Griff Rhys Jones interview

The multi-talented Griff Rhys Jones plays David Van Der Clane in Murder on the Blackpool Express, the murder mystery author whose work forms the basis for a themed tour that is about to turn into a killing spree.

Griff Rhys Jones interview

Talk us through your character, David.

He is a slightly flamboyant, self-obsessed writer, who thinks that the tour revolves around him, which it does to a certain extent. Gemma is supposed to be the tour leader but David takes over a bit and it's rather amusing. It's based on a real experience that the writer Jason (Cook) had, seeing this writer giving a talk, and he's obviously out to make as much money as he can on the side from selling autographs and books and extra merchandise and goodness knows what he can, wherever he can. It's a very good idea.

Have you seen people like that? He's a larger than life character.

I've seen lots of larger than life characters, yes. It would be invidious of me to say who some of this is based on, but as I am standing there, up there in the church, I thought, "Ooh, this reminds me of somebody I knew quite well," who was a best-selling author! But I have nothing but the greatest affection for these people.

Can you talk us through David's look?

This look came about because I'd just been in a play, so I had a bald head when I arrived, and my hair was in the state of growing back, and that was felt to be not flamboyant enough. So I have a wig, and David is somebody who likes to wear a large hat from time to time, to draw attention to himself as he wanders about the place. He wears a proper suit, but with a bit of colour and flamboyance. And so wherever he goes, he likes to cut a flamboyant figure and be centre of attention.

Are you able to play him quite large?

That was the demand, yes! I hope it's not too big, but it's definitely hammy. I'm a bit louder than the rest and I hope it all fits in and becomes reasonably credible.

What does he think of his fans, the customers on the coach trip?

They're just punters as far as he's concerned. It doesn't matter what they say or do, they slightly disgust him, so he stays on a sort of level above them all.

He knows how to commit a murder, of course.

He knows how to commit a murder, he's on the bus, people start dying, I'm not going to say any more. I suppose if we're looking at this as being a pastiche of sorts, the Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christies are all pretty hammy, aren't they? I just saw a trailer for the new film version of Murder on the Orient Express, and they're all sitting there at the tables, dressed up in their finery, ready to ham for Britain, or America, or wherever they come from.

Have you done anything like a murder mystery before?

I've done sketches along this basis before, unkindly, but I can't say I've ever been in a full-length version of one of these things, except I was in Miss Marple once. I think everybody here has, at one time or another, appeared in something like that. Here, in this particular production, everybody is a star, so it could be any one of the people sat on that coach who is responsible for the unfortunate accident.

How would you describe it: is it a comedy, a drama, a whodunit?

Well, we had a very funny readthrough, and we can only judge it by that, but I think it's going to be very funny. I mean, the read-through was a joy to attend, and it was great to see it all coming together, but it's impossible to tell thereafter. But as a piece, it's a character comedy, probably more like an Ealing Comedy than an obvious sort of modern stoner comedy, you know, it's certainly not that, and it's not a scrupulous parody.

Will it appeal to people who like a proper whodunit as well?

I think it will. I think quite a lot of attention has been paid to that very thing.

Who is your favourite detective of all time?

Oh, Sherlock Holmes I think, probably, just because of the sort of craziness of Sherlock Holmes.