In 2020, Tala Gouveia started her leading role as DCI Lauren McDonald in the ITV show McDonald & Dodds, working alongside a cast including Jason Watkins as DS Dodds, with Series 3 airing earlier this year. On screen, Tala had her first regular role in sketch comedy Fit, and has since gone on to work on projects including Tracey Ullman’s Show, Before We Grow Old and sci-fi film G-Loc, which was written and directed by Tom Paton. As a voiceover artist, Tala has voiced Tala in Go Jetters, which she joined in Series 3, and Cleo in Scream Street for CBBC, which, in 2020, was recommissioned for a second series. Also having worked on stage, Tala played Jenna in End of the Pier at Park Theatre, starring alongside Les Dennis, Blake Harrison and Nitin Ganatra, The Here and This and Now at Southwark Playhouse, and she was in the two-hander play The Mountaintop by Katori Hall. Answering our questions, Tala chats about starring in the ITV series McDonald & Dodds, what DCI Lauren McDonald is like to play and voicing Cleo in CBBC’s Scream Street.
Can you tell us about your character DCI Lauren McDonald in the ITV series McDonald & Dodds and what is she like to play?
Lauren is a detective who has come to Bath from London. She is in a new place, with a new role and is paired with DS Dodds, who is her polar opposite. In the show we get to see her navigate these new things.
She is very driven, competitive and imperfect. I also love her dry humour. I find her funny. Especially when she is bouncing off Dodds. Which became apparent when I first had a chemistry read with Jason Watkins, to see if we worked well together. Suddenly everything just made sense.
These characters are contrasts. They are written to be side by side. There is no McDonald without Dodds and vice versa.
Was there anything that drew you to the role and how is it having DCI Lauren McDonald as your first leading character in a TV series?
I liked that in the pairing with her and Dodds she is the one ultimately in charge. He is older than her and a white man, and it is unusual to see this dynamic on TV. But it felt really important to show this kind of representation.
What is the series like to work on and how is it working with the rest of the cast, which includes Jason Watkins as DS Dodds?
We are very lucky that we get to have this incredible balance between regulars and new guest stars. I love working with Jason. I feel really comfortable with him and we know how to work well together. And all our regulars are fantastic and we have a real rapport.
Then every episode we have a whole bunch of new actors to play with that bring their own energy to the show. And a different director each episode that brings their own vision.
So it’s never dull.
How is it seeing the viewers’ response to the series and is there anything you enjoyed most about filming for the recent Series 3?
It has been amazing to have such a great response from our audience. People seem to really love the show. Especially the people of Bath, who often take the opportunity to come and tell us how much they love it. It feels like it is theirs too. We often say Bath is like another character in the show.
It’s been lovely coming back for a third season. We had some great scripts and guest stars. Dame Sian Phillips was amazing to work with. I also loved our F1 episode with the undercover storyline. And our epic finale ep. It was an exciting season.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from working on McDonald & Dodds so far that you can tell us about?
I don’t know! Sometimes my mind goes a little blank after I finish a shoot. I did love Jason’s birthday. We came in to work and everyone was dressed like him! There was a lot of beige. It was very funny.
You voiced Cleo in the CBBC animated series Scream Street, what was the character like to voice and how was it being part of the series?
So much fun, I love animation. She’s a 12-year-old kick-ass Egyptian mummy who lives on a street full of monsters. The scripts are great and you don’t have to learn them.
In 2020, the show was recommissioned for a second series, how was it returning to voice Cleo?
It was a nice surprise! We started Season 1 in 2014. The show then took two years to make as it is all stop animation (I think the animators average about 11 seconds a day). So, by the time we got recommissioned, it had been such a long time since we had recorded it I thought we were done. It was great going back into the studio with the team again.
How was it joining the cast of Go Jetters in Series 3 and what was it like voicing the role of Tala?
It is such a popular show, I had no idea when I first joined. So many parents are like “I listened to you this morning – again!”.
It’s been a lovely thing to be part of. Confusing having the same name as my character though.
Do you have a favourite aspect of working in voiceover and what’s it like seeing characters you’ve voiced on screen?
I love it all really. I love not learning my lines, I love the takeaway lunches. There is no external pressure really. You can just explore the character in the moment and have fun with it. And it’s always very cool seeing what the character looks like for the first time.
Can you tell us about the feature film G-Loc, in which you played Ohsha, and how did you find the experience working on a sci-fi film?
That was a film about refugees in space written and directed by Tom Paton. It was a lot of fun actually. I especially liked doing all the fight scenes with Casper Van Dien and Stephen Moyer. I absolutely hate violence in real life but it is so fun to do fight scenes. It’s like dance choreography with a bit of gymnastics thrown in.
You played Chloe in the feature film Before We Grow Old, what was this like?
That was my first lead in a feature film. It was a perfect summer in Berlin.
What do you remember from your time filming for Fit?
I think that was my second telly job. And my first regular role. It was a sketch comedy show. I’d grown up watching Smack the Pony and French and Saunders and Victoria Wood so it was heaven for me. And oh so many wigs!
In 2018, you performed on stage as Jenna in End of the Pier at Park Theatre, what was the show like to perform in and how was it being part of the cast?
The Park Theatre is such a lovely, intimate space to work in. It was a fun cast too. Les Dennis was fab, and Blake Harrison, and me and Nitin Ganatra were just constantly getting the giggles. He came and did an episode on McDonald & Dodds and we got the right giggles on set as well.
What was it like performing in The Here and This and Now at Southwark Playhouse?
Well, I learned how to throw and catch a ball. I seriously hated playing catch before that play. So don’t say acting doesn’t teach you new things!
Over your career so far, you have performed in a number of other projects on both screen and stage, including Cold Feet, Plebs, Tracey Ullman’s Show, The Mountaintop and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, can you tell us about some of them?
Loved The Tracey Ullman Show (again, another sketch comedy). She is so talented.
The Mountaintop is a beautiful play by Katori Hall. It’s a two-hander set on the eve of Martin Luther King’s assassination. It’s incredible, funny, moving, and uses the medium of theatre so beautifully. Definitely up there with one of my favourite jobs of all time.
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
I always loved drama and acting. I often did drama workshops growing up. At one point I had a stage up in my garden. My mum probably had to see a lot of homemade children’s theatre in that time!
I think it was inevitable, to be honest.
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
The first theatre show I remember adoring was Eileen Atkins and Henry Goodman in The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter. Both incredible actors that made the theatre come alive. It was really intense, and very funny. I mean, Pinter is just a gift to actors, I think.
Recently I have been watching – This Is Us (cue all the tears and all the feels), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Hacks, and Conversations with Friends.
I tend to gravitate towards shows with female characters at the centre. I spend a lot of time watching TV – I love it.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for your career?
I’d love to do some comedy or dramedy this year. Time for some giggles, I think. I’m excited to see what new scripts are out there.
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