Interview with Tom Davis - Co-writer and plays Big Mick Neville

Category: Press Pack Article

Why are heist stories so compelling?

It's cops and robbers, good and bad, isn't it? Although that feels more sketchy than ever in 2023! In our case, there's something about normal working people getting away with something and living this criminal lifestyle. It’s why we’re obsessed with The Sopranos or The Wire. I spent a long time working in a normal job, getting up at 6am and finishing at 5pm, living in the parameters of what's socially acceptable. When you see people living outside of that, there's something intriguing about that.


Is there a different tone this year?

It was about keeping that same tone but being a bit more ambitious, so this feels a bit more gritty and grown up. The lines are more blurred between comedy and drama and the villains feel meaner and more terrifying. If the first series was Albert’s (Allan Mustafa) series, his stresses and struggles over what's right and wrong, this series is Tash’s, her trajectory after being behind this whole thing. Emer Kenny is brilliant this year.


Mick is a big, imposing guy, but we first find him in prison and you fear for him there.

Yeah, Mick almost lives in a fantasy world where he thinks he's this big shot in prison, but he's gettable – he's not safe in prison. But you fear for all of them. You want to think that, at any time, any of these guys can go.


Did you enjoy getting back into Mick’s shoes?

Yeah, he’s probably my favourite character I’ve ever played. It feels like me going back to what I love the most, creating a character that feels believable but a bit odd. Everyone was worried about putting a character like that front and centre in a show like this in case he was too big for it. But people like that do exist.


Did you miss his tracksuit?

No, I was so glad to get rid of that although it would have been nice to have shorts that went anywhere below the groin – I've got the best array of hotpants and speedos imaginable. The stuff with Mick and Phil (Hugo Chegwin) is just great – my favourite days are the ones where I get to mess around Hugo, working on that double act. There's quite a lot of love between them really.


Mick does eventually join the others to Spain. Presumably that was always the intention?

Yeah, with series one being out in the freezing cold, I thought it could be quite interesting to keep Mick in prison for most of this series. I remembered having to shoot Spain in Bournemouth for King Gary, but as soon as they said they were shooting in Gran Canaria, Mick was busted out!


Have you ever been to Gran Canaria?

Me and James did a lot of recces to Marbella, driving around the Spanish coast for a week and meeting some real old school characters which were great for the show, but Gran Canaria is incredible. You can shoot the Colombian rainforest one day, an English prison break the next. You can get everywhere within about half an hour. The crew did an incredible job to put it all together and (director) James De Frond had a clear vision for the show.


Kiell Smith-Bynoe has joined the cast this year.

Yeah, Kiell was always on our list, but otherwise we wanted to cast dramatic rather than comic actors. So you’ve got straight drama guys like Peter Ferdinando and Michael Smiley, and [Name?] who plays Pablo Escobar, got through to the last two to play the lead in Narcos. That really adds to the piece, because we’re a bunch of working-class guys making this big show, none of us have been trained and that camaraderie really tells on and off screen. Allan is phenomenal at the dramatic and emotional stuff this year, a bit like a fighter who has to step up and give the best account of himself he possibly can.


Did you have time to relax?

Yeah, I got my handicap down by two or three! I took my wife and baby daughter out there and it was genuinely one of most Incredible times for us as a family – I took the chance to make a few memories. It's different from anything else I've done because I'm used to being front and centre, in every scene. With this, you do get a bit of time to step away from it. it felt like the baton of being Mr Good Times was being passed on. I’m an old man now, which is fine with me – I can’t be doing nightclubs any more.


What was the biggest challenge of making the series?

Financially it's a challenge, because it's getting tougher to make a series as ambitious as this. We have a joke that we've called it The Curse and it often has proved to be that, because it felt like there was an obstacle every day. Gran Canaria looks incredible, but they’re not up to British levels of film and TV production, where people can multitask. Sometimes you'd be like: we need to get this done really quickly. And someone would say: Oh, we've got a specialist for this tiny thing. So you end up doing it yourself. But it's an amazing thing to get five-star reviews for a show that you poured your heart and soul into. We wanted to step up a level and Channel 4 backed us to do that.


Can you pick out a highlight?

The people you get to work with. Watching Emer Kenny, six months pregnant during filming, knowing what that character was going to have to go through in filming… We had to rewrite the series for it, because you have the vulnerability but also the strength that a woman shows through pregnancy – it’s like nothing that you'll ever see. Emer was in nearly every day. She's hilarious and great with the dramatic beats – she should be winning every award out there.