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Various Cast Interviews

 

Yes, I'm going to get even with you
TV CHAT: Cracker sidekick Jane still gunning for rapist (Published 21/10/1995)

 

SHE had the gun and she had the motive. DS Jane Penhaligon had been raped and humiliated and was ready to kill. At the end of the second series of Cracker the sweet-faced detective was moments from murder - the barrel of her gun jammed into the mouth of the man she was convinced had raped her. But it never happened. Jimmy Beck is back and Jane Penhaligon must live with the fact. If Cracker creator Jimmy McGovern had had his way the latest - and final - series would have opened with Beck as dead and bloody as the murdered prostitutes who litter Sunday's 75-minute special. "Penhaligon was going to kill Beck," he reveals. "That's how the second series would have ended. But the powers that be didn't like that - we had to find a compromise." That compromise means that Penhaligon - played with emotional intensity by Geraldine Somerville - must wait for her revenge. "I always knew she wouldn't shoot him," Geraldine insists. "When she puts the gun in his mouth she probably thinks she's going to - but she may as well have shot herself if she had. It's much more interesting that he doesn't die and that she has to deal with working with him again. A character who has undergone such an horrific rape cannot suddenly, miraculously, recover." The hardest part was after the rape - working out how Penhaligon coped when everything was taken away, she says. "It was very hard to imagine how she would react. It's like being happy and smiling and then something horrible happening," says Geraldine. "I lost a lot of sleep thinking about it and I discovered that a lot of victims know their assailants - that's chilling." 

 

Harder still has been the task of Irish actor Lorcan Cranitch who has had the unenviable job of playing Jimmy Beck. "He is a dark character, pretty scary," he says with an uneasy laugh. "I don't think I would like to spend much time with him. But as the new series goes on he does get his comeuppance - and it's not pleasant. "I felt we had a moral responsibility not to let Beck get away with anything. "There had to be retribution - this guy must be made to pay." And pay he does, in the climax to the first three-part story in the final series, Brotherly Love. The trauma for Penhaligon gets worse as she is caught up in a brutal sex killing. A prostitute is horribly murdered and mutilated - somewhere out there is a sexually-obsessed killer, a killer who could strike again. The appalling horror of murder is not played down on Cracker. The series is awash with blood; it is gruesome and shocking and likely to cause complaints. But it will still draw a massive, appreciative audience. Robbie Coltrane, who has made the drunken, gambling-mad, adulterous psychologist his own is unapologetic. "I suppose it is grizzly," he concedes. "There is certainly quite a lot of blood in the first episode. But the bottom line is that the violence in Cracker will not make people think: 'Oh, that's a good idea - I think I'll go and hit someone with a brick'. It doesn't happen. There are vulnerable people with a psychiatric history - but they will have had a psychiatric history long before watching Cracker. We do discuss this at length and I think the criticisms of the violence on the programmes are all unfounded. "In Cracker it looks as ghastly as it is - and the people get caught and banged to rights." 

 

Coltrane insists that this is the very last series of Cracker - but fans can breathe a sigh of relief when he adds that Fitz could rise again on the big screen. Plans are already advanced for a Cracker film, probably set in Hong Kong - it's just a question of waiting for the money men. "The danger always is that other people may want to alter Cracker," Robbie explains. "We have to make sure that we retain the integrity of the piece. There is a huge hunger for honest, intelligent drama, despite some TV bosses arguing that the nation wants programmes about Celebrity Underpants or whatever. That is very encouraging. " And people can now use Cracker as an example of success when they are asking for money for other drama projects." Geraldine Somerville will be seen again soon in the BBC2 Performance series with After Miss Julie, while Lorcan Cranitch has gone home to Dublin to star in a play at the Abbey Theatre. Robbie Coltrane pops up as a baddie in the new James Bond film Goldeneye, but admits that the "Fitz Factor" may play a negative part in getting new roles. Not that he cares much. "I was called 'Mr Roly-Poly comedian' for 15 years," he observes wryly. "After the first episode of Cracker they didn't call me that anymore."      

