HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR CHARACTER DEVELOPING THIS SERIES?
The character develops in many ways; we are able now to see a more vulnerable side in this series. He starts off really quite confident, and there’s a little promotion involved which gives him a little bit more confidence, a bit of a kick, but gradually certain relationships become more complicated. Where at the beginning, Jim thought he was on to a good thing, suddenly the worm turns and he becomes really rather vulnerable. He moves into an area which he’s really never had to deal with before, never even known…
In the last series you did see a vulnerable side but it was really more of a physical vulnerable side, being knifed by Shell in the cell. And you also saw Jim proposing to Karen at the end of the last series. Jim does genuinely love Karen, there’s no doubt about it, but Jim’s not past seeing that being in love with someone might not necessarily be the best route to furthering your career, and Jim of course is extremely ambitious. He’s an ambitious man in every sense of the word. In many ways it could be his downfall.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING IN BAD GIRLS?
Working with wall-to-wall women! No, the good thing is that there’s nothing else like it on British television. And from an actor’s point of view, every script that turns up, I suddenly find that I’m being… what’s the word? Actorly-challenged! I’m challenged by everything that comes along. I open the script and I say ‘God, I’ve got to do that, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to cry here, I’ve got to break down here…’ And I do like working with the women, now we’ve got closer. It’s like if you win the World Cup three times running, you’re going to have a great team the fourth year. You might not win again but you’re going to have a great team that love each other and I have to say that we’ve won now four awards for three series, and it’s phenomenal the way the show has taken off. I don’t think any of us thought when we started, it was going to be like this. And we’ve got to know each other really well and actually we rather like each other.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER?
The ability to turn on a sixpence. One minute he’s nice, the next he’s horrible. The fact is that Jim Fenner is not evil-evil-evil… there’s no such thing as evil, really. He’s a huge opportunist, but he’s also rather naïve, and actually I find him quite funny. I always have done - I just can’t believe that a human being could be that bad and get away with it. Because I myself am incredibly nice, of course!
WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER?
I think really his attitude towards women is utterly insupportable. If Jack Ellis was watching, and had an objective view and someone else was playing Jim Fenner… it’s appalling the way he behaves towards women. He’s a creep. He’s a total prat. If I ever met Jim Fenner I’d give him such a wide berth.
DO YOU LIKE THE COSTUMES THAT YOUR CHARACTER WEARS? WOULD YOU WEAR THEM OUT?
I wouldn’t wear the prison uniform unless I was going to a fancy dress party, or perhaps if someone wanted me to do security in a nightclub for the evening. The thing about Jim is that he hasn’t actually got much taste, so he’d need a bit of guidance. I suppose he might get that from Karen. I do get to wear a suit this series and they have gone from being double-breasted to single-breasted, so Karen’s had an influence on him. He has very interesting ties, which I’d never wear. I don’t wear ties very much anyway but Jim Fenner’s are pretty appalling.
HOW DO PEOPLE RE-ACT TO YOU ON THE STREET?
I went to Man U – Arsenal and people recognised me. Arsenal won 4-0, by the way, and it was the League Cup. I now get ‘It’s Jim Fenner…’ with a kind of rising inflection, as if people can’t quite believe that he does actually exist. I’ve never been hit over the head by an irate old lady with an umbrella. Basically people do manage to dissociate me from the character. They say ‘It’s a great show, and a great character that you play.’
ARE YOU LIKE YOUR CHARACTER? ANY TRAITS THAT YOU SHARE?
Yes, I’m a misogynistic, sadistic…. No, there’s no way I could ever be like Jim Fenner. If I was I’d probably be in prison myself! I think the thing about acting and this character is that you do have to go through a little bit of soul-searching, and you do have to think about the times that you get defensive, or the times that you get angry about things, unreasonably angry, and then you have to magnify that. It’s quite interesting to watch Match Of The Day at the end when you see some of the reactions at the end by footballers and managers on the losing side… I knit a curious little web with Fenner. He comes from all sorts of areas, but I hope I’m not one of them.
WHAT SCENE HAVE YOU MOST ENJOYED OR HATED FILMING SO FAR?
The scenes I hated doing most were the scenes when I was in the cell with Shell. It was just endless. Lying on the floor, covered in my own blood. Fake blood is not particularly pleasant. In fact I’d rather have had my own blood coursing out of me ‘cause at least it’s warmer. Being stuck on a hospital trolley with a cup of tea while everyone else was able to move around freely and I had to stay still… that whole area was quite hard work, physically. The most enjoyable, and this is a real kid at work here, was the scene where there’s an escape, and I actually got quite heroic. It was a night shoot, and I got myself quite fit for it. I really enjoyed being a stunt man for a night.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW EXTERIOR?
I think it’s absolutely phenomenal. I actually think that Jane Tomblin deserves a Bafta award for that. I genuinely do think it’s an award-winning set. Going from the real prison in Oxford which we used to use, moving to this… it’s even an improvement on what was real! They all deserve knighthoods, and damehoods.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREETIME?
As Jack… I have two children, aged three and nine, so I spend quite a lot of time when I’m not working taking them to school, picking them up from school, taking Theo to saxophone lessons, taking Alice swimming, taking Theo swimming, football… Theo plays at Arsenal on Monday nights so I take him down there and watch that. So it’s fairly child-centric. Otherwise, reading. And I’ve become a bit of a news junkie lately, I find it impossible not to watch Newsnight.
HOW WOULD YOU GET ON WITH YOUR CHARACTER IF YOU MET THEM IN REAL LIFE?
I would give him the widest berth I possibly could. I would immediately go very hot, sweaty, red, awkward… I don’t agree with anything that he believes in and I just wouldn’t want to engage in the smallest conversation with anyone as defensive as that. I wouldn’t thump him - I’d run away from him. He might thump me! I’d feel threatened. I’ve never hit anyone in my life…