HOW is your blood pressure today?
You only have to watch BBC2’s current documentary series The Tube to discover how stressed many London commuters are.
And then there’s kitchen salesman Ted, played by Douglas Hodge, in new TV drama One Night.
When we first meet him he’s having a bad day and fears he’s about to be made redundant.
Ted, 50, is then involved in a row with a teenage girl called Rochelle and a gang of girls who refuse to pick up their litter outside his house.
The four-part BBC1 serial charts the tragic consequences that can result from confrontations and fear of crime in Britain’s cities.
Writer Paul Smith wanted to challenge our perceptions of other people and the misunderstandings that can result.
As well as highlighting gang culture and the pressures it puts on young people.
It’s an excellent, thought-provoking drama series originally made for a 9pm primetime slot.
So why has it been moved by the schedulers to 10:35pm?
I met up with Douglas and other members of the cast on location in a very hot east London last July.
When the Olivier and Tony-award winning actor revealed his fears after a real life confrontation nearby.
“A guy stopped and scratched my car with a nail,” said Douglas, who saw the incident from the window of a nearby building.
“I shouted, ‘Oi, get off!’ And he just stood there and looked at me. I thought, ‘He seriously is going to just wait until I arrive and kill me.’
“I phoned the police but I don’t think they ever turned up.”
Devon-born Douglas appeared with Frasier star Kelsey Grammer in Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles and was best man at his wedding to British flight attendant Kayte Walsh.
He recently starred on the London stage alongside Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan in Inadmissable Evidence.
“Having spent a year in New York, I’d say it’s much safer there now than London, which is much more dangerous than it was.
“I don’t know if I would confront anyone in London now. I keep thinking I’d be knifed if I did.”
The drama – which tells the story from four different perspectives – also stars Georgina Campbell as Rochelle, Jessica Hynes as her mother Carol, Saskia Reeves as Ted’s wife Sally, Neil Stuke as his boss Kenny, Kellie Bright as Kenny’s wife Dawn and Don Gilet as DC Hutton.
Plus a remarkable performance from Billy Matthews as 13-year-old Alfie.
One Night begins on BBC1 at 10:35pm next Monday (March 26) and continues on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.
Douglas Hodge on Ted and One Night:
“I just thought he was fantastically familiar. Living on this high blood pressure. Moaning about what’s wrong with Britain and picking up litter. A have-a-go hero. He keeps going, ‘Oh everything is so bloody uphill, isn’t it?’ Everything seems to be against him. He’s constantly saying, ‘Someone’s got to stand up and do something, otherwise Britain is going down the drain.’
“Everything is against him, whatever happens. The whole of life is this trudge through treacle.
“There is this fantastic butterfly effect in the drama. I look at this girl who drops this crisp packet and immediately assume she’s a criminal reprobate ruining people’s lives. That’s clearly wrong. It’s about the way that you perceive people. Especially about children and mixed race, where people leap to assume that someone’s dangerous. You have these pre-conceived prejudices and then you just act on them. And you’re completely wrong. It’s a great thing to write a series about. It has a knock-on effect.”
Winning his Tony Award in New York for his role as Albin in La Cage aux Folles alongside Kelsey Grammer as Georges:
“I think it was probably the most thrilling professional year in my life. There’s no better city to have a success in. They just open the doors to you. It was fantastic.
“But I’m relieved to be rid of her. It was killing me. It was eight shows a week. So on matinee days it was six hours in high heels and corset and wigs. So it was quite a relief that there are people here who still remember me as a man.”
“I came back for a week and then I went back to New York and did two weeks at the Cafe Carlyle – doing music. They put you up in a suite and I just had to sing for an hour. I had a jazz trio. And the money is phenomenal. They phone you in your room at 8:45pm and say, ‘Mr Hodge, come down.’ Then you swan down in your DJ and you go into the dining room, this beautiful room, and then sing. I played the piano and sang for an hour. And then more or less the whole audience joins you in your suite afterwards. It’s a very small room to play. That was something I’d never done before and a dream come true and was my sort of holiday.”