 


 

CRIME ROLE IS JUST THE SOLUTION
Seriously, Coltrane is top doc (Published 25/09/1993)

 

EMERGING from the shadows of a grim corner in a mean part of the city he looks moody and malevolent. But this hulking menace of a man is on the right side of the law. This is the very serious side of Robbie Coltrane in ITV's stunning new detective thriller Cracker. He is Dr Eddie Fitzgerald, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, gambling-mad clinical psychologist. He makes the most of the plum role in the seven-part series which hits our screens on Monday. It's set around the underworld of Manchester, where the good guys are as hardbitten as their foes.In reality Coltrane could not be more different. The 42-year-old actor puffs the occasional ciggy - but otherwise follows a rigorous health regime. He ditched drink last Christmas - and is no longer the man he was after shedding seven stones. "Fitz knocks back double whiskies so there was a bit of drunk acting for me to do,'' he says. "But I haven't had a drink since before Hogmanay - and I can't actually remember what it's like to be sloshed." Forging "You can't drink and lose weight - and I've lost a ton of it. I'm getting into clothes now I haven't worn for seven years.'' 

 

Coltrane's got no time for gambling - unlike his sozzled TV character, who attends a Gamblers Anonymous meeting, then tricks his fellow addicts into an illicit game of poker. "Compulsive gamblers like Fitz do terrible things,'' adds Robbie. "He raises 5,000 cash on the mortgage by forging his wife's signature for a bathroom extension, then bungs it all on a gee-gees. He loses an awful lot of money that way.'' Fitz's wife Judith, played by Barbara Flynn, eventually walks out on their misfiring marriage. Off screen, Coltrane is blissfully happy with his wife - 22-year-old sculptress Rhona Gemmell. The couple share a remote cottage north of Glasgow with baby son Spencer. Says Coltrane: "Having a kid certainly makes you feel like you've joined the human race, doesn't it? "We're very happy in our home, a converted old stone barn. We just mind our own business in the place and everybody has got used to us being there.'' 

 

Fitz, by contrast, has a stormy relationship with his screen son Mark, played by Kieran O'Brien. "He and the boy have a terrible time together because they are very alike,'' says Coltrane. In Monday's opening episode, Fitz is called in by police to track a murderer after a woman's corpse is found on a train. In the second half of the two-hour mystery - to be screened on October 4 - a bloodstained man is found slumped by the railway track. "Kids discover him days later and police are convinced he's the killer,'' says Coltrane. "But the man claims he's suffering from total amnesia and it's up to Fitz to find out if he's telling the truth. "Fitz is a real maverick - a brilliant but dangerous man. And he spends a lot of his time at loggerheads with the police. But he's the kind of off-the-wall guy who always gets away with it because he's so entertaining and funny.'

 

THE OTHER WOMAN

 

SHE is a policewoman with a hard exterior but a soft spot ... for Fitz. The attraction between DS Jane Penhaligon and the psychologist is obvious right from the start as she goes out on a limb to help him solve the first mystery. "She's a feisty piece of work,'' says actress Geraldine Somerville. "But Fitz susses her out immediately and she likes that because most men can't see past her efficient and stern exterior. He knows she has a vulnerable side that needs to prove she can hold her own against the boys. When she's with Fitz she forgets about the rules. I just love the wrecklessness in her character brought out by Fitz. I wish I had a bit more of that myself.'' The relationship between the pair heats up as the series progresses and goes from gently frying to sizzling. "Fitz is a really attractive character. He's witty, caring and funny,'' she adds. "They fancy each other's pants off not just physically, but mentally - and they flirt like crazy.''  The air is electric but we never see any hanky panky on screen. Fitz, meanwhile, never gives up fighting to win wife Judith back - but as time goes by becomes increasingly torn between the two women.

