Martin Clunes, who plays the irascible Dr Martin Ellingham in the popular ITV comedy drama series Doc Martin, has quietly over the last three years turned the character into one of the most watchable on the box, we spoke to him recently about the third season of the show, which airs on Mondays @ 9.00pm on the ITV Network.
Martin Clunes admits he was dreading having to put his life-saving skills to the test for an episode of the new series of Doc Martin.
Despite having learnt a lot about medical procedures from playing the grumpy Dr Martin Ellingham for the past three years, Martin has never had to resuscitate a patient on screen.
“In this series I had to do my first defibrillation. It was a big day in any TV doctor’s life,” says Martin.
“It was a big and nasty procedure. The defibrillation doesn’t work and the doc has to pound the patient’s chest to save her.
“I was dreading that day, and everyone was tense on set. We used a dummy to substitute for the actress who was the patient when I did the chest compressions because I wanted to be able to really pound. Every doctor says that is the one thing they hate seeing not being done correctly, so I wanted to get it right.
“You need two inches of compression to be effective, which is why ribs get broken all the time. You wouldn’t want me to do that on a real person. I tried, but she minded!
“We have a paramedic on set and our doctor adviser came down from London for the scene. He was very encouraging and was pleased with my performance.
“It was a quite frightening experience, and we were kneeling in a pool of blood as well, which wasn’t very nice.”
There’s heart problems of a totally different kind for the doctor in the new series as his on-off romance with headmistress Louisa Glasson looks set to blossom at last.
“The doc’s romance with Louisa is really going very well in its strange way.
They have proper dates that inevitably don’t go to plan.
“Then they have a big date at a classical music concert where a rather nasty friend of Louisa’s is performing.
“Louisa has invited the doctor to the concert and they are like a normal couple going out to an event. It is all going really well, until he lets himself down with a remark which proves to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. She chucks him and storms off, leaving him in pieces.
“It really takes the wind out of his sails and makes him behave in a twisted way. He becomes absent minded, and is not concentrating on what he is doing.
“Then they are thrown together at the end when he has to treat Louisa’s best friend, who is staying at her house and is very ill.
“It dawns on him as he leaves the house that he could be walking out of the house for the last time, and it could be the end for them and nothing is going to be the same again, and he asks her to marry him.
“I am pleased that my character has got his act together and asked Louisa to marry him.
“He is still as grumpy as ever but he is also still as in love with Louisa as he ever was, if not more. He does kind of change a bit. He is who he is, at the end of the day. But he does dare to come out of his shell with her.”
After years of waiting for Martin to pop the question, Louisa can hardly believe he has proposed to her. But she doesn’t hesitate to accept his proposal, and immediately begins to plan their wedding.
Martin was delighted to return to Cornwall for nearly four months of filming.
“The crowds have got bigger since we started filming in Port Isaac. I know I don’t live here but I do feel a little bit more at home without feeling it is my home. Now we have acquaintances here, not just the people we work with, but the people in the local garage, and the shops. It is like the relationships I have with the people in the shops near where I live, where we are on first name terms.
“But people definitely come to Port Isaac with the express purpose of visiting the set of Doc Martin. They all come up and tell us that. These are people from New Zealand, Canada, Australia and some in America who have seen the series on DVDs.”
But not all the Doc Martin fans are respectful of local people’s properties and their need to lead a normal life.
“People have been peering in the windows of the house we use for the doctor's house and knocking on the door and asking “is he in”, Martin says.
“When we are filming the other side of the harbour you see people posing outside the house for pictures all day long. It is marked on the local tourist information for visitors as well as Doc Martin’s house. It is a lovely house with beautiful views.”
After filming finished in Cornwall Martin looked forward to spending time with his family in their new home in Dorset.
“We moved just three weeks after I came back from New Zealand where I filmed The Man Who Lost His Head, and I’ve just spent weekends at the new house since we started filming Doc Martin. So it is good to be home with my family again.
“I am going to ride my horse, which I bought when I came back from New Zealand. I have been having lessons but just riding him too is good.
“Riding in New Zealand with Philippa and Emily refuelled my interest in riding, and prompted me to buy my own horse.
“We have added to the family with another dog – a black Labrador puppy called Arthur Colin. We have two miniature Shetland ponies and we’d quite like to get some more of those. It would be fun to breed some. We are determined to have something born at home.”
Martin’s next project is a documentary for ITV1, The History of Dogs.
“The History of Dogs is just that: it is a global subject not a sort of us English and their dogs,” explains Martin.
“It looks at the wild dogs of East Africa, wolves in Alaska, dogs in Italy, the different breeds that are bred specifically for different uses, Irish water spaniels and breeds that are dying out because there isn’t the necessity for them.
“We are also doing a book to accompany the documentary, and I am hoping to take the photos for it.”
Martin’s recent television credits include Losing It, William and Mary, Beauty and A is for Acid.