as well was that I was only in the first one, bleeding into two, so I didn't even see the scripts for the rest of the series. It was as interesting for me as an audience as it was for everyone else, because I didn't know what was going to happen to any of these people who we met during the shooting of it."

Finally, what else are you working on at the moment?
"I just did an episode of a new series called Kingdom, a new series with Stephen Fry, the first drama he's done for about ten years on the telly. Set in Norfolk, he's a lawyer in a small Norfolk market town. It's a great cast; him, Celia Imrie, Hermione Norris, Kirsty Slattery, Phyllida Law. In my episode, the other guests were Richard Wilson, Meera Syal...it's going to be a really, really good ITV series. It's a nice gentle drama, but it's also very intelligently written and sensitive. It should be very good - it's not due out till the spring, they're still shooting it. At the moment, the canvas is blank. I still like to get a bit choosy. That might sound surprising, there've been a few bits of things coming in. The past few jobs I've done, doing The Government Inspector, doing The Street, doing Bon Voyage, I'm just looking for the right thing to do next, hopefully it'll come along."

Just briefly - going back to Kingdom - who's your character?
"It's a story he deals with briefly, about a couple who've come to him wanting to sue Cambridge University because they haven't given their daughter a place - she's a straight A student, but it turns out there's a much richer story behind that of why she won't leave home. Because of her relationship with her dad because she's protecting the fact he's illiterate, and he's kind of...I'm not going to say he's being abused by his wife, but his marriage is in a mess and he's an unhappy man, and the daughter doesn't want to leave him, because she feels she needs to stay there to keep the marriage together. It's a nice story, completely different from the maniac I just played in Canada!"

The show airs at 9pm on ITV1 on Tuesday, October 24 and Wednesday, October 25.

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