 

THE WIFE


THEY met at a Sweet pop concert back in the Seventies - but it's turned sour after 20 years of marriage. Barbara Flynn, who plays our hero's long-suffering wife Judith in Cracker, gets sick of her life of strife - and does a runner. The couple were married after Judith became pregnant - but dreams of domestic bliss are destroyed as spendthrift Eddie gambles away almost every penny. "My character begins where most shows would end,'' says Barbara, 44. "But that's Cracker all over, it's full of unusual twists. Judith adores Fitz because of his huge capacity for life - but his obsessive personality drives him over the top, and in the end she's had enough of bailing him out. "She still loves him to distraction but things will have to change if their marriage is ever going to get back on track.'' During her separation from Fitz, Judith falls into bed with her marriage counsellor - but once is enough. "Judith realises what she had with Fitz was strong stuff,'' adds Barbara. "After 20 years with someone as different as him, everybody else pales by comparison. But she makes it very clear what her conditions would be for a reconciliation.'' The only time Judith encounters her love rival - detective Jane Penhaligon - is across a crowded restaurant. Judith is there with her marriage counsellor and a slanging match soon flares. Fitz is drenched with water thrown by his wife.                  


 

Robbie Fitz my bill (Published 17/10/1994)

 

He's fat, he smokes, he bullies his wife, chases women, and gambles away the housekeeping. Yet women adore Fitz, the hard-drinking hero of Cracker. Judging by the number who fall at Robbie Coltrane's feet in the new series, and the sackloads of fan mail he receives, his sex appeal is as big as his waistband. His status as a pin-up comes as no surprise to co-star Geraldine Somerville, the redheaded detective with whom Fitz has a passionate fling. Geraldine, who plays DS Penhaligon, is in no doubt about the attraction the outsized star holds for women. "He's just plain sexy," she says. "I know some people will think it odd that a girl like Penhaligon should fall for a bloke like Fitz but it seems totally credible to me. He sees her for what she is and that's something women find a turn-on. He can see through the image she has created at work. He really understands her and he also has tremendous belief in her ability." In future episodes the relationship between Penhaligon and Fitz becomes passionate and intimate. "Robbie was brilliant doing the bedroom scenes. He made it a great laugh," says Geraldine. "And it's perfectly easy to see why women love Robbie too. He's an incredibly warm and funny person." 

 

In the opening episode Penhaligon is still fuming about being stood up by Fitz on a planned illicit holiday trip. At the end of the last series she was left waiting at the airport when Fitz failed to show. "Although he stood her up and she's angry and humiliated, she still feels for him. She just can't resist him," says Geraldine. Fitz's fascination for women is also the reason his long-suffering wife Judith has stuck by him for so many years. But in the new series, she finally throws in the towel and leaves him to his philandering. Barbara Flynn, who plays Judith, says: "They have so much history together it's not easy to walk away. But she realises she can't rely on him for anything - he's just so terrified of being ordinary." In spite of all his faults Barbara also understands the magnetism of a man like Fitz. "Judith knows Fitz will be a tough act to follow." The only person surprised by all the adoration is Coltrane himself. "The only thing I can think is that women like Fitz because he is very vital. He is alive. He is not really afraid of anything," says the 44-year-old Scot. "He is a brave man and women like brave men. The brave get the beautiful as they say. Smart Coltrane claims similarities to Fitz are limited. "We are probably about the same weight but he's not as handsome as me," he says with a smile. "I also hope I'm not as intense or obsessive as Fitz. But I'd like to think I am as smart as him." 

 

In the first story in the new series Fitz tries to unravel the profile of a man who embarks on a spate of killings sparked off by memories of the Hillsborough football tragedy. He also has to tackle his increasingly out of control private life. "Fitz is a man who doesn't try at all - he doesn't feel obliged to get on with people," says Coltrane."He behaves so badly to his wife that I am amazed she stayed with him as long as she did. Most women would have left him years ago." As in the previous series, which won a host of awards, the show doesn't shirk difficult and frequently violent themes. Coltrane defends the sometimes shocking scenes. "The first story is very powerful. Writer Jimmy McGovern doesn't make light of the Hillsborough tragedy and he doesn't exploit it. It's not sensationalist. The bottom line is whether or not you make the murders seem attractive and I don't think there's any attempt to do that." A third series of Cracker is already planned, and so too is a feature film for cinema release. 

