By popular request, we’re reopening the ARChive to accompany Watch’s rerun of the entire show, beginning with this early interview with Andrew, which was carried out at the press launch for the series:
Words: Paul Simpson
How long were you working on Primeval?
I was cast in January last year (2006) and we started shooting it in March. We shot for about four and a half months. It was all filmed on location, which surprised me, because I knew there was a lot of CGI. However, the Framestore and Impossible Pictures team have developed a way to just film in situ.
Did you have much idea what the creatures were going to look like?
At the start we didn’t know what the hell we were looking at. It was a learning curve for the effects boys, as they’d never done a drama before. They described it a little bit, but we still had no idea. Everybody was learning together, which was fun.
We all felt kind of daft, because none of us had done CGI before. They give you an eye-line and say, “There’s a really scary dinosaur,” and you say, “It’s a traffic cone on a stick!” But they got a lot better at that as the series went on. We got pictures of all the designs, so we had a fair idea.
When you’re in a scene with other people, you hope to God that you’re looking in the same place as everybody else. It’s the same with reactions. You’re being scared, but your level of scaredness might be really different to the person next to you. You try to take in everybody else’s performance with your peripheral vision. It keeps you on your toes.
What was your initial reaction to the script?
When I read it I thought, “This is British television! How are they going to pull it off?” It wasn’t until I got on the project, and realised how much time and money had gone into it, that my excitement levels grew.
Being a Northerner, and playing mostly psychopaths, I didn’t think I was going to get this role as a quirky, frustrated genius. He’s one of the nicest-written characters in the script. The lovely thing about him is he’s so smart, even though common sense-wise and socially he’s not the sharpest tool.
I decided to make him excitable about everything. There’s always a level of everyone being scared, but there’s something inside him that says, “This is phenomenal!” If it was real life, seeing a dinosaur would be the most insane thing, and it would exhilarate you a little bit.
Some of the other characters take it a lot more seriously, but Connor finds the ridiculousness in everything. It’s just his sense of humour, and he’s guaranteed to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. We did a lot of improv around the script to keep the comedy fresh. A lot of people aren’t happy for you to do that, but Adrian Hodges, the writer let me play with it and we just worked together.
What did you find most challenging about making the show?
I think it was all a bit challenging. It was so different from everything else we’d worked on and everyone was really nervous at the start. But the producers had such a strong overview of what they wanted, and it was one of those programmes that you have no idea how it’s going to be until you see it.
Every day set up new challenges. You’re dealing with parasites crawling along the floor, or chasing a dodo around a kitchen, and you think, “What am I doing?” It was just insanity, but we just had to concentrate and make these things as believable as we could. It’s a leap of faith, but I think it’s worked.
How does Connor’s relationship with the other characters develop?
The strongest relationship for him is with Abby, played by Hannah Spearritt. Even though there are more heroic characters in it, Connor gets into situations where he has to save the girl quite a lot. He hasn’t got a gun but he will pick up a stool. He’s improvising all the time.
He ends up moving in with Abby. He’s madly in love with her, but she sees him as a friend. It’s a sweet little set up between them. He gets to a point where he thinks he’s part of a crime-fighting team and thinks he should have his own special nickname! Everyone’s taking it so seriously, but he’s having the time of his life. He looks up to Professor Cutter, played by Douglas Henshall, but he’s obsessed with conspiracy theories and crap from the internet. He gets thrust into this world of government cover-ups and dinosaurs, so he’s in his element.
What would you say to the reaction that Primeval is just Jurassic Park for TV?
I wouldn’t say that at all. It’s more in the vein of Lost, where you don’t know what’s going on and what’s going to happen next. It’s not just us running around trying to survive. It takes Jurassic Park and runs with it.
It’s a family show, but it’s pretty scary. It goes into some quite dark places. If you change something in the past, it’s going to have an effect in the future.
Is there potential for a second series?
Oh yes. The anomalies open up a whole new world that has to be explored. I think the audience will be quite cross if we don’t explore it. We’re only touching the surface, really.