Over three series of The Worst Witch, Philip Martin Brown played the role of Mr. Rowan-Webb on CBBC, and he has guest-roled in many shows including Doctors, Flack and Vera. From 2006 to 2013, Philip played Grantly Budgen, one of the teachers in the BBC drama series Waterloo Road, and whilst in the cast, he appeared on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, and earlier this year, he was part of the online Waterloo Road reunion. When leaving his role of Grantly, Philip went on to play Mr. Bidwell in the TV mini-series Death Comes to Pemberley and, as well as having a screen career, he has performed on stage where he most recently appeared on the Olivier Stage at Royal National Theatre for their production of Everyman. Speaking with Philip, he tells us about playing Mr. Rowan-Webb in The Worst Witch, his time as Grantly Budgen in Waterloo Road and appearing on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief.
You played Mr. Rowan-Webb in The Worst Witch across three series, what was the character like to play and how was it working on a show like this?
I enjoyed my time on The Worst Witch as I had never worked with so many special effects and CGI before. Working with Wendy Craig was a privilege and a joy. I have been lucky in my career as I have had the chance to work with so many lovely people. My character was a bit “bonkers” so that added to the fun.
Can you tell us what was it like on set?
There was always a fun atmosphere on set which I think is important as people work best when enjoying themselves.
What was it like filming an episode of Flack as Terry?
Flack just sort of came and went.
You’ve worked on a number of crime drama series including Vera, Endeavour and Midsomer Murders, what are these like to do?
I have appeared in two Midsomers. I tend to play shifty characters who are often suspects. Having said that, in the other two I was the grieving father. The leading actor in all those shows make the guest actors feel very welcome. I believe that is part of the job and most actors do it very well.
How was it filming as Mr. Bidwell in the BBC mini-series Death Comes to Pemberley?
Death Comes To Pemberley was a proper costume drama, of which I have appeared in precious few. I thoroughly enjoyed “jumping in the dressing up box” for Mr. Bidwell. The attention to detail in the design department was very impressive.
Was there anything that drew you to the role of Grantly Budgen in Waterloo Road and how was it developing the character?
I trained as an English and Drama teacher and so Mr. Budgen was right up my “stresses”, as it were. I was able to bring some of my supply teaching experience to bear in developing the character. Little details of classroom behaviour etc.
Having played Grantly over a number of years, what was it like filming your final scenes and leaving the show and character behind?
I enjoyed filming the final episodes of Grantly’s involvement in the show but, of course, it was tinged with sadness, as it had been my life for the best part of a decade.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time in the show?
I have so many happy memories of that show. Working with Denise Welch, Lorraine Cheshire, Elizabeth Berrington and Melanie Hill are amongst the highlights. All the scenes in the classroom, with the kids, I also relished.
You were part of the Waterloo Road Reunion, how did it feel reuniting with other cast members?
It was great to see all the old faces again and catch up. We all felt it was a shame that we couldn’t do it in person and only “virtually”. One big family really.
You’ve worked on a number of films including Darkest Hour and Strawberry Fields, can you say more about your film work?
I enjoy working in all the media but I have made a career in “fast television”. Fast television is typically ten working days to make a fifty-minute episode. Working in feature films is a very slow process. It can take four months to make a ninety-minute product, and I am a very impatient person! Having said that, I loved working on The Bounty, not least because I spent ten weeks in Tahiti and six in New Zealand.
Can you tell us about some of your other screen roles which have included Casualty, City Central and Wing and a Prayer?
I was born and bred in Manchester and I always enjoy going back to work there. City Central, which was a cop show, was filmed there, as was Cutting It, Waterloo Road and many other shows I’ve been invited in.
In 2015, you appeared in Everyman at Royal National Theatre, can you say more about this?
I really haven’t done much theatre, in comparison to my other work, but I always enjoy it when I do. Working on the Olivier stage at the National was an experience in itself. The stage is vast, as is the auditorium. We also had the Poet Laureate (Carol Ann Duffy) sitting in on rehearsals and writing the show as we rehearsed. I felt very involved in the process of making the final script.
What do you enjoy most about appearing in pantomimes?
The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd and the money! However, on a more serious note, kids let you know very quickly if they like the show, and vice versa! There is an immediate response in the theatre to the performance, and no quicker one than panto.
In 2011, you appeared on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, what was it like to do?
Let’s Dance for Comic Relief was a great experience. It was, and still is, the most nervous I have ever been. Not only was the performance live, but there was an estimated TV audience of 8,000,000. We had five working days rehearsal, and by the end I ached in places I never knew I could ache. I wouldn’t have swapped that week for anything though.
What are some of your favourite TV shows and films to watch?
I find it quite difficult watching British drama as I inevitably know at least one member of the cast, and so I tend to watch them and not, therefore, follow the story.
Suspending my disbelief is much easier with foreign-made drama. Breaking Bad and ER have been favourites, along with Cheers, Golden Girls and Happy Days.
Where does your love of acting come from and what do you enjoy most about playing different characters?
My dad was a Methodist minister and he performed, to an extent, in the pulpit. He wanted to put over a message and so he used a variety of oratory and dramatic techniques to do so. I was also the “class clown” at school. Whilst at school I appeared in all the school plays and I was always asked to read from whichever book we were studying.
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