 

In between, Coltrane will take a holiday at home in Loch Lomond, Scotland, where he lives with his partner Rhona and their baby son Spencer. "Spencer and Rhona have both been down with me for some of the filming but I do miss them when we're apart," he says. Also lined up is a trip to the States where Coltrane is hoping to get some projects off the ground. The way has been paved by the success of Cracker over there. It's been shown on one of the smaller channels and is scheduled to go on a major network channel later this year. It's no wonder TV bosses have assured Coltrane's continued loyalty to the show with a 1.5 million "golden handcuffs" deal, making him one of the highest paid actors in Britain. Hollywood chiefs are also keeping an eye on the Cracker film. Rude The attention Coltrane getting is no mean feat in a country where big-screen heroes are usually expected to be a cross between Jean Claude van Damme and Keanu Reeves. "I've been very lucky to get Fitz. There isn't an actor in the country who wouldn't pay to play him," says Coltrane. 

 


 

Fitz pulls a fast one

How Cracker Star Coltrane Faces Up To The Pressures of the TV Cameras 

 

DRESSED in his trademark black suit and puffing on a ciggie, Robbie Coltrane strides on to the set and booms: "Where do you want me then?" It's a busy day for him. A photo-session for his new award-winning Cracker series is followed by some serious filming. The crew are running around like people possessed but the big man looks unruffled. He plonks himself down in front the photographer, and a make-up girl bustles round him trying to make sure he looks his best. "This is my favourite bit," he jokes. "I don't enjoy having my picture taken but I like being pampered." Everyone laughs. It's a great atmosphere and Coltrane - who plays Fitz - knows how to make people feel at ease. As the flashbulbs pop he starts playing up for the camera. "Do you want me looking moody?" he asks, pulling a serious face and drawing heavily on his cigarette. "Or do you want me looking surprised?" he offers, quickly changing his appearance so his eyes bulge wildly. 

 

"Working with Robbie is a real experience," explains producer Paul Abbott. "One minute he's playing the fool and has everyone in stitches, but as soon as the director shouts `action' he can switch off just like that and start acting, while everyone is left holding their sides." The photographer is laughing his head off as Robbie goes through an alarming range of expressions, providing a running commentary for each. "This is the only way I can handle having all these pictures taken," explains the actor as he goes from high jinks to high camp. "I hate sitting down in front of the camera and just pulling faces while everyone pretends it's the most natural thing in the world. "It's such a stupid job you have to see the funny side and laugh, or you'd go mad." The photo-session lasts about 45 minutes and by the end of it Coltrane has charmed everyone. When it ends he gets up, shakes hands with the photographer and walks on to the set where he greets everyone by name. Watching him it's easy to see why he's so well liked and respected - he may have a BAFTA on his mantelpiece but he doesn't demand star treatment. 

 

Today's big scene is being shot in the police station - a set which has been constructed inside the empty building. Fitz and DS Penhaligon (Geraldine Sommerville) will be confronted by DS Beck before the criminal psychologist storms into the DCI's office. The scene is complicated but Coltrane seems perfectly at ease. During breaks he puts on silly voices or gently tease Somerville, and every so often makes suggestions about how he can contribute to make the scene better. I manage to catch him for an informal chat. After all the hype which followed the last series, Coltrane has made it clear he doesn't want to do interviews. "It was crazy", he says. "I wanted to talk about Cracker but everyone wanted to psychoanalyse me. Why are you wearing black shoes? What does your suit say about you? Tell us about your childhood.' It got out of hand." Instead I congratulate him on his BAFTA triumph where his role as Fitz scooped the award for best actor. "Thank you darling," he laughs, putting on a luvvie accent. "That was certainly a night to remember. Normally, you spend the evening nervously drinking as you wait for the result so by the end of the night you're blind drunk and forget everything that's happened. But it was nice to be sober when I discovered I'd won before going off to celebrate properly", he adds wickedly. Although, he doesn't want to discuss the series he does let slip that he's extremely pleased with what's been filmed so far. "I think these adventures will be a lot darker, a lot more psychological. We saw that Fitz can get things wrong in the final adventure last year and I think there will be some ghosts to be exorcised this time round." 