Does winning the Tony open doors in New York?
“You only have one day off a week but immediately I was invited to the opening game of the Yankees or the first game of the Jets. Elton John playing for 50 people. It was quite incredible. It matters so much to them and it clearly translates into dollars. So the day you win your box office goes off the scale. It’s incredible. We had even bookings and then I won and then we were sold out for three or four months. It means cash to them. The whole Tony season is like running for Senate or something. Every morning you get up at eight, you have focus groups of, say, 300 people and someone will say, ‘OK, there’s 300 Tony voters here and there’s you and four other guys from a show and I’m going to ask you questions.’ And you have to woo them. It’s big business. The producers know. It’s because it translates into ticket sales. So they know that you can get their show to keep running for a year or whatever, instead of four months. I could have been home within a month if it had been a failure. They’ll take you off. Enron opened when we there. I think it lasted three days and they went home. And when I went to New York I was expecting – I didn’t know if I’d be there for a month or a year. And then it turned into a year and a month.”
How does Broadway compare with London’s West End?
“It’s very different. Because the community is much closer. You know everyone in every other show. They all meet after the shows. Like winning the Olivier, it wasn’t even televised. The Tonys, you go down a red carpet, there’s probably 6000 people in the audience, it’s televised worldwide, all the movie stars turn up. It’s a very different thing. Whereas the Oliviers we just turned up, got the award and went home. I think we should take a leaf out of their book. We’re the greatest in the world at theatre. You could see that in New York. There’s a band of about five English actors who are winning all their awards. That’s the other thing. They’re not trying to give them to Americans. They’re saying – this is the best or that’s the best and it doesn’t matter where it’s from. They’re celebrating theatre. I think it’s one of the greatest exports we have. One of the greatest skills we have. We lead the world in it. And there aren’t many things we do lead the world in. They’re amazed that we don’t make much of it.”
What was it like playing opposite Kelsey Grammer?
“It was just wonderful. I met him in England for a week and we had a week of doing publicity and I glimpsed his life, which is extraordinary. He’s an extraordinary guy. Very humble, very generous, hilariously funny, great theatre actor, loved the theatre, loves England. He loves England to distraction. He knows all about the English theatre shows and the English actors. So it was great fun.”
Kelsey got married in the theatre?
“He did. He met the girl, Kayte, on the flight over to meet me in England. And then he asked me to be his best man at the wedding. He was married on stage. Or best woman. No high heels.”
Being back in Britain after all that?
“It’s fantastic to be with my family. It was the most testing time. They came out every six weeks but my daughter was doing her A-levels. So they couldn’t move there. And I was going for six months and it ended up being a year. So there were times when I was just completely on my own for a year. It’s a long time. So that feels lovely to be back with them. That was quite a test, for my 11-year-old especially. He came out every six weeks and stayed with me for three weeks until the school started to complain. And it’s nice to be doing some TV. I’ve hardly done anything on TV since I last worked with this director in Unforgiven. That’s the last thing I did.”
As father of two children, does he worry about them in today’s world?
“They live in Oxford. I think it’s that constant balance. If you give them enough moral tools you just have to sit back and hope that they’ll survive and know to say yes or no to whatever they do. But certainly they’re more innocent in Oxford. I’ve noticed that with my daughter. Than friends of our kids who live in London. Which is a good thing, I think. But at some point they’re going to have to grow up and realise it’s a tougher world.”
You’ve got so many different careers – acting, directing, songwriting?
“In America it was quite a relief that people didn’t have a problem about it. Here it’s fine directing and acting. In New York suddenly I was able to go and play with a band and sing. It was like going on a little holiday. Here there are less places you could play. There’s just Ronnie Scott’s here really. But I might do that show at The Chocolate Factory. I don’t know if I’ve got the nerve to do that here. I doubt it. They’ve asked me. So we’ll see.”
He’s spoken about doing another musical?
“I’d love to do Barnum. That’s been talked about but I don’t know when. I’ve seen the film of Michael Crawford doing it.”