Interview by Paul Salfen
2020 has not given audiences an abundance of feelgood content, but thankfully a quirky UK hit is about to hit our shores just when our country needs laughs the most. Fisherman’s Friends is a crazy but true story about ten singing fishermen that get signed with Universal Records and end up with a top ten hit with their debut album, Sea Shanties. Also starring James Purefoy and Tuppence Middleton, this true “fish out of water” flick tackles the themes of family, integrity, and fame and fortune in a delightful package.
Starring Daniel Mays, the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor, 42, has recently been seen on the smaller screen in “White Lines” on Netflix and “Code 404” on Sky One and this year will return to “Temple” on Sky One and a new show called “Des,” which follows up a great 2019 with the Oscar-winning 1917 and Amazon’s “Good Omens.”
Here’s more from Mays:
AMFM: Fisherman’s Friends would have been a great story to tackle regardless, but it’s hard to believe it’s true. How wild! Was that part of the appeal for you?
Daniel Mays: Yeah, that was definitely the element of me wanting to do it. I’d never done a romantic lead in a romcom but the fact that it was based on the real Fisherman’s Friends back in 2010 – they had an amazing success: they got into the Top 10 and had a million pound recording contract. I thought to have that and to build the romantic storyline around the character of Danny Anderson, who was this high-flying music exec and goes on this life-changing journey inadvertently and is at this crossroads in his life made a really charming and uplifting script.
AMFM: Did you think about the potential pressure of playing a character that’s still alive or were you more concerned about what was on paper?
DM: I just thought of the trajectory of the character, where he starts and where he ends up, which is a whole u-turn on his life. He’s successful, a high-flying music exec with the gold discs on his wall but I think when you strip away the narcissistic veneer that he has at the beginning, he’s really someone incredibly lonely and looking for companionship and love and it really sucker punches him. He falls for the girl in the village, alongside that it’s the group and everyone in the village, the landscape – everything is different from what his experience was like from the beginning of the film.
AMFM: Well, there was also the allure of filming in such a beautiful place.
DM: It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the UK you could wish to visit and they shoot the TV show “Doc Martin” down there, so I’ve only ever really seen it on the television but when you’re there, the landscape is absolutely breathtaking. To be in that place and to film in that pub where they actually drink, the coastline – it just lends itself to the story and gives that element of realism and believability that really comes through in the film.
AMFM: Was there one moment on the set that made you feel like it was really working or special?
DM: I don’t think I have those moments on set. You always have high expectations and you hope that the project that you’re in is going to connect with the audience. I’ve done projects in the past where you think they’re going to the roof and they don’t quite land and vice versa so I try not to look at that side of things when I’m making a project, I just try to invest in whatever I’m filming that day and give it your heart and soul and whatever and hopefully it transpires in the film and the audience connects with it, I mean, when this film was released in the UK, it certainly surpassed all of our expectations, you know what I mean? I was at number 2, second only to Captain Marvel, which is obviously a huge Hollywood blockbuster. The audience obviously kept coming and coming for it and word of mouth took over. It has all of those elements that those British underdog films do so well, like The Full Monty. It’s got heart and soul and I think people just warm to that.
AMFM: You’ve had an amazing career full of great movies, television, and theater. What do you say to the people that are looking to do what you do?
DM: I always say to young actors: even though it’s a populated industry, there are incredible rewards out there artistically. You have to have a really strong sense of who you are as an actor and what you can bring to any project. You have to be resilient and you have to be hard working – and you have to learn to take the knocks but perseverance is key and know what you have to offer to anything. If you have that determination and resilience, you can go a long way.
AMFM: You’ve been on some pretty incredible sets from 1917 to Star Wars – it really sounds like the coolest job.
DM: Yeah, I’ve had a few moments like that. You mentioned Rogue One: that was definitely a mindblowing set to be on. It was kind of surreal when you step out on set and you’re just hanging around with a group of stormtroopers. It’s kind of insane, really. Those are “pinch me” moments. You mentioned 1917 and that was just an awesome experience to work on. There were hundreds and hundreds of extras. There is an element of luck to this business but my story has been a long, hard, slow enjoyable slog. The pattern of my career has been reworking with a lot of directors and producers that have wanted to continue a working relationship. I always say to actors also if you produce theater, that is an amazing string to your bow because if you’re on stage for two hours plus every evening, there’s going to be a lot of influential people in the audience, whether that’s producers, directors that will come and see you and hopefully want to put you in your projects. All of these things can feed each other. It can be an amazing industry to work in, no doubt about that.
AMFM: You’ve always got interesting projects going on but with the pandemic, what’s next?
DM: “White Lines” is currently on Netflix, which has gone down an absolute storm and “Code 404” is coming on Peacock, the new (NBCUniversal) streaming service, this month. In terms of what I’m going to do next, it’s the second season of “Code 404,” which starts shooting next month. Then I’m on to another second season of a show called “Temple” with Mark Strong for Sky Television also. The wheels are slowly turning in the film and TV industry in the UK and that can only be a good thing because we’re all running out of content over here. I should also mention there’s an amazing three-part drama called “Des” about this serial killer Dennis Nilsen back in the ‘80s in the UK, who in our story is played by the brilliant David Tenant, who I worked with on “Good Omens.” That’s being released after being sold to AMC and Sundance TV. That’s really hard-hitting and gripping and quite a dark drama. I’m also working with the amazing Jason Watkins, who was in the last season of “Crown.” Once again, I’m surrounding myself with really exceptional actors.