 

Geraldine Sommerville who plays DS Penhaligon and provides the `will they, won't they?' love interest is still on a break so I ask her what it's like to be working on Cracker again after all the success. "It's great," she enthuses. "You feel as though the pressure is on but I think that makes us determined to make this second series a success." Clinch Will she and Robbie finally end up in the clinch that 12 million viewers were dying to see? "Oh, I can't tell you that," she laughs. "I think their relationship matures but this time Penhaligon has a better idea of what she's taking on, which means she's less willing to let Fitz walk all over her." A new member of the team is ex-Brookside star Ricky Tomlinson, who plays tough boss DCI Wise. He's as pleased as punch to be there. "I've known Jimmy McGovern who created the series for years so it was a real honour to get involved," he says. "Wise is a policeman who's been though the ranks and worked his way up. He's a copper who's graduated from the university of life and I think that gives him street cred. "I hope the series maintains the high standards it achieved last year."        

 


 

COP THIS CRACKER 

It's Fitz of anger for Robbie in a new series (Published 29/07/1995)

 

A tartan army is beating a path to telly's top crime drama, Cracker - and they're set to make an arresting sight as they size up to big Robbie Coltrane. Not only that, the Cracker likely lads are set to make merry hell in Fitz's love life. Hunky Robert Cavanah - new cop Temple - makes a move for his lover, Penhaligon, when the award-laden show returns to ITV in the autumn. And man-mountain Clive Russell - all 6ft 6ins of him - casts a giant shadow over Fitz's relationship with his wife, Judith, when he joins Cracker as his brother, Danny. After just two series, which have won the show 28 awards, Cracker has established a reputation for pulverising, pull-no-punches drama. The third and final run will send it out on a high, with stories about a foster-kid killer, a serial murderer who slays prostitutes and, most gripping of all, a female stalker obssessed with Fitz. The stalker has a unique way of getting noticed - she entices students into bed then electrocutes them to get big Robbie's attention. 

 

Filmed in Manchester, the pounds 5 million series has taken over a former newspaper office and turned it into a police station. And, as Robbie and the rest of the cast play out scenes in the incident- room, the simmering tension between Fitz and Temple suddenly explodes - with the usual acid humour. When DC Alan Temple (Robert Cavanah) chips in with a theory, the crimebuster snaps: "You have one sausage-roll in the psychology department canteen and suddenly you're Sigmund Freud!" During a break in filming, Edinburgh-born Robert, 29, explains the attraction between Temple and Penhaligon, the rape-victim tec played by Geraldine Somerville "Penhaligon has been left traumatised by her ordeal. Fitz isn't there for her and Temple is a shoulder to cry on." The role is a dream job for Robert, a latecomer to TV after being chucked out of drama school. "I had a personality clash with one of my lecturers. "So I did my own thing before joining another college and graduating last year." He played a jailbird in ITV's The Governor but Cracker - with its 15 million fans - is his big break. And the part gives him bags of scope for tense, in-yer-face scenes, as he and Fitz square up to each other. And, of course, Penhaligon doesn't stay meekly on the sidelines, either. 

 

Robert, who lives in London with his Danish girlfriend Malene, adds: "Temple comes from Edinburgh and Fitz is a Glaswegian so there's a bit of aggro between them right from the start. And it never really gets a chance to let up threoughout the entire series." Meanwhile, TV success has come late to dad-of-four Clive Russell, who will be 50 in December. But the Fife-born actor, who also has upcoming roles in Ruffian Hearts and the second series of Roughnecks, is making up for lost time. "I suppose I've been as anonymous as a 6ft 6ins man can be. But Cracker will probably change all that," says Clive. "It's a great show because it tackles controversial issues head-on. But, unlike other series, it's never pious." Meanwhile, the conflict between Fitz and his brother, Danny, goes deeper. And it flares again when the two are thrown together by the death of their mother. "Danny is the older, taller, duller brother while Fitz is the famous one - and the favourite son," explains Clive . His character develops a relationship with Fitz's wife Judith (Barbara Flynn) through a common bond. "She and Danny have both suffered at the hands of this very problematical man. They have dinner together and become very close. Needless to say, Fitz doesn't like it," said Clive. Now there's a cracker of an understatement ...

 


The Unofficial Guide To Cracker 1999-2006

(http://www.crackertv.co.uk)